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Title: Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama

Author: Walter L. Fleming

Release date: December 21, 2012 [eBook #41680]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by The Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images
generously made available by The Internet Archive/Canadian














New York

All rights reserved



Copyright, 1905,

Set up and electrotyped. Published October, 1905.

Norwood Press
J. S. Cushing & Co.—Berwick & Smith Co.
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.






[Pg vii]


This work was begun some five years ago as a study of Reconstruction in Alabama. As the field opened it seemed to me that an account of ante-bellum conditions, social, economic, and political, and of the effect of the Civil War upon ante-bellum institutions would be indispensable to any just and comprehensive treatment of the later period. Consequently I have endeavored to describe briefly the society and the institutions that went down during Civil War and Reconstruction. Internal conditions in Alabama during the war period are discussed at length; they are important, because they influenced seriously the course of Reconstruction. Throughout the work I have sought to emphasize the social and economic problems in the general situation, and accordingly in addition to a sketch of the politics I have dwelt at some length upon the educational, religious, and industrial aspects of the period. One point in particular has been stressed throughout the whole work, viz. the fact of the segregation of the races within the state—the blacks mainly in the central counties, and the whites in the northern and the southern counties. This division of the state into “white” counties and “black” counties has almost from the beginning exercised the strongest influence upon the history of its people. The problems of white and black in the Black Belt are not always the problems of the whites and blacks of the white counties. It is hoped that the maps inserted in the text will assist in making clear this point. Perhaps it may be thought that undue space is devoted to the history of the negro during War and Reconstruction, but after all the negro, whether passive or active, was the central figure of the period.

Believing that the political problems of War and Reconstruction are of less permanent importance than the forces which have shaped and are shaping the social and industrial life of the people, I have confined the discussion of politics to certain chapters chronologically arranged, while for the remainder of the book the topical[Pg viii] method of presentation has been adopted. In describing the political events of Reconstruction I have in most cases endeavored to show the relation between national affairs and local conditions within the state. To such an extent has this been done that in some parts it may perhaps be called a general history with especial reference to local conditions in Alabama. Never before and never since Reconstruction have there been closer practical relations between the United States and the state, between Washington and Montgomery.

As to the authorities examined in the preparation of the work it may be stated that practically all material now available—whether in print or in manuscript—has been used. In working with newspapers an effort was made to check up in two or more newspapers each fact used. Most of the references to newspapers—practically all of those to the less reputable papers—are to signed articles. I have had to reject much material as unreliable, and it is not possible that I have been able to sift out all the errors. Whatever remain will prove to be, as I hope and believe, of only minor consequence.

Thanks for assistance given are due to friends too numerous to mention all of them by name. For special favors I am indebted to Professor L. D. Miller, Jacksonville, Alabama; Mr. W. O. Scroggs of Harvard University; Professor G. W. Duncan, Auburn, Alabama; Major W. W. Screws of the Montgomery Advertiser; Colonel John W. DuBose, Montgomery, Alabama; Mrs. J. L. Dean, Opelika, Alabama; Major S. A. Cunningham of the Confederate Veteran, Nashville, Tennessee; and Major James R. Crowe, of Sheffield, Alabama. I am indebted to Mr. L. S. Boyd, Washington, D.C., for numerous favors, among them, for calling my attention to the scrap-book collection of Edward McPherson, then shelved in the Library of Congress along with Fiction. On many points where documents were lacking, I was materially assisted by the written reminiscences of people familiar with conditions of the time, among them my mother and father, the late Professor O. D. Smith of Auburn, Alabama, and the late Ryland Randolph, Esq., of Birmingham. Many old negroes have related their experiences to me. Hon. Junius M. Riggs of the Alabama Supreme Court Library, by the loan of documents, assisted me materially in working up the financial history of the Reconstruction;[Pg ix] Dr. David Y. Thomas of the University of Florida read and criticised the entire manuscript; Dr. Thomas M. Owen, Director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, has given me valuable assistance from the beginning to the close of the work by reading the manuscript, by making available to me not only the public archives, but also his large private collection, and by securing illustrations. But above all I have been aided by Professor William A. Dunning of Columbia University, at whose instance the work was begun, who gave me many helpful suggestions, read the manuscript, and saved me from numerous pitfalls, and by my wife, who read and criticised both manuscript and proof, and made the maps and the index and prepared some of the illustrations.


New York City,
August, 1905.

[Pg x]



[Pg xi]


Period of Sectional Controversy
Composition of the Population of Alabama 3
The Indians and Nullification 8
Slavery Controversy and Political Divisions 10
Emancipation Sentiment in North Alabama 10
Early Party Divisions 11
William Lowndes Yancey 13
Growth of Secession Sentiment 14
“Unionists” Successful in 1851-1852 16
Yancey-Pryor Debate, 1858 17
The Charleston Convention of 1860 18
The Election of 1860 19
Separation of the Churches, 1821-1861 21
Senator Clay’s Farewell Speech in the Senate 25
Secession from the Union
Secession Convention Called 27
Parties in the Convention 28
Reports on Secession 31
Debate on Secession 31
Political Theories of Members 34
Ordinance of Secession Passed 36
Confederate States Formed 39
Self-denying Ordinance 41
African Slave Trade 42
Commissioners to Other States 46
Legislation by the Convention 49
North Alabama in the Convention 53
Incidents of the Session 56
 [Pg xii]
Military and Political Events
Military Operations 61
The War in North Alabama 62
The Streight Raid 67
Rousseau’s Raid 68
The War in South Alabama 69
Wilson’s Raid and the End of the War 71
Destruction by the Armies 74
Military Organization 78
Alabama Soldiers: Number and Character 78
Negro Troops 86
Union Troops from Alabama 87
Militia System 88
Conscription and Exemption 92
Confederate Enrolment Laws 92
Policy of the State in Regard to Conscription 95
Effect of the Enrolment Laws 98
Exemption from Service 100
Tories and Deserters 108
Conditions in North Alabama 109
Unionists, Tories, and Mossbacks 112
Growth of Disaffection 114
Outrages by Tories and Deserters 119
Disaffection in South Alabama 122
Prominent Tories and Deserters 124
Numbers of the Disaffected 127
Party Politics and the Peace Movement 131
Political Conditions, 1861-1865 131
The Peace Society 137
Reconstruction Sentiment 143
Economic and Social Conditions
Industrial Development during the War 149
Military Industries 149
Manufacture of Arms 150
Nitre Making 153
Private Manufacturing Enterprises 156
Salt Making 157
[Pg xiii]Confederate Finance in Alabama 162
Banks and Banking 162
Issues of Bonds and Notes by the State 164
Special Appropriations and Salaries 168
Taxation 169
Impressment 174
Debts, Stay Laws, Sequestration 176
Trade, Barter, Prices 178
Blockade-running and Trade through the Lines 183
Scarcity and Destitution, 1861-1865 196
The Negro during the War 205
Military Uses of Negroes 205
Negroes on the Farms 209
Fidelity to Masters 210
Schools and Colleges 212
Confederate Text-books 217
Newspapers 218
Publishing Houses 221
The Churches during the War 223
Attitude on Public Questions 223
The Churches and the Negroes 225
Federal Army and the Southern Churches 227
Domestic Life 230
Society in 1861 230
Life on the Farm 232
Home Industries; Makeshifts and Substitutes 234
Clothes and Fashions 236
Drugs and Medicines 239
Social Life during the War 241
Negro Life 243
Woman’s Work for the Soldiers 244
Social and Economic Disorder
Loss of Life in War 251
Destruction of Property 253
The Wreck of the Railways 259
The Interregnum: Lawlessness and Disorder 262
[Pg xiv]The Negro testing his Freedom 269
How to prove Freedom 270
Suffering among the Negroes 273
Relations between Whites and Blacks 275
Destitution and Want, 1865-1866 277
Confiscation and the Cotton Tax
Confiscation Frauds 284
Restrictions on Trade in 1865 284
Federal Claims to Confederate Property 285
Cotton Frauds and Stealing 290
Cotton Agents Prosecuted 297
Statistics of the Frauds 299
The Cotton Tax 303
The Temper of the People
After the Surrender 308
“Condition of Affairs in the South” 311
General Grant’s Report 311
Carl Schurz’s Report 312
Truman’s Report 312
Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction 313
The “Loyalists” 316
Treatment of Northern Men 318
Immigration to Alabama 321
Troubles of the Episcopal Church 324
First Provisional Administration
Theories of Reconstruction 333
Presidential Plan in Operation 341
Early Attempts at “Restoration” 341
Amnesty Proclamation 349
“Proscribing Proscription” 356
The “Restoration” Convention 358
Personnel and Parties 358
Debates on Secession and Slavery 360
“A White Man’s Government” 364
Legislation by the Convention 366
“Restoration” Completed 367
 [Pg xv]
Second Provisional Administration
Status of the Provisional Government 376
Legislation about Freedmen 378
The Negro under the Provisional Government 383
Movement toward Negro Suffrage 386
New Conditions of Congress and Increasing Irritation 391
Fourteenth Amendment Rejected 394
Political Conditions, 1866-1867; Formation of Parties 398
Military Government, 1865-1866
The Military Occupation 408
The Army and the Colored Population 410
Administration of Justice by the Army 413
The Army and the White People 417
The Wards of the Nation
The Freedmen’s Bureau 421
Department of Negro Affairs 421
Organization of the Bureau 423
The Bureau and the Civil Authorities 427
The Bureau supported by Confiscations 431
The Labor Problem 433
Freedmen’s Bureau Courts 437
Care of the Sick 441
Issue of Rations 442
Demoralization caused by Bureau 444
The Freedmen’s Savings-bank 451
The Freedmen’s Bureau and Negro Education 456
The Failure of the Bureau System 469
Military Government under the Reconstruction Acts
Administration of General John Pope 473
Military Reconstruction Acts 473
[Pg xvi]Pope’s Control of the Civil Government 477
Pope and the Newspapers 485
Trials by Military Commissions 487
Registration and Disfranchisement 488
Elections and the Convention 491
Removal of Pope and Swayne 492
Administration of General George G. Meade 493
Registration and Elections 493
Administration of Civil Affairs 495
Trials by Military Commissions 498
The Soldiers and the Citizens 500
From Martial Law to Carpet-bag Rule 501
The Campaign of 1867
Attitude of the Whites 503
Organization of the Radical Party in Alabama 505
Conservative Opposition Aroused 512
The Negro’s First Vote 514
The “Reconstruction” Convention
Character of the Convention 517
The Race Question 521
Debates on Disfranchisement of Whites 524
Legislation by the Convention 528
The “Reconstruction” Completed
“Convention” Candidates 531
Campaign on the Constitution 534
Vote on the Constitution 538
The Constitution fails of Adoption 541
The Alabama Question in Congress 547
Alabama readmitted to the Union 550
The Union League of America
Origin of the Union League 553
Its Extension to the South 556
Ceremonies of the League 559
Organization and Methods 561
 [Pg xvii]
Taxation and the Public Debt
Taxation during Reconstruction 571
Administrative Expenses 574
Effect on Property Values 578
The Public Bonded Debt 580
The Financial Settlement 583
Railroad Legislation and Frauds
Federal and State Aid to Railroads before the War 587
General Legislation in Aid of Railroads 589
The Alabama and Chattanooga Railroad 591
Other Indorsed Railroads 600
County and Town Aid to Railroads 604
Reconstruction in the Schools
School System before Reconstruction 607
School System of Reconstruction 609
Reconstruction of the State University 612
Trouble in the Mobile Schools 618
Irregularities in School Administration 621
Objections to the Reconstruction Education 624
Negro Education 625
Failure of the Educational System 632
Reconstruction in the Churches
“Disintegration and Absorption” Policy 637
The Methodists 637
The Baptists 640
The Presbyterians 641
The Churches and the Negro during Reconstruction 642
The Baptists and the Negroes 643
The Presbyterians and the Negroes 646
The Roman Catholics 647
The Episcopalians 647
The Methodists and the Negroes 648
 [Pg xviii]
The Ku Klux Revolution
Causes of the Ku Klux Movement 654
Secret Societies of Regulators before Ku Klux Klan 659
Origin and Growth of Ku Klux Klan 661
The Knights of the White Camelia 671
The Work of the Secret Orders 675
Ku Klux Orders and Warnings 680
Ku Klux “Outrages” 686
Success of the Ku Klux Movement 690
Spurious Ku Klux Organizations 691
Attempts to suppress the Ku Klux Movement 694
State Legislation 695
Enforcement Acts 697
Ku Klux Investigation 703
Later Ku Klux Organizations 709
Reorganization of the Industrial System
Break-up of the Ante-bellum System 710
The Freedmen’s Bureau System 717
Northern and Foreign Immigration 718
Attempts to organize a New System 721
Development of the Share and Credit Systems 723
Superiority of White Farmers 727
Decadence of the Black Belt 731
Political and Social Conditions during Reconstruction
Politics and Political Methods 733
The First Reconstruction Administration 733
Reconstruction Judiciary 744
Campaign of 1868 747
The Administration of Governor Lindsay 750
The Administration of Governor Lewis 754
Election of Spencer to the United States Senate 755
Social Conditions during Reconstruction 761
Statistics of Crime 762
Social Relations of Negroes 763
Carpet-baggers and Scalawags 765
Social Effects of Reconstruction on the Whites 766
Economic Conditions 769
 [Pg xix]
The Overthrow of Reconstruction
The Republican Party in 1874 771
Whites desert the Party 771
The Demand of the Negro for Social Rights 772
Disputes among Radical Editors 773
Demand of Negroes for Office 773
Factions within the Party 774
Negroes in 1874 775
Promises made to them 775
Negro Social and Political Clubs 776
Negro Democrats 777
The Democratic and Conservative Party in 1874 778
Attitude of the Whites toward the Blacks 779
The Color Line Drawn 780
“Independent” Candidates 781
The Campaign of 1874 782
Platforms and Candidates 782
“Political Bacon” 783
“Hays-Hawley Letter” 786
Intimidation by Federal Authorities 789
Intimidation by Democrats 791
The Election of 1874 793
The Eufaula Riot 794
Results of the Election 795
Later Phases of State Politics 798
Whites make Secure their Control 798
The “Lily Whites” and the “Black and Tans” 799
The Failure of the Populist Movement 799
The Primary Election System 800
The Negroes Disfranchised 800
Successes and Failures of Reconstruction 801
Cotton Production in Alabama, 1860-1900 804
Registration of Voters under the New Constitution 806
Index 809

[Pg xx]



[Pg xxi]


Alabama Money Facing 178
Buckley, Rev. C. W. " 552
“Bully for Alabama” " 738
Callis, John B. " 552
Clanton, General James H. " 760
Clemens, Jere " 36
Confederate Capitol, Montgomery " 96
Confederate Monument, Montgomery " 96
Confederate Postage Stamps " 178
Crowe, Major James R. " 760
Curry, Dr. J. L. M. " 626
Davis, Jefferson " 54
Davis, Inauguration of " 96
Davis, Residence of, Montgomery " 96
Gaineswood, a Plantation Home " 8
Hays, Charles " 552
“Hon. Mr. Carraway” " 738
Houston, Governor George S. " 760
John Brown Extra " 18
Johnson, President Andrew " 336
Ku Klux Costumes   675
Ku Klux Hanging Pictures   612
Ku Klux Warning   678
Lewis, Governor D. P. Facing 600
Lindsay, Governor R. B. " 760
Meade, General George G. " 476
Moore, Governor Andrew B. " 130
Negro Members of the Convention of 1875 " 600
“Nigger, Scalawag, Carpetbagger” " 738
Parsons, Governor L. E. " 600
Patton, Governor R. M. " 760
Pope, General John " 476
Prescript (Original) of Ku Klux Klan, Facsimile of Page of " 670
Prescript (revised and amended) of Ku Klux Klan, Facsimile of Page of   665
Private Money Facing 178
Rapier, J. T. " 552
Ritual of the Knights of the White Camelia, Facsimile of Page of " 670
[Pg xxii]Shorter, Governor John Gill " 130
Smith, Governor William H. " 600
Smith, William R. " 36
Spencer, Senator George E. " 552
Stephens, Alexander H. " 36
Stevens, Thaddeus " 336
Sumner, Charles " 336
Swayne, General Wager " 476
“The Speaker cried out, ‘Order!’” " 738
Thomas, General George H. " 476
Union League Constitution, Facsimile of Page of " 566
Walker, General L. P. " 36
Warner, Senator Willard " 552
Watts, Governor Thomas H. " 130
Wilmer, Bishop R. H. " 130
Yancey, William Lowndes " 36



[Pg xxiii]


1. Population in 1860 4
2. Nativity and Distribution of Public Men 6
3. Election for President, 1860 20
4. Parties in the Secession Convention 29
5. Disaffection toward the Confederacy, 1861-1865 110
6. Industrial Development, 1861-1865 150
7. Devastation by Invading Armies 256
8. Parties in the Convention of 1865 359
9. Registration of Voters under the Reconstruction Acts 494
10. Election for President, 1868 747
11. Election of 1870 750
12. Election of 1872 755
13. Election of 1874 795
14. Election of 1876 796
15. Election of 1880 798
16. Election of 1890 799
17. Election of 1902 under New Constitution 800



[Pg 1]


[Pg 2]



[Pg 3]





When Alabama seceded in 1861, it had been in existence as a political organization less than half a century, but in many respects its institutions and customs were as old as European America. The white population was almost purely Anglo-American. The early settlements had been made on the coast near Mobile, and from thence had extended up the Alabama, Tombigbee, and Warrior rivers. In the northern part the Tennessee valley was early settled, and later, in the eastern part, the Coosa valley. After the river valleys, the prairie lands in central Alabama were peopled, and finally the poorer lands of the southeast and the hills south of the Tennessee valley. The bulk of the population before 1861 was of Georgian birth or descent, the settlers having come from middle Georgia, which had been peopled from the hills of Virginia. Georgians came into the Tennessee valley early in the nineteenth century. The Creek reservation prevented immigration into eastern Alabama before the thirties, but the Georgians went around and settled southeast Alabama along the line of the old “Federal road.” When the Creek Indians consented to migrate, it was found that the Georgians were already in possession of the country,—more than 20,000 strong, and a government was at once erected over the Indian counties. People from Georgia also came down the Coosa valley to central Alabama. The Virginians went to the western Black Belt, to the Tennessee valley, and to central Alabama. North Carolina sent thousands of her citizens down through the Tennessee valley and thence across country to the Tombigbee valley and western Alabama; others came through Georgia and followed the routes of Georgia migration.[Pg 4] South Carolinians swarmed into the southern, central, and western counties, and a goodly number settled in the Tennessee valley. Tennessee furnished a large proportion of the settlers to the Tennessee valley, to the hill counties south of the Tennessee, and to the valleys in central and western Alabama. Among the immigrants from Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee was a large Scotch-Irish element, and with the Tennesseeans came a sprinkling of Kentuckians. In western Alabama were a few thousand Mississippians, and into southeast Alabama a few hundred settlers came from Florida. From the northern states came several thousand, principally New England business men. The foreign element was insignificant—the Irish being most numerous, with a few hundred each of Germans, English, French, and Scotch. In Mobile and[Pg 5] Marengo counties there was a slight admixture of French blood in the population.[1]


Larger Image


In regard to the character of the settlers it has been said that the Virginians were the least practical and the Georgians the most so, while the North Carolinians were a happy medium. The Georgians were noted for their stubborn persistence, and they usually succeeded in whatever they undertook. The Virginians liked a leisurely planter’s life with abundant social pleasures. The Tennesseeans and Kentuckians were hardly distinguishable from the Virginians and Carolinians, to whom they were closely related. The northern professional and business men exercised an influence more than commensurate with their numbers, being, in a way, picked men. Neither the Georgians nor the Virginians were assertive office-seekers, but the Carolinians liked to hold office, and the politics of the state were moulded by the South Carolinians and Georgians. All were naturally inclined to favor a weak federal administration and a strong state government with much liberty of the individual. The theories[Pg 6] of Patrick Henry, Jefferson, and Calhoun, not those of Washington and John Marshall, formed the political creed of the Alabamians.



Larger Image

Each figure represents some person who became prominent before 1865, and indicates his native state. The location of the figure on the map indicates his place of residence. Note the segregation along the rivers and the Black Belt.


The wealthy people were found in the Tennessee valley, in the Black Belt extending across the centre of the state, and in Mobile, the one large town. They were (except a few of the Mobilians) all slaveholders. The poorer white people went to the less fertile districts of north and southeast Alabama, where land was cheap, preferring to work their own poor farms rather than to work for some one else on better land. But nearly every slave county had its colony of poorer whites, who were invariably settled on the least fertile soils. Among these settlers there was a certain dislike of slavery, because they believed that, were it not for the negro, the whites might themselves live on the fertile lands. Yet they were not in favor of emancipation in any form, unless the negro could be gotten entirely out of the way—a free negro being to them an abomination. If the negro must stay, then they preferred slavery to continue.

Over the greater part of Alabama there were no class distinctions before 1860; the state was too young. In the wilderness classes had fused and the successful men were often those never heard of in the[Pg 7] older states. A candidate of “the plain people” was always elected, because all were frontier people. This does not mean that in Huntsville, Montgomery, Greensboro, and Mobile there were not the beginnings of an aristocracy based on education, wealth, and family descent. But these were very small spots on the map of Alabama, and there were no heartburnings over social inequalities.[2]

Such was the composition of the white population of Alabama before 1860. No matter what might be their political affiliations, in practice nearly all were Democrats of the Jeffersonian school, believing in the largest possible liberty for the individual and in local management of all local affairs, and to the frontier Democrat nearly all questions that concerned him were local. The political leaders excepted, the majority of the population knew little and cared less about the Federal government except when it endeavored to restrain or check them in their course of conquest and expansion in the wilderness. The relations of the people of Alabama with the Federal government were such as to confirm and strengthen them in their local attachments and sectional politics. The controversies that arose in regard to the removal of the Indians, and over the public lands, nullification, slavery, and western expansion, prevented the growth of attachment to the Federal government, and tended to develop a southern rather than a “continental” nationality. The state came into the Union when the sections were engaged in angry debate over the Missouri Compromise measures, and its attitude in Federal politics was determined from the beginning. The next most serious controversy with the Federal government and with the North was in regard to the removal of the Indians from the southern states. The southwestern frontiersmen, like all other Anglo-Americans, had no place in their economy for the Indian, and they were determined that he should not stand in their way.

 [Pg 8]

Indians and Nullification

For half a century, throughout the Gulf states, the struggle with the Indian tribes for the possession of the fertile lands continued, and in this struggle the Federal government was always against the settlers. Before the removal of the Indians, in 1836, the settlers of Alabama were in almost continual dispute with the Washington administration on this subject.[3] The trouble began in Georgia, and thousands of Georgians brought to Alabama a spirit of jealousy and hostility to the United States government, and a growing dislike of New England and the North on account of their stand in regard to the Indians. For when troubles, legal and otherwise, arose with the Indians, their advisers were found to be missionaries and land agents from New England. The United States wanted the Indians to remain as states within states; the Georgia and Alabama settlers felt that the Indians must go. The attitude of the Federal government drove the settlers into extreme assertions of state rights. In Georgia it came almost to war between the state and United States troops during the administration of John Quincy Adams, a New Englander, who was disliked by the settlers for his support of the Indian cause; and the whole South was made jealous by the decisions of the Supreme Court in the Indian cases. Had Adams been elected to a second term, there would probably have been armed resistance to the policy of the United States. Jackson, a southern and western man, had the feeling of a frontiersman toward the Indians; and his attitude gained him the support of the frontier southern states in the trouble with South Carolina over nullification.


A Marengo County Plantation Home. Abandoned since the War.


Immediately after the nullification troubles, the general government attempted to remove the white settlers from the Indian lands in east Alabama. The lands had been ceded by the Indians in 1832, and the legislature of Alabama at once extended the state administration over the territory. Settlers rushed in; some were already there. But by the treaty the Indians were entitled to remain on their land until they chose to move; and now the United States marshals, supported by the army, were ordered to remove the 30,000 whites[Pg 9] who had settled in the nine Indian counties. Governor Gayle, who had been elected as an opponent of nullification, informed the Secretary of War that the proposed action of the central government meant nothing less than the destruction of the state administration, and declared that he would, at all costs, sustain the jurisdiction of the state government. The troops killed a citizen who resisted removal, and the Federal authorities refused to allow the slayers to be tried by state courts. There was great excitement in the state, and public meetings were everywhere held to organize resistance. The legislature authorized the governor to persist in maintaining the state administration in the nine Indian counties. A collision with the United States troops was expected, and offers of volunteers were made to the governor,—even from New York. Finally the United States government yielded, the whites remained on the Indian lands, the state authority was upheld in the Indian counties, the soldiers were tried before state courts, and the Indians were removed to the West. The governor proclaimed a victory for the state, and the 30,000 angry Alabamians rejoiced over what they considered the defeat of the unjust Federal government.[4]

Thus in Alabama nullification of Federal law was successfully carried out. And it was done by a state administration and a people that a year before had refused to approve the course of South Carolina. But South Carolina was regarded in Alabama, as in the rest of the South, somewhat as an erratic member that ought to be disciplined once in a while. A strong and able minority in Alabama accepted the basis of the nullification doctrine, i.e. the sovereignty of the states, and after this time this political element was usually known as the State Rights party. They had no separate organization, but voted with Whigs or Democrats, as best served their purpose. Secession was little talked of, for affairs might yet go well, they thought, within the Union. A majority of the Democrats, for several years after 1832, were probably opposed in theory to nullification and secession when South Carolina was an actor, but in practice they acted as they had done in the Indian disputes which concerned them more closely.

 [Pg 10]

The Slavery Controversy and Political Divisions

It was at the height of the irritation of the Indian controversy that the agitation by the abolitionists of the North began. The question which more than any other alienated the southern people from the Union was that concerning negro slavery. From 1819 to 1860 the majority of the white people of Alabama were not friendly to slavery as an institution. This was not from any special liking for the negro or belief that slavery was bad for him, but because it was believed that the presence of the negro, slave or free, was not good for the white race. To most of the people slavery was merely a device for making the best of a bad state of affairs. The constitution of 1819 was liberal in its slavery provisions, and the legislature soon enacted (1827) a law prohibiting the importation, for sale, hire, or barter, of slaves from other states. For a decade there was strong influence at each session of the state legislature in favor of gradual emancipation; agents of the Quakers worked in the state, buying and paying a higher price for cotton that was not produced by slave labor; and in north Alabama, during the twenties and early thirties, there was a number of emancipation societies.[5] An emancipation newspaper, The Huntsville Democrat, was published in Huntsville, and edited by James G. Birney, afterwards a noted abolitionist. The northern section of the state, embracing the strong Democratic white counties, was distinctly unfriendly to slavery, or rather to the negro, and controlled the politics of the state.[6] The effect of the abolition movement in the North was the destruction of the emancipation organizations in the South, and both friends and foes of the institution united on the defensive. The non-slaveholders were not deluded followers of the slave owners. After the slavery question became an issue in politics, the non-slaveholders in Alabama were rather more aggressive, and were even more firmly determined to maintain negro slavery than were the slaveholders. To the rich[Pg 11] hereditary slaveholders, who were relatively few in number, it was more or less a question of property, and that was enough to fight about at any time. But to the average white man who owned no negroes and who worked for his living at manual labor, the question was a vital social one. The negro slave was bad enough; but he thought that the negro freed by outside interference and turned loose on society was much more to be feared.[7] The large majorities for extreme measures came from the white counties; the secession vote in 1860 was largely a white county vote. But when secession came, the Whiggish Black Belt which had been opposed to secession was astonished not to receive, in the war that followed, the hearty support of the Democratic white counties.

Before the nullification troubles in 1832 there was no distinct political division among the people of Alabama; all were Democrats. Those of the white counties were of the Jacksonian type, those of the black counties were rather of the Jeffersonian faith; but all were strict constructionists, especially on questions concerning the tariff, the Indians, the central government, and slavery. The question of nullification caused a division in the ranks of the Democratic party—one wing supporting Jackson, the other accepting Calhoun as leader. For several years later, however, the Democratic candidates had no opposition in the elections, though within the party there were contests between the Jacksonians and the growing State Rights (Calhoun) wing. But with the settling of the country, the growth of the power of the Black Belt, and the differentiation of interests within the state, there appeared a second party, the Whigs. Its strength lay among the large planters and slaveholders of the central Black Belt, though it often took its leaders from the black counties of the Tennessee valley. This party was able to elect a governor but once, and then only because of a division in the Democratic ranks. After 1835 it secured one-third of the representation in Congress and the same proportion in the legislature. It was the “broadcloth” party, of the wealthier and more cultivated people. It did not appeal to the “plain people” with much success; but it was always a respectable party, and there was no jealousy of it then, and now “there are no bitter memories against it.”[8]

[Pg 12]Numerically, the Whigs were about as strong as the anti-nullification wing of the Democratic party, so that the balance of power was held by the constantly increasing State Rights (Calhoun) element. When Van Buren became leader of the national Democracy, the State Rights people in Alabama united with the regular Democrats and voted with them for about ten years. The State Rights men were devoted followers of Calhoun, but in political theories they soon went beyond him. For a while they were believers in nullification as a constitutional right, but soon began to talk of secession as a sovereign right. They were in favor of no compromise where the rights of the South were concerned. They were logical, extreme, doctrinaire; they demanded absolute right, and viewed every action of the central government with suspicion. A single idea firmly held through many years gave to them a power not justified by their numerical strength.

The Whigs did not stand still on political questions; as the Democrats and the State Rights men abandoned one position for another more advanced, the Whigs moved up to the one abandoned. Thus they were always only about one election behind. It was the constant agitation of the slavery question that drove the Whigs along in the wake of the more advanced party. Both parties were in favor of expansion in the Southwest. They were indignant at the New England position on the Texas question, and talked much of disunion if such a policy of obstruction was persisted in. Again, after the Mexican War all parties were furious at the opposition shown to the annexation of the territory from Mexico. It was now the spirit of expansion, the lust for territory, that rose in opposition to the obstructive policy of northern leaders; and a new element was added when an attempt was made to shut out southerners from the territory won mainly by the South by forbidding the entrance of slavery.

The number of those in favor of resisting at every point the growing desire of the North to restrict slavery was increasing steadily. The leader of the State Rights men was William L. Yancey. He opposed all compromises, for, as he said, compromise meant that the system was evil and was an acknowledgment of wrong, and no right, however abstract, must be denied to the South. He was a firm believer in slavery as the only method of solving the race [Pg 13]question, and saw clearly the dangers that would result from the abolition programme if the North and South remained united. So to prevent worse calamities he was in favor of disunion. He was the greatest orator ever heard in the South. He was in no sense a demagogue; he had none of the arts of the popular politician. Sent to Congress in the heat of the fight between the sections, he resigned because he thought the battle was to be fought elsewhere. For twenty years he stood before the people of Alabama, telling them that slavery could not be preserved within the Union; that before any effective settlement of controversies could be made, Alabama and the other southern states must withdraw and make terms from the outside, or stay out of the Union and have done with agitation and interference. Secession was self-preservation, he told a people who believed that the destruction of slavery meant the destruction of society. For twenty years he and his followers, heralds of the storm, were ostracized by all political parties, which accepted his theories, but denied the necessity for putting them into practice. When at last the people came to follow him, he told them that they had probably waited too late, and that they were seceding on a weaker cause than any of those he had presented for twenty years.

Yancey was a leader of State Rights men but never a leader in the Democratic party. Once, in 1848, when all were angry on account of the opposition on the Mexican question, Yancey was called to the front in the Democratic state convention. He offered resolutions, which were adopted,[9] to the effect (1) that the people of a territory could not prevent the holding of slaves before the formation of a state constitution, and that Congress had no power whatever to restrict slavery in the territories; (2) that those who held the opposite opinion were not Democrats, and that the Democratic party of Alabama would not support for President any candidate who held such views. The delegates to the National Democratic Convention at Baltimore were instructed to withdraw if the Alabama resolutions were rejected. By a vote of two hundred and sixteen to thirty-six they were rejected; yet none of the delegates except Yancey withdrew. Refusing to support Cass for the presidency because he believed in “squatter sovereignty,” Yancey was again ostracized[Pg 14] by the Democratic leaders.[10] Now the State Rights men became more aggressive, for they said this was the time to settle the slavery question, before it was too late. The North, it was thought, would not be averse to separation from the South. The Whigs began to advance non-intervention theories, and but for the death of President Taylor, who adhered to the free-soil Whigs, political parties in Alabama would probably have broken up in 1850 and fused into one on the slavery question.


Growth of Secession Sentiment

The compromise measures of 1850 pleased few people in Alabama, and there was talk of resistance and of assisting Texas by force, if necessary, against the appropriation of her territory by the central government. The moderates condemned the Compromise and said they would not yield again. The more advanced demanded a repeal of the Compromise or immediate secession. Yancey said there was no hope of a settlement and that it was time to set the house in order. In 1850-1851 there was a widespread movement toward a rejection of the Compromise and a secession of the lower South, but the political leaders were disposed to give the Compromise a trial. To the Nashville convention, held in June, 1850, to discuss measures to secure redress of grievances, the Alabama legislature at an unofficial meeting chose the following delegates: Benjamin Fitzpatrick, William Cooper, John A. Campbell, Thomas J. Judge, John A. Winston, Leroy P. Walker, William M. Murphy, Nicholas Davis, R. C. Shorter, Thomas A. Walker, Reuben Chapman, James Abercrombie, and William M. Byrd—all Whigs or Conservative Democrats. The resolutions passed by the convention were cautious and prudent, and were generally supported by the Whigs and opposed by the Democrats. In Montgomery, upon the return of the Alabama delegation, a public meeting, held to ratify the action of the Nashville convention, condemned it instead, and approved the programme of Yancey who again declared that it was “time to set the house in order.” The contest in Alabama was simply between the Compromise, with maintenance of the Union, and rejection of the [Pg 15]Compromise to be followed by secession. It was not a campaign between Whig and Democrat, but between Union and Secession. The old party lines were not drawn. Associations were formed all over the state to oppose the Compromise and to advocate secession. The Unionists drew together, but less heartily. The compact State Rights element lost influence on account of a division that now showed in its ranks. One section, led by William L. Yancey, was for separate and unconditional secession; another, led by J. J. Seibels, favored coöperation of the southern states within the Union and united deliberation before secession.[11] The State Rights Convention met in Montgomery, February 10, 1851, and recommended a southern congress to decide the questions at issue and declared that if any other state would secede, Alabama should go also.[12] The action of the convention pleased few and was repudiated by the “separate secessionist” element. The candidates of the State Rights—now called the “Southern Rights”—party were supported by a majority of the Democrats. They demanded the repeal of the Compromise, and resistance to future encroachments; they demanded southern ministers and southern churches, southern books and papers, and southern pleasure resorts.

The “Union” leaders were Judge Benajah S. Bibb, James Abercrombie, Thomas J. Judge, Henry W. Hilliard, Thomas H. Watts, Senator William R. King,—nearly all Virginians or North Carolinians by birth or descent. At the State “Union” Convention held in Montgomery, January 19, 1851, among the more prominent delegates were: Thomas B. Cooper, R. M. Patton, W. M. Byrd, B. S. Bibb, J. M. Tarleton, W. B. Moss, James H. Clanton, L. E. Parsons, Robert J. Jamison, Henry W. Hilliard, R. W. Walker, Thomas H. Watts, Nicholas Davis, Jr., and C. M. Wilcox,—all were Whigs, and were Virginians, North Carolinians, and men of northern birth. This meeting denied the “constitutional” right of secession. The Union candidates for Congress were C. C. Langdon, James[Pg 16] Abercrombie, Judge Mudd, William R. Smith, W. R. W. Cobb, George S. Houston, and Alexander White,—each of whom denied the “constitutional” right of secession, but said nothing about it as a “sovereign” right.

The “Unionists”—the old Whigs and the Jacksonian Democrats—were successful in the elections, but by accepting, though disapproving, the Compromise measures, and by repudiating the doctrine of secession as a “constitutional” right,[13] they had advanced beyond the position held by Yancey in 1848.

After the success of the “Union” party in 1851-1852, the Southern Rights Associations resolved to suspend for a time the debate on secession. Thereupon the “Union” Democrats resumed their old party allegiance and the “Union” party was left to consist of old Whigs alone. The Whigs wished to continue the “Union” organization, for they no longer found it possible to act with the northern Whigs, and in 1852 several of their prominent leaders in Alabama refused to support the Whig presidential ticket. On the other hand, the extreme “Southern Rights” men broke away from the Democrats in 1852 and declared for immediate secession. They supported Troup and Quitman, who polled, however, only 2174 votes in the state; but the Whigs and the Democrats each lost about 15,000, who refused to vote.

And now came the break-up of old parties. The slavery question was always before the people and was becoming more and more irritating. Compromises had failed to quiet the controversy. The position of the “Union” Whigs in the black counties became intolerable. They had to combat secession at home, and they had to guard against trouble among their slaves caused by the abolitionist propaganda. By 1855 almost all the Alabama Whigs had become “Americans,” at the same time searching for a new issue and repudiating the principles upon which the “American” party was founded. Again they were left alone by the antislavery stand taken by the northern wing of this party. Yet in spite of every possible discouragement they held together and controlled the black counties. When the Kansas question arose all the parties in Alabama were united in reference to it. The doctrine of squatter sovereignty was not accepted, but there was an opportunity, both parties thought, to[Pg 17] win Kansas peaceably and stay the threatened separation, but the northern methods of settling Kansas by organized antislavery emigration from New England paralyzed the efforts of the moderate “Union” southerners. Similar methods were attempted by the South, and several colonies of emigrants were sent from Alabama;[14] but by 1857 it was known that Kansas was lost.

The great debate between William L. Yancey and Roger A. Pryor in the Southern Commercial Convention held in Montgomery in May, 1858, showed that the people of Alabama were then in advance of their political leaders and were coming to the position long held by Yancey and the secessionists. Pryor’s position in favor of compromise and delay had the support of nearly all the party leaders of Alabama; Yancey, always in disfavor with party leaders, captured the convention with his policy of secession in case of failure of redress of grievances. Secession was no longer a doctrine to be condemned unless on the ground of expediency. Whig leaders were now becoming Southern Rights Democrats. Many Democrats thought it was time to force an issue and come to a settlement; this Yancey proposed to do by demanding a repeal of all the laws against the slave trade because they expressed a disapproval of slavery. If slavery were not wrong, then the slave trade should not be denounced as piracy. Yancey had not the slightest desire to reopen the slave trade, and knew that the North would not consent to a repeal of the laws against it, yet he said the demand should be made. He believed the demand to be legitimate, though sure to be rejected. The national Democratic party would thus be divided and the issue forced.[15]

For any purpose of opposing the Yancey programme the Alabama “Union” men were rendered helpless by the turn politics were taking in the North. The formation out of the wreck of the old Whig party of the distinctly sectional and radical Republican party, the attitude of the leaders of that party, the talk about the “irrepressible[Pg 18] conflict” and the “Union cannot endure half slave and half free,” the indorsement of the “Impending Crisis” with its incendiary teachings, the effect of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” on thousands who before had cared nothing about slavery, and finally the raid of John Brown into Virginia,[16]—these were influences more powerful toward uniting the people to resistance than all the speeches of State Rights leaders on abstract constitutional questions. After 1856 the people were in advance of their leaders.

On January 11, 1860, the Democratic state convention unanimously adopted resolutions favoring the Dred Scott decision as a settlement of the slavery question. The delegation to the national nominating convention at Charleston was instructed to withdraw in case these resolutions were not accepted in substance as a part of the platform. At Charleston the majority report of the committee on the platform sustained the Alabama position. When the report was laid before the convention, a proposition was made to set it aside for the minority report, which vaguely said nothing. Yancey in a great speech delivered the ultimatum of the South, the adoption of the majority report. The vote was taken and the South defeated. L. Pope Walker[17] announced the withdrawal of the Alabama delegation and the delegations from the other southern states followed.[18] Both sections of the convention then adjourned to meet in Baltimore. Influences for and against compromise were working, and it is probable that a majority of the seceders would have harmonized had not the Douglas organization declared the seats of the seceders vacant and admitted delegates irregularly elected by Douglas conventions[Pg 19] in the South. After the damage was done, Yancey was pressed to take the vice-presidency on the Douglas ticket.[19] Douglas was known to be in bad health and Yancey was told that he might expect to be President within a few months, if he accepted. But it was too late for further compromise, and Yancey toured the North, speaking for Breckenridge. A State Rights convention in Alabama indorsed the candidates of the seceded convention; a convention of Douglas Democrats in Montgomery declared for Douglas; the “Constitutional Union” party (the old Whigs and “Americans” or “Know-nothings”), for Bell and Everett and old-fashioned conservative respectability. During the campaign Douglas visited the state and was well received, but aroused no enthusiasm, while Yancey was tumultuously welcomed.


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As far back as February 24, 1860, the legislature had passed almost unanimously a resolution concurring with South Carolina in regard to the right and necessity of secession, and declaring that Alabama would not submit to the domination of a “foul sectional party.” In case of the election of a “Black” Republican President a convention was to be called, and $200,000 was appropriated for its use.[20] A committee was appointed to reorganize the militia system of the state, and so important was the work deemed that the committee was excused from all other duties. The Senate declared that it was expedient to establish an arsenal, a firearms factory, and a powder mill. A bill was passed to encourage the manufacture of firearms in Alabama.[21] At this session seventy-four military companies were incorporated and provision made for military schools.[22]

 [Pg 20]

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In Lawrence, Coosa, and Mobile Counties the vote was nearly evenly divided.


Elections returns were anxiously awaited.[23] It was certain that the election of Lincoln and Hamlin would result in secession.[24] When the news came the old “Union” leaders declared for secession and by noon of the next day the “Union” party had gone to pieces. The leaders who had opposed secession to the last—Watts, Clanton, Goldthwaite, Judge, and Hilliard—now took their stand by the side of Yancey and declared that Alabama must withdraw from the Union. Governor Moore, a very moderate man, in a public speech said that no course was left but for the state to secede, and with the other southern states form a confederacy. Public meetings were held in every town and village to declare that Alabama would not submit to the rule of the “Black Republican.” A typical meeting held in Mobile, November 15, 1860, arraigned the Republican party because: (1) it had declared for the abolition of slavery in all territories and Federal districts and for the abolition of the interstate slave trade; (2) it had denied the extradition of murderers, marauders, and other felons; (3) it had concealed and shielded the murderers of masters who had sought to recover fugitive slaves; (4) it advocated negro equality and made it the basis of legislation hostile to the South; (5) it opposed protection of slave property on the high seas and had justified piracy in the case of the Creole; (6) it had invaded Virginia and shed the blood of her citizens on her own soil; and (7) had announced a policy of[Pg 21] total abolition.[25] In December, 1860, the Federal grand jury at Montgomery declared the Federal government “worthless, impotent, and a nuisance,” as it had failed to protect the interests of the people of Alabama. The presentment was signed by C. C. Gunter, foreman, and nineteen others.[26]

Had the governor been willing to call a convention at once, secession would have been almost unanimous; but delay caused the more cautious and timid to reflect and gave the so-called “coöperationists” time to put forth a platform. The leaders of the party of delay representing north Alabama, the stronghold of radical democracy, were William R. Smith, M. J. Bulger, Nicholas Davis, Jere Clemens, and Robert J. Jemison, all strong men, but none of them possessing the ability of the secessionist leaders or of the former “Union” leaders who had joined the secession party. But secession was certain,—it was only a question as to how and when. By law the governor was to call a convention in case the “Black Republican” candidates were elected, and December 24, 1860, was fixed as the time for election of delegates, and January 4, 1861, the time for assembly.


Separation of the Churches

Before the political division in 1861 the religious division had already occurred in the larger and in several of the smaller denominations. At the close of 1861 every religious body represented in the South, except the Roman Catholic church,[27] had been divided into northern and southern branches. The political rather than the moral aspects of slavery had finally led to strife in the churches. The southern churches protested against the action of the northern[Pg 22] religious bodies in going into politics on the slavery question and thus causing endless strife between the sections as represented in the churches. The response of the northern societies to such protests resulted in the gradual alienation of the southern members and finally in separation. The first division in Alabama came in 1821, when the Associate Reformed Presbyterian church excluded slaveholders from communion and thereby lost its southern members.[28] Next came the separation of the two strongest Protestant denominations, the Baptists and the Methodists. The southern Baptists were, as slaveholders, excluded from appointment as missionaries, agents, or officers of the Board of Foreign Missions, although they contributed their full share to missions. The Alabama Baptist Convention in 1844 led the way to separation with a protest against this discrimination. The Board stated in reply that under no circumstances would a slaveholder be appointed by them to any position. The Board of the Home Mission Society made a similar declaration. The formal withdrawal of the southern state conventions followed in 1844, and in 1845 the Southern Baptist Convention was formed.[29]

In the Methodist Episcopal church the conflict over slavery had long been smouldering, and in 1844 it broke out in regard to the ownership of slaves by the wife of Bishop Andrew of Alabama. The hostile sections agreed to separate into a northern and a southern church, and a Plan of Separation was adopted. This was disregarded by the northern body and the question of the division of property went to the courts. The United States Supreme Court finally decided in favor of the southern church. From these troubles angry feelings on both sides resulted. The southern church took the name of the Methodist Episcopal Church South; the northern church retained the old name.[30]

In 1858, the northern conferences of the Methodist Protestant[Pg 23] Church, having failed to change the constitution of the church in regard to slavery, withdrew, and uniting with a number of Wesleyan Methodists, formed the Methodist Church.[31]

The Southern Aid Society was formed in New York in 1854 for mission work in the South because it was generally believed that the American Home Mission Society was allied with the abolitionists, and because the latter society refused to aid any minister or missionary who was a slaveholder. In Alabama the Southern Aid Society worked principally among the Presbyterians of north Alabama.[32]

The Presbyterians (N.S.) separated in 1858 “on account of politics,” and the southern branch formed the United Synod South.[33] The East Alabama Presbytery (O.S.) in 1861 supported the Presbytery of Memphis in a protest against the action of the General Assembly of the church in entering politics. The Presbytery of South Alabama (O.S.) met at Selma in July, 1861, severed its connection with the General Assembly, and recommended a meeting of a Confederate States Assembly. This Assembly was held at Augusta and formed the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America. A long address was published, setting forth the causes of the separation, the future policy of the church, and its attitude towards slavery. It declared that the northern section of the church with its radical policy was playing into the hands of both slaveholders and abolitionists and thus weakening its influence with both. “We,” the address stated, “in our ecclesiastical capacity are neither the friends nor foes of slavery.” As long as they were connected with the radical northern church the southern Presbyterians felt that they would be excluded from useful work among the slaves by the suspicions of the southern people concerning their real intentions.[34]

The Christian church was divided in 1854. During the war the southern synods of the Evangelical Lutherans withdrew and[Pg 24] formed the General Synod South. There were few members of these churches in Alabama.[35]

The Cumberland Presbyterians, though separated by the war, seem not to have formally established an independent organization in the Confederate States. A convention was called to meet at Selma in 1864, but nothing resulted.[36]

In May, 1861, the Protestant Episcopal Convention of Alabama declared null and void that part of the constitution of the diocese relating to its connection with the church in the United States. Instead of the President of the United States, the Governor of Alabama, and later, the President of the Confederate States, was prayed for in the formal prayer. Bishop Cobbs, a strong opponent of secession, died one hour before the secession of the state was announced. Rev. R. H. Wilmer, a Confederate sympathizer, was elected to succeed him.[37] In July the bishops of the southern states met in Montgomery to draft a new constitution and canons. A resolution was passed stating that the secession of the southern states from the Union and the formation of a new government rendered it expedient that the dioceses within those states should form an independent organization. The new constitution was adopted in November, 1861, by a general convention, and the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States was formed.[38] And thus the religious ties were broken.

Business had also become sectionalized by 1861. The southern states felt keenly their dependence upon the states of the North for manufactures, water transportation, etc. For two decades before the war the southern newspapers agitated the question and advocated measures that would tend to secure economic independence of the North. As an instance of the feeling, many of the educators of the state were in favor of using only those text-books written by southern men and printed in the South. Professor A. P. Barnard[39] of the University of Alabama was strenuously in favor of such action. He[Pg 25] declared that nothing ought to be bought from the North. From 1845 to 1861, fifteen “Commercial Conventions” were held in the South, largely attended by the most prominent business men and politicians. The object of these conventions was to discuss means of attaining economic independence.

When Alabama withdrew from the Union in 1861, no bonds were broken. Practically the only bond of Union for most of the people had been in the churches; to the Washington government and to the North they had never become attached. The feelings of the great majority of the people of the state are expressed in the last speech of Senator C. C. Clay of north Alabama in the United States Senate. It had been forty-two years, he said, since Alabama had entered the Union amidst scenes of excitement and violence caused by the hostility of the North against the institution of slavery in the South (referring to the conflict over Missouri). In the churches, southern Christians were denied communion because of what the North styled the “leprosy of slavery.” In violation of Constitution and laws southern people were refused permission to pass through the North with their property. The South was refused a share in the lands acquired mainly by her diplomacy, blood, and treasure. The South was robbed of her property and restoration was refused. Criminals who fled North were protected, and southern men who sought to recover their slaves were murdered. Southern homes were burned and southern families murdered. This had been endured for years, and there was no hope of better. The Republican platform was a declaration of war against the South. It was hostile to domestic peace, reproached the South as unchristian and heathenish, and imputed sin and crime to that section. It was a strong incitement to insurrection, arson, and murder among the negroes. The southern whites were denied equality with northern whites or even with free negroes, and were branded as an inferior race. The man nominated for President disregarded the judgment of courts, the obligations of the Constitution, and of his oath by declaring his approval of any measure to prohibit slavery in the territories of the United States. The people of the North branded the people of the South as outlaws, insulted them, consigned them to the execration of posterity and to ultimate destruction. “Is it to be expected that we will or can exercise that Godlike virtue that beareth all things, believeth all things,[Pg 26] hopeth all things, endureth all things; which tells us to love our enemies, and bless them that curse us? Are we expected to be denied the sensibilities, the sentiments, the passions, the reason, the instincts of men?” Have we no pride, no honor, no sense of shame, no reverence for ancestors and care for posterity, no love of home, of family, of friends? Are we to confess baseness, discredit the fame of our sires, dishonor ourselves and degrade posterity, abandon our homes and flee the country—all—all—for the sake of the Union? Shall we live under a government administered by those who deny us justice and brand us as inferiors? whose avowed principles and policy must destroy domestic tranquillity, imperil the lives of our wives and children, and ultimately destroy the state? The freemen of Alabama have proclaimed to the world that they will not.[40]



[Pg 27]



On November 12, 1860, a committee of prominent citizens, appointed by a convention of the people of several counties, asked the governor whether he intended to call the state convention immediately after the choice of presidential electors or to wait until the electors should have chosen the President. They also asked to be informed of the time he intended to order an election of delegates to the convention.[41] Governor Moore replied that a candidate for the presidency was not elected until the electors cast their votes, and until that time he would not call a convention. The electors would vote on December 5, and as he had no doubt that Lincoln would be elected, he would then order an election for December 24, and the convention would assemble in Montgomery on January 7, 1861. The date, he said, was placed far ahead in order that the people might have time to consider the subject. He summed up the situation as follows: Lincoln was the head of a sectional party pledged to the destruction of slavery; the non-slaveholding states had repeatedly resisted the execution of the Fugitive Slave Law, even nullifying the statutes of the United States by their laws intended to prevent the execution of the Fugitive Slave Law; Virginia had been invaded by abolitionists and her citizens murdered; emissaries had burned towns in Texas; and in some instances poison had been given to slaves with which to destroy the whites. With Lincoln as President the abolitionists would soon control the Supreme Court and then slavery would be abolished in the Federal district and in the territories. There would[Pg 28] soon be a majority of free states large enough to alter the Constitution and to destroy slavery in the states. The state of society, with four million negroes turned loose, would be too horrible to contemplate, and the only safety for Alabama lay in secession, which was within her right as a sovereign state. The Federal government was established for the protection and not the destruction of rights; it had only the powers delegated by the states and hence had not the power of coercion. Alabama was devoted to the Union, but could not consent to become a degraded member of it. The state in seceding ought to consult the other southern states; but first she must decide for herself, and coöperate afterwards. The convention, the governor said, would not be a place for the timid or the rash. Men of wisdom and experience were needed, men who could determine what the honor of the state and the security of the people demanded, and who had the moral courage to carry out the dictates of their honest judgment.

The proclamation, ordering an election on Christmas Eve and the assembly of the convention at Montgomery, on January 7, 1861, was issued on December 6, the day after the choice of Lincoln by the electors. On January 7, every one of the one hundred delegates was present. It was a splendid body of men, the best the people could send.

There were the “secessionists,” who wanted immediate and separate secession of the state without regard to the action of the other southern states; the “coöperationists,” who were divided among themselves, some wanting the coöperation of the southern states within the Union in order to force their rights from the central government, and others wanting the southern states to come to an agreement within the Union and then secede and form a confederacy, while a third class wanted a clear understanding among the cotton states before secession. It was said that there were a few “submissionists,” but the votes and speeches fail to show any.

At first both parties claimed a majority, but before the convention opened it was known that the larger number were secessionists. A test vote on the election of a presiding officer showed the relative strength of the parties. William M. Brooks of Perry was elected over Robert Jemison of Tuscaloosa by a vote of 54 to 46, north Alabama voting for Jemison, central and south Alabama for Brooks. And thus the parties voted throughout the convention.

[Pg 29]It is probable that the majority of the delegates were formerly Whigs, and a majority of them was still hostile to Yancey, who was the only prominent agitator elected. His colleague, from Montgomery County, was Thomas H. Watts, formerly a Whig. Other prominent secessionists were J. T. Dowdell, John T. Morgan, Thomas H. Herndon, E. S. Dargan, William M. Brooks, and Franklin K. Beck. The opposition leaders were William R. Smith, Robert Jemison, M. J. Bulger, Nicholas Davis, Jeremiah Clemens, Thomas J. McClellan, and David P. Lewis. Yancey, Morgan, and Watts excepted, the opposition had the more able speakers and debaters and the more political experience. The advantage of representation was with the white counties, which sent 70 of the 100 delegates.


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When the convention settled down to work, the grievances of the South had no important place in the discussions. The little that was said on the subject came from the coöperationists and that only incidentally. There was a genuine fear of social revolution brought about by the Republican programme, but the secessionists had been stating their grievances for twenty years and were now silent.[42] All seemed to agree that the present state of affairs was[Pg 30] unbearable, and that secession was the only remedy. The only question was, How to secede? To decide that question the leaders of each party were placed on the Committee on Secession. A majority of the convention was in favor of immediate, separate secession. They held the logical state sovereignty view that the state, while a member of the Union, should not combine with another against the government or the party controlling it. Such a course would be contrary to the Constitution and would be equivalent to breaking up the Union while planning to save it. As a sovereign state, Alabama could withdraw from the Union, and hence immediate, separate secession was the proper method. Then would follow consultation and coöperation with the other seceded southern states in forming a southern confederacy. From the first it was known that the secessionists were strong enough to pass at once a simple ordinance of withdrawal. They said but little because their position was already well understood. The people were now more united than they would be after long debates and outside influence. Yet, for policy’s sake, and in deference to the feelings of the minority, the latter were allowed to debate for four days before the question at issue was brought to a vote. In that time they had about argued themselves over to the other side. With the exception of Yancey, the secessionists were silent until the ordinance was passed. The first resolution declared that the people of Alabama would not submit to the administration of Lincoln and Hamlin. Both parties voted unanimously for this resolution.[43]

The coöperationists were determined to resist Republican rule, but did not consider delay dangerous. Some doubtless thought that in some way Lincoln could be held in check and the Union still be preserved, and a number of them were doubtless willing to wait and make another trial. It was known that an ordinance of secession would be passed as soon as the secessionists cared to bring the question to a vote, but for four days the Committee on Secession [Pg 31]considered the matter while the coöperationists made speeches.[44] On January 10 the committees made two reports. The majority report, presented by Yancey, simply provided for the immediate withdrawal of the state from the Union. The minority report, presented by Clemens, was in substance as follows: We are unable to see in separate state secession the most effectual mode of guarding our honor and securing our rights. This great object can best be attained by concurrent and concentrated action of all the states interested, and such an effort should be made before deciding finally upon our own policy. All the southern states should be requested to meet in convention at Nashville, February 22, 1861, to consider wrongs and appropriate remedies. As a basis of settlement such a convention should consider: (1) the faithful execution of the Fugitive Slave Law and the repeal of all state laws nullifying it; (2) more stringent and explicit provisions for the surrender of criminals escaping into another state; (3) guarantees that slavery should not be abolished in the Federal district or in any other place under the exclusive jurisdiction of Congress; (4) non-interference with the interstate slave trade; (5) protection of slavery in the territories which, when admitted as states, should decide for themselves the question of slavery; (6) right of transit through free states with slave property; (7) the foregoing to be irrepealable amendments to the Constitution. This basis of settlement was not to be regarded as absolute, but simply as the opinion of the Alabama convention, to which its delegates to the proposed convention were expected to conform as nearly as possible. Secession should not be attempted except after the most thorough investigation and discussion.[45]

The secessionists were of one mind in regard to secession and did not debate the subject; the coöperationists—all from north Alabama—were careful to explain their views at length in their speeches of opposition. Bulger (c.)[46] of Tallapoosa thought that separate secession was unwise and impolitic, but that an effort should be made[Pg 32] to secure the coöperation of the other southern states before seceding. To this end he proposed a convention of the southern states to consider the grievances of the South and to determine the mode of relief for the present and security for the future, and, should its demands not be complied with, to determine upon a remedy.

Clark (c.) of Lawrence denied the right of separate secession, which would not be a remedy for existing evils. The slavery question would not be settled but would still be a vital and ever present issue. Separate secession would revolutionize the government but not the northern feeling, would not hush the pulpits, nor calm the northern mind, nor purify Black Republicanism. The states would be in a worse condition politically than the colonies were before the Constitution was adopted. The border states would sell their slaves south and become free states; separate secession would be the decree of universal emancipation. A large majority of the people were opposed to separate secession, and besides, the state alone would be weak and at the mercy of foreign powers. The proper policy for Alabama was to remain in a southern union, at least, with the border states for allies. Would secession repeal “personal liberty” laws, return a single fugitive slave, prevent abolition in the Federal district and territories, or the suppression of interstate slave trade? By secession Alabama would relinquish her interest in the Union and leave it in the control of Black Republicans. It would be almost impossible to unite the southern states after separate secession—as difficult as it was to form the original Union. The only hope for peaceable secession was in a united South, and now was the time for it, for southern sentiment, though opposed to separate secession, was ripe for southern union. The “United South” would possess all the requirements of a great nation—territory, resources, wealth, population, and community of interests. Separate secession would result in the deplorable disasters of civil war. He hoped that even yet some policy of reconciliation might succeed, but if the contrary happened, there should be no scruples about state sovereignty; the United South would assert the God-given right of every community to freedom and happiness. Jones (c.) of Lauderdale declared that it was a great mistake to call his constituents submissionists, since time after time they had declared that they would not submit to Black Republican rule. They differed as to the time and [Pg 33]manner of secession, believing that hasty secession was not a proper remedy, that it was unwise, impolitic, and discourteous to the border states.

Smith of Tuscaloosa, the leader of the coöperationists,[47] read the platform upon which he was elected to the convention; which, in substance, was to use all honorable exertions to secure rights in the Union, and failing, to maintain them out of the Union. Allegiance, he went on to say, was due first to the state, and support was due her in any course she might adopt. If an ordinance of secession should be passed, it would be the supreme law of the land. Kimball (c.) of Tallapoosa said that his constituents were opposed to secession, but were more opposed to Black Republicanism. Before taking action he desired a solid or united South. He agreed with General Scott that with a certain unanimity of the southern states it would be impolitic and improper to attempt coercion. To secure the coöperation of the southern states and to justify themselves to the world a southern convention should be called. However, rights should be maintained even if Alabama had to withdraw from the Union.

Watkins (c.) of Franklin stated that he would vote against the ordinance of secession in obedience to the will of the people he represented. He believed that separate secession was wrong. Edwards (c.) of Blount said that secession was unwise on the part of Alabama, while Beard (c.) of Marshall thought the best, safest, and wisest course would be to consult and coöperate with the other slave states. He favored resistance to Black Republican rule, and his constituents, though desiring coöperation, would abide by the action of the state.

Bulger (c.) of Tallapoosa stated that he had voted against every proposition leading to immediate and separate secession. Yet he would give to the state, when the ordinance was passed, his whole allegiance; and, if any attempt were made to coerce the state, would join the army.[48] Winston (c.) of De Kalb stated that his constituents were opposed to immediate secession, yet they would, no doubt, acquiesce. He had written to his son, a cadet at West Point, to resign and come home. A convention of the slave states should be called to make an attempt to settle difficulties. Davis (c.) of Madison, who had stoutly[Pg 34] opposed separate secession, now declared that since the meeting of the convention serious changes had occurred. Several states had already seceded and others would follow. Consequently Alabama would not be alone. Clemens (cs.) of Madison said he would vote for secession, but would not do so if the result depended upon his vote. He strongly preferred the plan proposed by the minority of the committee on secession.

During the debates there was not a single strong appeal for the Union. There was simply no Union feeling, but an intense dislike for the North as represented by the Republican party. The coöperationists contemplated ultimate secession. They wished to make an attempt at compromise, but they felt sure that it would fail. Their plan of effecting a united South within the Union was clearly unconstitutional and could only be regarded as a proposition to break up the old Union and reconstruct a new one.[49]


Political Theories of the Members

The secessionists held clear, logical views on the question before them. They clearly distinguished the “state” or “people” from “government.” No secessionist ever claimed that the right of secession was one derived from or preserved by the Constitution; it was a sovereign right. Granted the sovereignty of the state, the right to secede in any way at any time was, of course, not to be questioned. Consequently, they said but little on that point.

The coöperationists were vague-minded. Most of them were stanch believers in state sovereignty and opposed secession merely on the ground of expediency. A few held a confused theory that while the state was sovereign it had no right to secede unless with the whole South. This view was most strongly advocated by Clark of Lawrence. Separate secession was not a right, he said, though he admitted the sovereignty of the state. To secede alone would be rebellion; not so, if in company with other southern states. Earnest (c.) of Jefferson said that the state was sovereign, and that after secession any acts of the state or of its citizens to protect their rights would not be treason. But unless the state acted in its sovereign capacity, it could not withdraw from the Union, and her citizens[Pg 35] would be subject to the penalties of treason.[50] Sheffield (c.) of Marshall believed in the right of “secession or revolution.” Clemens of Madison, elected as a coöperationist, said that in voting for secession he did it with the full knowledge that in secession they were all about to commit treason, and, if not successful, would suffer the pains and penalties pronounced against the highest political crime. Acting “upon the convictions of a lifetime” he “calmly and deliberately walked into revolution.”[51]

The coöperationists were generally disposed to deny the sovereignty of the convention. Most of them were former Whigs, who had never worked out a theory of government. Davis (c.) of Madison repeatedly denied that the convention had sovereign powers; sovereignty, he said, was held by the people. Clark (c.) of Lawrence complained that the convention was encroaching upon the rights of the people whom it should protect, and asserted it did not possess unlimited power, but that its power was conferred by act of the legislature, which created only a general agency for a special purpose; that the convention had no power to do more than pass the ordinance of secession and acts necessary thereto. Smith (c.) said that the convention was the creature of the legislature, not of the people, and that the southern Congress was the creature of the convention. Buford (s.) of Barbour[52] doubted whether the convention possessed legislative powers. According to his views, political or sovereign power was vested in the people; the convention was not above the constitution which created the legislature. Watts (s.) of Montgomery believed that the power of the convention to interfere with the constitution was confined to such changes as were necessary to the perfect accomplishment of secession. Yelverton (s.) of Coffee summed up the theory of the majority: the convention had full power and control over the legislative, executive, and judiciary; the people were present in convention in the persons of their representatives and in them was the sovereignty, the power, and the will of the state. This was the theory upon which the convention acted.

 [Pg 36]

Passage of the Ordinance of Secession

On January 11, 1861, Yancey spoke at length, closing the debate on the question of secession. Referring to the spirit of fraternity that prevailed, he stated that irritation and suspicion had, in great degree, subsided. The majority had yielded to the minority all the time wanted for deliberation, and every one had been given an opportunity to record his sentiments. The question had not been pressed to a vote before all were ready. Though preferring a simple ordinance of secession, the majority had, for the sake of harmony and fraternal feeling, yielded to amendment by the minority. All, he said, were for resistance to Republican rule, and differed only as to the manner of resistance. Some believed in secession, others in revolution. The ordinance might mean disunion, secession, or revolution, as the members preferred. The mode was organized coöperation, not of states, but of the people of Alabama, in resistance to wrong. Yet the ordinance provided for coöperation with other states upon the basis of the Federal Constitution. Every effort, he said, had been made to find common ground upon which the advocates of resistance might meet, and all parties had been satisfied. This was not a movement of the politicians, but a great popular movement, based upon the widespread, deep-seated conviction that the government had fallen into the hands of a sectional majority who were determined to use it for the destruction of the rights of the South. All were driven by an irresistible tide; the minority had been unable to repress the movement, the majority had not been able to add one particle to its momentum; in northern, not in southern, hands was held the rod that smote the rock from which flowed this flood.

Some, he said, concluded that by dissolving the Union the rich inheritance bequeathed by the fathers was hazarded. But liberties were one thing, the power of government delegated to secure them was another. Liberties were inalienable, and the state governments were formed to secure them; the Federal government was the common agent, and its powers should be withdrawn when it abused them to destroy the rights of the people. This movement was not hostile to liberty nor to the Federal Constitution, but was merely a dismissal of an unfaithful agent. The state now resumed the duties formerly delegated to that agent. The ordinance of secession was a declaration[Pg 37] of this fact and also a proposition to form a new government similar to the old. All were urged to sign the ordinance, not to express approval, but to give notice to their enemies that the people were not divided. “I now ask that the vote may be taken,” he said.



Alexander Hamilton Stephens.   William Lowndes Yancey.
General L. P. Walker,
First Confederate Secretary of War. President of Convention of 1875.
William R. Smith,
Leader of Coöperationists in 1861.
  Jere Clemens.


The ordinance was called up. It was styled “An Ordinance to dissolve the Union between Alabama and other States united under the Compact styled ‘The Constitution of the United States of America.’” The preamble stated that the election of Lincoln and Hamlin by a sectional party avowedly hostile to the domestic institutions, peace, and security of Alabama, preceded by many dangerous infractions of the Constitution by the states and people of the North, was a political wrong of so insulting and menacing a character as to justify the people of Alabama in the adoption of prompt and decided measures for their future peace and security. The ordinance simply stated that Alabama withdrew from the Union and that her people resumed the powers delegated by the Constitution to the Federal government. A coöperationist amendment expressed the desire of the people to form with the other southern states a permanent government, and invited a convention of the states to meet in Montgomery on February 4, 1861, for consultation in regard to the common safety. The ordinance was passed by a vote of 69 to 31, every delegate voting. Fifteen coöperationists voted for secession and 22 signed the ordinance.

In the convention opinions varied as to whether peace or war would follow secession. The great majority of the members, and of the people also, believed that peaceful relations would continue. All truly wished for peace. A number of the coöperationists expressed themselves as fearing war, but this was when opposing secession, and they probably said more than they really believed. Yet in nearly all the speeches made in the convention there seemed to be distinguishable a feeling of fear and dread lest war should follow. However, had war been a certainty, secession would not have been delayed or checked.

There was warm discussion on the question of submitting the ordinance to the people for ratification or rejection. The coöperationists, both before and after the passage of the ordinance, favored its reference to the people in the hope that the measure would be delayed or defeated. No one expected that it would be referred to the people, but this was a good question for obstructive purposes.[Pg 38] The minority report on secession declared that, in a matter of such vital importance, involving the lives and liberties of a whole people, the ordinance should be submitted to them for their discussion, and that secession should be attempted only after ratification by a direct vote of the people on that single issue.

Posey (c.) of Lauderdale said that his constituents expected the question of secession to be referred to the people, and that they would submit more willingly to a decision made by popular vote; that the ordinance was objectionable to them unless they were allowed to vote on it. He further stated that when the convention had refused to submit the ordinance to the popular vote, the first impulse of some of the coöperationists had been to “bolt the convention.” However, not being responsible, they preferred to remain and aid in providing for the emergencies of the future. Kimbal (c.) of Tallapoosa said that the people were the interested parties, that sovereignty was in the people, and that they ought to decide the question. Edwards (c.) of Blount said that his constituents expected the ordinance to be referred to them and had instructed him to use his best exertions to secure reference to the people. Bulger (c.) of Tallapoosa voted against all propositions looking toward secession without reference to the people. Davis (c.) of Madison denied the sovereignty of the convention. He said that the vote of the people might be one way and that of the convention another. He believed that the majority in convention represented a minority of the people.

In closing the debate on this subject, Yancey (s.) of Montgomery said that, as a measure of policy, to submit the ordinance to a vote of the people was wrong. The convention was clothed with all the powers of the people; it was the people acting in their sovereign capacity; the government was not a pure democracy, but a government of the people, though not by the people. Historically the convention was the supreme power in American political theory, and submission to the people was a new doctrine. If the ordinance should be submitted to the people, the friends of secession would triumph, but irritation and prejudice would be aroused. Yancey’s views prevailed.

 [Pg 39]

Establishing the Confederacy

A number of the coöperationists professed to believe that secession would result in disintegration and anarchy in the South. The secessionists were accused of desiring to tear down, not to build up. These assertions were, in fact, unfounded, since, during the entire debate, those favoring immediate secession stated plainly that they expected to reunite with the other southern states after secession. Williamson (s.) of Lowndes said that to declare to the world that they were not ready to unite with the other slave states in a permanent government would be to act in bad faith and subject themselves to contempt and scorn; united action was necessary; financial and commercial affairs were in a deplorable condition; confidence was lost, and in the business world all was gloom and despair—this could be remedied only by a permanent government. Whatley (s.) of Calhoun was unwilling for it to be said by posterity that they tore down the old government and failed to reconstruct a new; the cotton states should establish a government modelled on the Federal Union.

In accordance with these views the ordinance of secession proposed a convention of southern states, and a few days later a resolution was passed approving the suggestion of South Carolina to form a provisional government upon the plan of the old Union and to prepare for a permanent government. Each state was to send as many delegates to the convention on February 4 as it had had senators and representatives in Congress. The Alabama convention (January 16) elected one deputy from each congressional district and two from the state at large, most of them being coöperationists or moderate secessionists.

Yancey, on January 16, read a unanimous report from the Committee on Secession in favor of forming a provisional confederate government at once. The report also stated that the people of Alabama had never been dissatisfied with the Constitution of the United States; that their dissatisfaction had been with the conduct of the northern people in violating the Constitution and in dangerous misinterpretation of it, causing the belief that, while acting through the forms of government, they intended to destroy the rights of the South. The Federal Constitution, the report declared, represented a complete scheme of government, capable of being put into speedy [Pg 40]operation, and was so familiar to the people that when properly interpreted they would feel safe under it. A speedy confederation of the seceded states was desirable, and there was no better basis than the United States Constitution. The report recommended the formation, first, of a provisional, and later, of a permanent, government. The secessionists warmly advocated the speedy formation of a new confederacy. The coöperationists renewed their policy of obstruction. Jemison (c.) of Tuscaloosa proposed to strike out the part of the resolution relating to the formation of a permanent government. Another coöperationist wanted delay in order that the border states might have time to take part in forming the proposed government. Others wanted the people to elect a new convention to act on the question. Yancey replied that delay was dangerous, if coercion was intended by the North; that the issue had been before the people and that they had invested their delegates with full power; that the convention then in session had ample authority to settle all questions concerning a provisional or a permanent government; that another election would only cause irritation; that delay, waiting for the secession of the border states, would be suicidal. The proposition for a new convention was lost by a vote of 53 to 36.

The convention decided to continue the work until the end. After choosing delegates (January 16) to the southern convention, which was to meet in Montgomery on February 4, the state convention adjourned until the Confederate provisional government was planned and the permanent constitution written. Then the state convention met again on March 4 to ratify them. The coöperationists now proposed that the new plan of government be submitted to the people. It was right and expedient, they said, to let the people decide. Morgan[53] (s.) of Dallas said that the proposition for ratification by direct vote of the people was absurd. The people would never ratify, for too many unrelated questions would be brought in. Dargan (s.) of Mobile said that the people had conferred upon the convention full powers to act, and that a new election would harass the candidates with new issues such as the slave trade, reconstruction, etc., introduced by the opponents of secession. Stone (s.) of Pickens thought that a new election would cause angry and bitter discussions, wrangling, distrust, and division among the people; that the proposed[Pg 41] constitution was very like the United States Constitution, to which the people were so devoted that they had given up the Union rather than the Constitution; that Lincoln’s inaugural address was a declaration of war, and a permanent government was necessary to raise money for armies and fleets. Still the coöperationists obstructed, saying that not to refer to the people was unfair and illiberal; that the convention was usurping the powers of the people, who desired to be heard in the matter; that government by a few was like a house built on the sand; that there was no danger in waiting, for the people would be sure to ratify and then would be better satisfied, etc. Finally most of the coöperationists agreed that it would be better not to refer the question to the people and the permanent Confederate constitution was ratified on March 12 by the vote of 87 to 5.[54]

For the first time Yancey stood at the head of the people of the state. They were ready to give him any office. But the coöperationists and a few secessionist politicians in the convention were jealous of his rising strength and desired to stay his progress. So Earnest (c.) of Jefferson introduced a self-denying resolution making ineligible to election to Congress the members of the state legislature and of the convention. It was a direct attack by the dissatisfied politicians upon the prominent men in the convention, and especially upon Yancey. The measure was supported by Jemison (c.) who said that it was a practice never to elect a member of a legislative body to an office created by the legislature. Clemens (cs.) thought such a measure unnecessary, as the majority necessary to pass it could defeat any undesirable candidate. Stone (s.) said that such a resolution would cost the state the services of some of her best men when most needed; that the best men were in the convention; and that the southern Confederacy should be intrusted to the friends, not to the enemies, of secession. Morgan (s.) of Dallas thought that, as a matter of policy, the congressmen would be chosen from outside of the convention. Bragg (s.) of Mobile wanted the best men regardless of place; this was no ordinary work and the best men were needed; the people had already made a choice of the members once and would approve them again. Yancey said that in principle he was opposed to such a measure. He declared that he would not be a candidate.[Pg 42] But he believed that the people had a right to a choice from their entire number, and that the convention had no right to violate the equality of citizenship by disfranchising the 223 members of the convention and the legislature. Yelverton (s.) of Coffee at first favored the resolution, but upon discovering that it was aimed at a few leaders and especially at Yancey, he opposed it. He did not wish the leaders of secession to be proscribed.

The resolution was lost by a vote of 46 to 50, but the delegates sent to the Provisional Congress were, with one exception, taken from outside the convention. A few politicians among the secessionists united with the coöperationists and, passing by the most experienced and able leaders, chose an inexperienced Whiggish delegation.[55]


The African Slave Trade

The Committee on Foreign Relations reported that the power of regulating the slave trade would properly be conferred upon the Confederate government, but, meanwhile, believing that the slave trade should be prohibited until the Confederacy was formed, the committee reported an ordinance forbidding it. Morgan (s.) of Dallas opposed the ordinance because it was silent as to the cause of the prohibition. He was opposed to the slave trade on the ground of public policy. If at liberty to carry out Christian convictions, he would have Africans brought over to be made Christian slaves, the highest condition attainable by the negro. In holding slaves, the South was charged with sin and crime, but the southern people were unable to perceive the wrong and unwilling to cease to do what the North considered evil. The present movement rested, in great measure, upon their assertion of the right to hold the African in slavery. The laws of Congress denouncing the slave trade as piracy had been a shelter to those who assailed the South, and had affected the standing of the South among nations. If the slave trade were wrong, then it was much worse to bring Christian and enlightened negroes from Virginia to Alabama than a heathen savage from Africa to Alabama. Slavery was the only force which had ever been able to elevate the negro. He believed that on grounds of public policy the traffic should be condemned, but it was a question better left to the Confederate[Pg 43] government, because the various states would not make uniform laws. There were slaves enough for twenty years and, when needed, more could be had. Reopening of the African slave trade should be forbidden by the Confederate government expressly for reasons of public policy.

Smith (c.) of Tuscaloosa said that the question of morality did not arise; the slave trade was not wrong. The heathen African was greatly benefited by the change to Christian Alabama. But no more negroes were needed; they were already increasing too fast and there was no territory for extension. Crowded together, the white and black might degenerate like the Spaniards and natives in Mexico. He supported the ordinance as a measure to disarm foes who charged that one of the reasons for secession was a desire to reopen the African slave trade, which should be denied to the world. The slave trade would lead to war, and “If Cotton is King, his throne is peace,” war would destroy him. Jones (c.) of Lauderdale did not want another negro on the soil of Alabama. The people of the border states were afraid that the cotton states would reopen the slave trade, but for the sake of uniformity the question should be left to the Confederate government. Posey (c.) of Lauderdale also thought the border states should be reassured, and said that on the grounds of expediency alone he would vote against the slave trade. There were already too many negroes; already more land was needed, and that for whites. The slave trade should be prohibited as a great evil to the South. Potter (c.) of Cherokee was astonished that the slave trade and slavery were treated as if identical in point of morality. It was a duty to support and perpetuate slavery; the slave trade was immoral in its tendency and effects; the question, however, should be settled on the grounds of policy alone.

Yelverton (s.) of Coffee[56] said that the slave trade should not now be reopened nor forever closed, but that the regulation of it should be left to the legislature. It was said that the world was against the South on the slavery question; then the South should either own all the slaves, or set them all free in deference to unholy prejudice. As the southern people were not ready to surrender the negroes, they should be at liberty to buy them in any market, subject simply to the laws of trade. Slavery was the cause of secession and should not be[Pg 44] left in doubt. A slave in Alabama cost eight times as much as one imported from Africa. If the border states entered the Confederacy, they could furnish slaves; if they remained in the Union and thus became foreign country, the South should not be forced to buy from them alone. Slavery was a social, moral, and political blessing. The Bible sanctioned it, and had nothing to say in favor of it in one country and against it in another. To restrict the slave market to the United States would be a blow at states rights and free trade, and with slavery stricken, King Cotton would become a petty tyrant. Slavery had built up the Yankees, socially, politically, and commercially. The English were a calculating people and would not hesitate, on account of slavery, to recognize southern independence, and other nations would do likewise. Expansion of territory would come and would cause an increased demand for slaves. The arguments against the slave trade, he said, were that fanaticism might be angered, that there were too many negroes already, and that those who had slaves to sell might suffer from reduced prices. But the larger part of the people would prefer to purchase in a cheaper market, and non-slaveholders, as they grew wealthier, could become slave owners. The argument against the slave trade, he added, was usually the one of dollars and cents. The great moral effect was lost sight of, and it seemed from some arguments that Christianity did not require the Bible to be taught to the poor slave unless profit followed. The time was not far distant when the reopening of the slave trade would be considered essential to the industrial prosperity of the cotton states.

Stone (s.) of Pickens said that he would not hesitate, from moral reasons, to purchase a slave anywhere. Slavery was sanctioned by the divine law; it was a blessing to the negro. But on grounds of policy he would insist upon the prohibition of the slave trade. Too many slaves would make too much cotton; prices would then fall and weaken the institution. Keep the prices high, and the institution would be strengthened; reduce the value of the slaves, and the interest of the owners in the institution would be reduced, and the border states would listen to plans for general emancipation. There was no territory in which slavery could expand.

Yancey (s.) explained his course in the Southern Commercial Conventions in preceding years when he had advocated the repeal of the laws against the slave trade. He thought that the laws of [Pg 45]Congress defining the slave trade as piracy placed a stigma on the institution, condemned it from the point of view of the government, and thus violated the spirit of the Constitution by discriminating against the South. He did not then advocate the reopening of the slave trade, nor would he do so at this time. For two reasons he insisted that the Confederate Congress should prohibit the slave trade: (1) already there were as many slaves as were needed; (2) to induce the border states to enter the Confederacy.

Dowdell (s.) of Chambers proposed an amendment to the ordinance of prohibition, declaring that slavery was a moral, social, and political blessing, and that any attempt to hinder its expansion should be opposed. He opposed reopening the slave trade, though he considered that there was no moral distinction between slavery and the slave trade. The border states, he said, need not be encouraged by declarations of policy; they would join the Confederacy anyway. Slavery might be regulated by Congress, but should not be prohibited by organic law. He expressed a wish that he might never see the day when white immigration would drive out slave labor and take its place, nor did he want social or political inequality among white people whom he believed should be kept free, independent, and equal, recognizing no subordinate except those made as such by God. The legislature, he thought, should be left to deal with the evil of white immigration from the North, so that the southern people might be kept a slaveholding people. But, he asked, can that be done with slaves at $1000 a head? And must the hands of the people be tied because a fantastical outside world says that slavery and the slave trade are morally wrong?

Watts (s.) of Montgomery proposed that the Confederacy be given power to prohibit the importation of slaves from any place. Smith (c.) of Tuscaloosa said that the proposal of Watts was a threat against the border states, which would lose their slave market unless they joined the Confederacy; that the border states must be kept friendly, a bulwark against the North.

A resolution was finally passed to the effect that the people of Alabama were opposed, for reasons of public policy, to reopening the slave trade, and the state’s delegates in Congress were instructed to insist on the prohibition.

The debates show clearly the feeling of the delegates that, on the[Pg 46] slavery question, the rest of the world was against them, and hence, as a measure of expediency, they were in favor of prohibiting the trade. Some wished to have all the whites finally become slaveholders; others believed that the negroes were the economic and social enemies of the whites, and they wanted no more of them. But all agreed that slavery was a good thing for the negro.

Yancey (s.) introduced a resolution favoring the free navigation of the Mississippi. The North, he said, was uncertain as to the policy of the South and must be assured that the South wished no restrictions upon trade. “Free trade” was its motto. Dowdell (s.) proposed that the navigation should be free only to those states and territories lying on the river and its tributaries, while Smith (c.) thought that all navigation should remain as unrestricted and open to all as before secession. Yancey thought that absolutely unrestricted navigation would tend to undermine secession, for it would tend to reconstruct the late political union into a commercial union. Such a policy would discriminate against European friends in favor of New England enemies. As passed, the resolution expressed the sense of the convention that the navigation of the Mississippi should be free to all the people of those states and territories which were situated on that river or its tributaries.


Commissioners to Other States

As soon as the governor issued writs of election for a convention, fearing that the legislatures of other states then in session might adjourn before calling conventions, he sent a commissioner to each southern state to consult and advise with the governor and legislature in regard to the question of secession and later confederation. These commissioners made frequent reports to the governor and convention and did much to secure the prompt organization of a permanent government.[57]

[Pg 47]After the ordinance of secession was passed a resolution was adopted to the effect that Alabama, being no longer a member of the Union, was not entitled to representation at Washington and that her representatives there should be instructed to withdraw. A second resolution, authorizing the governor to send two commissioners to Washington to treat with that government, caused some debate.

Clemens (cs.) said that there was no need of sending commissioners to Washington, because they would not be received. Let Washington send commissioners to Alabama; South Carolina was differently situated; Alabama held her own forts, South Carolina did not. Smith (c.) proposed that only one commissioner be sent. One would do more efficient work and the expense would be less. Watts (s.) said that Alabama as a former member of the Union should inform the old government of her withdrawal and of her policy for the future; that there were many grave and delicate matters to be settled between the two governments; and that commissioners should be sent to propose terms of adjustment and to demand a recognition of the new order.

Webb (s.) of Greene said that Alabama stood in the same attitude toward the United States as toward France. And the fact that the commissioners of South Carolina had been treated with contempt should not influence Alabama. If one was to be in the wrong, let it be the Washington government. To send commissioners would not detract from the dignity of the state, but would show a desire for amicable relations. Whatley (s.) took the same ground, and added that, having seized the forts to prevent their being used against Alabama, the state, as retiring partner, would hold them as assets until a final settlement, especially as its share had not been received. Some members urged that only one commissioner be sent in order to save expenses. All were getting to be very economical. And practically all agreed that it was the duty of the state to show her desire for amicable relations by making advances.

Yancey thought the matter should be left to the Provisional Congress; the United States had made agreements with South Carolina about the military status of the forts and had violated the agreement; the other states also had claims of public property, and negotiations should be carried on by the common agent. Separate action by the state would only complicate matters.

[Pg 48]Finally, it was decided to send one commissioner, and the governor appointed Thomas J. Judge, who proceeded to Washington, with authority to negotiate regarding the forts, arsenals, and custom-houses in the state, the state’s share of the United States debt, and the future relations between the United States and Alabama, and through C. C. Clay, late United States senator from Alabama, applied for an interview with the President. Buchanan refused to receive him in his official capacity, but wrote that he would be glad to see him as a private gentleman. Judge declined to be received except in his official capacity, and said that future negotiations must begin at Washington.

Foreseeing war, Watts (s.) proposed that the general assembly be given power to confiscate the property of alien enemies, and also to suspend the collection of debts due to alien enemies. Shortridge (s.) thought that the measure was not sufficiently emphatic, since war had practically been declared. He said the courts should be closed against the collection of debts due persons in the northern states which had passed personal liberty laws. He stated that Alabama owed New York several million dollars, and that to pay this debt would drain from the country the currency, which should be held to relieve the strain.

Jones (c.) was opposed to every description of robbery. The course proposed, he said, would be a flagrant outrage upon just creditors, as the greater wrong would be done the friends of the South, for nineteen-twentieths of the debt was due to political friends—merchants who had always defended the rights of the South. Those debts should be paid and honor sustained. The legislature, he added, would pass a stay-law, which he regretted, and that would suffice. Smith (c.) said that confiscation was an act of war, and would provoke retaliation. Every action should look toward the preservation of peace.

Clarke (s.) of Marengo saw nothing wrong in the measure. There was no wish or intention of evading payment of the debt; payment would only be suspended or delayed. It was a peace measure. Lewis (cs.) said that only the war-making power would have authority to pass such a measure, and that this power would be lodged in the Confederate Congress. Meanwhile, he proposed to give the power temporarily to the legislature.

[Pg 49]Early in the session the secessionists introduced a resolution pledging the state to resist any attempt by the United States to coerce any of the seceded states. Alabama could not stand aside, they said, and see the seceded states coerced by the United States government, which had no authority to use force. All southern states recognized secession as the essence and test of state sovereignty, and would support each other.

Earnest (c.) of Jefferson was of the opinion that this resolution was intended to cover acts of hostility already committed by individuals, such as Governor Moore and other officials, before the state seceded, and to vote for the resolution subjected the voter to the penalties of treason. When a state acted in its sovereign capacity and withdrew from the Union, then those individuals were relieved. But to vote for such a measure before secession was treason.

Morgan (s.) of Dallas said that, whether Alabama were in or out of the Union, she could see no state coerced; the question was not debatable. To attack South Carolina was to attack Alabama. “We are one united people and can never be dissevered.” The North was pledging men and money to coerce the southern states, and its action must be answered. Jemison (c.) thought the war alarms were false and that there was no necessity for immediate action, while Smith (c.), his colleague, heartily indorsed the measure. Jones (c.) declared that before the state seceded he would not break the laws of the United States; that he had sworn to support the Constitution, and only the state could absolve him from that oath; that such a measure was not lawful while the state was in the Union.

After secession the resolution was again called up, and all speakers agreed that aid should be extended to seceded states in case of coercion. Some wanted to promise aid to any one of the United States which might take a stand against the other states in behalf of the South. Events moved so rapidly that the measure did not come to a vote before the organization of the Provisional Congress.


Legislation by the Convention

Not only was the old political structure to be torn down, but a new one had to be erected. In organizing the new order the convention performed many duties pertaining usually to the legislature.[Pg 50] This was done in order to save time and to prevent confusion in the administration.

Citizenship was defined to include free whites only, except such as were citizens of the United States before January 11, 1861. A person born in a northern state or in a foreign country before January 11, 1861, must take the oath of allegiance to the state of Alabama, and the oath of abjuration, renouncing allegiance to all other sovereignties. The state constitution was amended by omitting all references to the United States; the state officers were absolved from their oath to support the United States Constitution; jurisdiction of the United States over waste and unappropriated lands and navigable waters was rescinded; and navigation was opened to all citizens of Alabama and other states that “may unite with Alabama in a Southern Slaveholding Confederacy.” A registration of lands was ordered to be made; the United States land system was adopted, a homestead law was provided for, and a new land office was established at Greenville, in Butler County. The governor was authorized to revoke contracts made under United States laws with commissioners appointed to locate swamps and overflowed lands. The general assembly was authorized to cede to the Confederacy exclusive jurisdiction over a district ten miles square for a seat of government for the Confederate States of America.

Provision was made for the military defence of Alabama, and the United States army regulations were adopted almost in their entirety. The militia was reorganized; all commissions were vacated, and new elections ordered. The governor was placed in charge of all measures for defence. He was authorized to purchase supplies for the use of the state army, to borrow money for the same, and to issue bonds to cover expenses. Later, the convention decreed that all arms and munitions of war taken from the United States should be turned over to the Confederacy; only the small arms belonging to the state were retained. The governor was authorized to transfer to the Confederate States, upon terms to be agreed upon between the governor and the president, all troops raised for state defence. Thus all volunteer companies could be transferred to the Confederate service if the men were willing, otherwise they were discharged. A number of ordinances were passed organizing the state military system, and coöperating with the Confederate government. Jurisdiction[Pg 51] over forts, arsenals, and navy yards was conferred upon the Confederate States. This ordinance could only be revoked by a convention of the people.

The port of Mobile was resumed by the state. The collector of the port and his assistants were continued in office as state officials who were to act in the name of the state of Alabama. With a view to future settlement the collector was ordered to retain all funds in his hands belonging to the United States, and the state of Alabama guaranteed his safety, as to oath, bond, etc. As far as possible, the United States customs and port regulations were adopted. Vessels built anywhere, provided that one-third was owned by citizens of the southern states and commanded by southern captains, were entitled to registry as vessels of Alabama. The collector was authorized to take possession in the name of the state of all government custom-houses, lighthouses, etc., and to reappoint the officers in charge if they would accept office from the state. The weights and measures of the United States were adopted as the standard; discriminating duties imposed by the United States, and regulations on foreign vessels and merchandise were abolished; Selma and Mobile were continued as ports of entry, and all ordinances relating to Mobile were extended to Selma.

Thaddeus Sanford, the collector of Mobile, reported to the convention that the United States Treasury Department had drawn on him for $26,000 on January 7, 1861, and asked for instructions in regard to paying it. The Committee on Imports reported that the draft was dated before secession and before the ordinance directing the collector to retain all United States funds, that it was drawn to pay parties for services rendered while Alabama was a member of the Union. So it was ordered to be paid.

After the Confederacy was formed, the convention ordered that the custom-houses, marine hospital, lighthouses, buoys, and the revenue cutter, Lewis Cass, be turned over to the Confederate authorities; and the collector was directed to transfer all money collected by him to the Confederate authorities, who were to account for all moneys and settle with the United States authorities. The collector was then released from his bond to the state.

Postal contracts and regulations in force prior to January 11, 1861, were permitted to remain for the present. The general assembly[Pg 52] was empowered to make postal arrangements until the Confederate government should be established. Meanwhile, the old arrangements with the United States were unchanged.[58] Other ordinances adopted the laws of the United States relating to the value of foreign coins, and directed the division of the state into nine congressional districts.

The judicial powers were resumed by the state and were henceforth to be exercised by the state courts. The circuit and chancery courts and the city court of Mobile were given original jurisdiction in cases formerly arising within the jurisdiction of the Federal courts. Jurisdiction over admiralty cases was vested in the circuit courts and the city court of Mobile. The chancery courts had jurisdiction in all cases of equity. The state supreme court was given original and exclusive jurisdiction over cases concerning ambassadors and public ministers. All admiralty cases, except where the United States was plaintiff, pending in the Federal courts in Alabama were transferred with all records to the state circuit courts; cases in equity in like manner to the state chancery courts; the United States laws relating to admiralty and maritime cases, and to the postal service were adopted temporarily; the forms of proceedings in state courts were to be the same as in former Federal courts; the clerks of the circuit courts were given the custody of all records transferred from Federal courts and were empowered to issue process running into any part of the state and to be executed by any sheriff; United States marshals in whose hands processes were running were ordered to execute them and to make returns to the state courts under penalty of being prosecuted as if defaulting sheriffs; the right was asserted to prosecute marshals who were guilty of misconduct before secession. The United States laws of May 26, 1796, and March 27, 1804, prescribing the method of authentication of public acts, records, or judicial proceedings for use in other courts, were adopted for Alabama. In cases appealed to the United States Supreme Court from the Alabama supreme court, the latter was to act as if no appeal had been taken and execute judgment; cases appealed from inferior Federal courts to the United States[Pg 53] Supreme Court, were to be considered as appealed to the state supreme court which was to proceed as if the cases had been appealed to it from its own lower courts. The United States were not to be allowed to be a party to any suit in the state courts against a citizen of Alabama unless ordered by the convention or by the general assembly. Federal jurisdiction in general was to be resumed by state courts until the Confederate government should act in the matter.

No law of Alabama in force January 11, 1861, consistent with the Constitution and not inconsistent with the ordinances of the convention, was to be affected by secession; no official of the state was to be affected by secession; no offence against the state, and no penalty, no obligation, and no duty to or of state, no process or proceeding in court, no right, title, privilege, or obligation under the state or United States Constitution and laws, was to be affected by the ordinance of secession unless inconsistent with it. No change made by the convention in the constitution of Alabama should have the effect to divest of any right, title, or legal trust existing at the time of making the change. All changes were to have a prospective, not a retrospective, effect unless expressly declared in the change itself.

The general assembly was to have no power to repeal, alter, or amend any ordinance of the convention incorporated in the revised constitution. Other ordinances were to be considered as ordinary legislation and might be amended or repealed by the legislature.[59]


North Alabama in the Convention

All the counties of north Alabama sent coöperation delegates to the convention, and these spoke continually of a peculiar state of feeling on the part of their constituents which required conciliation by the convention. The people of that section, in regard to their grievances, thought as the people of central and south Alabama, but they were not so ready to act in resistance. Moreover, it would seem that they desired all the important measures framed by the convention to be referred to them for approval or disapproval. The coöperationists made much of this state of feeling for purposes of obstruction. There was, and had always been, a slight lack of sympathy between the people of the two sections; but on the present question they were[Pg 54] very nearly agreed, though still opposing from habit. Had the coöperationists been in the majority, secession would have been hardly delayed. Of course, among the mountains and sand-hills of north Alabama was a small element of the population not concerned in any way with the questions before the people, and who would oppose any measure supported by southern Alabama. Sheets of Winston was probably the only representative of this class in the convention. The members of the convention referred to the fact of the local nature of the dissatisfaction. Yancey, angered at the obstructive tactics of the coöperationists, who had no definite policy and nothing to gain by obstruction, made a speech in which he said it was useless to disguise the fact that in some parts of the state there was dissatisfaction in regard to the action of the convention, and warned the members from north Alabama, whom he probably considered responsible for the dissatisfaction, that as soon as passed the ordinance of secession became the supreme law of the land, and it was the duty of all citizens to yield obedience. Those who refused, he said, were traitors and public enemies, and the sovereign state would deal with them as such. Opposition after secession was unlawful and to even speak of it was wrong, and he predicted that the name “tory” would be revived and applied to such people. Jemison of Tuscaloosa, a leading coöperationist, made an angry reply, and said that Yancey would inaugurate a second Reign of Terror and hang people by families, by towns, counties, and districts.

Davis (c.) of Madison declared that the people of north Alabama would stand by the expressed will of the people of the state, and intimated that the action of the convention did not represent the will of the people. If, he added, resistance to revolution gave the name of “tories,” it was possible that the people of north Alabama might yet bear the designation; that any invasion of their rights or any attempt to force them to obedience would result in armed resistance; that the invader would be met at the foot of the mountains, and in armed conflict the question of the sovereignty of the people would be settled. Clark (c.) of Lawrence said that north Alabama was more closely connected with Tennessee, and that many of the citizens were talking of secession from Alabama and annexation to Tennessee. He begged for some concession to north Alabama, but did not seem to know exactly what he wanted. He intimated that there would be [Pg 55]civil war in north Alabama. Jones (c.) of Lauderdale said that his people were not “submissionists” and would share every toil and danger in support of the state to which was their supreme allegiance. Edwards (c.) of Blount was not prepared to say whether his people would acquiesce or not. He promised to do nothing to excite them to rebellion! Davis of Madison, who a few days before was ready to rebel, now said that he, and perhaps all north Alabama, would cheerfully stand by the state in the coming conflict.




A majority of the coöperationists voted against the ordinance of secession, at the same time stating that they intended to support it when it became law. The ordinance was lithographed, and the delegates were given an opportunity to sign their names to the official copy. Thirty-three of the delegates from north Alabama, two of whom had voted for the ordinance, refused to sign, because, as they said, it might appear as if they approved all that had been done by the secessionists. Their opposition to the policy of the majority was based on the following principles: (1) the fundamental principle that representative bodies should submit their acts for approval to the people; (2) the interests of all demanded that all the southern states be consulted in regard to a plan for united action. The members who refused to sign repeatedly acknowledged the binding force of the ordinance and promised a cheerful obedience, but, at the same time, published far and wide an address to the people, justifying their opposition and refusal to sign, causing the impression that they considered the action of the convention illegal. There was no reason whatever why these men should pursue the policy of obstruction to the very last, yet it was done. Nine of the thirty-three finally signed the ordinance, but twenty-four never signed it, though they promised to support it.

The majority of the members and of the people contemplated secession as a finality; reconstruction was not to be considered. A few of the coöperationists, however, were in favor of secession as a means of bringing the North to terms. Messrs. Pugh and Clay (members of Congress) in a letter to the convention suggested that the border states considered the secession of the cotton states as an indispensable basis for a reconstruction of the Union. Smith of Tuscaloosa, the leading coöperationist, stated his belief that the revolution[Pg 56] would teach the North her dependence upon the South, how much she owed that section, bring her to a sense of her duty, and cause her to yield to the sensible demands of the South. He looked forward with fondest hopes to the near future when there would be a reconstruction of the Union with redress of grievances, indemnity for the past, complete and unequivocal guarantees for the future.


Incidents of the Session

The proceedings were dignified, solemn, and at times even sad. During the whole session, good feeling prevailed to a remarkable degree among the individual members, and toward the last the utmost harmony existed between the parties.[60] For this the credit is due the secessionists. At times the coöperationists were suspicious, and pursued a policy of obstruction when nothing was to be gained; but they were given every privilege and shown every courtesy. During the early part of the session an enthusiastic crowd filled the halls and galleries and manifested approval of the course of the secessionist leaders by frequent applause. In order to secure perfect freedom of debate to the minority, it was ordered that no applause be permitted; and this order failing to keep the spectators silent, the galleries were cleared, and thereafter secret sessions were the rule.

Affecting and exciting scenes followed the passage of the ordinance of secession. One by one the strong members of the minority arose and, for the sake of unity at home, surrendered the opinions of a lifetime and forgot the prejudices of years. This was done with no feeling of humiliation. To the last, they were treated with distinguished consideration by their opponents. There was really no difference in the principles of the two parties; the only differences were on local, personal, sectional, and social questions. On the common ground of resistance to a common enemy they were united.

On January 11, 1861, after seven days’ debate, it became known that the vote on secession would be taken, and an eager multitude crowded Capitol Hill to hear the announcement of the result. The senate chamber, opposite the convention hall, was crowded with the waiting people, who were addressed by distinguished orators on the topics of the day. As many women as men were present, and, if[Pg 57] possible, were more eager for secession. Their minds had long ago been made up. “With them,” says the grave historian of the convention, “the love songs of yesterday had swelled into the political hosannas of to-day.”

The momentous vote was taken, the doors were flung open, the result announced, and in a moment the tumultuous crowd filled the galleries, lobbies, and aisles of the convention hall. The ladies of Montgomery had made a large state flag, and when the doors were opened this flag was unfurled in the hall so that its folds extended almost across the chamber. Members jumped on desks, chairs, and tables to shake out the floating folds and display the design. There was a perfect frenzy of enthusiasm. Yancey, the secessionist leader and splendid orator, in behalf of the ladies presented the flag to the convention. Smith, the leader of the coöperationists, replied in a speech of acceptance, paying an affecting tribute to the flag that they were leaving—“the Star-Spangled Banner, sacred to memory, baptized in the nation’s best blood, consecrated in song and history, and the herald of liberty’s grandest victories on land and on sea.” In memory of the illustrious men who brought fame to the flag, he said, “Let him who has tears prepare to shed them now as we lower this glorious ensign of our once vaunted victories.” Alpheus Baker of Barbour in glowing words expressed to the ladies the thanks of the convention.

Amidst wild enthusiasm in hall and street the convention adjourned. One hundred and one cannon shots announced the result. The flag of the Republic of Alabama floated from windows, steeples, and towers. Party lines were forgotten, and until late in the night every man who would speak was surrounded by eager listeners. The people were united in common sentiment in the face of common danger.

One hour before the signal cannon shot announced that the fateful step had been taken and that Alabama was no longer one of the United States, there died, within sight of the capitol, Bishop Cobb of the Episcopal Church, the one man of character and influence who in all Alabama had opposed secession in any way, at any time, or for any reason.[61]

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Sec. I. Military Operations

On January 4, 1861, the Alabama troops, ordered by Governor Andrew B. Moore, seized the forts which commanded the entrance to the harbor at Mobile, and also the United States arsenal at Mount Vernon, thirty miles distant. A few days later the governor, in a communication addressed to President Buchanan, explained the reason for this step. He was convinced, he said, that the convention would withdraw the state from the Union, and he deemed it his duty to take every precaution to render the secession peaceable. Information had been received which led him to believe that the United States government would attempt to maintain its authority in Alabama by force, even to bloodshed. The President must surely see, the governor wrote, that coercion could not be effectual until capacity for resistance had been exhausted, and it would have been unwise to have permitted the United States government to make preparations which would be resisted to the uttermost by the people. The purpose in taking possession of the forts and arsenal was to avoid, not to provoke, hostilities. Amicable relations with the United States were ardently desired by Alabama; and every patriotic man in the state was praying for peaceful secession. He had ordered an inventory to be taken of public property in the forts and arsenal, which were held subject to the control of the convention.[62] A month later, Governor Moore, in a communication addressed to the Virginia commissioners for mediation, stated that Alabama, in seceding, had no hostile intentions against the United States; that the sole object was to protect her rights, interests, and honor, without disturbing peaceful relations. This would continue to be the policy[Pg 62] of the state unless the Federal government authorized hostile acts. Yet any attempt at coercion would be resisted. In conclusion, he stated that he had no power to appoint delegates to the proposed convention, but promised to refer the matter to the legislature. However, he did not believe that there was the least hope that concessions would be made affording such guarantees as the seceding states could accept.[63]


The War in North Alabama

For a year Alabama soil was free from invasion, though the coast was blockaded in the summer of 1861. In February, 1862, Fort Henry, on the Tennessee River, fell, and on the same day Commodore Phelps with four gunboats sailed up the river to Florence. Several steamboats with supplies for Johnston’s army were destroyed to prevent capture by the Federals. Phelps destroyed a partly finished gunboat, burned the Confederate supplies in Florence, and then returned to Fort Henry.[64] The fall of Fort Donelson (February 16) and the retreat of Johnston to Corinth left the Tennessee valley open to the Federals. A few days after the battle of Shiloh, General O. M. Mitchell entered Huntsville (April 11, 1862) and captured nearly all the rolling stock belonging to the railroads running into Huntsville. Decatur, Athens, Tuscumbia, and the other towns of the Tennessee valley were occupied within a few days. To oppose this invasion the Confederates had small bodies of troops widely scattered across north Alabama. The fighting was almost entirely in the nature of skirmishes and was continual. Philip D. Roddy, later known as the “Defender of North Alabama,” first appears during this summer as commander of a small body of irregular troops, which served as the nucleus of a regiment and later a brigade. Hostilities in north Alabama at an early date assumed the worst aspects of guerilla warfare. The Federals were never opposed by large commands of Confederates, and were disposed to regard the detachments who fought them as guerillas and to treat them accordingly. In spite of the strenuous efforts of General Buell to have his subordinates wage war in civilized manner,[65] they were guilty of infamous[Pg 63] conduct. General Mitchell was charged by the people with brutal conduct toward non-combatants and with being interested in the stealing of cotton and shipping it North. He was finally removed by Buell.[66]

One of Mitchell’s subordinates—John Basil Turchin, the Russian colonel of the Nineteenth Illinois regiment—was too brutal even for Mitchell, and the latter tried to keep him within bounds. His worst offence was at Athens, in Limestone County, in May, 1862. Athens was a wealthy place, intensely southern in feeling, and on that account was most heartily disliked by the Federals. Here, for two hours, Turchin retired to his tent and gave over the town to the soldiers to be sacked after the old European custom. Revolting outrages were committed. Robberies were common where Turchin commanded. His Russian ideas of the rules of war were probably responsible for his conduct. Buell characterized it as “a case of undisputed atrocity.” For this Athens affair Turchin was court-martialled and sentenced to be dismissed from the service. The facts were notorious and well known at Washington, but the day before Buell ordered his discharge, Turchin was made a brigadier-general.[67]

General Mitchell himself reported (May, 1862) that “the most terrible outrages—robberies, rapes, arson, and plundering—are being committed by lawless brigands and vagabonds connected with the army.” He asked for authority to hang them and wrote, “I hear the most deplorable accounts of excesses committed by[Pg 64] soldiers.”[68] About fifty of the citizens of Athens, at the suggestion of Mitchell, filed claims for damages. Thereupon Mitchell informed them that they were laboring under a very serious misapprehension if they expected pay from the United States government unless they had proper vouchers.[69] Buell condemned his action in this matter also. Mitchell asked the War Department for permission to send prominent Confederate sympathizers at Huntsville to northern prisons. He said that General Clemens and Judge Lane advised such a measure. He reported that he held under arrest a few active rebels “who refused to condemn the guerilla warfare.” The War Department seems to have been annoyed by the request, but after Mitchell had repeated it, permission was given to send them to the fort in Boston Harbor.[70]

Mitchell was charged at Washington with having failed in his duty of repressing plundering and pillaging. He replied that he had no great sympathy with the citizens of Athens who hated the Union soldiers so intensely.[71]

As the war continued the character of the warfare grew steadily worse. Ex-Governor Chapman’s family were turned out of their home to make room for a negro regiment. A four-year-old child of the family wandered back to the house and was cursed and abused by the soldiers. The house was finally burned and the property laid waste. Governor Chapman was imprisoned and at last expelled from the country. Mrs. Robert Patton they threatened to strip in search of money and actually began to do so in the presence of her husband, but she saved herself by giving up the money.[72] Such experiences were common.

The provost marshal at Huntsville—Colonel Harmer—selected a number of men to answer certain political questions, who, if their answers were not satisfactory, were to be expelled from the country. Among these were, George W. Hustoun, Luke Pryor, and —— Malone of Athens, Dr. Fearn of Huntsville, and two ministers—Ross and[Pg 65] Banister. General Stanley condemned the policy, but General Granger wanted the preachers expelled anyway, although Stanley said they had never taken part in politics.[73] The harsh treatment of non-combatants and Confederate soldiers by Federal soldiers and by the tories resulted in the retaliation of the former when opportunity occurred. Toward the end of the war prisoners were seldom taken by either side. When a man was caught, he was often strung up to a limb of the nearest tree, his captors waiting a few minutes for their halters, and then passing on. The Confederate irregular cavalry became a terror even to the loyal southern people. Stealing, robbery, and murder were common in the debatable land of north Alabama.[74]

Naturally the “tory” element of the population suffered much from the same class of Confederate troops. The Union element, it was said, suffered more from the operation of the impressment law. The Confederate and state governments strictly repressed the tendency of Confederate troops to pillage the “Union” communities in north Alabama.[75]

General Mitchell and his subordinates were accustomed to hold the people of a community responsible for damages in their vicinity to bridges, trestles, and trains caused by the Confederate forces. In August, 1862, General J. D. Morgan, in command at Tuscumbia, reported that he “sent out fifty wagons this afternoon to the plantations near where the track was torn up yesterday, for cotton. I want it to pay damages.”[76] When Turchin had to abandon Athens, on the advance of Bragg into Tennessee, he set fire to and burned much of the town, but his conduct was denounced by his fellow-officers.[77] Near Gunterville (1862) a Federal force was fired upon by scouts, and the Federals, in retaliation, shelled the town. This was done a second time during the war, and finally the town was burned. In Jackson County four citizens were arrested (1862) because the pickets at Woodville, several miles away, had been fired upon.[78]

In a skirmish in north Alabama, General R. L. McCook was[Pg 66] shot by Captain Gurley of Russell’s Fourth Alabama Cavalry. The Federals spread the report among the soldiers that he had been murdered, and as the Federal commander reported, “Many of the soldiers spread themselves over the country and burned all the property of the rebels in the vicinity, and shot a rebel lieutenant who was on furlough.” Even the house of the family who had ministered to General McCook in his last moments was burned to the ground. The old men and boys for miles around were arrested. The officer who was shot was at home on furlough and sick. General Dodge’s command committed many depredations in retaliation for the death of McCook. A year later Captain Gurley was captured and sentenced to be hanged. The Confederate authorities threatened retaliation, and he was then treated as a prisoner of war. After the close of the war he was again arrested and kept in jail and in irons for many months at Nashville and Huntsville. At last he was liberated.[79]

Later in the war (1864), General M. L. Smith ordered the arrest of “five of the best rebels” in the vicinity of a Confederate attack on one of his companies, and again five were arrested near the place where a Union man had been attacked.[80] These are examples of what often happened. It became a rule to hold a community responsible for all attacks made by the Confederate soldiers.

The people suffered fearfully. Many of them had to leave the country in order to live. John E. Moore wrote to the Confederate Secretary of War from Florence, in December, 1862, that the people of north Alabama “have been ground into the dust by the tyrants and thieves.”[81] The citizens of Florence (January, 1863) petitioned the Secretary of War for protection. They said that they had been greatly oppressed by the Federal army in 1862. Property had been destroyed most wantonly and vindictively, the privacy of the homes invaded, citizens carried off and ill treated, and slaves carried off and refused the liberty of returning when they desired to do so. The harshness of the Federals had made many people submissive for fear of worse things. No men, except the aged and infirm, were left in the country; the population was composed chiefly of women and[Pg 67] children.[82] It was in response to this appeal that Roddy’s command was raised to a brigade. But the retreat of Bragg left north Alabama to the Federals until the close of the war, except for a short period during Hood’s invasion of Tennessee.


The Streight Raid

April 19, 1863, Colonel A. D. Streight of the Federal army, with 2000 picked troops, disembarked at Eastport and started on a daring raid through the mountain region of north Alabama. The object of the raid was to cut the railroads from Chattanooga to Atlanta and to Knoxville, which supplied Bragg and to destroy the Confederate stores at Rome. To cover Streight’s movements General Dodge was making demonstrations in the Tennessee valley and Forrest was sent to meet him. Hearing by accident of Streight’s movements, Forrest left a small force under Roddy to hold Dodge in check and set out after the raider. The chase began on April 29. Streight had sixteen miles the start with a force reduced to 1500 men, mounted on mules. As his mounts were worn out, he seized fresh horses on the route. The chase led through the counties of Morgan, Blount, St. Clair, De Kalb, and Cherokee—counties in which there was a strong tory element, and the Federals were guided by two companies of Union cavalry raised in north Alabama. Streight had asked for permission to dress some of his men “after the promiscuous southern style,” but, fortunately for them, was not allowed to do so.[83]

On May 1 occurred the famous crossing of Black Creek, where Miss Emma Sansom guided the Confederates across in the face of a heavy fire. Forrest now had less than 600 men, the others having been left behind exhausted or with broken-down horses. The best men and horses were kept in front, and Streight was not allowed a moment’s rest. At last, tired out, the Federals halted on the morning of May 3. Soon the men were asleep on their arms, and when Forrest appeared, some of them could not be awakened. Men were asleep in line of battle, under fire. Forrest placed his small force so as to magnify his numbers, and Streight was persuaded by his officers to surrender—1466 men to less than 600. The running[Pg 68] fight had lasted four days, over a distance of 150 miles, through rough and broken country filled with unfriendly natives. Forrest could not get fresh mounts, the Federals could; the Federals had been preparing for the raid a month; Forrest had a few hours to prepare for the pursuit, and his whole force with Roddy’s did not equal half of the entire Federal force of 9500.[84]

During the summer and fall there were many small fights between the cavalry scouts of Roddy and Wheeler and the Federal foraging parties. In October General S. D. Lee from Mississippi entered the northwestern part of the state, and for two or three weeks fought the Federals and tore up the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. The First Alabama Union Cavalry started on a raid for Selma, but was routed by the Second Alabama Cavalry. The Tennessee valley was the highway along which passed and repassed the Federal armies during the remainder of the war.

During the months of January, February, March, and April, 1864, scouting, skirmishing, and fighting in north Alabama by Forrest, Roddy, Wheeler, Johnson, Patterson, and Mead were almost continuous; and Federal raids were frequent. The Federals called all Confederate soldiers in north Alabama “guerillas,” and treated prisoners as such. The Tennessee valley had been stripped of troops to send to Johnston’s army. In May, 1864, the Federal General Blair marched through northeast Alabama to Rome, Georgia, with 10,500 men. Federal gunboats patrolled the river, landing companies for short raids and shelling the towns. In August there were many raids and skirmishes in the Tennessee valley. On September 23, Forrest with 4000 men, on a raid to Pulaski, persuaded the Federal commander at Athens that he had 10,000 men, and the latter surrendered, though in a strong fort with a thousand men.


Rousseau’s Raid

July 10, 1864, General Rousseau started from Decatur, Morgan County, with 2300 men on a raid toward southeast Alabama to destroy the Montgomery and West Point Railway below Opelika, and thus cut off the supplies coming from the Black Belt for Johnston’s army. General Clanton, who opposed him with a small force,[Pg 69] was defeated at the crossing of the Coosa on July 14; the iron works in Calhoun County were burned, and the Confederate stores at Talladega were destroyed. The railroad was reached near Loachapoka in what is now Lee County, and miles of the track there and above Opelika were destroyed, and the depots at Opelika, Auburn, Loachapoka, and Notasulga, all with quantities of supplies, were burned. This was the first time that central Alabama had suffered from invasion.[85]

In October General Hood marched via Cedartown, Georgia, into Alabama to Gadsden, thence to Somerville and Decatur, crossing the river near Tuscumbia on his way to the fatal fields of Franklin and Nashville. “Most of the fields they passed were covered with briers and weeds, the fences burned or broken down. The chimneys in every direction stood like quiet sentinels and marked the site of once prosperous and happy homes, long since reduced to heaps of ashes. No cattle, hogs, horses, mules, or domestic fowls were in sight. Only the birds seemed unconscious of the ruin and desolation which reigned supreme. No wonder that Hood pointed to the devastation wrought by the invader to nerve his heroes for one more desperate struggle against immense odds for southern independence.”[86] A few weeks later the wreck of Hood’s army was straggling back into north Alabama, which now swarmed with Federals. Bushwhackers, guerillas, tories, deserters, “mossbacks,” harried the defenceless people of north Alabama until the end of the war and even after. A few scattered bands of Confederates made a weak resistance.


The War in South Alabama

To return to south Alabama. During the years 1861 and 1862 the defences of Mobile were made almost impregnable. They were commanded in turn by Generals Withers, Bragg, Forney, Buckner, and Maury. The port was blockaded in 1861, but no attacks were made on the defences until August, 1864, when 15,000 men were landed to besiege Fort Gaines. Eighteen war vessels under Farragut passed the forts into the bay and there fought the fiercest naval battle of the war. Admiral Buchanan commanded the Confederate fleet of four vessels—the Morgan, the Selma, the Gaines, and the [Pg 70]Tennessee.[87] The Tecumseh was sunk by a torpedo in the bay, and Farragut had left 17 vessels, 199 guns, and 700 men against the Confederates’ 22 guns and 450 men. The three smaller Confederate vessels, after desperate fighting, were riddled with shot; one was captured, one beached, and one withdrew to the shelter of the forts. The Tennessee was left, 1 against 17, 6 guns against 200. After four hours’ cannonade from nearly 200 guns, her smoke-stack and steering gear shot away, her commander (Admiral Buchanan) wounded, one hour after her last gun had been disabled, the Tennessee surrendered. The Federals lost 52 killed, and 17 wounded, besides 120 lost on the Tecumseh. The Tennessee lost only 2 killed and 9 wounded, the Selma 8 killed and 17 wounded, the Gaines about the same.[88] The fleet now turned its attention to the forts. Fort Gaines surrendered at once; Fort Morgan held out. A siege train of 41 guns was placed in position and on August 22 these and the 200 guns of the fleet opened fire. The fort was unable to return the fire of the fleet, and the sharpshooters of the enemy soon prevented the use of guns against the shore batteries of the Federals. The firing was furious; every shell seemed to take effect; fire broke out, and the garrison threw 90,000 pounds of powder into cisterns to prevent explosion; the defending force was decimated; the interior of the fort was a mass of smouldering ruins; there was not a place five feet square not struck by shells; many of the guns were dismounted. For twenty-four hours the bombardment continued, the garrison not being able to return the fire of the besiegers, yet the enemy reported that the garrison was not “moved by any weak fears.” On the morning of August 23, 1864, the fort was surrendered.[89] Though the outer defences had fallen, the city could not be taken. The inner defences were strengthened, and were manned with “reserves,”—boys and old men, fourteen to sixteen, and forty-five to sixty years of age.

[Pg 71]In March, 1865, General Steele advanced from Pensacola to Pollard with 15,000 men, while General Canby with 32,000 moved up the east side of Mobile Bay and invested Spanish Fort. He sent 12,000 men to Steele, who began the siege of Blakely on April 2. Spanish Fort was defended by 3400 men, later reduced to 2321, against Canby’s 20,000. The Confederate lines were two miles long. After a twelve days’ siege a part of the Confederate works was captured, and during the next night (April 8), the greater part of the garrison escaped in boats or by wading through the marshes. Blakely was defended by 3500 men against Steele’s 25,000. After a siege of eight days the Federal works were pushed near the Confederate lines, and a charge along the whole three miles of line captured the works with the garrison (April 9). Three days later batteries Huger and Tracy, defending the river entrance, were evacuated, and on April 12 the city surrendered.[90] The state was then overrun from all sides.[91]


Wilson’s Raid and the End of the War

During the winter of 1864-1865, General J. H. Wilson gathered a picked force of 13,500 cavalry, at Gravelly Springs in northwestern Alabama, in preparation for a raid through central Alabama, the purpose of which was to destroy the Confederate stores, the factories, mines, and iron works in that section, and also to create a diversion in favor of Canby at Mobile.[92] On March 22 he left for the South. There was not a Confederate soldier within 120 miles; the country was stripped of its defenders. The Federal army under Wilson foraged for provisions in north Alabama when they themselves reported people to be starving.[93] To confuse the Confederates, Wilson moved his corps in three divisions along different routes. On March 29, near Elyton, the divisions united, and General Croxton[Pg 72] was again detached and sent to burn the University and public buildings at Tuscaloosa. Driving Roddy before him, Wilson, on March 31, burned five iron works near Elyton. Forrest collected a motley force to oppose Wilson. The latter sent a brigade which decoyed one of Forrest’s brigades away into the country toward Mississippi,[94] so that this force was not present to assist in the defence when, on April 2, Wilson arrived before Selma with 9000 men. This place, with works three miles long, was defended by Forrest with 3000 men, half of whom were reserves who had never been under fire. They made a gallant fight, but the Federals rushed over the thinly defended works. Forrest and two or three hundred men escaped; the remainder surrendered. When the Federals entered the city, night had fallen, and the soldiers plundered without restraint until morning. Forrest had ordered that all the government whiskey in the city be destroyed, but after the barrels were rolled into the street the Confederates had no time to knock in the heads before the city was captured. The Federals were soon drunk. All the houses in the city were entered and plundered. A newspaper correspondent who was with Wilson’s army said that Selma was the worst-sacked town of the war. One woman saved her house from the plunderers by pulling out all the drawers, tearing up the beds, throwing clothes all over the floor along with dishes and overturned tables, chairs, and other things. When the soldiers came to the house, they concluded that others had been there before them and departed. The outrages, robberies, and murders committed by Wilson’s men, notwithstanding his stringent order against plundering,[95] are almost incredible. The half cannot be told. The destruction was fearful. The city was wholly given up to the soldiers, the houses sacked, the women robbed of their watches, earrings, rings, and other jewellery.[96] The negroes were pressed into the work of destruction, and when they refused to burn and destroy, they were threatened with death by the soldiers. Every one was robbed who had anything worth taking about his person. Even negro men on the streets[Pg 73] and negro women in the houses were searched and their little money and trinkets taken.[97]

The next day the public buildings and storehouses with three-fourths of the business part of the town and 150 residences were burned. Three rolling mills, a large naval foundry, and the navy yard,—where the Tennessee had been built,—the best arsenal in the Confederacy, powder works, magazines, army stores, 35,000 bales of cotton, a large number of cars, and the railroad bridges were destroyed. Before leaving, Wilson sent men about the town to kill all the horses and mules in Selma, and had 800 of his own worn-out horses shot. The carcasses were left lying in the roads, streets, and dooryards where they were shot. In a few days the stench was fearful, and the citizens had to send to all the country around for teams to drag away the dead animals, which were strewn along the roads for miles.[98]

Nearly every man of Wilson’s command had a canteen filled with jewellery gathered on the long raid through the richest section of the state. The valuables of the rich Cane Brake and Black Belt country had been deposited in Selma for safe-keeping, and from Selma the soldiers took everything valuable and profitable. Pianos were made into feeding troughs for horses. The officers were supplied with silver plate stolen while on the raid. In Russell County a general officer stopped at a house for dinner, and had the table set with a splendid service of silver plate taken from Selma. His escort broke open the smoke-house and, taking hams, cut a small piece from each of them and threw the remainder away. Everything that could be was destroyed. Soft soap and syrup were poured together in the cellars. They took everything they could carry and destroyed the rest.

On April 10 Wilson’s command started for Montgomery. A negro regiment of 800 men[99] was organized at Selma and accompanied[Pg 74] the army, subsisting on the country. Before reaching Georgia there were several such regiments. On April 12 Montgomery was surrendered by the mayor. The Confederates had burned 97,000[100] bales of cotton to prevent its falling into the hands of the enemy. The captors burned five steamboats, two rolling mills, a small-arms factory, two magazines of stores, all the rolling stock of the railways, and the nitre works, the fire spreading also to the business part of the town.[101] Here, as at Selma, horses, mules, and valuables were taken by the raiders.

The force was then divided into two columns, one destined for West Point and the other for Columbus. The last fights on Alabama soil occurred near West Point on April 16, and at Girard, opposite Columbus, on the same day. At the latter place immense quantities of stores, that had been carried across the river from Alabama, were destroyed.[102]

Croxton’s force reached Tuscaloosa April 3, and burned the University buildings, the nitre works, a foundry, a shoe factory, and the Sipsey cotton mills. After burning these he moved eastward across the state, destroying iron works, nitre factories, depots, and cotton factories. Before he reached Georgia, Croxton had destroyed nearly all the iron works and cotton factories that had been missed by Rousseau and Wilson.[103]


Destruction by the Armies

For three years north Alabama was traversed by the contending armies. Each burned and destroyed from military necessity and from malice. General Wilson said that after two years of warfare the valley of the Tennessee was absolutely destitute.[104] From the spring of 1862 to the close of the war the Federals marched to and fro in the valley. There were few Confederate troops for its defence, and the Federals held each community responsible for all attacks made within its vicinity. It became the custom to destroy property[Pg 75] as a punishment of the people. Much of the destruction was unnecessary from a military point of view.[105] Athens and smaller towns were sacked and burned, Guntersville was shelled and burned; but the worst destruction was in the country, by raiding parties of Federals and “tories,” or “bushwhackers” dressed as Union soldiers. Huntsville, Florence, Decatur, Athens, Guntersville, and Courtland, all suffered depredation, robbery, murder, arson, and rapine.[106] The tories destroyed the railways, telegraph lines, and bridges, and as long as the Confederates were in north Alabama they had to guard all of these.[107]

Along the Tennessee River the gunboats landed parties to ravage the country in retaliation for Confederate attacks. In the counties of Lauderdale, Franklin, Morgan, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, and Jackson nearly all property was destroyed.[108]

In 1863, a member of Congress from north Alabama tried to get arms from Bragg for the old men to defend the county against Federal raiders, but failed, and wrote to Davis that all civilized usages were being disregarded, women and children turned out and the houses burned, grain and provisions destroyed, women insulted and outraged, their money, jewellery, and clothing being stolen.

In December, 1863, General Sherman ordered that all the forage and provisions in the country around Bridgeport and Bellefont “be collected and stored, and no compensation be allowed rebel owners.” In April, 1864, General Clanton wrote to Governor Watts that the “Yankees spared neither age, sex, nor condition.” Tories and deserters from the hills made frequent raids on the defenceless population.

General Dodge reported, May, 1863, that his army had destroyed or carried off in one raid near Town Creek, “fifteen million bushels of corn, five hundred thousand pounds of bacon, quantities of wheat, rye, oats, and fodder, one thousand horses and mules, and an equal number of cattle, sheep, and hogs, besides thousands that the army consumed in three weeks; we also brought out fifteen hundred negroes, destroyed five tanyards and six flouring mills, and we left the country in such a devastated condition that no crop can be raised[Pg 76] during the year;” and nothing was left that would in the least aid the Confederates. On the night of his retreat Dodge lit up the Tennessee valley from Town Creek to Tuscumbia with the flames of burning dwellings, granaries, stables, and fences. In June Colonel Cornyn reports that in a raid from Corinth to Florence he had destroyed cotton factories, tanyards, all the corn-cribs in sight, searched every house in Florence, burned several residences, and carried off 200 mules and horses.[109] A few days later General Stanley raided from Tennessee to Huntsville and carried off cattle and supplies, but did not lay waste the country. General Buell did all that he could to restrain his subordinates, but often to no avail. After Sherman took charge affairs grew steadily worse. In a remarkable letter giving his views in the matter he says: “The government of the United States has in north Alabama any and all rights which they choose to enforce in war, to take their lives, their houses, their lands, their everything, because they cannot deny that war exists there, and war is simply power unrestrained by constitution or compact. If they want eternal warfare, well and good. We will accept the issue and dispossess them and put our friends in possession. To those who submit to the rightful law and authority all gentleness and forbearance, but to the petulant and persistent secessionists, why, death is mercy and the quicker he or she is disposed of the better. Satan and the rebellious saint of heaven were allowed a continuance of existence in hell merely to swell their just punishment.” He referred to the fact that in Europe, whence the principles of war were derived, wars were between the armies, the people remaining practically neutral, so that their property remained unmolested. However, this present war was, he said, between peoples, and the invading army was entitled to all it could get from the people. He cited as a like instance the dispossessing of the people of north Ireland during the reign of William and Mary.[110] After this no restraint on the plundering and persecution of Confederate non-combatants was even attempted, and hundreds of families from north Alabama “refugeed” to south Alabama.

General Sherman wrote to one of his generals, “You may send[Pg 77] notice to Florence that if Forrest invades Tennessee from that direction, the town will be burned; and if it occurs, you will remove the inhabitants north of the Ohio River and burn the town and Tuscumbia also.”[111] All through this section fences were gone, fields grew up in bushes, and weeds, residences were destroyed, farm stock had disappeared. People who lived in the Black Belt report that Wilson’s raiders ate up all the cooked provisions wherever they went, taking all the meat, meal, and flour to their next camping-place, where they would often throw away wagon loads of provisions. Frequently the meal and flour that could not be taken was strewn along the road. The mills were burned, and some families for three months after the close of the war lived on corn cracked in a mortar. All the horses and mules were taken; and only a few oxen were left to work the crops.

Governor Parsons said that Wilson’s men were a week in destroying the property around Selma. Three weeks after, as Parsons himself was a witness, it was with difficulty that one could travel from Planterville to Selma on account of the dead horses and mules. The night marches of the enemy in the Black Belt were lighted by the flames of burning houses. Until this raid only the counties of north Alabama had suffered.[112]

Wilson had destroyed during this raid 2 gunboats; 99,000 small arms and much artillery; 10 iron works; 7 foundries; 8 machine shops; 5 rolling mills; the University buildings; many county court-houses and public buildings; 3 arsenals; a naval foundry and navy yard; 5 steamboats; a powder magazine and mills; 35 locomotives and 565 cars; 3 large railroad bridges and many smaller ones; 275,000 bales of cotton; much private property along the line of march, many magazines of stores; and had subsisted his army on the country.[113] Trowbridge, who passed through Alabama in the fall of 1865, said that Wilson’s route could be traced by burnt gin-houses dotting the way.[114] Three other armies marched through the state in 1865, burning and destroying.

[Pg 78]The Federals took horses and mules, cattle and hogs, corn and meat, gold and silver plate, jewellery, and other valuables. Aged citizens were tortured by “bummers” to force them to tell of hidden treasure. Some were swung up by the neck until nearly dead. Straggling bands of Federals committed depredations over the country. Houses were searched, mattresses were cut to pieces, trunks, bureaus, wardrobes, and chests were broken open and their contents turned out. Much furniture was broken and ruined. Families of women and children were left without a meal, and many homes were burned. Cattle and stock were wantonly killed. What could not be carried away was burned and destroyed.[115]

Though two-thirds of the state was untouched by the enemy two months before the close of hostilities, yet when the surrender came. Alabama was as thoroughly destroyed as Georgia or South Carolina in Sherman’s track.


Sec. 2. Military Organization

Alabama Soldiers: Numbers and Character

The exact number of Confederate soldiers enlisted in Alabama cannot be ascertained. The original records were lost or destroyed, and duplicates were never completed. There were on the rolls infantry regiments numbered from 1 to 65, but the 52d and 64th were never organized. Of the 14 cavalry regiments, numbered from 1 to 12, two organizations were numbered 9. There was one battalion of artillery, afterwards transferred to the regular service, and 18 batteries.

In Alabama, as in the other southern states, local pride has placed the number of troops furnished at a very high figure. Colonel W. H. Fowler, superintendent of army records, who worked mainly in the Army of Northern Virginia, estimated the total number of men from Alabama at about 120,000. Governor Parsons, in his inaugural proclamation, evidently following Fowler’s statistics, placed the number at 122,000,[116] while Colonel M. V. Moore placed the number[Pg 79] at 60,000 to 65,000.[117] General Samuel Cooper, adjutant and inspector-general of the Confederate States Army, estimated that not more than 600,000 men in the Confederacy actually bore arms.[118] This estimate would make the share of Alabama even less than Colonel Moore estimated. The highest estimates have placed the number at 128,000 and 135,000, but the correct figures are evidently somewhere between these extremes.[119]

The Superintendent of the Confederate Bureau of Conscription estimated that according to the census of 1860 there were in Alabama, from 1861 to 1864, 106,000 men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five, and of these, more than 8000 had been regularly exempted during the year 1864, all former exemptions having been revoked by act of Congress, February 17, 1864.[120] Livermore’s estimate,[121] based on the census of 1860, was: There were in Alabama (1861) between the ages of eighteen and forty-five, 99,967 men, and in the entire Confederacy there were 265,000 between the ages of thirteen and sixteen. Of the latter, a rough estimate would place Alabama’s proportion about one-tenth of the whole, that is, about 26,500. Those men over forty-five who later became liable to military duty he estimates at 20,000, that is, about 2000 in Alabama. Thus there were in Alabama, in 1861, not allowing for deaths, 127,467 persons who would become subject to military service unless exempted. Livermore places the number of boys from ten to twelve years of age and of men from forty-seven to fifty, in the Confederacy in 1861, at 300,000, or about 30,000 in Alabama. These would become liable to service in the state militia before 1865.[122] In 1861 the governor stated that by October 7 there had been 27,000 enlistments in the various organizations. Several of these commands were enrolled for short terms of three months, six months, or one year. Before November, 1862, there had been 60,000 enlistments. Included in this number were several thousand reënlistments and transfers. At the end of 1863, when[Pg 80] enlistment and reorganization had practically ceased, there had been 90,857 enlistments of all kinds from Alabama.[123] For two years troops were organized in Alabama much faster than they could be supplied with arms. For months some of the new regiments waited for equipment. Four thousand men at Huntsville were in service several months before arms could be procured, and several infantry regiments were drilled as artillery for a year before muskets were to be had.[124]

Before the close of 1863, Alabama had placed in the Confederate service about all the men that could be sent. The organization of new regiments by original enlistment practically ceased with the fall of 1862. In 1863, only three regiments were thus organized, and two of these were composed of conscripts and men attracted by the special privileges offered.[125] The other regiments, formed after the summer of 1862, were made by consolidating smaller commands that were already in service. The few small regiments of reserves called out in 1864 and 1865 and given regular designations saw little or no service. Those few who were made liable to service by the conscript law and who entered the army at all, as a rule went as volunteers and avoided the conscript camps. The strength of the Alabama regiments came from central and south Alabama, for the full military strength of north Alabama could not be utilized on account of invasion by the enemy. At first there were many small commands—companies and battalions—which were raised in a short time and sent at once to the front before a regimental organization could be effected. Later these were united to form regiments. Nearly all the higher numbered infantry regiments and more than half of the cavalry regiments were formed in this way. The first regiments raised and the strongest in numbers were sent to Virginia. To these went also the largest number of the recruits secured by the[Pg 81] recruiting officers sent out by the regiments. On an average, about 350 recruits or transfers were secured by each Alabama regiment in Virginia, though some had almost none. There were numbers of persons who obtained authority to raise new commands for service near their homes, and in order to fill the ranks of their regiments and companies they would offer special inducements of furloughs and home stations. The cavalry and artillery branches of the service were popular and secured many men needed in the infantry regiments.[126] Each commander of a separate company or battalion desired to raise his force to a regiment, and it was to the interest of the state to have as many organizations as possible in the field as its quota. A better show was thus made on paper. Such conditions prevented the recruitment of old regiments, especially those in the armies that surrendered under Johnston and Taylor. Consequently the regiments in the Western Army were, as a rule, much smaller than the ones in the Army of Northern Virginia, to which recruits were sent instead of new regiments.

In each infantry and cavalry regiment there were ten companies.[127] The original strength of each company was from 64 to 100. Later the number was fixed at 104 to the company for infantry, 72 for cavalry, and 70 in the artillery. After the formation of new commands had practically ceased, the number for each company of infantry was raised to 125 men, 150 in the artillery, and 80 in the cavalry.[128] The original strength of each infantry regiment was, therefore, from 640 to 1000, not including officers; of cavalry, 600 to 720. A battery of artillery seems to have had any number from 70 to 150, though usually the smaller number. The size of the regiments varied greatly. Colonel Fowler reported that to February 1, 1865, 27,022 men had joined the 20 Alabama regiments in Virginia, an average of 1351 men to the regiment. Brewer gives the total enrolment of 15 regiments in the Army of Northern Virginia as 21,694, an average of 1446 to the regiment.[129] Four of these regiments had an enrolment of less than[Pg 82] 1200;[130] so it is evident that the other 5, not given by Brewer, must have averaged about 1265 to the regiment.[131] These numbers include transfers, details, and reënlistments, the exact number of which it is impossible to ascertain. Brewer lists the transfers and discharges from 15 regiments at 4398, an average of 293 each, of which about one-third seem to have been transfers.[132] There were also many reënlistments from disbanded organizations.[133] Both Brewer and Fowler count each enlistment as a different man and arrive at about the same results.[134]

The enrolment of 8 Alabama regiments in Johnston’s army, as given by Brewer, amounted to 8300, an average to the regiment of 1037.[135] It was the practice, in 1864 and 1865, to unite two or more weaker regiments into one. No Alabama regiments in Virginia were so united, and of the 8 in the Western Army, whose enrolment is given by Brewer, only 1 was afterward united with another.[136] It would then seem that the enrolment of the strongest regiments is known.[137] The total number of enlistments in the Alabama commands in Virginia was, according to Fowler, about 30,000, and these were in 20 infantry regiments, and a few smaller commands. In the armies surrendered by Johnston and Taylor there were 38 Alabama infantry regiments, and 13 of these had been consolidated on account of their small numbers. Eight of them which remained separate and which must have been stronger than the ones united had enrolled[Pg 83] an average of 1037 (according to Brewer). Thirty-eight regiments of this strength (which is probably too large an estimate) would give a total enrolment of 39,406. This number, added to Fowler’s estimate of 27,022 in the Army of Northern Virginia, will give 66,428 enlistments of all kinds, for the infantry arm of the service. Add to this 3000 for the 3 regiments of reserves called out in 1864,[138] and the total is 69,428 enlistments in the infantry.

There were 14 cavalry regiments, 7 of which, and possibly more, were formed by the consolidation of smaller commands already in service. The cavalry regiments did not enter the service as early as the infantry, only 1 regiment being organized in 1861. The original strength of each regiment, as has been said, was from 600 to 720. All these regiments served in the commands surrendered by Johnston and Taylor, where recruits were scarce, so 1000 to the regiment is a very large estimate of total enrolment. However, this would give 14,000 in the cavalry regiments.

Of artillery, there were 19 batteries and 1 battalion of 6 batteries, making 25 batteries in all, with an enrolment ranging from 70 to 150 in each. A total enrolment of 3750, or 150 to each battery, would be a large estimate.

Fowler reported about 3000 enlistments in the various smaller commands from Alabama in the Army of Northern Virginia.[139] An additional 2000 would more than account for all similar scattering commands in the other armies.[140]

The total enrolment may then be estimated:—

Army of Northern Virginia (Fowler report)   27,022
Army of Northern Virginia, scattering (Fowler report)   3,000
Armies of the West—infantry (estimate)   39,406
Armies of the West—cavalry   14,000
Scattering   2,500
Artillery   3,750

This total includes many transfers and reënlistments, which can be only roughly estimated. In the Army of Northern Virginia 464 [Pg 84]resigned, 245 were retired, 3639 were discharged, 1815 were transferred to other commands, and 1666 deserted or were unaccounted for. Those who resigned—as a rule to accept higher positions—reëntered the service. Almost all of those who retired or were discharged had to enter the reserves, and many of them again became liable to service. Numbers of soldiers were accustomed to leave one command and go to another without any formality of transfer. Deserters who were driven back to the army nearly always chose to enter other regiments than their own. There were numbers of transfers from the cavalry to the infantry, for each cavalryman had to furnish his own horse, and, should it be killed or die and the soldier be unable to secure another, he was sent to an infantry regiment. There were also smaller infantry organizations, which were mounted and merged into the cavalry regiments. Half of the enlistments in the artillery came from the infantry. One regiment[141] at one time lost 100 men in this way, and it has been estimated that one-fifth of the Alabama soldiers served in more than one command.[142] Counting each name on the rolls as one man, as Brewer and Fowler do,[143] it is difficult to see how more than 90,000 enlistments can be counted, and from this total must be deducted several thousand for transfers and reënlistments. Miller’s estimate of a deduction of one-fifth for names counted twice would make the total number of different men about 75,000, which is probably about the correct number. Not only were the same names counted twice, and even oftener in different commands, but sometimes in the same companies and regiments they were counted more than once. It was to the interest of local and state authorities to have each enlistment counted as a different man, and this was invariably done.[144] Five of the early regiments were reorganized and reënlisted, and thus 5000 at least were added to the total enrolment without securing a single recruit. The three-year regiments reënlisted in 1864,[145] and here again were extra [Pg 85]thousands of enlistments to be added to the former total. There were also 19 infantry regiments[146] which were formed by the reorganization of former commands that had already been counted, and upon reënlistment for the war they were again counted. In this same way 7 regiments at least of cavalry were formed.[147] this way it is possible to count up a total enlistment from Alabama of about 120,000.[148] There is no method which will even approximate correctness by which the total number of enlistments may be reduced to enlistments for a certain term, as three years or four years. The history of every enlistment must first be known.

There were three lieutenant-generals who entered the service in command of Alabama troops—John B. Gordon, Joseph Wheeler,[149] James Longstreet[149]; seven major-generals—H. D. Clayton, Jones M. Withers,[149] E. M. Law, C. M. Wilcox, John H. Forney,[149] W. W. Allen, R. E. Rodes[147]; and thirty-six brigadier generals—Tennent Lomax,[150] P. D. Bowles,[149] S. A. M. Wood, E. A. O’Neal, William H. Forney, J. C. C. Sanders,[149, 150] I. W. Garrott,[150] Archibald Gracie,[149, 150] B. D. Fry, James Cantey, J. T. Holtzclaw, E. D. Tracy,[150] E. W. Pettus, Z. C. Deas, G. D. Johnston, C. M. Shelly, Y. M. Moody, Wm. F. Perry, John T. Morgan, M. H. Hannon, Alpheus Baker, J. H. Clanton, James Hagan, P. D. Roddy, John Gregg,[150] L. P. Walker, D. Leadbetter,[149, 150] J. H. Kelley,[149, 150] J. Gorgas, C. A. Battle, John W. Frazer, Alex. W. Campbell, Thomas M. Jones, M. J. Bulger, John C. Reid, James Deshler.[150] Other Alabamians exercised commands in the troops of other states, and several were staff officers of general rank. The naval commanders were Semmes, Randolph, and Glassell, and a few subordinate officers.[151]

[Pg 86]During the early months of 1865 a movement was started to enroll negroes as Confederate soldiers, and a number of officers, among whom was John T. Morgan, received permission to raise negro troops. The conference of governors at Augusta in 1864 recommended the arming of slaves, but Governor Watts asked the Alabama legislature to disapprove such a movement.[152] An enthusiastic meeting of citizens, held in Mobile, February 19, 1865, declared that the war must be prosecuted “to victory or death,” and that 100,000 negroes should be placed in the field.[153] It was too late, however, for success. Wilson, on his raid, picked up the Confederate negro troops at Selma, and took them with him.[154] In 1862, the “Creoles” of Mobile applied for permission to enlist in a body. They were mulattoes, but were free by the treaties with France in 1803 and with Spain in 1819, were property holders, often owning slaves, and were an orderly, respectable class, true to the South and anxious to fight for the Confederacy. The Secretary of War was not friendly to the proposal, but in November, 1862, the legislature of Alabama authorized their enlistment for the defence of Mobile. A year later, at the urgent request of General Maury, they were received into the Confederate service as heavy artillery.[155]

The Alabama troops in the Confederate service made a notably good record. The flower of the Alabama army served with Lee in Virginia, but nearly as good were the Alabama troops in the western armies. Brewer says they moved “high and haughty in the face of death.” The regiments of reserves raised late in the war and stationed within the state were not very good. Yet there were instances of regiments, with bad reputation when stationed near home, making splendid records when sent to the front. The spirit of the troops at the front was high to the last. In 1864 an Alabama regiment reënlisted for the war, with the oath that they would “live on bread and go barefoot before they would leave the flag under which they had fought for three years.”[156] On the morning of April 9, 1865, the Sixtieth Alabama (Hilliard’s Legion), then about 165 strong,[Pg 87] captured a Federal battery.[157] Fowler, in his report in 1865, asserts that Alabama sent more troops into the service than any other state; also that she sent more troops in proportion to her population than any other state. “I am certain too,” he says, “that when General Lee surrendered his army, the representation from Alabama on the field that day was inferior to no other southern state in numbers, and surely not in gallantry.”[158]


Union Troops from Alabama

To the Union army Alabama furnished about 3000 regular enlistments. Of these 2000 were white men. It is not likely that there were many more, since in 1900 there were in Alabama only 3649 persons, northerners, negroes, and all, drawing pensions, and some of these on account of the Indian and Mexican wars.[159] The white Union troops served in the First Alabama Union Cavalry, in the First Alabama and Tennessee Cavalry (the First Vedette), Kennamer’s Scouts (Cavalry), and in northern regiments—principally those from Indiana. The report of the Secretary of War for 1864-1865 says that no white regiments were regularly enlisted in Alabama for the Union army. But this is evidently not correct, since the report for 1866 says that there were 2576 enlistments in Alabama for various periods of service.[160]

Of negro regiments in the Union army, there were the First Alabama Volunteers, afterward known as the Fifth United States Colored Infantry, the Second Alabama Volunteers (negroes), and the First Alabama Colored Artillery, afterward known as the Sixth United States Heavy Artillery, which served at Fort Pillow. Late in 1864 General Lorenzo Thomas reported that he had recently organized three regiments of colored infantry in Alabama, and Wilson organized several other negro regiments in the state in 1865. Many[Pg 88] negroes from north Alabama went into various negro organizations, and were credited to the northern states, the official records showing only 4969 negro enlistments credited directly to Alabama. A conservative estimate would be from 2000 to 2500 whites and 10,000 negroes enlisted in Alabama, not counting those who were enrolled in the spring of 1865.[161] The white Union soldiers from Alabama were mostly poor men from the mountain counties of north Alabama. The Union troops from Alabama received no bounty.[162]


The Militia System

The militia system of Alabama in 1861 existed only in the statute books, and in the persons of a few brigadiers and a major-general, whose entire duty had consisted in wearing uniforms at the inauguration of a governor and ever thereafter bearing military titles. A series of Arabic numbers, something more than a hundred, was assigned to the militia regiments that were unorganized, but which, under favorable circumstances, might be enrolled and called out. The county was the unit. To each county was assigned one regiment or more according to the white population. Several counties formed a militia district under a brigadier-general, and over all was a major-general. Bodies of trained volunteers were not connected with the militia system at all, but these went at once, on the outbreak of war, into the state army, which was soon merged into the Confederate army.

In theory the militia consisted of all the male citizens of Alabama of military age. The enlistments for war service soon reduced the material from which militia regiments could be formed, and the system broke down before it was tried. A few regiments may have been enrolled in 1861 and 1862, but if so, they at once entered the Confederate service. The Forty-eighth Alabama Militia regiment was ordered out to defend Mobile in 1861, and $6000 was appropriated to provide pikes and knives with which to arm them, as it was [Pg 89]impossible to get firearms. On March 1, 1862, Governor Shorter appealed to the people to give their shotguns, rifles, bowie-knives, pikes, powder, and lead to state agents, probate judges, sheriffs, and other state officials for the use of the state militia.[163] A few days later he ordered out, for the defence of Mobile and the coast, the militia from the river counties and the southwestern counties—eighteen counties in all. But the militia failed to appear. It seems that the governor expected a hearty response from the people. He asked for too much, and got nothing. On March 12, 1862, he again ordered out the militia, this time specifying the regiments by number.[164] But again the militia failed to respond. The fact was, there was no longer any militia; the officers and men had gone, or were preparing to go, into the Confederate service. Many of the militia regiments could not have mustered a dozen men, and it is doubtful if there was a muster-roll of a militia regiment in all Alabama.[165] In May, 1862, the governor, recognizing that the militia system was worthless as a means of raising troops for home defence, issued a proclamation asking the people to form volunteer organizations. The response, as he said, “was not prompt.” The legislature of that year, not seeing the necessity, refused to reorganize the militia so as to give the governor any effective control. The people seem not to have been worried by any fear of invasion, and many thought that organization into militia companies was merely preliminary to entering the Confederate service. Some did not wish to go until they had to do so, others preferred to go at once to the Confederate army. It appears that all persons, for various reasons, disliked militia service.

December 22, 1862, the governor issued a proclamation, in which, after mentioning the tardy response to his May proclamation and the failure of the legislature to reorganize the system, he again asked the people to volunteer in companies for home defence.[166] He begged the people to drive those who were shirking service to their duty by the force of public scorn. He requested that business houses be closed early in order to give time for drill. The response to this[Pg 90] was the same as to his previous proclamation. There was no longer any material for a militia organization. Early in 1863, and in some sections even before, the need began to be felt for a militia force to execute the laws. Under the direction of the governor, small commands were organized here and there of those who were not likely to become subject to service in the Confederate army. These were state and Confederate officials, young boys, and sometimes old men. These organizations were later a source of constant conflict between the state authorities and the Confederate enrolling officers, who wanted to take such commands bodily into the Confederate service, and who usually did so with the full consent of most of the men and to the great indignation of the governor.[167] In August, 1863, the legislature finally passed a law to reorganize the militia system, or rather to establish a new system. By the law an official in each county, appointed by the governor, was to enroll as first-class militia all males under seventeen and over forty-five years of age, including all state and Confederate civil officials, and those physically disqualified for service in the Confederate army. The second class was to consist of those not in the first class, that is, of men between seventeen and forty-five years of age. But men of the second class were subject to enrolment by Confederate conscript officers, and consisted of the few thousand who were specially exempted by the Confederate authorities. Those of the first class who wished to do so might enroll in the second class. The governor was given the usual power over the militia, but it was ordered that the first-class militia was not to go beyond the limits of the county to which it belonged.[168] Presumably the second class might be ordered beyond the county limits, but there were so few in their class that they were not organized. The first-class militia in each county was under a commandant of reserves, militia now being called reserves. He had the power to call it out to repel invasion and execute the laws. Jealousy of Confederate authority had caused the legislature to take legal means of making the militia worthless to the Confederacy, and useful only for local defence and for executing the state laws in [Pg 91]particular localities.[169] Still, the system seems to have been practically useless, and the governor continued to organize small irregular commands to execute the laws and to furnish military escorts to civil officials. As has been stated, such commands were highly approved of by the Confederate enrolling officers, who eagerly persuaded them to join the Confederate army, and thus called forth strong remonstrances from Governor Watts. The War Department reasoned that a state could keep troops of war which were not subject to absorption in the Confederate service, but that the militia were subject to the superior claims of the Confederacy.[170] February 6, 1864, Governor Watts, in an address to the people, declared that a raid into the state was threatened and called upon young and old to volunteer for the defence of the state.[171] The reserve system was now worthless. Few of the regiments had more than fifty men, many had none, and the governor was powerless to use them beyond the limits of their respective counties. The state was at the mercy of any invading force, and Rousseau’s Raid, through the heart of the state, showed the woful condition of affairs. On October 7, 1864, the legislature passed an act which prohibited Confederate army officers from commanding the reserves. It was again ordered that the first-class reserves should not serve beyond the limits of the county to which they belonged. At the same time, permission was granted to the harassed citizens of Dale and Henry counties to organize themselves to protect their homes, provided they did so under the direction of the commandant of the first-class militia. Perhaps the legislature was afraid that, if left to themselves, they might cross the county line, or choose a Confederate officer to lead them. In December, 1864, when north Alabama was almost entirely overrun by tories, deserters, and Federals, the citizens of Marion County were authorized to organize into squads and protect themselves.[172] Still the legislature refused to make an effective reorganization of the militia. When the spring campaign in 1865 began, Governor Watts appealed to the people to do what the legislature had failed to do. The first-class militia could not, he said, be ordered beyond the limits of their [Pg 92]counties, and in three congressional districts in north Alabama it had not been and, by law, could not be, organized. He estimated that 30,000 men were enrolled in the first-class militia, of whom 4000 were boys, and to the latter he made the appeal to defend the state. Evidently the remaining 26,000 men were, in his estimation, not worth much as soldiers. However, he called upon all first-class militia to volunteer as second class.[173] A few hundred responded to this appeal, and all of them who saw active service were with Forrest in front of Wilson.

The various organizations mentioned in the War Records, the Junior Reserves, Senior Reserves, Mobile Regiment, Home Guards, Local Defence Corps,[174] and others, were, except the reserves, volunteer organizations for local defence, and all that saw active service before 1865, except the Home Guards, were absorbed into the Confederate organization.[175] The stupid conduct of the legislature during the last two years of the war in failing to provide for the defence of the state cannot be too strongly condemned. The final result would have been the same, but a strong force of militia would have enabled Governor Watts to execute the laws in all parts of the state, and to protect the families of loyal citizens from outrage by tories and deserters.


Sec. 3. Conscription and Exemption

Confederate Enrolment Laws

In the spring of 1862, the Confederate Congress passed the Enrolment Act, by which all white men between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five were made liable to military service at the call of the President, and those already in service were retained. The President was authorized to employ state officials to enroll the men made subject to duty, provided the governor of the state gave his consent; otherwise he was to employ Confederate officials. The conscripts thus secured were to be assigned to the state commands already in the field until these organizations were recruited to their full strength. Substitutes were allowed under such regulations as the Secretary of[Pg 93] War might prescribe.[176] Five days later, a law was passed exempting certain classes of persons from the operations of the Enrolment Act. These were: Confederate and state officials, mail-carriers, ferrymen on post-office routes, pilots, telegraph operators, miners, printers, ministers, college professors, teachers with twenty pupils or more, teachers of the deaf, dumb, and blind, hospital attendants, one druggist to each drug store, and superintendents and operatives in cotton and wool factories.[177] In the fall of 1862, the Enrolment law was extended to include all white men from thirty-five to forty-five years of age and all who lacked a few months of being eighteen years of age. They were to be enrolled for three years, the oldest, if not needed, being left until the last.[178]

At this time was begun the practice, which virtually amounted to exemption, of making special details from the army to perform certain kinds of skilled labor. The first details thus made were to manufacture shoes for the army.[179] The list of those who might claim exemption, in addition to those named in the act of April 21, 1862, was extended to include the following: state militia officers, state and Confederate clerks in the civil service, railway employees who were not common laborers, steamboat employees, one editor and the necessary printers for each newspaper, those morally opposed to war, provided they furnished a substitute or paid $500 into the treasury, physicians, professors, and teachers who had been engaged in the profession for two years or more, government artisans, mechanics, and other employees, contractors and their employees furnishing arms and supplies to the state or to the Confederacy, factory owners, shoemakers, tanners, blacksmiths, wagon makers, millers, and engineers. The artisans and manufacturers were granted exemption from military service provided the products of their labor were sold at not more than seventy-five per cent profit above the cost of production. On every plantation where there were twenty or more negroes one white man was entitled to exemption as overseer.[180]

[Pg 94]In the spring of 1863 mail contractors and drivers of post-coaches were exempted;[181] and it was ordered that those exempted under the so-called “twenty-negro” law should pay $500 into the Confederate treasury; also, that such state officials as were exempted by the governor might be also exempted by the Confederate authorities. The law permitting the hiring of substitutes by men liable to service was repealed on December 28, 1863, and a few days later even those who had furnished substitutes were made subject to military duty.[182]

A law of February 17, 1864,[183] provided that all soldiers between the ages of eighteen and forty-five should be retained in service during the war. Those between the ages of seventeen and eighteen, and forty-five and fifty were called into service as a reserve force for the defence of the state. All exemptions were repealed except the following: (1) the members of Congress and of the state legislature, and such Confederate and state officers as the President or the governors might certify to be necessary for the proper administration of government; (2) ministers regularly employed, superintendents, attendants, and physicians of asylums for the deaf, dumb, and blind, insane, and other public hospitals, one editor for each newspaper, public printers, one druggist for each drug store which had been two years in existence, all physicians who had practised seven years, teachers in colleges of at least two years’ standing and in schools which had twenty pupils to each teacher; (3) one overseer or agriculturist to each farm upon which were fifteen or more negroes, in case there was no other exempt on the plantation. The object was to leave one white man, and no more, on each plantation, and the owner or overseer was preferred. In return for such exemption, the exempt was bound by bond to deliver to the Confederate authorities, for each slave on the plantation between the ages of sixteen and fifty, one hundred pounds of bacon or its equivalent in produce, which[Pg 95] was paid for by the government at prices fixed by the impressment commissioners. In addition, the exempt was to sell his surplus produce at prices fixed by the commissioners. The Secretary of War was authorized to make special details, under the above conditions, of overseers, farmers, or planters, if the public good demanded it; also (4) to exempt the higher officials of railroads and not more than one employee for each mile of road; and (5) mail carriers and drivers. The President was authorized to make details of old men for special service.[184] By an act passed the same day free negroes from eighteen to fifty years of age were made liable to service with the army as teamsters. These acts of February 17, 1864, were the last Confederate legislation of importance in regard to conscription and exemption. During the year 1864 the Confederate authorities devoted their energies to construing away all exemptions possible, and to absorbing the state reserve forces into the Confederate army.


Policy of the State in Regard to Conscription

To return to 1861. The state legislature, when providing for the state army, authorized the governor to exempt from militia duty all railway, express, steamboat, and telegraph employees, but even the fire companies had to serve as militia.[185] The operation of the enrolment law stripped the land of men of militia age, and on November 17, 1862, the legislature ordered to duty on the public roads men from sixteen to eighteen years of age, and forty-five to fifty-five, and later all from sixteen to fifty as well as all male slaves and free negroes from fourteen to sixty years of age.[186] Militia officers between the ages of eighteen and forty-five were declared subject to the enrolment acts of Congress,[187] as were also justices of the peace, notaries public, and constables.[188]

Yet, instead of making an effective organization of the militia, the legislature in 1863 proceeded to frame a law of exemptions patterned after that of the Confederacy. It released from militia duty all persons over forty-five years of age, county treasurers, physicians of seven years’ practice or who were in the public service, ministers, teachers of three years’ standing, one blacksmith in each beat, the[Pg 96] city police and fire companies, penitentiary guards, general administrators who had been in service five years, Confederate agents, millers, railroad employees, steamboat officials, overseers, managers of foundries, salt makers who made as much as ten bushels a day and who sold it for not more than $15 per bushel. Besides, the governor could make special exemptions.[189] In 1864 millers who charged not more than one-eighth for toll were exempted.[190] It will be seen that in some respects the state laws go farther in exemption than the Confederate laws, and thus were in conflict with them. But it must be remembered that the Confederacy had already stripped the country of nearly all the able-bodied men who did not evade duty. To this time, however, there was no conflict between the state and Confederate authorities in regard to conscription. An act was also passed providing for the reorganization of the penitentiary guards, and only those not subject to conscription were retained.[191] A joint resolution of August 29, 1863, called upon Congress to decrease the list of exemptions, as many clerks and laborers were doing work that could be done by negroes. At the end of the year 1863 the legislature asked that the conscript law be strictly enforced by Congress.[192]

On the part of the state rights people, there was much opposition to the enrolment or conscription laws on the ground that they were unconstitutional. Several cases were brought before the state supreme court, and all were decided in favor of the constitutionality of the laws; furthermore, it was decided that the courts and judicial officers of the state had no jurisdiction on habeas corpus to discharge from the custody of a Confederate enrolling officer persons who had been conscripted under the law of Congress.[193] A test case was carried to the state supreme court, which decided that a person who had conscientious scruples against bearing arms might pay for a substitute in the state militia and claim exemption from state service, but[Pg 97] if conscripted he was not exempted from the Confederate service unless he belonged to the religious denominations specially exempted by the act of Congress.[194] The court also declared constitutional the Confederate law which provided that when a substitute became subject to military duty his principal was thereby rendered liable to service.[195] In 1864 the supreme court held that the state had a right to subject to militia service persons exempted by the Confederate authorities as bonded agriculturists under the acts of February 17, 1864, and that only those overseers were granted exemption from militia service under the act of Congress in 1863 who at the time were not subject to militia duty, and not those exempted from Confederate service by the later laws,[196] and that the clause in the act of Congress passed February 17, 1864, repealing and revoking all exemptions, was constitutional.[197] In other cases the court held that a person regularly enrolled and sworn into the Confederate service could not raise any question, on habeas corpus, of his assignment to any particular command or duty,[198] but that the state courts could discharge on habeas corpus from Confederate enrolling officers persons held as conscripts, who were exempted under Confederate laws;[199] that the Confederacy might reassert its rights to the military service of a citizen who was enrolled as a conscript and, after producing a discharge for physical disability, had enlisted in the state militia service;[200] and finally, that the right of the Confederacy to the military service of a citizen was paramount to the right of the state.[201]


The First Confederate Capitol.
The State Capitol, Montgomery.
  Montgomery Residence
of President Davis.
Confederate Monument,
  The Inauguration of
Jefferson Davis.

(From an old negative.)


During the year 1864 Governor Watts had much trouble with the Confederate enrolling officers who insisted upon conscripting his volunteer and militia organizations, whether they were subject to duty under the laws or not. The authorities at Richmond held that while a state might keep “troops of war” over which the Confederacy could have no control, yet the state militia was subject to all the laws of Congress. “Troops of war,” as the Secretary of War explained, would be troops in active and permanent service,[202] and hence virtually Confederate troops. A state with troops of that description would be very willing to give them up to the Confederacy to save expense.[Pg 98] Thus we find the legislature of Alabama asking the President to receive and pay certain irregular organizations which had been used to support the Conscript Bureau.[203] The legislature, now somewhat disaffected, showed its interest in the operations of the enrolling officers by an act providing that conscript officials who forced exempts into the Confederate service should be liable to indictment and punishment by a fine of $1000 to $6000 and imprisonment of from six months to two years.[204] It went a step further and nullified the laws of Congress by declaring that state officials, civil and military, were not subject to conscription by the Confederate authorities.[205]


Effect of the Enrolment Laws

Few good soldiers were obtained by conscription,[206] and the system, as it was organized in Alabama,[207] did more harm than good to the Confederacy. The passage of the first law, however, had one good effect. During the winter of 1861-1862, there had been a reaction from the enthusiastic war feeling of the previous summer. Those who thought it would be only a matter of weeks to overrun the North now saw their mistake.[208] Many of the people still had no doubt that the North would be glad to make peace and end the war if the government at Richmond were willing. Numbers, therefore, saw no need of more fighting, and hence did not volunteer. Thousands left the army and went home. A measure like the enrolment act was necessary to make the people realize the actual situation. Upon the passage of the law all the loyal population liable to service made preparations to go to the front before being conscripted, which was deemed a disgrace, and the close of the year 1862 saw practically all of them in the army. Those who entered after 1862 were boys and old men.[209] Many not subject to service[Pg 99] volunteered, so that when the age limit was extended but few more were secured.

Great dissatisfaction was expressed among the people at the enrolment law. Some thought that it was an attack upon the rights of the states, and the irritating manner in which it was enforced aroused, in some localities, intense popular indignation. Conscription being considered disgraceful, many who would have been glad for various good reasons to remain at home a few months longer went at once into service to escape conscription. Yet some loyal and honest citizens found it disastrous to leave their homes and business without definite arrangements for the safety and support of their families. Such men suffered much annoyance from the enrolling officers, in spite of the fact that the law was intended for their protection. The conscript officials, often men of bad character, persecuted those who were easy to find, while neglecting the disloyal and refractory who might make trouble for them. In some sections such weak conduct came near resulting in local insurrections; this was especially the case in Randolph County in 1862.[210] The effect of the law was rather to stop volunteering in the state organizations and reporting to camps of instructions, since all who did either were classed as conscripts. Not wishing to bear the odium of being conscripted, many thousands in 1862 and 1863 went directly into the regular service.[211]

While the conscript law secured few, if any, good soldiers who would not have joined the army without it, it certainly served as a reminder to the people that all were needed, and as a stimulus to volunteering. Three classes of people suffered from its operations: (1) those rightfully exempted, who were constantly annoyed by the enrolling officers; (2) those soon to become liable to service, who were not allowed to volunteer in organizations of their own choice; and (3) “deadheads” and malcontents who did not intend to fight at all if they could keep from it. It was this last class that made nearly all the complaints about conscription, and it was they whom the enrolling officers left alone because they were so troublesome.

[Pg 100]The defects in the working of conscription are well set forth in a letter from a correspondent of President Davis in December, 1862. In this letter it was asserted that the conscript law had proven a failure in Mississippi and Alabama, since it had stopped the volunteering. Governor Shorter was reported to have said that the enforcement of it had been “a humbug and a farce.” The writer declared that the enrolling officers chosen were frequently of bad character; that inefficient men were making attempts to secure “bomb-proof” offices in order to avoid service in the army; and that the exemption of slave owners by the “twenty-negro law” had a bad influence upon the poorer classes. He also declared that the system of substitutes was bad, for many men were on the hunt for substitutes, and others liable to duty were working to secure exemptions in order to serve as substitutes, while large numbers of men connected with the army managed in this way to keep away from the fighting. He was sure, he said, that there were too many hangers-on about the officers of high rank, and that it was believed that social position, wealth, and influence served to get young men good staff positions.[212] Another evil complained of was that “paroled” men scattered to their homes and never heard of their exchange. To a conscript officer whose duty it was to look after them they said that they were “paroled,” and he passed them by. The officers were said to be entirely too lenient with the worthless people and too rigorous with the better classes.[213]


Exemption from Service

After the passage of the enrolment laws, every man with excessive regard for the integrity of his person and for his comfort began to secure exemption from service. In north Alabama men of little courage and patriotism lost confidence after the invasions of the Federals, and resorted to every expedient to escape conscription. Strange and terrible diseases were developed, and in all sections of the state health began to break down.[214] It was the day of certificates,—for old age, rheumatism, fits, blindness, and various physical disabilities.[215] Various other pretexts were given for staying away from the[Pg 101] army, while some men hid out in the woods. The governor asked the people to drive such persons to their duty.[216] There was never so much skilled labor in the South as now. Harness making, shoe making, charcoal burning, carpentering—all these and numerous other occupations supposed to be in support of the cause secured exemption. Running a tanyard was a favorite way of escaping service. A pit was dug in the corner of the back yard, a few hides secured, carefully preserved, and never finished,—for more hides might not be available; then the tanner would be no longer exempt. There were purchasing agents, sub-purchasing agents, and sub-sub-agents, cattle drivers, tithe gatherers, agents of the Nitre Bureau, agents to examine political prisoners,[217] and many other Confederate and state agents of various kinds.[218] The class left at home for the enrolling officers to contend with, especially after 1862, was a source of weakness, not of strength, to the Confederate cause. The best men had gone to the army, and these people formed the public. Their opinion was public opinion, and with few exceptions the home stayers were a sorry lot. From them came the complaint about the favoritism toward the rich. The talk of a “rich man’s war and a poor[Pg 102] man’s fight” originated with them, as well as the criticism of the “twenty-negro law.” In the minds of the soldiers at the front there was no doubt that the slaveholder and the rich man were doing their full share.[219]

Very few of the slaveholders and wealthy men tried to escape service; but when one did, he attracted more attention and called forth sterner denunciation than ten poor men in similar cases would have done. In fact, few able-bodied men tried to secure exemption under the “twenty-negro law.” It would have been better for the Confederacy if more planters had stayed at home to direct the production of supplies, and the fact was recognized in 1864,[220] when a “fifteen-negro law” was passed by the Congress, and other exemptions of planters and overseers were encouraged.[221]

There is no doubt that those who desired to remain quietly at home—to be neutral, so to speak—found it hard to evade the conscript officers. One of these declared that the enrolling officers “burned the woods and sifted the ashes for conscripts.” Another who had been caught in the sifting process deserted to the enemy at Huntsville. He was asked, “Do they conscript close over the river?” “Hell, stranger, I should think they do; they take every man who has not been dead more than two days.”[222] But the “hill-billy” and “sand-mountain” conscripts were of no service when captured; there were not enough soldiers in the state to keep them in their regiments. The Third Alabama Regiment of Reserves ran away almost in a body. There were fifteen or twenty old men in each county as a supporting force to the Conscript Bureau, and they had old guns, some of which would not shoot, and ammunition that did not fit.[223] Thus the best men went into the army, many of them never to return, and a class of people the country could well have spared survived to assist a second time in the ruin of their country in the darker days of Reconstruction. Often the “fire-eating, die-in-the-last-ditch” radical of 1861 who remained at home “to take care of the ladies” became an exempt, a “bomb-proof” or a conscript officer, and later a “scalawag.”

[Pg 103]Some escaped war service by joining the various small independent and irregular commands formed for frontier service by those officers who found field duty too irksome. Though these irregular bodies were, as we have seen, gradually absorbed by the regular organizations, yet during their day of strength they were most unpleasant defenders. The men sometimes joined in order to have more opportunity for license and plunder, and such were hated alike by friend and foe.

Another kind of irregular organization caused some trouble in another way. Before the extension of the age limits to seventeen and fifty, the governor raised small commands of young boys to assist in the execution of the state laws, no other forces being available. Later, when the Confederate Congress extended its laws to include these, the conscript officers tried to enroll them, but the governor objected. The officers complained that, in order to escape the odium of conscription, the young boys who were subject by law to duty in the reserves evaded that law by going at once into the army, or by joining some command for special duty. They were of the opinion that these boys should be sent to camps of instruction. The governor had ten companies of young men under eighteen years of age raised near Talladega, and really mustered into the Confederate service as irregular troops, before the law of February 17, 1864, was passed. After the passage of the law, the enrolling officers wished to disband these companies and send the men to the reserves. Watts was angered and sharply criticised the whole policy of conscription. He said that much harm was done by the method of the conscript officers; that it was nonsense to take men from the fields and put them in camps of instruction when there were no arms for them, and no active service was intended; they had better stay at home, drill once a week with volunteer organizations, and work the rest of the time; to assemble the farmers in camps for useless drill while the crops were being destroyed was “most egregious folly.” The governor also attacked the policy of the Bureau in refusing to allow the enrolment in the same companies of boys under eighteen and men over forty-five.[224] In regard to the attempts to disband his small[Pg 104] force of militia in active service, the governor used strong language. To Seddon, the Secretary of War, he wrote in May, 1864: “It must not be forgotten that the states have some rights left, and that the right to troops in the time of war is guaranteed by the Constitution. These rights, on the part of Alabama, I am determined shall be respected. Unless you order the Commandant of Conscripts to stop interfering with [certain volunteer companies] there will be a conflict between the Confederate general [Withers] and the state authorities.”[225] Watts carried the day and the Confederate authorities yielded.

The enrolment law provided that state officials should be exempt from enrolment upon presenting a certificate from the governor stating that they were necessary to the proper administration of the government. In November, 1864, Governor Watts complained to General Withers, who commanded the Confederate reserve forces in Alabama, that the conscript officers had been enrolling by force state officials who held certificates from the governor and also from the commandant of conscripts, and, he added: “This state of things cannot long last without a conflict between the Confederate and state authorities. I shall be compelled to protect my state officers with all the forces of the state at my command.” The enrolling officers referred him to a decision of the Secretary of War in the case of a state official in Lowndes County,—that by the act of February 17, 1864, all men between the ages of seventeen and fifty were taken at once into the Confederate service, and that state officials elected later could not claim exemption. Governor Watts then wrote to Seddon, “Unless you interfere, there will be a conflict between the Confederate and the state authorities.” He denied the right of Confederate officers to conscript state officials elected after February 17, 1864: “I deny such right, and will resist it with all the forces of the state.”[226] The Secretary of War replied by commending the Confederate officers for the way in which they had done their duty, insisting that it was not a political nor a constitutional question, but one involving private rights, and that it should be left to the courts. This was receding from the confident ruling made in the case of the Lowndes County man. There was no more dispute and it is to be[Pg 105] presumed that the governor retained his officials.[227] No wonder that Colonel Preston, the chief of the Bureau of Conscription, wrote to the Secretary of War that, “from one end of the Confederacy to the other every constituted authority, every officer, every man, and woman was engaged in opposing the enrolling officer in the execution of his duties.”[228]

But these officers had only themselves to blame. They pursued a short-sighted, nagging policy, worrying those who were exempt—the state officials and the militia—because they were easy to reach, and neglecting the real conscript material.[229] The work was known to be useless, and the whole system was irritating to the last degree to all who came in contact with it. It was useless because there was little good material for conscription, except in the frontier country where no authority could be exerted. During 1862 and 1863 practically nothing was done by the Bureau in Alabama, and at the end of the latter year, Colonel E. D. Blake, the Superintendent of Special Registration, reported that there were 13,000 men in the state between the ages of seventeen and forty-five, and of these he estimated 4000 were under eighteen years of age, and hence, at that time, beyond the reach of the enrolling officers. More than 8000[230] were exempt[Pg 106] under laws and orders. This left, he said, 1000 subject to enrolment. Nowhere, in any of the estimates, are found allowances for those physically and mentally disqualified. The number then exempted in Alabama by medical boards is unknown. In other states this number was sometimes more and sometimes less than the number exempted by law and by order.

A year later, after all exemptions had been revoked, the number disqualified for physical disability by the examining boards amounted to 3933. Besides these there were the lame, the halt, the blind, and the insane, who were so clearly unfit for service that no enrolling officer ever brought them before the medical board. The 4000 between the ages of seventeen and eighteen, and also the 4600 between sixteen and seventeen, came under the enrolment law of February 17, 1864, as also several thousand who were over forty-five. But it is certain that many of these, especially the younger ones, were already in the general service as volunteers. It is also certain that many hundreds of all ages who were liable to service escaped conscription, especially in north Alabama. In a way, their places in the ranks were filled by those who did not become liable to enrolment until 1864, or even not at all, but who volunteered nevertheless.

From April, 1862, to February, 1865, there had been enrolled at the camps in Alabama 14,875 men who had been classed in the reports as conscripts. This included all men who volunteered at the camps, all of military age that the officers could find or catch before they went into the volunteer service, details made as soon as enrolled, irregular commands formed before the men were liable to duty, and a few hundred genuine conscripts who had to be guarded to keep them from running away. It was reported that for two years not a recruit was sent by the Bureau from Alabama to the army of Tennessee or to the Army of Northern Virginia, but that the men were enrolled in the organizations of the state. This means that much of the enrolment of 14,875 was only nominal, and that this number included the regiments sent to the front from Alabama in 1862, after the passage of the Enrolment Act in April. Eighteen regiments were organized in Alabama after that date, in violation of the Enrolment Act, many of the men evading conscription, as the Bureau reported, by going at once into the general service. The number who left in[Pg 107] these regiments was estimated at more than 10,000.[231] There was not a single conscript regiment.

It is possible to ascertain the number exempted by law and by order before 1865. A report by Colonel Preston, dated April, 1864, gives the number of exempts in Alabama as 8835 to January, 1864.[232] A month later, all exemptions were revoked.[233] In February, 1865, a complete report places the total number exempted by law and order in Alabama at 10,218, of whom 3933 were exempted by medical boards. The state officials exempted numbered 1333,[234] and Confederate officials, 21; ministers, 726; editors, 33, and their employees, 155; public printers, 3; druggists, 81; physicians, 796; teachers, 352; overseers and agriculturists, 1447; railway officials and employees, 1090; mail carriers and contractors, 60; foreigners, 167; agriculture details, 38; pilots, telegraphers, shoemakers, tanners, and blacksmiths, 86; government contractors, 44; details of artisans and mechanics, 570; details for government service (not specified), 218. There were 1046 men incapable of field service who were assigned to duty in the above details, chiefly in the Conscript Bureau, Quartermaster’s Department, and Commissariat.[235] It is certain that many others were exempted by being detailed from service in the army. The list of those pardoned in 1865 and 1866 by President Johnson shows many occupations not mentioned above.

It is interesting to notice the fate of the conscript officers when captured by the Federals. Bradford Hambrick was tried by a military commission in Nashville, Tennessee, in January, 1864, charged with being a Confederate conscript officer and with forcing “peaceable citizens of the United States” in Madison County, Alabama, to enter the Confederate army. He was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment at hard labor for one year, and to pay a fine of $2000 or serve an additional imprisonment of 1000 days.[236]

To sum up: The early enrolment laws served to stimulate enlistment; the later ones probably had no effect at all except to give[Pg 108] the Bureau something to do, and the law officers something on which to exercise their wits. The conscript service also served as an exemption board. It secured few, if any, enlistments that the state could not have secured, and certainly lost more than it gained by harassing the people. The laws were constantly violated by the state; this is proved by the enlistment of eighteen new regiments contrary to the law. It finally drove the state authorities into an attitude of nullification by its construction of the enrolment laws.

Neither the state nor the Confederate government had an efficient machinery for securing enlistments. If there ever were laws regarded only in the breaking, the Enrolment Acts were such laws. The conscripts and exempts, like the deserters, tories, and Peace Society men, are important, not only because they so weakened the Confederacy, but also because they formed the party that would have carried out, or at least begun, Reconstruction according to the plans of Lincoln and Johnson as first proclaimed. Many of these people became “scalawags” later, probably influenced to some extent by the scorn of their neighbors.


Sec. 4. Tories and Deserters

In Alabama opposition to the Confederate government took two forms. One was the rebellious opposition of the so-called “unionists” or “tories,” who later joined with the deserters from the army; the other was the legal or constitutional opposition of the old coöperation or anti-secession party, which maintained an unfriendly attitude toward the Confederate administration, though the great majority of its members were loyal to the southern cause. From this second class arose a so-called “Peace Party,” which desired to end the war on terms favorable to the South; and from this, in turn, when later it was known that such terms could not be secured, sprang the semi-treasonable secret order—the “Peace Society.” In 1864, the “tories” and the Peace Society began to work together. Peculiar social and political conditions will in part account for the strength and growth of the opposition in two sections of the state far removed from each other—in north Alabama and in southeast Alabama.

 [Pg 109]

Conditions in North Alabama

To the convention of 1861 forty-four members from north Alabama were elected as coöperationists, that is, in favor of a union of the southern states, within the old Union, for the purpose of securing their rights under the Constitution or of securing safe secession. They professed to be afraid of separate state secession as likely to lead to disintegration and war. Thirty-one of these coöperationists voted against the ordinance of secession, and twenty-four of them (mostly members from the northern hill counties) refused to sign the ordinance, though all expressed the intention to submit to the will of the majority, and to give the state their heartiest support. When war came all espoused the Confederate cause.[237] The coöperationist party as a whole supported the Confederacy faithfully, though nearly always in a more or less disapproving spirit toward the administration, both state and Confederate.

North Alabama differed from other portions of the state in many ways. There was no railroad connecting the country north of the mountains with the southern part of the state, and from the northern counties it was a journey of several days to reach the towns in central and south Alabama. Hence there was little intercourse between the people of the two sections, though the seat of government was in the central part of the state; even to-day the intimacy is not close. For years it had been a favorite scheme of Alabama statesmen to build railroads and highways to connect more closely the two sections.[238] Geographically, this northern section of the state belonged to Tennessee. The people were felt to be slightly different in character and sympathies from those of central and south Alabama, and whatever one section favored in public matters was usually opposed by the other. Even in the northern section the population was more or less divided. The people of the valley more closely resembled the west Tennesseeans, the great majority of them being planters, having little in common with the small farmers of the hill and mountain country, who were like the east Tennesseeans. Of[Pg 110] the latter the extreme element was the class commonly known as “mountain whites” or “sand-mountain” people. These were the people who gave so much trouble during the war, as “tories,” and from whom the loyal southerners of north Alabama suffered greatly when the country was stripped of its men for the armies. Yet it can hardly be said that they exercised much influence on politics before the war. Their only representative in the convention of 1861 was Charles Christopher Sheets, who did not speak on the floor of the convention during the entire session.


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On the part of all in the northern counties there was a strong desire for delay in secession, and they were angered at the action of the convention in not submitting the ordinance to a popular vote for ratification or rejection. Many thought the course taken indicated a suspicion of them or fear of their action, and this they resented. Their leaders in the convention expressed the belief that the ordinance would have easily obtained a majority if submitted to the popular vote.[239] Much of the opposition to the ordinance of secession was due to the vague sectional dislike between the two parts of the state. It was felt that the ordinance was a south Alabama measure, and this was sufficient reason for opposition by the northern section. Throughout the entire session a local sectional spirit dictated their[Pg 111] course of obstruction.[240] In January and February of 1861, there was some talk among the discontented people of seceding from secession, of withdrawing the northern counties of Alabama and uniting with the counties of east Tennessee to form a new state, which should be called Nick-a-Jack, an Indian name common in East Tennessee.[241] Geographically, this proceeding would have been correct, since these two parts of the country are closely connected, the people were alike in character and sentiment, and the means of intercourse were better. The people of the valley and many others, however, had no sympathy with this scheme. Lacking the support of the politicians and no leaders appearing, the plan was abandoned after the proclamation of Lincoln, April 10, 1861. Had the war been deferred a few months, it is almost certain that the discontented element of the population would have taken positive steps to embarrass the administration; many believed that reconstruction would take place. Only after four years of war was there after this any appreciable number of the people willing to listen again to such a proposition. In February, 1861, Jeremiah Clemens wrote that Yancey had been burned in effigy in Limestone County (something that might have happened at any time between 1845 and 1861); that some discontent still existed among the people, but that this was daily growing weaker, and unless something were done to excite it afresh, it would soon die out.[242] Mr. John W. DuBose, a keen observer from the Cotton Belt, travelled on horseback through the northern hill counties during the winter of 1861 and 1862 as a Confederate recruiting officer. Thus he came into close contact with all classes of people, eating at their tables, sleeping in their beds, and in conversation learning their opinions and sentiments on public[Pg 112] matters. He saw no man, he says, who was not devoted to the Confederacy. Several of the first and best volunteer regiments came from this section of the state, and in these regiments there were whole companies of men none of whom owned a slave. In order to preserve this spirit of loyalty in those who had been opposed to the policy of secession, Yancey and others, after the outbreak of the war, recommended a prompt invasion of the North.[243]


Unionists, Tories, and Mossbacks

Before secession, the term “unionist” was applied to those who were opposed to secession and who wished to give the Union a longer trial. They were mostly the old Whigs, but many Democrats were among them. Then again the coöperationists, who wanted delay and coöperation among the states before secession, were called “unionists.” In short, the term was applied to any one opposed to immediate secession. This fact deceived the people of the North, who believed that the opposition party in the South was unconditionally for the Union, and that it would remain in allegiance to the Union if secession were attempted. But after secession this “union” party disappeared.

[Pg 113]The “tories” were those who rebelled against the authority of the Confederate States. Some of them were true “unionists” or “loyalists,” as they were called at the North. Most of them were not. The “mossback,” who according to popular belief hid himself in the woods until moss grew on his back, might or might not be a “tory.” If he were hostile to the Confederacy, he was a “tory”; if he was simply keeping out of the way of the enrolling officers, he was not a “tory,” but a plain “mossback” or “conscript.” When too closely pressed he would either become a “tory” or enter the Confederate army, though he did not usually remain in it. The “deserter” was such from various reasons, and often became a “tory” as well; that is, he became hostile to the Confederacy. Often he was not hostile to the government, but was only hiding from service, and doing no other harm. The true “unionists” always claimed great numbers, even after the end of the war. The North listened to them and believed that old Whigs, Know-nothings, Anti-secessionists, Douglas Democrats, Bell and Everett men, coöperationists—all were at heart “Union” men. It was also claimed that the only real disunion element was the Breckenridge Democracy. Such, however, was not the case. Probably fewer of the old Whig party than of any other were disloyal to the Confederacy. So far as the “tory” or “loyalist” had any politics, he was probably a Democrat, and the more prominent of them had been Douglas Democrats. The others were Douglas and Breckenridge Democrats from the Democratic stronghold—north Alabama.[244] Very few, if any, Bell and Everett men were among them. The small lower class had no party affiliations worth mentioning. During the war, the terms “unionist” and “tories” were very elastic and covered a multitude of sins against the Union, against the Confederate States, and against local communities. With the exception of those who entered the Federal army the “tories” were, in a way, traitors to both sides. North Alabama was not so strongly opposed[Pg 114] to secession as was east Tennessee,[245] nor were the Alabama “unionists” or “loyalists,” as they called themselves, “tories” as other people called them, of as good character as the “loyalists” of Tennessee.

The Alabama tory was, as a rule, of the lowest class of the population, chiefly the “mountain whites” and the “sand-mountain” people, who were shut off from the world, a century behind the times, and who knew scarcely anything of the Union or of the questions at issue. There was a certain social antipathy felt by them toward the lowland and valley people, whether in south or in north Alabama, and a blind antagonism to the “nigger lord,” as they called the slaveholder, wherever he was found. In this feeling the women were more bitter than the men. Secluded and ignorant, they did not feel it their duty to support a cause in which they were not directly concerned, and most of them would have preferred to remain neutral during the entire war, as there was little for them to gain either way. As long as they did not have to leave their hills, they were quiet, but when the enrolling officers went after them, they became dangerous. To-day those people are represented by the makers of “moonshine” whiskey and those who shoot revenue officers. They were “moonshiners” then. Colonel S. A. M. Wood, who caught a band of thirty of these “tories,” reported to General Bragg, “They are the most miserable, ignorant, poor, ragged devils I ever saw.”[246] Many of the “tories” became bushwhackers, preying impartially on friend and foe, and especially on the people of the rich Tennessee valley.[247]


Growth of Disaffection

The invasion of the Tennessee valley had discouraging effects on the weaker element of the population, and caused many to take a rather degrading position in order to secure Federal protection[Pg 115] for themselves and their property. To call the tories and those who submitted and took the oath “unionists” would be honoring them too highly. Little true “Union” sentiment or true devotion to the United States existed except on the part of those who enlisted in the Federal armies. In October, 1862, C. C. Clay, Jr., wrote to the Secretary of War at Richmond that the Federal invasion had resulted in open defiance of Confederate authority on the part of some who believed that the Confederacy was too weak to protect or punish. Even loyal southerners were afraid to be active for fear of a return of the Union troops. Some had sold cotton to the Federals during their occupation, bought it for them, acted as agents, spies, and informers; and now these men openly declared for the Union and signed calls for Union meetings. Huntsville, Mr. Clay stated, was the centre of disaffection.[248] But in April, 1863, a northern cotton speculator reported that there were but few “true Union men” at Huntsville or in the vicinity.[249]

Though not fully in sympathy with the secession movement, the majority of the people in the northern counties acquiesced in the action of the state, and many volunteers entered the army. Until late in the war this district sent as many men in proportion to population as any other section, and the men made good soldiers. But with the opening of the Tennessee and the passage of the conscription laws the mountaineers and the hill people became troublesome. To avoid conscription they hid themselves. Their families, with their slender resources, were soon in want of the necessaries of life, which they began to obtain by raids on their more fortunate neighbors in the river valleys. A few entered the Federal army. In July, 1862, small parties came to Decatur, in Morgan County, from the mountains and joined the Federal forces under the command of Colonel Streight. They told him of others who wished to enlist, so Streight made an expedition to Davis Gap, in the mountains south of Decatur, and secured 150 recruits.

These formed the nucleus of the First Alabama Union Cavalry, of which George E. Spencer of Ohio, afterward notorious in Alabama politics, was colonel. At this time C. C. Sheets, who said that he had been in hiding, appeared and made a speech encouraging all to enlist. Streight said that the “unionists” were poor people,[Pg 116] often destitute. There were, he reported, about three “unionists” to one “secessionist” in parts of Morgan, Blount, St. Clair, Winston, Walker, Marion, Taylor, and Jefferson counties, and he thought two full regiments could be raised near Decatur. Though so few in numbers, the “secessionists” seem to have made it lively for the “unionists,” for Streight reported that the “unionists” were much persecuted by them and often had to hide themselves.[250] The Confederate commander at Newberne, in Greene County, reported (January, 1862) that in an adjoining county the “Union” men were secretly organizing, that 300 had met, elected officers, and gone into camp.[251] A month later, Lieutenant-Commander Phelps of the United States navy, after his river raid to Florence (1862), reported that along the Tennessee the “Union” sentiment was strong, and that men, women, and children in crowds welcomed the boats. However, he adds that they were very guarded in their conversation. It may be that he mistook curiosity for “Union” sentiment. Another naval officer reported that the fall of Fort Donelson was beneficial to the Union cause in north Alabama. Neither of these observers landed, and their observations were limited to the river banks.[252] In June, 1862, Governor Shorter said that much dissatisfaction existed in several of the northern counties,[253] and in December, 1862, that Randolph County was defying the enforcement of the conscript law, and armed forces were releasing deserters from jail. Colonel Hannon was at length sent with a regiment and suppressed for a time the disloyal element.[254] September 21, 1862, General Pillow reported to Seddon that there were 8000 to 10,000 deserters and tory conscripts in the mountains of north Alabama, as “vicious as copperheads.”[255] In April, 1863, a civilian of influence and position wrote to General Beauregard that the counties of north Alabama were full of tories. During 1862, he stated, a convention had been held in the corner of Winston, Fayette, and Marion counties, in which the people had resolved to remain neutral. He believed that this meant that when the enemy appeared the so-called neutrals would[Pg 117] join them, for they openly carried United States flags.[256] A similar convention was held in north Alabama (apparently in Winston County) in the spring of 1863. A staff officer reported to General Beauregard (May, 1864) that in the counties of Lawrence, Blount, and Winston, Federal recruiting agents for mounted regiments carried on open correspondence with the disaffected citizens,[257] apparently with little success, for although disaffection and hostility to the Confederacy among the people of north Alabama had continued for three years, and there was every opportunity for entering the Federal army, yet the official statistics give the total number of enlistments and reënlistments of whites from Alabama at 2576.[258]

In 1862 deserters from the army began to gather in the more remote districts of the state. Many of them had been enrolled under the conscript law, and had become dissatisfied. As the war went on the number of these deserters increased, until their presence in the state became a menace to government. After the Confederate reverses in the summer of 1863, great numbers of deserters and stragglers from all of the Confederate armies east of the Mississippi River and from the Union armies collected among the hills, mountains, and ravines of north Alabama. A large portion of them became outlaws of the worst character. In August, 1863, the general assembly passed a law directing the state officials and the militia officers to assist the Confederate enrolling officers in enforcing the conscript law, and in returning deserters to their commands. The state and county jails were offered as places to confine the deserters until they could be sent back to the army. To give food and shelter to deserters was declared a felony, and civilians were authorized to arrest them.[259]

The deserters and stragglers of north Alabama were well armed and somewhat organized, and kept the people in terror. General Pillow thought that the temporary suspension of the conscript law had made them bolder. Eleven counties were infested with them. No man was safe in travelling along the roads, for murders, robberies, and burnings were common, and peaceable citizens were shot while[Pg 118] at work in the fields. It was estimated that in July, 1863, there were 8000 to 10,000 tories and deserters in the mountains of north Alabama, and these banded themselves together to kill the officers sent to arrest them. It was impossible to keep a certain class of men in the army when they were encamped near their homes.[260] Even good soldiers, when so stationed, sometimes deserted. Had these same men been in the Army of Northern Virginia, they would have done their duty well. But here, near their home, many influences led them to desert. There was little fighting, and they could see no reason why they should be kept away from their suffering families.

General Pillow, in the fall of 1863, forced several thousand deserters and stragglers from Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas, who were in hiding in north Alabama, to return to their commands. The legislature commended his work and asked that his jurisdiction be extended over a larger area, even over the whole Confederacy.[261] In April, 1864, the Ninth Texas Cavalry was sent against the “unionists” in Marion County. The colonel reported that the number of tories had been greatly exaggerated, though the woods seemed to be swarming with deserters, and he learned that they had a secret organization.[262] The deserters always infested the wildest and most remote parts of the country, and were found wherever disaffection toward the Confederacy had appeared. The Texans, who had no local attachments to interfere with their duty, drove back into the army several thousand “stragglers,” as the better class of deserters were called.[263] General Polk reported (April, 1864) that in north Alabama formidable bands were being organized for resistance to the government, and that hostility to the Confederacy was openly proclaimed by them. He sent out detachments which forced more than a thousand men to leave the woods and hills and return to the army.[264] When Alabama soldiers were captured or deserted to the enemy, it was the custom of the Federals to send them north of the Ohio River, and to offer to enlist as many as possible in regiments to fight the Indians in the West. Some took advantage of the offer[Pg 119] and thus avoided prison life. Such men were called “galvanized Yankees” and were hated by the loyal soldiers. Early in 1865, J. J. Giers, a prominent tory, wrote General Grant that if Alabama deserters were permitted to remain near home their numbers would increase.[265]


Outrages by Tories and Deserters

The tory and the deserter often led squads of Federal soldiers on expeditions of destruction and pillage. When possible, they would burn the county court-houses, jails, and other public buildings, with the books and records of the counties. Sometimes disguised as Union troops, they committed the worst outrages. On one occasion four men, dressed as soldiers, went to the house of an old man named Wilson, three miles from Florence, and searched it for money supposed to be hidden there. As the old man would tell them nothing, they stripped him to the waist, tied him face downward upon a table, tore leaves from a large Bible, and, piling them on him, burned him to death. His nephew, unable to tell about the money, was shot and killed. A grandson was shot and wounded, and left for dead. The overseer, coming up, was shot and killed in spite of the appeals of his wife. Senator R. M. Patton had the wounded boy taken to Florence, where the same band came the next night and demanded him. Upon being refused, they fired repeatedly into the house until they were driven away. They then went to the house of a druggist, and, failing to find money, burned him as they had Wilson. Though fearfully burned, he survived. Two of the band, natives of Florence, were captured, court-martialled by the Federal authorities, and hanged.[266]

Twenty Federals, or disguised tories, led by a tory from Madison County, killed an old man, his son, a nephew and his son, and wounded a fifth person, who was then thrown into the Tennessee River. When he caught the bush on the bank, he was beaten and shot until he turned loose. An enrolling officer was made to wade out into the river, and then was shot from the bank. An overseer who had[Pg 120] hidden some stock was hanged. A Confederate officer was robbed of several thousand dollars and driven from the country.[267]

The tories, who were often deserters from the armies, gathered in the hill country and watched for an opportunity to descend into the valley to rob, burn, and murder. One family had the following experience with Federal troops or “unionists”: On the first raid six mules, five horses, a wagon, and fifty-two negroes were taken; on the second, the remainder of the mules, a cart, the milch cows, some meat, and the cooking utensils. On the third the wagons were loaded with the last of the meat, and all of the sugar, coffee, molasses, flour, meal, and potatoes. The mother of the family told the officer in charge that they were taking away their only means of subsistence, and that the family would starve. “Starve and be d—d,” was the reply. Then the buggy and the carriage harness and cushions were taken, and the carriage cut to pieces. The house was searched for money. Closets and trunks were broken open, the offer of keys being refused. Clothing and bedding, dishes, knives and forks were taken, and whatever could not be carried was broken. The “Destroying Angels,” as they called themselves, then burned the gin-house and cotton press with one hundred and twenty-five bales of cotton, seven cribs of corn, stables, and stacks of fodder, a wagon, four negro cabins, the lumber room, $500 worth of thread, axes, hoes, scythe-blades, and other plantation implements. They started to burn the dwelling house, but the woman pleaded that it was the only shelter for her children and herself. “You may thank your good fortune, madam, that we have left you and your d—d brats with your heads to be sheltered,” answered one of the “Destroying Angels.” Then an officer galloped up, claimed to be much astonished, and ordered away the men.[268]

The tories or “unionists” of the mountains, instead of joining the Federal army, formed bands of “Destroying Angels,” “Prowling Brigades,” etc., to prey upon their lowland neighbors. All the able-bodied loyal men were in the army, and there were no defenders. During the Federal occupation these marauders harassed the country. When the Confederates temporarily occupied[Pg 121] the country, they tried to drive out the brigands, whence arose the “persecution of unionists” that we read about. Thousands of Confederate sympathizers were driven from their homes during the Federal occupation in 1862. When the Union army retreated in 1862, attempts at retaliation were made by those who had suffered, but this was strictly suppressed by the state and Confederate authorities. An officer was dismissed for cruelty to “unionists,” and the state troops destroyed a band of deserters and guerillas who were preying upon the “union” people in the mountain districts. Marion, Walker, and Winston counties were especially infested with tories.[269]

In 1864, when there were few Confederate troops in north Alabama, the tories were very troublesome in De Kalb, Marshall, Marion, Winston, Walker, Lawrence, and Fayette counties, and the poor people were largely under their control. Among the hills were deserters from both armies, and these, banded with the tory element, reduced the helpless poor whites to submission. These men were few in comparison with the total population, but most of the able-bodied loyal men were in the army, and the tories and deserters were almost unchecked.[270] Sometimes the Confederate soldiers from north Alabama would get furloughs, come home, and clear the country of tories, who had been terrorizing the people. Short work was made of them when the soldiers found them. Some were shot, others were hanged, and the remainder driven out of the country for a time.[271]

After their occupation of north Alabama, the Federal commanders were embarrassed by the violent clamorings of the “unionists” for revenge, and for superior privileges over the non-unionist population. Material advantage and personal dislikes were too often the basic principles of their unionism. They were extremely vindictive, demanding that all Confederate sympathizers be driven from the country. Thus they made themselves a nuisance to the Federal officers, and especially was this true of the small lowland tory element. Subjugation, banishment, hanging, confiscation,—was the programme planned by the “loyalists.” They wanted the country “pacified” and then turned over to themselves. Though they[Pg 122] claimed to be numerous, no instance is found where they proposed to do anything for themselves; they seemed to think that the sole duty of the United States army in Alabama was to look after their interests. The northerners who had dealings with the “loyalist” did not like him, as he was a most unpleasant person, with a grievance which could not be righted to his satisfaction without giving rise to numerous other grievances.

Some qualifications of loyalty seem to have been: a certain mild disapproval of secession, a refusal to enlist in the Confederate army or desertion after enlisting, hiding in the woods to avoid conscript officers. These qualifications, or any of them, the “loyalist” thought entitled him to the everlasting gratitude and protection of the United States. But a newspaper correspondent, who was on a sharp lookout for all signs of weakness in the Confederacy, said: “You can tell the southern loyalists as far as you can see them. They all have black or yellow skins and kinky hair.” Sometimes, he added, there was a white “unionist,” but this was rare, and the exceptions in any town in north Alabama could be counted on the fingers of one hand.[272] As long as the war lasted the lawless element fared well, and when peace should come they hoped for a division of the spoils.[273]


Disaffection in South Alabama

So much for toryism in the northern part of the state. There were also manifestations of a disloyal spirit in the extreme inaccessible corner of the state next to Florida and Georgia, where the population of the sparsely settled country was almost entirely non-slave-holding. Though most of the people were Democrats, they were somewhat opposed to secession. Delegates were elected, however, to the convention of 1861, who voted for secession, and after the war began nearly or quite all of those who had opposed secession heartily supported the Confederacy. If there were any “union” men, they[Pg 123] kept very quiet, and for two years there was no trouble.[274] But during the winter of 1862-1863, numerous outrages were committed by outlaws who were called, indiscriminately, tories and deserters. Much trouble was given by an organization called the First Florida Union Cavalry, which for two years committed various outrages while on bushwhacking expeditions under the leadership of one Joseph Sanders. After being soundly beaten one night by the citizens of Newton, in Dale County, these marauders were less troublesome.[275] The country near the Gulf coast was infested with tories, deserters, and runaway slaves, concealed in caves, “tight-eyes,”[276] canebrakes, swamps, and the thick woods of the sparsely settled country. In January, 1863, Governor Shorter wrote to President Davis that nearly all the loyal population of southeast Alabama was in the army, and that the country was suffering from the outrages of tories and deserters. About the same time, Colonel Price “suppressed unionism and treason in Henry County,” though only one prisoner was reported as being taken.[277]

In August of the same year (1863) conditions had grown worse. General Howell Cobb reported that there was a disloyal feeling in southeast Alabama, but that there was no way to reach the offenders, as they were guilty of no overt act, and therefore the military courts could not try them. To turn them over to the civil authorities in that district would secure only a farcical trial, and the justices of the peace, though assuming the highest jurisdiction, were ignorant, and there was little chance of conviction. At this time, Governor Shorter said that affairs in lower Henry County were in bad condition; that the deserter element was strong and threatened the security of loyal people; and that the soldiers were afraid to leave their families.[278] A judge could not hold court unless he had a military escort.

During the next year matters grew worse in this section as well as in north Alabama. Some of the best soldiers felt compelled to go home, even without permission, to protect or to support their[Pg 124] families; and in October, 1864, the legislature recognized this condition of affairs, and asked the Alabama soldiers, then absent without leave, to return to their duty under promise of lenient treatment.[279]

The worst depredations were committed during the winter of 1864-1865, in the counties of Dale, Henry, and Coffee. The loyal people in the thinly settled country were terrorized. The legislature, unable to protect them, authorized them to band themselves together in military form for protection against the outlaws. These bands of self-constituted “Home Guards,” composed of boys and old men, captured numbers of the outlaws and straightway hanged them.

Desertions from the regiments raised in the white counties were often caused by denying to recruits or conscripts the privilege of choosing the command in which they should serve. Others deserted because their families were exposed to tory depredations and Federal raids, or were in want of the necessaries of life. These would have returned to the army after providing for their families had they been permitted to join other organizations and not subjected to punishment. Assigned arbitrarily to commands in need of recruits, some became dissatisfied, and deserted. A deserter was an outlaw and found it impossible to remain neutral. Hence many joined the bands of outlaws to pillage, and burn, and steal horses and cattle. Others of better character joined the Federals or became tories, that is, allied themselves with the original tories in order to work against the Confederacy. Numbers of these disaffected people had once been secessionists.[280]


Prominent Tories and Deserters

In view of the fact that the “unionists” were to play an important part in Reconstruction, it will be of interest to examine the records of the most prominent tories and deserters. A few prominent men joined the Federals during the course of the war, though none did so before the Union army occupied the Tennessee valley. Only one of these tried to assume any leadership over the so-called [Pg 125]unionists. This was William H. Smith, who had come within a few votes of being elected to the Confederate Congress, and was later the first Reconstruction governor. He went over to the enemy in 1862, and did much toward securing the enlistment of the 2576 Union soldiers from Alabama.

At the same time, a more important character, General Jeremiah Clemens,[281] who had been in command of the militia of Alabama with the rank of major-general, became disgruntled and went over to the enemy. In the secession convention, Clemens had declared that he “walked deliberately into rebellion” and was prepared for all its consequences.[282] He first opposed, then voted for, the ordinance of secession, and afterwards accepted the office of commander of the militia under the “Republic of Alabama.” For a year Clemens was loyal to the “rebellion,” but in 1862 he had seen the light and wished to go to Washington as the representative of north Alabama to learn from President Lincoln in what way the controversy might be ended. The Washington administration, by that time, had little faith in any following he might have, and when Clemens with John Bell started to Washington, Stanton advised them to stay at home and use their influence for the Union.[283]

George W. Lane, also of Madison County, was a prominent man who cast his lot with the Federals. Lane never recognized secession, and was an outspoken Unionist from the beginning. He was appointed Federal judge by Lincoln and died in 1864.[284] In April, 1861, Clemens wrote to the Confederate Secretary of War that the acceptance of a United States judgeship by Lane was treason, and that the “north Alabama men would gladly hang him.”[285] General O. M. Mitchell seemed to think that the negroes were the only “truly loyal,” but he recommended in May, 1862, that, when a military government should be established in Alabama, George W. Lane,[Pg 126] the United States district judge appointed by Lincoln, be appointed military governor. Lane’s faded United States flag still flew from the staff to which he had nailed it at the beginning of the war, and his appointment as governor, Mitchell thought, would give the greatest satisfaction to Huntsville and to all north Alabama.[286]

Two members of the convention of 1861, besides Clemens, deserted to the Federals. These were C. C. Sheets and D. P. Lewis. Like Clemens, they were elected as coöperationists and opposed immediate secession, though all three voted for the resolution declaring that Alabama would not submit to the rule of Lincoln. Sheets voted against secession and would not sign the ordinance. For a while he remained quietly at home and refused to enter the Confederate army. At length he reappeared from his place of hiding and assisted in recruiting soldiers for the First Alabama Union Cavalry. He was elected to the state legislature, but in 1862 was expelled for disloyalty. After some time in hiding, he was arrested, and imprisoned for treason. General Thomas retaliated by arresting and holding as a hostage General McDowell. Sheets remained in prison until the end of the war.[287]

David P. Lewis of Madison County voted against secession but signed the ordinance, and was elected to the Provisional Congress by the convention, and in 1863 was appointed circuit judge by the governor. This position he held for a few months, and then deserted to the Federals. During the remainder of the war he lived quietly at Nashville.[288]

Another prominent citizen of Madison County, Judge D. C. Humphreys, joined the Federals late in the war. Humphreys had been in the Confederate army and had resigned. He was arrested by General Roddy on the charge of disloyalty. It is not known that he was ever tried or put into prison, but in January, 1865, Hon. C. C. Clay, Sr., and other prominent citizens of Huntsville, of southern sympathies, all old men, were arrested and carried to prison in Nashville as hostages for the safety of Humphreys, who had been released[Pg 127] by order of the Confederate War Department as soon as the rumor of his arrest reached Richmond.[289] In April, 1864, General Clanton, commanding in north Alabama, sent Governor Watts a Nashville paper in which Jeremiah Clemens, “the arch traitor,” and that “crazy man,” Humphreys, figured as advisers to their fellow-citizens of Alabama in recommending submission.[290] There are indications that several such addresses were issued by Clemens, Humphreys, Lane, and others from the safety of the Federal lines, but the text of none of them has been found except those written and published when the war was nearly ended.

Of the men of position and influence who were found in the ranks of opposition to the Confederate government after 1861, Judge Lane is the only one whose course can command respect. He was faithful to the Union from first to last, while the others were erratic persons who changed sides because of personal spites and disappointments. They had little or no influence over, and nothing in common with, the dissatisfied mountain people and the tories and deserters.[291]


Numbers of the Disaffected

At the surrender the deserters came in in large numbers to be paroled. The reports of the Federal generals who received the surrender of the Confederate armies in the southwest show a surprisingly large number of Confederates paroled. A large proportion of them were deserters, “mossbacks,” and tories, who, hated by the Confederate soldiers and fearing that the latter would seek revenge for their misdeeds during the war, felt that it would be some protection to take the oath, be paroled, and secure the certificate. Then, they thought, the United States government would see to their safety. At the surrender of a Confederate command in their vicinity, they flocked in from their retreats and were paroled as Confederate [Pg 128]soldiers. To show how large this element in Mississippi and Alabama was, when General Dick Taylor surrendered, May 4, 1865, at Meridian, Mississippi, he had not more than 8000 real soldiers, or men under arms. It is possible, though not probable, that many were absent with leave. Yet of the 42,293 soldiers paroled in the armies of the Southwest[292] about 30,000 of them were at Meridian. Many of these had never been in the army; some had served in both armies; none had been in either for a long time. For weeks they kept coming in at all points where a United States officer was stationed in order to be paroled. The soldiers were furious. The statistics show[293] that strong Confederate armies were surrendered in this section of the country, when, as a matter of fact, the governor of Alabama had for two years been unable to secure sufficient military support to enforce the laws over more than half of the state.[294]

It is difficult to estimate the number of disaffected persons within the limits of the state. Probably in southeast Alabama there were in all, of tories and deserters, 1000 who at times were actively hostile to the Confederate authorities, and who committed depredations on the loyal people, and 1000 or 1500 more would include the “mossbacks” and obstructionists, who were without the courage to do more than keep out of the army and talk sedition. In addition to the 2576 enlistments in the Federal army credited to Alabama, it is probable that several hundred more were enlisted in northern regiments. Some of these were the Confederate prisoners captured late in the war and enlisted as “Galvanized Yankees” in the United States regiments sent West to fight the Indians.

Of deserters, tories, and “mossbacks” there could not have been less than 8000 or 10,000 in north Alabama. Of these, at least half were in active depredation all over the section. There were several thousand deserters from the Alabama troops, most of them from north Alabama and from commands stationed near their homes. At the beginning of the war there were probably no more than 2000[Pg 129] men who were wholly disaffected,[295] and these only to the extent of desiring neutrality for themselves.

On November 30, 1864, the Confederate “Deserter Book” showed that since April, 1864, 7994 Alabama soldiers had deserted or been absent without leave from the armies of the West and of Northern Virginia. Of these 4323 were again in the ranks, leaving still to be accounted for 3671 men. There were many deserters in the hills of Alabama from the commands from other states. After the fall of Atlanta, the number of stragglers and deserters greatly increased, and late in 1864 it was estimated that 6000 of them were in the state, some in every county; there being no longer a force to drive them back to the army. For a year or more the force for this purpose had been very weak.[296]

Much of the toryism and of the trouble resulting from it was due to the weak policy of the Confederate authorities in dealing with discontent and in protecting the loyal people in exposed districts. Many a man had to desert in order to protect his family from outlaws, and was then easily driven into toryism.

There was a mild annoyance of the more peaceable tories by the Confederate officials in the spasmodic attempts to enforce the conscription laws, but it amounted to very little. The loyal southern people suffered more from the depredations of the disaffected “union” people of north and southeast Alabama than the latter suffered from all causes combined. The state and Confederate authorities were very lenient—too much so—in their treatment of these people. There was no great need of a strong Confederate force in north Alabama, since only raids, not invasions in force, were to be feared; yet the governments—both state and Confederate—were guilty of neglect in leaving so many of the people at the mercy of the outlaws when, as shown in several instances, two or three thousand good soldiers could march through the country and scatter the bands that infested it. Assuming that the state had a right to demand obedience and support from its citizens, it was weak and[Pg 130] reprehensible conduct on the part of the authorities to allow three or four thousand malcontents and outlaws to demoralize a third of the state. Often the families of tories and “mossbacks” were supplied from the state and county stores for the destitute families of soldiers, while the men of such families were in the Federal service or were hiding in the woods, caves, and ravines, or were plundering the families of loyal soldiers. Not enough arrests were made, and too many were released. The majority of the troublesome class was of the kind who preferred to take no stand that incurred the fulfilment of obligations. In an emergency they would incline toward the stronger side. Prompt and rigorous measures, similar to the policy of the United States in the Middle West, stringently maintained, would have converted this source of weakness into a source of strength, or at least would have rendered it harmless. The military resources of that section of the state could then have been better developed, the helpless people protected, outlaws crushed, and there would have been peace after the war was ended.[297] As it was, the animosities then aroused smouldered on until they flamed again in one phase of the Ku Klux movement.[298]


Sec. 5. Party Politics and the Peace Movement

Political Conditions, 1861-1865

When, by the passage of the ordinance of January 11, 1861, the advocates of immediate secession had gained their end, the strong men of the victorious party, for the sake of harmony, stood aside, and intrusted much of the important work of organizing the new government to the defeated coöperationist party, who, to say the least, disapproved of the whole policy of the victors. The delegates chosen to the Provisional Congress were: R. H. Walker of Huntsville, a Union Whig, who had supported Bell and Everett and opposed secession; Robert H. Smith, a pronounced Whig, who had supported Bell and Everett and opposed secession; Colin J. McRae of Mobile, a commission merchant, a Whig; John Gill Shorter of Eufaula, who had held judicial office for nine years; William P. Chilton of Montgomery, for several years chief justice and before that an active Whig; Stephen F. Hale of Eutaw, a Whig who supported Bell and [Pg 131]Everett; David P. Lewis of Lawrence, an “unconditional Unionist” who had opposed secession in the convention of 1861, and who, in 1862, deserted to the Federals; Dr. Thomas Fearn of Huntsville, an old man, a Union Whig; and J. L. M. Curry of Talladega, the only consistent Democrat of the delegation, the only one who had voted for Breckenridge, and the only one with practical experience in public affairs. The delegation was strong in character, but weak in political ability and not energetic.[299] The delegation elected to the first regular Congress was more representative and more able.



Governor Thomas H. Watts.   Governor John Gill Shorter.
Governor Andrew B. Moore.   Bishop R. H. Wilmer.


In August, 1861, John Gill Shorter, a State Rights Democrat, was elected governor by a vote of 57,849 to 28,127 over Thomas Hill Watts, also a State Rights Democrat, who had voted for secession, but who had formerly been a Whig. Watts was not a regular candidate since he had forbidden the use of his name in the canvass.[300] For a time the people enthusiastically supported the administration. Governor Shorter’s message of October 28, 1861, to the legislature closed with the words: “We may well congratulate ourselves and return thanks that a timely action on our part has saved our liberties, preserved our independence, and given us, it is hoped, a perpetual separation from such a government. May we in all coming time stand separate from it, as if a wall of fire intervened.”[301] The legislature in 1861 declared that it was the imperative duty as well as the patriotic privilege of every citizen, forgetting past differences, to support the policy adopted and to maintain the independence assumed. To this cause the members of the general assembly pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.[302] A year later the same body declared that Mobile, then threatened by the enemy, must never be desecrated by the polluting tread of the abolitionist foe. It must never be surrendered, but must be defended from street to street, from house to house, and at last burned to the ground rather than surrendered.[303] The same legislature, elected in 1861 when the war feeling was strong, stated in August, 1863, that the war was unprovoked and unjust on the part of the United States government, which[Pg 132] was conducting it in utter disregard of the principles which should control and regulate civilized warfare. They renewed the pledge never to submit to abolitionist rule. The people were urged not to be discouraged by the late reverses, nor to attribute their defeats to any want of courage or heroic self-sacrifice on the part of the armies. All the resources of the state were pledged to the cause of independence and perpetual separation from the United States. It was the paramount duty, the assembly declared, of every citizen to sustain and make effective the armies by encouraging enlistments, by furnishing supplies at low prices to the families of soldiers, and by upholding the credit of the Confederate government. To enfeeble the springs of action by disheartening the people and the soldiers was to strike the most fatal blow at the very life of the Confederacy.[304]

This resolution was called forth partly by the constant criticism that the “cross-roads” politicians and a few individuals of more importance were directing against the civil and military policy of the administration. The doughty warriors of the office and counter were sure that the “Yankees” should have been whipped in ninety days. That the war was still going on was proof to them that those at the head of affairs were incompetent. These people had never before had so good an opportunity to talk and to be listened to. Those to whom the people had been accustomed to look for guidance were no longer present to advise. They had marched away with the armies, and there were left at home as voters the old men, the exempts, the lame, the halt, and the blind, teachers, preachers, officials, “bomb-proofs,” “feather beds”[305]—all, in short, who were most unlikely to favor a vigorous war policy and who, if subject to service, wanted to keep out of the army. Consequently, among the voting population at home, the war spirit was not as high in 1863 as it had been before so many of the best men enlisted in the army.[306] The occupation of north Alabama by the enemy, short crops in 1862, and reverses in the field such as Vicksburg and Gettysburg, had a chilling[Pg 133] effect on the spirit of those who had suffered or were likely to suffer. The conscription law was unpopular among those forced into the service; it was much more disliked by those who succeeded for a time in escaping conscription. These lived in constant fear that the time would come when they would be forced to their duty.[307]

Further, the official class and the lawmakers were not up to the old standard of force and ability. The men who had the success of the cause most at heart usually felt it to be their duty to fight for it, if possible, leaving lawmaking and administration to others of more peaceable disposition. Some of the latter were able men, but few were filled with the spirit that animated the soldier class. Many of these unwarlike statesmen in the legislature and in Congress thought it to be their especial duty to guard the liberties of the people against the encroachments of the military power. They would talk by the hour about state rights, but would allow a few thousand of the sovereign state’s disloyal citizens to demoralize a dozen counties rather than consent to infringe the liberties of the people by making the militia system more effective to repress disorder. They succeeded in weakening the efforts of both state and Confederate governments, and their well-meant arguments drawn from the works of Jefferson were never remembered to their credit. One of the best of these men—Judge Dargan, a member of Congress from Mobile—seems to have had a very unhappy disposition, and he spent much of his time writing to the governor and to the President in regard to the critical state of the country and suggesting numberless plans for its salvation. Among many things that were visionary he advanced some original schemes. In 1863 he proposed a plan for the gradual emancipation of slaves, later a plan for arming them, and suggested that blockade running be prohibited, as it was ruining the country.[308]

Even while the tide of war feeling was at the flood there occurred instances of friction between the state and the Confederate governments. In December, 1862, the legislature complained of the continued use of the railroads by the Confederate government, to the exclusion of private transportation. The railroads were built, it[Pg 134] was stated, for free intercourse between the states, and, since the blockade had become effective, were more important than ever in the transportation of the necessaries of life.[309] The legislature complained about the conduct of the Confederate officers in the state, about impressment, taxation, and redemption of state bonds, the state’s quota of troops for the Confederate service, about arms and supplies purchased by the state, and about trade through the lines. Suits were brought again and again in the state courts by the strict constructionists to test the constitutionality of the conscript laws and the law forbidding the hiring of substitutes. But the courts declared both laws constitutional.[310] The lawmakers of the state were much more afraid of militarism than of the Federal invasion or domestic disorder, and refused to organize the militia effectively.[311]

The military reverses in the summer of 1863 darkened the hopes of the people and chilled their waning enthusiasm, and the effect was shown in the elections of August. Thomas H. Watts, who had been defeated in 1861, was elected governor by a vote of 22,223 to 6342 over John G. Shorter, who had been governor for two years. Watts had a strong personal following, which partly accounted for the large majority; but several thousand, at least, were dissatisfied in some way with the state or the Confederate administration. Jemison, a former coöperationist, took Yancey’s place in the Confederate Senate. J. L. M. Curry was defeated for Congress because he had strongly supported the administration. The delegation elected to the second Congress was of a decidedly different temper from the delegation to the first Congress. A large number of hitherto unknown men were elected to the legislature.[312]

At the close of the term of Governor Shorter, the new legislature passed resolutions indorsing his policy in regard to the conduct of the war and commending his wise and energetic administration.[313] Other resolutions were passed which would seem to indicate that the[Pg 135] war feeling ran as high and strong as ever. In fact, it was only the voice of the majority, not of all, as before. There was a strong minority of malcontents who pursued a policy of obstruction and opposition to the measures of the administration and thereby weakened the power of the government. It was believed by many that Watts, who had been a Whig and a Bell and Everett elector, would be more conservative in regard to the prosecution of the war than was his predecessor. There were numbers of people in the state who believed or professed to believe that it was possible to end the war whenever President Davis might choose to make peace with the enemy. Others, who saw that peace with independence was impossible, were in favor of reconstruction, that is, of ending the war at once and returning to the old Union, with no questions asked. They believed that the North would be ready to make peace and welcome the southern states back into the Union on the old terms. These constituted only a small part of the population, but they had some influence in an obstructive way and were great talkers. Any one who voted for Watts from the belief that he would try to bring about peace was much mistaken in the man. It was reported that he was in favor of reconstruction. This he emphatically denied in a message to the legislature: “He who is now ... in favor of reconstruction with the states under Lincoln’s dominion, is a traitor in his heart to the state ... and deserves a traitor’s doom.... Rather than unite with such a people I would see the Confederate states desolated with fire and sword.... Let us prefer death to a life of cowardly shame.”[314] Though Watts was elected somewhat as a protest against the war party, he was in favor of a vigorous prosecution of the war. However, at times, he had trouble with the Confederate government, and we find him writing about “the tyranny of Confederate officials,” that “the state had some rights left,” that “there will be a conflict between the Confederate and state authorities unless the conscript officials cease to interfere with state volunteers and state officials.”[315]

[Pg 136]The governor was in favor of supporting the war, and recommended the repeal of some of the state laws obstructing Confederate enlistments; he was willing for any state troops that were available to go to the aid of another state, and he desired to aid in returning deserters to the army; but he opposed the manner of execution of laws by the Confederate government. He demanded for the state the right to engage in the blockade trade in order to secure necessaries. He also protested against the proposed policy of arming the slaves.[316]

During the year 1864 the legislature protested against the action of Confederate conscript officers who insisted on enrolling certain state officials. It was ordered that the reserves, when called out for service, should not be put under the command of a Confederate officer. The first-class reserves were not to leave their own counties. An act was passed to protect the people from “oppression by the illegal execution of the Confederate impressment laws.”[317] Confederate enrolling officers who forced exempt men into the army were made liable to punishment by heavy fine.[318]

An Alabama newspaper, in the fall of 1864, advocated a convention of the states in order to settle the questions at issue, to bring about peace, and to restore the Union. Such a proposition found supporters in the legislature. A resolution was introduced favoring reconstruction on the basis of the recent platform of the Democratic party and McClellan’s letter of acceptance.[319] The resolution was to this effect: if the Democratic party is successful in 1864, we are willing to open negotiations for peace on the basis indicated in the platform adopted by the convention; provided that our sister states of the Confederacy are willing. A lengthy and heated discussion followed. The governor sent in a message asking “who would desire a political union with those who have murdered our sons, outraged our women, with demoniac malice wantonly destroyed our property, and now seek to make slaves of us!” It would cause civil war, he said, if the people at home attempted such a course. After the reading of the message and some further debate, both houses united in a declaration that extermination was preferable to reconstruction according to the Lincoln plan. The proposed resolution, the extended[Pg 137] debate, the governor’s message, all clearly indicate a strong desire on the part of some to end the war and return to the Union.[320]

With the opening of 1865 conditions in Alabama were not favorable to the war party: the old coöperationists, with other malcontents, were charging the Davis administration with every political crime; the state administration was disorganized in half the counties; deserters and stragglers were scattered throughout the state; and many of the state and county officials were disaffected. Those who were in favor of war were in the armies. Had the war continued until the August election, there is no doubt that an administration would have been elected which would have refused further support to the Confederacy. Had it not been for fear of the soldier element, the malcontents at home could have controlled affairs in the fall of 1864. For a year there had been indications that the discontented were thinking of a coup d’état and an immediate close of the war. The formation of secret societies pledged to bring about peace was a sign of formidable discontent.


The Peace Society

It was after the reverses of 1863 that the enthusiasm of the people for the war very perceptibly declined. For the first time, many felt that perhaps after all their cause would not win, and that the horrors of war might be brought home to them by hostile invasion of their country. Public opinion was more or less despondent. There was a searching for scapegoats and a more pronounced hostility to the administration. The “cross-roads” statesmen were sure that a different policy under another leader would have been crowned with success, though what this policy should have been, perhaps no two would have agreed. This feeling was largely confined to the less well informed, but it was also found in a number of the old-time conservatives who would never believe that extreme measures were justifiable in any event, and who could never get over a feeling[Pg 138] of horror at all that the Democrats might do. If left alone, they thought, time would have brought all things right in the end. It was as painful to them to think that Lincoln was marching armies over the fragments of the United States Constitution, as that the Davis administration was strangling state sovereignty in the Confederate States. Their minds never rose above the narrow legalism of their books. But they were few in numbers as compared with the more ignorant people (who were conscious only of dissatisfaction and suffering) who had willingly plunged into the war “to whip the Yankees in ninety days,” and who now thought that all that had to be done to bring peace was to signify to the North a willingness to stop fighting. This course, many thought, need not result in a loss of their independence. Later they were minded to come back into the Union on the old terms, and later still they were ready to make peace without conditions and return to the Union. It seems never to have occurred to them that northern opinion had changed since 1861, and that severe terms of readmission would be exacted. The hardest condition likely to be imposed, they thought, would be the gradual emancipation of the slaves. As a rule, they owned few slaves, but such a condition would probably have been considered harder by them than by the larger slaveholders who felt that slavery had come to an end, no matter how the struggle might result.

This dissatisfaction culminated in the formation of numerous secret or semi-secret political organizations which sprang up over the state, and which together became generally known as the “Peace Society,” though there were other designations. Often these organizations were formed for purposes bordering on treason; often not so, but only for constitutional opposition to the administration. The extremes grew farther apart as the war progressed, until the constitutional wing withdrew or ceased to exist, and the other became, from the point of view of the government, wholly treasonable in its purposes. These organizations had several thousand members, at least half the active males left in the state.

The work of the peace party was first felt in the August elections of 1863. The governor, though a true and loyal man, was elected with the help of a disaffected party, and a disaffected element was elected to the legislature and to Congress. Six members of Congress from Alabama were said to be “unionists,” that is, in favor of ending[Pg 139] the war at once and returning to the Union.[321] A Confederate official who had wide opportunities for observation reported that the district (Talladega) in which he was stationed had been carried by the peace party under circumstances that indicated treasonable influence. Unknown men were elected to the legislature and to other offices by a secret order which, he stated, had for its object the encouragement of desertion, the protection of deserters, and resistance to the conscription laws. Some men of influence and position belonged to it, and the leaders were believed to be in communication with the enemy. The entire organization was not disloyal, but he feared that the controlling element was faithless. The election had been determined largely by the votes of stragglers and deserters and of paroled Vicksburg soldiers who, it was found later, had been “contaminated” by contact with the western soldiers of Grant’s army.[322] By this he evidently meant that the soldiers had been initiated into the “Peace Society.”

A few months later the “Peace Society” appeared among the soldiers of General Clanton’s brigade stationed at Pollard, in Conecuh County. Some of the soldiers had served in the army of Tennessee, and had there been initiated into this secret society. Clanton, who was strongly disliked by General Bragg and not loved by General Polk, had much trouble with them because he asserted that the order appeared first in Bragg’s army and spread from thence. Later[Pg 140] developments showed that he was correct.[323] It was in December, 1863, that the operations of the order among the soldiers were exposed. A number of soldiers at Pollard determined to lay down their arms on Christmas Day, as the only means of ending the war. These troops, for the most part, were lately recruited from the poorer classes of southwest Alabama by a popular leader and had never seen active service. They were stationed near their homes and were exposed to home influences. Upon them and their families the pressure of the war had been heavy.[324] Many of them were exempt from service but had joined because of Clanton’s personal popularity, because they feared that later they might become liable to service, and because they were promised special privileges in the way of furloughs and stations near their homes. To this unpromising material had been added conscripts and substitutes in whom the fires of patriotism burned low, and who entered the service very reluctantly. With them were a few veteran soldiers, and in command were veteran officers. A secret society was formed among the discontented, with all the usual accompaniment of signs, passwords, grips, oaths, and obligations. Some bound themselves by solemn oaths never to fight the enemy, to desert, and to encourage desertion—all this in order to break down the Confederacy. General Maury, in command at Mobile, concluded after investigation that the society had originated with the enemy and had entered the southern army at Cumberland Gap.[325]

In regard to the discontent among the soldiers, Colonel Swanson of the Fifty-ninth and Sixty-first Alabama[326] regiments (consolidated) stated that there was a general disposition on the part of the poorer classes, substitutes, and foreigners to accept terms and stop the war. They had nothing anyway, so there was nothing to fight for, they said. There was no general matured plan, and no leader, Colonel Swanson thought.[327] Major Cunningham of the Fifty-seventh Alabama Regiment[328] reported that there had been considerable manifestation[Pg 141] of revolutionary spirit on account of the tax-in-kind law and the impressment system, and that there was much reckless talk, even among good men, of protecting their families from the injustice of the government, even if they had to lay down their arms and go home.[329] General Clanton said that the society had existed in Hilliard’s Legion and Gracie’s brigade, and that few men, he was sure, joined it for treasonable purposes.[330] Before the appointed time—Christmas Day—sixty or seventy members of the order mutinied and the whole design was exposed. Seventy members were arrested and sent to Mobile for trial by court-martial.[331] There is no record of the action of the court. The purged regiments were then ordered to the front and obeyed without a single desertion. Bolling Hall’s battalion, which was sent to the Western army for having in it such a society, made a splendid record at Chickamauga and in other battles, and came out of the Chickamauga fight with eighty-two bullet-holes in its colors.[332]

During the summer and fall of 1863 and in 1864 the Confederate officials in north Alabama often reported that they had found certain traces of secret organizations which were hostile to the Confederate government. The Provost-Marshal’s Department in 1863 obtained information of the existence of a secret society between the lines in Alabama and Tennessee, the object of which was to encourage desertion.

Confederate soldiers at home on furlough joined the organization and made known its object to the Confederate authorities. The members were pledged not to assist the Confederacy in any way, to encourage desertion of the north Alabama soldiers, and to work for a revolution in the state government. Stringent oaths were taken by the members, a code of signals, and passwords was used, and a well-organized society was formed. The bulk of the membership [Pg 142]consisted of tories and deserters, with a few discontented Confederates. Their society gave information to the Federals in north Alabama and Tennessee and had agents far within the Confederate lines, organizing discontent. General Clanton early in 1864 endeavored to break up the organization in north Alabama and made a number of arrests, but failed to crush the order.

In middle Alabama, about the same time (the spring of 1864), the workings of a treasonable secret society were brought to light. Colonel Jefferson Falkner of the Eighth Confederate Infantry overheard a conversation between two malcontents and began to investigate. He found that in the central counties a secret society was working to break down the Confederate government and bring about peace. The plans were not perfected, but some were in favor of returning to the Union on the Arkansas or Sebastian platform,[333] others wanted to send to Washington and make terms, and still others were in favor of unconditional submission. As to methods, the malcontents meant to secure control of the state administration, either by revolution or by elections in the summer of 1865, then they would negotiate with the United States and end the war. The society had agents in both the Western army and the Army of Northern Virginia, tampering with the soldiers and endeavoring to carry the organization into the Federal army. The leaders in the movement hoped to organize into one party all who were discontented with the administration. If successful in this, they would be strong enough either to overthrow the state government, which was supported only by home guards, or by obstruction to force the state government to make peace. The oaths, passwords, and signals of this society were similar to those of the north Alabama organization, with which it was in communication. Conscript officers, county officials, medical boards, and members of the legislature were members of the order. If a deserter were arrested, some member released him; the members claimed that the society caused the loss of the battle of Missionary Ridge and the surrender at Vicksburg.

The strength of the so-called Peace Society lay in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. The organizers were called Eminents. They gave the “degree” to (that is, initiated)[Pg 143] those whom they considered proper persons. No records were kept; the members did not know one another except by recognition through signals. They received directions from the Eminents, who accommodated their instructions to the person initiated. An ignorant but loyal person was told that the object of the order was to secure a change of administration; the disloyal were told that the purpose was to encourage desertion and mutiny in the army, to injure loyal citizens, and to overthrow the state and Confederate governments. Owing to the non-intercourse between members there were many in the order who never knew the real objects of the leaders or Eminents, who intended to use the organization to further their designs in 1865. The swift collapse of the Confederacy in the spring of 1865 anticipated the work of the secret societies. The anti-Confederate element was, however, left somewhat organized through the work of the order.[334]


Reconstruction Sentiment

Besides the open obstruction of politicians, officials, and legislature, and the secret opposition of the peace societies, there was a third movement for reconstruction. This movement took place in that part of Alabama held by the Federal armies, and the reconstruction meetings were encouraged by the Union army officers. The leaders were D. C. Humphreys and Jeremiah Clemens, whose defection has been noted before. A more substantial element than the tories and deserters supported this movement—the dissatisfied property[Pg 144] holders who were afraid of confiscation. Several Confederate officers were drawn into the movement later.[335]

Early in 1864, Humphreys[336] issued an elaborate address renouncing his errors. There was no hope, he told his fellow-citizens, that foreign powers would intervene. Slavery as a permanent institution must be given up. Law and order must be enforced and constitutional authority reëstablished. Slavery was the cause of revolution, and as an institution was at an end. With slavery abolished, there was, therefore, no reason why the war should not end. The right to regulate the labor question would be secured to the state by the United States government. At present labor was destroyed, and in order to regulate labor, there must be peace. The address was printed and distributed throughout the state with the assistance of the Federal officials. A number of the packages of these addresses was seized by some women and thrown into the Tennessee River.[337] Jeremiah Clemens, who had deserted in 1862, issued an address to the people of the South advocating the election of Lincoln as President.[338] March 5, 1864, a reconstruction meeting, thinly attended, was held in Huntsville under the protection of the Union troops. Clemens presided. Resolutions were passed denying the legality of secession because the ordinance had not been submitted to the people for their ratification or rejection. Professions of devotion and loyalty to the United States were made by Clemens, the late major-general of Alabama militia and secessionist of 1861.[339] A week later the same party met again. No young men were present, for they were in the army. All were men over forty-five, concerned for their property. Clemens spoke, denouncing the “twenty-negro” law. The Gilchrist story was here originated by Clemens and told for the first time. The story was that J. G. Gilchrist of Montgomery County went to the Secretary of War, Mr. Walker, and urged him to begin hostilities by firing on Fort Sumter, saying, “You must sprinkle blood in the face of the people of Alabama or the state will[Pg 145] be back into the Union within ten days.” In closing, Clemens said, “Thank God, there is now no prospect of the Confederacy succeeding.”

D. C. Humphreys then proposed his plan: slavery was dead, but by submitting to Federal authority gradual emancipation could be secured, and also such guarantees as to the future status of the negro as would relieve the people from social, economic, and political dangers. He expressed entire confidence in the conservatism of the northern people, and asserted that if only the ordinance of secession were revoked, the southern people would have as long a time as they pleased to get rid of the institution of slavery. In case of return to the Union the people would have political coöperation to enable them to secure control of negro labor. “There is really no difference, in my opinion,” he said, “whether we hold them as slaves or obtain their labor by some other method. Of course, we prefer the old method. But that is not the question.” He announced the defection from the Confederacy of Vice-President Stephens, and bitterly denounced Ben Butler, Davis, and Slidell, to whose intrigues he attributed the present troubles. Resolutions were proposed by him and adopted, acknowledging the hopelessness of secession and advising a return to the Union. Longer war, it was declared, would be dangerous to the liberties of the people, and the restoration of civil government was necessary. The governor was asked to call a convention for the purpose of reuniting Alabama to the Union. It was not expected, it was stated, that the governor would do this; but his refusal would be an excuse for the independent action of north Alabama and a movement toward setting up a new state government. Busteed could then come down and hold a “bloody assize, trying traitors and bushwhackers.”[340]

In the early winter of 1864-1865, the northern newspaper correspondents in the South[341] began to write of the organization of a strong peace party called the “State Rights party,” in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. The leaders were in communication with the Washington authorities. They claimed that each state[Pg 146] had the right to negotiate for itself terms of reconstruction. The plan was to secure control of the state administration and then apply for readmission to the Union. The destruction of Hood’s army removed the fear of the soldier element. Several thousand of Hood’s suffering and dispirited soldiers took the oath of allegiance to the United States, or dispersed to their homes. Early in 1865 peace meetings were held in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, within the Confederate lines; commissioners were sent to Washington; and the tories and deserters organized. A delegation waited on Governor Watts to ask him to negotiate for the return of the state to the Union, but did not get, nor did they expect, a favorable answer from him. The peace party expected to gain the August elections and elect as governor J. C. Bradley of Huntsville, or M. J. Bulger of Tallapoosa.[342] The plan, then, was not to wait for the inauguration in November, but to have the newly elected administration take charge at once. It was continually reported that General P. D. Roddy was to head the movement.[343]

There is no doubt that during the winter of 1864-1865 some kind of negotiation was going on with the Federal authorities. J. J. Giers, who was a brother-in-law of State Senator Patton,[344] was in constant communication with General Grant. In one of his reports to Grant he stated that Roddy and another Confederate general had sent Major McGaughey, Roddy’s brother-in-law, to meet Giers near Moulton, in Lawrence County, to learn what terms could be obtained for the readmission of Alabama. Major McGaughey said that the people considered that affairs were hopeless and wanted peace. If the terms were favorable, steps would be taken to induce Governor Watts to accept them. If Watts should refuse, a civil and military movement would be begun to organize a state government for Alabama which would include three-fourths of the state. The plan, it was stated, was indorsed by the leading public men.[Pg 147] The peace leaders wanted Grant, or the Washington administration, to announce at once a policy of gradual emancipation in order to reassure those afraid of outright abolition, and to “disintegrate the rebel soldiery” of north Alabama, which they said was never strongly devoted to the Confederacy. It was asserted that all the counties north of the cotton belt and those in the southeast were ready for a movement toward reconstruction. Giers stated that approaches were then being made to Governor Watts. Andrew Johnson, the newly elected Vice-President, vouched for the good character of Giers.[345] Ten days later Giers wrote Grant that on account of the rumors of the submission of various Confederate generals he had caused to be published a contradiction of the report of the agreement with the Confederate leaders. He further stated that one of Roddy’s officers, Lieutenant W. Alexander, had released a number of Federal prisoners without parole or exchange, according to agreement.[346] In several instances, in the spring of 1865, subordinate Confederate commanders proposed a truce, and after Lee’s surrender and Wilson’s raid this was a general practice. During the months of April and May, there was a combined movement of citizens and soldiers in a number of counties in north Alabama to reorganize civil government according to a plan furnished by General Thomas, Giers being the intermediary.[347] On May 1 General Steele of the second army of invasion was informed at Montgomery by J. J. Seibels, L. E. Parsons, and J. C. Bradley—all well-known obstructionists—that two-thirds of the people of Alabama would take up arms to put down the “rebels.”[348] Colonel Seibels alone of that gallant company had ever taken up arms for any cause. The other two and their kind may have been, and doubtless often were, warlike in their conversation, but they never drew steel to support their convictions.

It is quite likely that the strength of the disaffection, especially in north and east Alabama, was exaggerated by the reports of both Union and Confederate authorities. There never had been during the war much loyalty, in the proper sense of the word, to the United[Pg 148] States. There was much pure indifference on the part of some people who desired the strongest side to win as soon as possible and leave them in safety. There was much discontent on the part of others who had supported the Confederacy for a while, but who, for various reasons, had fallen away from the cause and now wanted peace and reunion. There was a very large element of outright lawlessness in the opposition to the Confederate government. The lowest class of men on both sides or of no side united to plunder that defenceless land between the two armies. This class wanted no peace, for on disorder they thrived. For years after the war ended they gave trouble to Federal and state authorities. The discontent was actively manifested by civilians, deserters, “mossbacks,” “bomb-proofs,” and “feather beds.” These had never strongly supported the Confederacy. It was largely a timid, stay-at-home crowd, with a few able but erratic leaders. The soldiers may have been dissatisfied,—many of them were,—and many of them left the army in the spring of 1865 to go home and plant crops for the relief of their suffering families. Many of them in the dark days after Nashville and Franklin took the oath of allegiance and went home, sure that the war was ended and the cause was lost. Yet these were not the ones found in such organizations as the Peace Society. That was largely made up of people whom the true soldier despised as worthless. There were few soldiers in the peace movement and these only at the last.

The peace party, however, was strong in one way. All were voters and, being at home, could vote. The soldiers in the army had no voice in the elections. The malcontents, had they possessed courage and good leaders, could have controlled the state after the summer of 1864. The able men in the movement were not those who inspired confidence in their followers. There were no troops in the state to keep them down, and the only check seems to have been their fear of the soldiers, who were fighting at the front, in the armies of Lee and Johnston, of Wheeler and Hood and Taylor. They were certainly afraid of the vengeance of these soldiers.[349] It was much better that the war resulted in the complete destruction of the southern cause, leaving no questions for future controversy, such as would have arisen had the peace party succeeded in its plans.



[Pg 149]




Sec. 1. Industrial Development during the War

Early in the war the blockade of the southern ports became so effective that the southern states were shut off from their usual sources of supply by sea. Trade through the lines between the United States and the Confederate States was forbidden, and Alabama, owing to its central location, suffered more from the blockade than any other state. For three years the Federal lines touched the northern part of the state only, and, as no railroads connected north and south Alabama, contraband trade was difficult in that direction. Mobile, the only port of the state, was closely blockaded by a strong Federal fleet. The railroad communications with other states were poor, and the Confederate government usually kept the railroads busy in the public service. Consequently, the people of Alabama were forced to develop certain industries in order to secure the necessaries of life. But outside these the industrial development was naturally in the direction of the production of materials of war.


Military Industries

During the first two years of the war volunteers were much more plentiful than equipment. The arms seized at Mount Vernon and other arsenals in Alabama were old flint-locks altered for the use of percussion caps and were almost worthless, being valued at $2 apiece. These were afterwards transferred to the Confederate States, which returned but few of them to arm the Alabama troops.[350] Late in 1860 a few thousand old muskets were purchased by the state from the arsenal at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for $2.50 each. A few Mississippi rifles were also secured, and with these the Second Alabama[Pg 150] Infantry was armed. These rifles, however, required a special kind of ammunition, and this made them almost worthless. Other arms were found to be useless for the same reason. Both cavalry and infantry regiments went to the front armed with single and double barrelled shot-guns, squirrel rifles, muskets, flint-locks, and old pistols. No ammunition could be supplied for such a miscellaneous collection. Many regiments had to wait for months before arms could be obtained. Before October, 1861, several thousand men had left Alabama unarmed, and several thousand more, also unarmed, were left waiting in the state camps.[351] In 1861 the state legislature bought a thousand pikes and a hundred bowie-knives to arm the Forty-eighth Militia Regiment, which was defending Mobile. The sum of $250,000 was appropriated to lend to those who would manufacture firearms for the government.[352] In 1863 the Confederate Congress authorized the enlistment of companies armed with pikes who should take the places of men armed with firearms when the latter were dead or absent.[353] Private arms—muskets, rifles, pistols, shot-guns, carbines—were called for and purchased from the owners[Pg 151] when not donated.[354] An offer was made to advance fifty per cent of the amount necessary to set up machinery for the manufacture of small arms.[355] Old Spanish flint-lock muskets were brought in from Cuba through the blockade, altered, and placed in the hands of the troops.[356]


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In 1862 a small-arms factory was established at Tallassee which employed 150 men and turned out about 150 carbines a week. At the end of 1864 it had produced only 6000.[357] At Montgomery the Alabama Arms Manufacturing Company had the best machinery in the Confederacy for making Enfield rifles. At Selma were the state and Confederate arsenals, a navy-yard, and naval foundry with machinery of English make, of the newest and most complete pattern. It had been brought through the blockade from Europe and set up at Selma because that seemed to be a place safe from invasion and from the raids of the enemy. Here the vessels for the defence of Mobile were built, heavy ordnance was cast, with shot and shell, and plating for men-of-war. The armored ram Tennessee, famous in the fight in Mobile Bay, the gunboats Morgan, Selma, and Gaines were all built at the Selma navy-yard—guns, armor, and everything being manufactured on the spot. When the Tennessee surrendered, after a terrible battle, its armor had not been penetrated by a single shot or shell. The best cannon in America were cast at the works in Selma. The naval foundry employed 3000 men, the other works as many more. Half the cannon and two-thirds of the fixed ammunition used during the last two years of the war were made at these foundries and factories. The foundry destroyed by Wilson was pronounced by experts to be the best in existence. It could turn out at short notice a fifteen-inch Brooks or a mountain howitzer. Swords, rifles, muskets, pistols, caps, were manufactured in great quantities. There were more than a hundred buildings, which covered fifty acres; and after Wilson’s destructive work, Truman, the war correspondent, said that they presented the greatest mass of ruins he had ever seen.[358][Pg 152] There was a navy-yard on the Tombigbee, in Clarke County, near the Sunflower Bend. Several small vessels had been completed and several war vessels, probably gunboats, were in process of construction here when the war ended; both vessels and machinery were destroyed by order of the Confederate authorities.[359]

Gunpowder was scarce throughout the war, and nitre or saltpetre, its principal ingredient, was not to be purchased from abroad. A powder mill was established at Cahaba,[360] but the ingredients were lacking. Charcoal for gunpowder was made from willow, dogwood, and similar woods. The nitre on hand was soon exhausted, and it was sought for in the caves of the limestone region of Alabama and Tennessee. In north Alabama there were many of these large caves. The earth in them was dug up and put in hoppers and water poured over it to leach out the nitre. The lye was caught (just as for making soft soap from lye ashes), boiled down, and then dried in the sunshine.[361] The earth in cellars and under old houses was scraped up and leached for the nitre in it. In 1862 a corps of officers under the title of the Nitre and Mining Bureau[362] was organized by the War Department to work the nitre caves of north Alabama which lay in the doubtful region between the Union and the Confederate lines, and which were often raided by the enemy. The men were subjected to military discipline and were under the absolute command of the superintendent, who often called them out to repulse Federal raiders. As much as possible in this department, as in the others, exempts and negroes were used for laborers. For clerical work those disabled for active service were appointed, and instructions were[Pg 153] issued that employment should be given to needy refugee women.[363] These important nitre works were repeatedly destroyed by the Federals, who killed or captured many of the employees.[364] In the district of upper Alabama, under the command of Captain William Gabbitt, whose headquarters were at Blue Mountain (now Anniston), most of the work was done in the limestone caves of the mountain region.[365] Several hundred men—whites and negroes—were employed in extracting the nitre from the cave earth. To the end of September, 1864, this district had produced 222,665 pounds of nitre at a cost of $237,977.17, war prices.[366]

The supply from the caves proved insufficient, and artificial nitre beds or nitraries were prepared in the cities of south and central Alabama. It was necessary to have them near large towns, in order to obtain a plentiful supply of animal matter and potash, and the necessary labor. Efforts were also made to induce planters in marl or limestone counties to work plantation earth.[367] Under the supervision of Professor W. H. C. Price, nitraries were established at Selma, Mobile, Talladega, Tuscaloosa, and Montgomery. Negro labor was used almost entirely, each negro having charge of one small nitre bed. To October, 1864, the nitraries of south Alabama produced 34,716 pounds at a cost of $26,171.14, which was somewhat cheaper than the nitre from the caves. From these nitraries better results were obtained than from the French, Swedish, and Russian nitraries which served as models. The Confederate nitre beds were from sixteen to twenty-seven months old in October, 1864, and hence not at their best producing stage. Yet, allowing for the difference in age, they gave better results, as they produced from 2.57 to 3.3 ounces of nitre per cubic foot, while the average European nitraries at four years of age gave 4 ounces per cubic foot. Earth from under old houses and from cellars produced from 2 to 4 ounces to the cubic foot. Nitre caves produced from 6 to 12 ounces per cubic foot. Most of the nitre thus obtained was made into powder at the mills in Selma. There were some private manufacturers of nitre, and to encourage[Pg 154] these the Confederate Congress authorized the advance to makers of fifty per cent of the cost of the necessary machinery.[368]

The state legislature appropriated $30,000 to encourage the manufacture and preparation of powder, saltpetre (nitre), sulphur, and lead. Little of the last article was found in Alabama.[369] Some of the powder works were in operation as early as 1861, and in that year the War Department gave Dr. Ullman of Tallapoosa a contract to supply 1000 to 1500 pounds of sulphur a day.[370]

The Confederate Nitre and Mining Bureau had charge of the production of iron in Alabama for the use of the Confederacy. The mines were principally in the hilly region south of the Tennessee River, where several furnaces and iron works were already established before the war. Two or three new companies, with capital of $1,000,000 each, had bought mineral lands and had commenced operations when the war broke out. The Confederate government bought the property or gave the companies financial assistance. The iron district was often raided by the Federals, who blew up the furnaces and wrecked the iron works.[371] The Irondale works, near Elyton, were begun in 1862, and made much iron, but they also were destroyed in 1864 by the Federals.[372] Other large iron furnaces, with their forges, foundries, and rolling-mills, were destroyed by Rousseau’s raid in 1864. The government employed several hundred conscripts and several thousand negroes in the mines and rolling-mills. It also offered fifty per cent of the cost of equipment to encourage the opening of new mines by private owners.[373] There is record of only about 15,000 tons of Alabama iron being mined by the Confederacy, but probably there was much more.[374] The iron was sent to Selma, Montgomery, and other places for manufacture. The ordnance cast in[Pg 155] Selma was of Alabama iron; and after the war, when the United States sold the ruins of the arsenal, the big guns were cut up and sent to Philadelphia. Here the fine quality of the iron attracted the attention of experts and led to the development by northern capital of the iron industry in north Alabama.

The Confederate government encouraged the building and extension of railroads, and paid large sums to them for the transportation of troops, munitions of war, and military supplies.[375] Several lines of road within the state were made military roads, and the government extended their lines, built bridges and cars, and kept the lines in repair.[376] In 1862 $150,000 was advanced to the Alabama and Mississippi Railway Company, to complete the line between Selma and Meridian,[377] and the duty on iron needed for the road was remitted.[378] On June 25 of this year this road was seized by the military authorities in order to finish it,[379] and because of the lack of iron D. H. Kenny was directed (July 21, 1863) to impress the iron and rolling stock belonging to the Alabama and Florida Railway, the Gainesville Branch of[Pg 156] the Mobile and Ohio, the Cahaba, Marion, and Greensborough Railroad, and the Uniontown and Newberne Railroad. The Alabama and Mississippi road was a very important line, since it tapped the supply districts of Mississippi and the Black Belt of Alabama. There were many difficulties in the way of the builders. In 1862 the locomotives were wearing out and no iron was to be obtained. In the fall of the same year the planters withdrew their negroes who were working on the road, and left the bridges half finished. But finally, in December, 1862, the road was completed.[380] In the fall of 1862 a road between Blue Mountain, Alabama, and Rome, Georgia, was planned, and $1,122,480.92 was appropriated by the Confederate Congress, a mortgage being taken as security.[381] This road was graded and some bridges built and iron laid, but was not in running order before the end of the war.

Telegraph lines, which had been few before the war, were now placed along each railroad, and several cross-country lines were put up. The first important new line was along the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, from Mobile to Meridian.[382]


Private Manufacturing Enterprises

Both the state and the Confederate government encouraged manufactures by favorable legislation. The Confederate government was always ready to advance half of the cost of the machinery and to take goods in payment. A law of Alabama in 1861 secured the rights of inventors and authors. All patents under the United States laws prior to January 11, 1861, were to hold good under the state laws, and the United States patent and copyright laws were adopted for Alabama.[383] Later, jurisdiction over patents, inventions, and copyrights was transferred to the Confederate government. A bonus of five and ten cents apiece on all cotton and wool cards made in Alabama was offered by the legislature in December, 1861.[384] All employees in iron mills, in foundries, and in factories supplying the state[Pg 157] or Confederate governments with arms, clothing, cloth, and the like were declared by the state exempt from military duty.

Factories were soon in operation all over the state, especially in central Alabama. In all places where there were government factories there also were found factories conducted by private individuals. In 1861 there were factories at Tallassee, Autaugaville, and Prattville, with 23,000 spindles and 800 employees, which could make 5000 yards of good tent cloth a day.[385] And other cotton mills were established in north Alabama as early as 1861.[386] The Federals burned these buildings and destroyed the machinery in 1862 and 1863. There was the most “unsparing hostility displayed by the northern armies to this branch of industry. They destroyed instantly every cotton factory within their reach.”[387]

At Tuscaloosa were cotton and shoe factories, tanneries, and an iron foundry. A large cotton factory was established in Bibb County, and at Gainesville there were workshops and machine-shops. In addition to the government works, Selma had machine-shops, car shops, iron mills, and foundries, cotton, wool, and harness factories, conducted by private individuals. There were cotton and woollen factories at Prattville and Autaugaville, and at Montgomery were car shops, harness shops, iron mills, foundries, and machine-shops. The best tent cloth and uniform cloth was made at the factories of Tallassee. The state itself began the manufacture of shoes, salt, clothing, whiskey, alcohol, army supplies, and supplies for the destitute.[388] Extensive manufacturing establishments of various kinds in Madison, Lauderdale, Tuscumbia, Bibb, Autauga, Coosa, and Tallapoosa counties were destroyed during the war by the Federals. There were iron works in Bibb, Shelby, Calhoun, and Jefferson counties, and in 1864 there were a dozen large furnaces with rolling-mills and foundries in the state.[389] However, in that year the governor complained that though Alabama had immense quantities of iron ore, even the planters in the iron country were unable to get sufficient[Pg 158] iron to make and mend agricultural implements, since all iron that was mined was used for purposes of the Confederacy.[390] The best and strongest cast iron used by the Confederacy was made at Selma and at Briarfield. The cotton factories and tanneries in the Tennessee valley were destroyed in 1862 by the Federal troops.[391]


Salt Making

Salt was one of the first necessaries of life which became scarce on account of the blockade. The Adjutant and Inspector-General of Alabama stated, March 20, 1862, that the Confederacy needed 6,000,000 bushels of salt, and that only an enormous price would force the people to make it. In Montgomery salt was then very scarce, bringing $20 per sack, and speculators were using every trick and fraud in order to control the supply.[392] The poor people especially soon felt the want of it, and in November, 1861, the legislature passed an act to encourage the manufacture of salt at the state reservation in Clarke County.[393] The state government even began to make salt at these salt springs. At the Upper Works, near Old St. Stephens, 600 men and 120 teams were employed at 30 furnaces, which were kept going all the time, the production amounting to 600 bushels a day. These works were in operation from 1862 to 1865. The Lower Works, near Sunflower Bend on the Tombigbee River, for four years employed 400 men with 80 teams at 20 furnaces. The production here was about 400 bushels a day. The Central Works, near Salt Mountain, were under private management, and, it is said, were much more successful than the works under state management.[394] The price of salt at the works ranged from $2.50 to $7 a bushel in gold, or from $3 to $40 in currency. From 1861 to 1865, 500,000 bushels of good salt were produced each year.

[Pg 159]To obtain the salt water, wells were bored to depths ranging from 60 to 100 feet,—one well, however, was 600 feet deep,—while in the bottom or swamp lands brine was sometimes found at a depth of 8 feet. The water at first rose to the surface and overflowed about 30 gallons a minute in some wells, but as more wells were sunk the brine ceased to flow out and had to be pumped about 16 feet by steam or horse power. It was boiled in large iron kettles like those then used in syrup making and which are still seen in remote districts in the South. Seven or eight kettles of water would make one kettle of salt. This was about the same percentage that was obtained at the Onondaga (New York) salt springs. About the same boiling was required as in making syrup from sugar-cane juice. The wells were scattered for miles over the country and thousands of men were employed. For three years more than 6000 men, white and black, were employed at the salt works of Clarke County, from 2000 to 3000 working at the Upper Works alone. All were not at work at the furnaces, but hundreds were engaged in cutting and hauling wood for fuel, and in sacking and barrelling salt. It is said that in the woods the blows of no single axe nor the sound of any single falling tree could be distinguished; the sound was simply continuous. Nine or ten square miles of pine timber were cleared for fuel.

The salt was sent down the Tombigbee to Mobile or conveyed in wagons into the interior of Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. These wagons were so numerous that for miles from the various works it was difficult to cross the road. The whole place had the appearance of a manufacturing city. These works had been in operation to some extent since 1809. The wells were exhausted from 1865 to 1870, when they began flowing again.

Besides the smaller works and large private works there were hundreds of smaller establishments. When salt was needed on a plantation in the Black Belt, the overseer would take hands, with pots and kettles, and go to the salt wells, camp out for several weeks, and make enough salt for the year’s supply. All private makers had to give a certain amount to the state.[395] People from the interior of the state and from southeast Alabama went to the Florida coast and made salt by boiling the sea water. The state had salt works at Saltville, Virginia, but found it difficult to get transportation for[Pg 160] the product. Salt was given to the poor people by the state, or sold to them at a moderate price. The legislature authorized the governor to take possession of all salt when necessary for public use, paying the owners a just compensation; $150,000 was appropriated for this purpose in 1861, and in 1862 it was made a penal offence to send salt out of the state.[396] A Salt Commission was appointed to look after the salt works owned by the state in Louisiana. A private salt maker in Clarke County made a contract to deliver two-fifths of his product to the state at the cost of manufacture, and the state purchased some salt from the Louisiana saltbeds.[397] As salt became scarcer the people took the brine in old pork and beef barrels and boiled it down. The soil under old smoke-houses was dug up, put in hoppers, and bleached like ashes, and the brine boiled down and dried in the sunshine.[398]

At Bon Secour Bay, near Mobile, there were salt works consisting of fifteen houses, capable of making seventy-five bushels per day from the sea-water. In 1864 these were burned by the Federals, who often destroyed the salt works along the Florida coast.[399] At Saltmarsh, ten miles west of Selma, there were works which furnished much of the salt used in Mississippi, central Alabama, and east Georgia during the years 1862, 1863, and 1864. Wells were dug to the depth of twelve or fifteen feet, when salt water was struck. The wells were then curbed, furnaces of lime rock were built, and upon them large kettles were placed. The water was pumped from the wells and run into the kettles through troughs, then boiled down, and the moisture evaporated by the sun. The fires were kept up day and night. A large number of blacks and whites were employed at these wells, and, as salt makers were exempt from military duty, the work was quite popular.[400]

Besides the industries above mentioned there were many minor enterprises. Household manufactures were universal. The more[Pg 161] important companies were chartered by the legislature. The acts of the war period show that in 1861 there were incorporated six insurance companies and the charters of others were amended to suit the changed conditions; three railroad companies were incorporated, and aid was granted to others for building purposes. Roads carrying troops and munitions free were exempted from taxation. Two mining and manufacturing companies were incorporated, four iron and coal companies, one ore foundry, an express company,[401] a salt manufacturing company, a chemical manufacturing company, a coal and leather company, and a wine and fruit company. In 1862 the legislature incorporated four iron and foundry companies, a railroad company, the Southern Express Company, a gas-light company, six coal and iron companies, a rolling-mill, and an oil company, and amended the charters of four railroad companies and two insurance companies. In 1864 two railroad companies were given permission to manufacture alcohol and lubricating oil, and the Citronelle Wine, Fruit, and Nursery Company was incorporated. Various other manufacturing companies—of drugs, barrels, and pottery—were established.

Besides salt the state made alcohol and whiskey for the poor. Every man who had a more than usual regard for his comfort and wanted to keep out of the army had a tannery in his back yard, and made a few shoes or some harness for the Confederacy, thus securing exemption.

Governor Moore, in his message to the legislature on October 28, 1861, said: “Mechanical arts and industrial pursuits, hitherto practically unknown to our people, are already in operation. The clink of the hammer and the busy hum of the workshop are beginning to be heard throughout our land. Our manufactories are rapidly increasing and the inconvenience which would result from the continuance of the war and the closing of our ports for years would be more than compensated by forcing us to the development of our abundant resources, and the tone and the temper it would give to our national character. Under such circumstances the return of peace would find us a self-reliant and truly independent people.”[402][Pg 162] And had the war ended early in 1864, the state would have been well provided with manufactures.

The raids through the state in 1864 and 1865 destroyed most of the manufacturing establishments. The rest, whether owned by the government or private persons, were seized by the Federal troops at the surrender and were dismantled.[403]


Sec. 2. Confederate Finance in Alabama

Banks and Banking

In a circular letter dated December 4, 1860, and addressed to the banks, Governor Moore announced that should the state secede from the Union, as seemed probable, $1,000,000 in specie, or its equivalent, would be needed by the administration. The state bonds could not be sold in the North nor in Europe, except at a ruinous discount, and a tax on the people at this time would be inexpedient. Therefore he recommended that the banks hold their specie. Otherwise there would be a run on the banks, and should an extra session of the legislature be called to authorize the banks to suspend specie payments, such action would produce a run and thus defeat the object. He requested the banks to suspend specie payments, trusting to the convention to legalize this action.[404] The governor then issued an address to the people stating his reasons for such a step. It was done, he said, at the request and by the advice of many citizens whose opinions were entitled to respect and consideration. Such a course, they thought, would relieve the banks from a run during the cotton season, would enable them to aid the state, would do away with the expense of a special session of the legislature, would prevent the sale of state bonds at a great sacrifice, and would prevent extra taxation of the people in time of financial crisis.[405]

Three banks—the Central, Eastern, and Commercial—suspended at the governor’s request and made a loan to the state of $200,000 in coin. Their suspension was legalized later by an [Pg 163]ordinance of the convention. The Bank of Mobile, the Northern Bank, and the Southern Bank refused to suspend, though they announced that the state should have their full support. The legislature passed an act in February, 1861, authorizing the suspension on condition that the banks subscribe for ten year state bonds at their par value. The bonds were to stand as capital, and the bills issued by the banks upon these bonds were to be receivable in payment of taxes. The amount which each bank was to pay into the treasury for the bonds was fixed, and no interest was to be paid by the state on these bonds until specie payments were resumed. All the banks suspended under these acts, and thus the government secured most of the coin in the state.[406] In October, 1861, before all the banks had suspended, state bonds at par to the amount of $975,066.68 had been sold—all but $28,500 to the banks. By early acts specie payments were to be resumed in May, 1862, but in December, 1861, the suspension was continued until one year after the conclusion of peace with the United States. By this law the banks were to receive at par the Confederate treasury notes in payment of debts, their notes being good for public dues. The banks were further required to make a loan to the state of $200,000 to pay its quota of the Confederate war tax of August 16, 1861. So the privilege of suspension was worth paying for.[407]

The banking law was revised by the convention so that a bank might deposit with the state comptroller stocks of the Confederate States or of Alabama, receiving in return notes countersigned by the comptroller amounting to twice the market value of the bonds deposited. If a bank had in deposit with the comptroller under the old law any stocks of the United States, they could be withdrawn upon the deposit of an equal amount of Confederate stocks or bonds of the state. The same ordinance provided that none except citizens of Alabama and members of state corporations might engage in the banking business under this law. But no rights under the old law[Pg 164] were to be affected. It was further provided that subsequent legislation might require any “free” bank to reduce its circulation to an amount not exceeding the market value of the bonds deposited with the comptroller. The notes thus retired were to be cancelled by the comptroller.[408] The suspension of specie payments was followed by an increase of banking business; note issues were enlarged; eleven new banks were chartered,[409] and none wound up affairs. They paid dividends regularly of from 6 to 10 per cent in coin, in Confederate notes, or in both. Speculation in government funds was quite profitable to the banks.


Issues of Bonds and Notes

The convention authorized the general assembly of the state to issue bonds to such amounts and in such sums as seemed best, thus giving the assembly practically unlimited discretion. But it was provided that money must not be borrowed except for purposes of military defence, unless by a two-thirds vote of the members elected to each house; and the faith and credit of the state was pledged for the punctual payment of the principal and interest.[410]

The legislature hastened to avail itself of this permission. In 1861 a bond issue of $2,000,000 for defence, and not liable to taxation, was authorized at one time; at another, $385,000 for defence, besides an issue of $1,000,000 in treasury notes receivable for taxes. Of the first issue authorized, only $1,759,500 were ever issued. Opposition to taxation caused the state to take up the war tax of $2,000,000 (August 19, 1861), and for this purpose $1,700,000 in bonds was issued, the banks supplying the remainder. There was a relaxation in taxation during the war; paper money was easily printed, and the people were opposed to heavy taxes.[411]

In 1862 bonds to the amount of $2,000,000 were issued for the benefit of the indigent. The governor was given unlimited authority to issue bonds and notes, receivable for taxes, to “repair the treasury,” and $2,085,000 in bonds were issued under this permit. These bonds[Pg 165] drew interest at 6 per cent, ran for twenty years, and sold at a premium of from 50 per cent to 100 per cent. Bonds were used both for civil and for military purposes, but chiefly for the support of the destitute. Treasury notes to the amount of $3,500,000 were issued, drawing interest at 5 per cent, and receivable for taxes. The Confederate Congress came to the aid of Alabama with a grant of $1,200,000 for the defence of Mobile.[412] In 1863 notes and bonds for $4,000,000 were issued for the benefit of indigent families of soldiers, and $1,500,000 for defence; $90,000 in bonds was paid for the steamer Florida, which was later turned over to the Confederate government.[413] In 1864 $7,000,000 was appropriated for the support of indigent families of soldiers, and an unlimited issue of bonds and notes was authorized.[414] In 1862 the Alabama legislature proposed that each state should guarantee the debt of the Confederate States in proportion to its representation in Congress. This measure was opposed by the other states and failed.[415] A year later a resolution of the legislature declared that the people of Alabama would cheerfully submit to any tax, not too oppressive in amount or unequal in operation, laid by the Confederate government for the purpose of reducing the volume of currency and appreciating its value. The assembly also signified its disapproval of the scheme put forth at the bankers’ meeting at Augusta, Georgia—to issue Confederate bonds with interest payable in coin and to levy a heavy tax of $60,000,000 to be paid in coin or in coupons of the proposed new issue.[416]

The Alabama treasury had many Confederate notes received for taxes. Before April 1, 1864 (when such notes were to be taxed one-third of their face value), these could be exchanged at par for twenty-year, 6 per cent Confederate bonds. After that date the Confederate notes were fundable at 33⅓ per cent of their face value only.[417] After June 14, 1864, the state treasury could exchange Confederate notes for 4 per cent non-taxable Confederate bonds, or one-half for 6 per cent bonds and one-half for new notes. The Alabama legislature[Pg 166] of 1864 arranged for funding the notes according to the latter method.[418] The Alabama legislature of 1861 had made it lawful for debts contracted after that year to be payable in Confederate notes.[419] Later a meeting of the citizens of Mobile proposed to ostracize those who refused to accept Confederate notes. Cheap money caused a clamor for more, and the heads of the people were filled with fiat money notions. The rise in prices stimulated more issues of notes. On February 9, 1861, $1,000,000 in state treasury notes was issued, and in 1862 there was a similar issue of $2,000,000 more. These state notes were at a premium in Confederate notes, which were discredited by the Confederate Funding Act of February 17, 1864. Confederate notes were eagerly offered for state notes, but the state stopped the exchange.[420] December 13, 1864, a law was passed providing for an unlimited issue of state notes redeemable in Confederate notes and receivable for taxes.

Private individuals often issued notes on their own account, and an enormous number was put into circulation. The legislature, by a law of December 9, 1862, prohibited the issue of “shinplaster” or other private money under penalty of $20 to $500 fine, and any person circulating such money was to be deemed the maker. It was not successful, however, in reducing the flood of private tokens; the credit of individuals was better than the credit of the government.

Executors, administrators, guardians, and trustees were authorized to make loans to the Confederacy and to purchase and receive for debts due them bonds and treasury notes of the Confederacy and of Alabama and the interest coupons of the same. One-tenth of the Confederate $15,000,000 loan of February 28, 1861, was subscribed in Alabama.[421] In December, 1863, the legislature laid a tax of 37½ per cent on bonds of the state and of the Confederacy unless the bonds had been bought directly from the Confederate government or from the state.[422] This was to punish speculators. After October 7, 1864, the state treasury was directed to refuse [Pg 167]Confederate notes issued before February 17, 1864 (the date of the Funding Act) in payment of taxes except at a discount of 33⅓ per cent. Later, Confederate notes were taken for taxes at their full market value.[423]

Gold was shipped through the blockade at Mobile to pay the interest on the state bonded debt held in London. It has been charged that this money was borrowed from the Central, Commercial, and Eastern banks and was never repaid, recovery being denied on the ground that the state could not be sued.[424] But the banks received state and Confederate bonds under the new banking law in return for their coin. The exchange was willingly made, for otherwise the banks would have had to continue specie payments or forfeit their charters. And to continue specie payments meant immediate bankruptcy.[425] After the war, the state was forbidden to pay any debt incurred in aid of the war, nor could the bonds issued in aid of the war be redeemed. The banks suffered just as all others suffered, and it is difficult to see why the state should make good the losses of the banks in Confederate bonds and not make good the losses of private individuals. To do either would be contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment.

The last statement of the condition of the Alabama treasury was as follows:—

Balance in treasury, September 30, 1864   $3,713,959
Receipts, September 30, 1864, to May 24, 1865   3,776,188
Total   $7,490,147
Disbursements, September 30, 1864, to May 24, 1865   6,698,853
Balance in treasury, September 30, 1864, to May 24, 1865   $791,294

The balance was in funds as follows:—

Checks on Bank of Mobile, payable in Confederate notes   $11,440
Certificate of deposit, Bank of Mobile, payable in Confederate notes   1,330
Confederate and state notes in treasury   517,889
State notes, change bills (legal shinplasters)   250,004
Notes of state banks and branches   358
Bank-notes   424
Silver   337
Gold on hand   497
Gold on deposit in northern banks   35
Balance   $791,294

[Pg 168]To dispose of nearly $7,000,000 in small notes must have kept the treasury very busy during the last seven months of its existence. It is interesting to note that the treasury kept at work until May 24, 1865, six weeks after the surrender of General Lee.


Special Appropriations and Salaries

Besides the regular appropriations for the usual expenses of the government, there were many extraordinary appropriations. These, of course, were for the war expenses which were far greater than the ordinary expenses. The chief item of these extraordinary appropriations was for the support of the indigent families of soldiers, and for this purpose about $11,000,000 was provided. For the military defence of the state several million dollars were appropriated, much of this being spent for arms and clothing for the Alabama troops, both in the Confederate and the state service. Money was granted to the University of Alabama and other military schools on condition that they furnish drill-masters for the state troops without charge. Hospitals were furnished in Virginia and in Alabama for the Alabama soldiers. The gunboat Florida was bought for the defence of Mobile, and $150,000 was appropriated for an iron-clad ram for the same purpose. Loans were made to commanders of regiments to buy clothing for their soldiers, and the state began to furnish clothing, $50,000 being appropriated at one time for clothing for the Alabama soldiers in northern prisons. By March 12, 1862, Alabama had contributed $317,600 to the support of the Army of Northern Virginia.[426] Much was expended in the manufacture of salt in Alabama and in Virginia, which was sold at cost or given away to the poor; in the purchase of salt from Louisiana to be sold at a low price, and in bounties paid to salt makers in the state who sold salt at reasonable prices. The state also paid for medical attendance for the indigent families of soldiers. When the records and rolls of the Alabama troops in the Confederate service were lost, money was appropriated to have new ones made. Frequent grants were made to the various benevolent societies of the state whose object was to care for the maimed and sick soldiers, the widows and the orphans. Cotton and wool cards and agricultural implements were purchased and distributed[Pg 169] among the poor. Slaves and supplies were taken for the public service and the owners compensated.

The appropriations for the usual expenses of the government were light, seldom more than twice the appropriations in times of peace, notwithstanding the depreciated currency. The salaries of public officers who received stated amounts ranged from $1500 to $4000 a year in state money. In 1862 the salaries of the professors in the State University were doubled on account of the depreciated currency, the president receiving $5000 and each professor $4000.[427] The members of the general assembly were more fortunate. In 1864 they received $15 a day for the time in session, and the clerks of the legislature, who were disabled soldiers or exempt from service, or were women, were paid the same amount. The salt commissioners drew salaries of $3000 a year in 1864 and 1865, though this amount was not sufficient to pay their board for more than six months. Salaries were never increased in proportion to expenses. The compensation, in December, 1864, for capturing a runaway slave was $25, worth probably 50 cents in coin. For the inaugural expenses of Governor Watts, $500 in paper was appropriated.[428] Many laws were passed, regulating and changing the fees and salaries of public officials. In October, 1884, for example, the salaries of the state officials, tax assessors and collectors, and judges were increased 50 per cent. Besides the general depreciation of the currency, the variations of values in the different sections of the state rendered such changes necessary. In the central part, which was safe for a long time from Federal raids, the currency was to the last worth more, and the prices of the necessaries of life were lower than in the more exposed regions. This fact was taken into consideration by the legislature when fixing the fees of the state and county officers in the various sections of the state.



As a result of the policy adopted at the outset of meeting the extraordinary expenses by bond issues,[429] the people continued to pay[Pg 170] the light taxes levied before the war, and paid them in paper money. Though falling heavily on the salaried and wage-earning classes, it was never a burden upon the agricultural classes except in the poorest white counties. The poll tax brought in little revenue. Soldiers were exempt from its payment and from taxation on property to the amount of $500. The widows and orphans of soldiers had similar privileges. A special tax of 25 per cent on the former rate was imposed on all taxable property in November, 1861, and a year later, by acts of December 9, 1862, a far-reaching scheme of taxation was introduced. Under this poll taxes were levied as follows:—

White men, 21 to 60 years   $0.75
Free negro men, 21 to 50 years   5.00
Free negro women, 21 to 45 years   3.00
Slaves (children to laborers in prime)   0.50 to 2.00
More valuable slaves   2.00 and up

And other taxes as follows:—

Crop liens   33⅓%
Hoarded money   1%
Jewellery, plate, furniture   ½%
Goods sold at auction   10%
Imports   2%
Insurance premiums (companies not chartered by state)   2%
Playing cards, per pack   $1.00
Gold watches, each   1.00
Gold chains, silver watches, clocks   0.50
Articles raffled off   10%
Legacies, profits and sales, incomes   5%
Profits of Confederate contractors   10%
Wages of Confederate officials   10%
Race tracks   10%
Billiard tables, each   $150.00
Bagatelle   20.00
Tenpin alleys, each   40.00
Readings and lectures, each   4.00
Pedler   100.00
Spirit rapper, per day   500.00
Saloon-keeper   $40.00 to 150.00
Daguerreotypist   10.00 to 100.00
Slave trader, for each slave offered for sale   20.00

[Pg 171]In 1863 a tax of 37½ per cent was laid on Confederate and state bonds not in the hands of the original purchaser;[430] 7½ per cent was levied on profits of banking, railroad companies, and on evidence of debt; 5 per cent on other profits not included in the act of the year before. The tax on gold and silver was to be paid in gold and silver; on bank-notes, in notes; on bonds, in coupons.[431] In December, 1864, the taxes levied by the laws of 1862 and 1863 were increased by 33⅓ per cent. Taxes on gold and silver were to be paid in kind or in currency at its market value.[432] This was the last tax levied by the state under Confederate rule. From these taxes the state government was largely supplied.

A number of special laws were passed to enable the county authorities to levy taxes-in-kind or to levy a certain amount in addition to the state tax, for the use of the county. The taxes levied by the state did not bear heavily upon the majority of the people, as nearly all, except the well-to-do and especially the slave owners, were exempt. The constant depreciation of the currency acted, of course, as a tax on the wage-earners and salaried classes and on those whose income was derived from government securities.

While the state taxes were felt chiefly by the wealthier agricultural classes and the slave owners, this was not the case with the Confederate taxes. The loans and gifts from the state, the war tax of August 19, 1861, the $15,000,000 loan, the Produce Loan, and the proceeds of sequestration—all had not availed to secure sufficient supplies. The Produce Loan of 1862 was subscribed to largely in Alabama, the Secretary of the Treasury issuing stocks and bonds in return for supplies,[433] and $1,500,000 of the $15,000,000 loan was raised in the state. Still the Confederate government was in desperate need. The farmers would not willingly sell their produce for currency which was constantly decreasing in value, and, when selling at all, they were forced to charge exorbitant prices because of the high prices charged them for everything by the speculators.[434] The speculator also ran up the prices of supplies beyond the reach of the government purchasing agents who had to buy according to the list of prices issued by impressment commissioners. So in the spring[Pg 172] of 1863 all other expedients were cast aside and the Confederate government levied a genuine “Morton’s Fork” tax. No more loans of paper money from the state, no more assumption of war taxes by the state governments because the people were opposed to any form of direct taxation, no more holding back of supplies by producers and speculators who refused to sell to the Confederate government except for coin; the new law stopped all that.[435]

First there was a tax of 8 per cent on all agricultural products in hand on July 1, 1863, on salt, wine, and liquors, and 1 per cent on all moneys and credits. Second, an occupation tax ranging from $50 to $200 and from 2½ per cent to 20 per cent of their gross sales was levied on bankers, auctioneers, brokers, druggists, butchers, fakirs, liquor dealers, merchants, pawnbrokers, lawyers, physicians, photographers, brewers, and distillers; hotels paid from $30 to $500, and theatres, $500. Third, there was an income tax of 1 per cent on salaries from $1000 to $1500 and 2 per cent on all over $1500. Fourth, 10 per cent on all trade in flour, bacon, corn, oats, and dry goods during 1863. Fifth, a tax-in-kind, by which each farmer, after reserving 50 bushels of sweet and 50 bushels of Irish potatoes, 20 bushels of peas or beans, 100 bushels of corn or 50 bushels of wheat out of his crop of 1863, had to deliver (at a depot within 8 miles) out of the remainder of his produce for that year, 10 per cent of all wheat, corn, oats, rye, buckwheat, rice, sweet and Irish potatoes, hay, fodder, sugar, molasses, cotton, wool, tobacco, peas, beans, and peanuts; 10 per cent of all meat killed between April 24, 1863, and March 1, 1863.[436]

By this act $9,500,000 in currency was raised in Alabama. Alabama, with Georgia and North Carolina, furnished two-thirds of the tax-in-kind. Though at first there was some objection to the tax-in-kind because it bore entirely on the agricultural classes, yet it was a just tax so far as the large planters were concerned, since the depreciated money had acted as a tax on the wage-earners and salaried classes, who had also some state tax to pay. The tax-in-kind fell heavily upon the families of small farmers in the white counties, who had no negro labor and who produced no more than the barest necessaries of life. To collect the tax-in-kind required an army of[Pg 173] tithe gatherers and afforded fine opportunities of escape from military service. The state was divided into districts for the collection of all Confederate taxes, with a state collector at the head. The collection districts were usually counties, following the state division into taxing districts. In 1864 the tobacco tithe was collected by treasury agents and not by the quartermaster’s department, which had formerly collected it.[437] The tax of April 24, 1863, was renewed on February 17, 1864, and some additional taxes laid as follows:—

Real estate and personal property   5%
Gold and silver ware, jewellery   10%
Coin   5%
Credits   5%
Profits on liquors, produce, groceries, and dry goods   10%

On June 10, 1864, an additional tax of 20 per cent of the tax for 1864 was laid, payable only in Confederate treasury notes of the new issue. Four days later an additional tax[438] was levied as follows:—

Real estate and personal property and coin   5%
Gold and silver ware   10%
Profits on liquors, produce, groceries, and dry goods   30%
Treasury notes of old issue (after January, 1865)   100%

The taxes during the war, state and Confederate, were in all five to ten times those levied before the war. Never were taxes paid more willingly by most of the people,[439] though at first there was opposition to them. It is probable that the authorities did not, in 1861 and 1862, give sufficient consideration to the fact that conditions were much changed, and that in view of the war the people would willingly have paid taxes that they would have rebelled against in times of peace.

Of the tax-in-kind for 1863, $100,000 was collected in Pickens county alone, one of the poorest counties in the state. The produce was sent in too freely to be taken care of by the government quartermasters, and, as there was enough on hand for a year or two, much of it was ruined for lack of storage room.[440] An English traveller in east Alabama, in 1864, reported that there was abundance. The tax-in-kind was working well, and enough provisions had already been collected for the western armies of the Confederacy to last until[Pg 174] the harvest of 1865.[441] There were few railroads in the state and the rolling stock on these was scarce and soon worn out. So the supplies gathered by the tax-in-kind law could not be moved. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of beef and bacon and bushels of corn were piled up in the government warehouses and at the depots, while starvation threatened the armies and the people also in districts remote from the railroads or rivers. At the supply centres of Alabama and along the railroads in the Black Belt there were immense stores of provisions. When the war ended, notwithstanding the destruction by raids, great quantities of corn and bacon were seized or destroyed by the Federal troops.[442]



The state quite early began to secure supplies by impressment. Salt was probably the first article to which the state laid claim. Later the officials were authorized to impress and pay for supplies necessary for the public service. In 1862 the governor was authorized to impress shoes, leather, and other shoemakers’ materials for the use of the army. The legislature appropriated $250,000 to pay for impressments under this law.[443] In case of a refusal to comply with an order of impressment the sheriff was authorized to summon a posse comitatus of not less than 20 men and seize double the quantity first impressed. In such cases no compensation was given.[444] The people resisted the impressment of their property. By a law of October 31, 1862, the governor was empowered to impress slaves, and tools and teams for them to work with, in the public service against the enemy, and $1,000,000 was appropriated to pay the owners.[445] Slaves were regularly impressed by the Confederate officials acting in coöperation with the state authorities, for work on fortifications and for other public service. Several thousand were at work at Mobile at various times. They were secured usually by requisition on the state government, which then impressed them. In December, 1864, Alabama was asked for 2500 negroes for the Confederate service.[446] The people[Pg 175] were morbidly sensitive about their slave property, and there was much discontent at the impressment of slaves, even though they were paid for. As the war drew to a close, the people were less and less willing to have their servants impressed.

In the spring of 1863, the Confederate Congress authorized the impressment of private property for public use.[447] The President and the governor each appointed an agent, and these together fixed the prices to be paid for the property taken.[448] Every two months they published schedules of prices, which were always below the market prices.[449] Evidently impressment had been going on for some time, for, in November, 1862, Judge Dargan, member of Congress from Alabama, wrote to the President that the people from the country were afraid to bring produce to Mobile for fear of seizure by the government. In November, 1863, the Secretary of War issued an order that no supplies should be impressed when held by a person for his own consumption or that of his employees or slaves, or while being carried to market for sale, except in urgent cases and by order of a commanding general. Consequently the land was filled with agents buying a year’s supply for railroad companies, individuals, manufactories, and corporations, relief associations, towns, and counties—all these to be protected from impressment. Most speculators always had their goods on the way to market for sale. The great demand caused prices to rise suddenly, and the government, which had to buy by scheduled prices, could not compete with private purchasers; yet it could not legally impress. There was much abuse of the impressment law, especially by unauthorized persons. It was the source of much lawless conduct on the part of many who claimed to be Confederate officials, with authority to impress.[450] The legislature frequently protested against the manner of execution of the law. In 1863 a state law was passed which indicates that the people had been suffering from the depredations of thieves who [Pg 176]pretended to be Confederate officials in order to get supplies. It was made a penal offence in 1862 and again in 1863, with from one to five years’ imprisonment and $500 to $5000 fine, to falsely represent one’s self as a Confederate agent, contractor, or official.[451] The merchants of Mobile protested against the impressment of sugar and molasses, as it would cause prices to double, they said.[452] There was much complaint from sufferers who were never paid by the Confederate authorities for the supplies impressed. Quartermasters of an army would sometimes seize the necessary supplies and would leave with the army before settling accounts with the citizens of the community, the latter often being left without any proof of their claim. In north Alabama, especially, where the armies never tarried long at a place, the complaint was greatest. To do away with this abuse resulting from carelessness, the Secretary of War appointed agents in each congressional district to receive proof of claims for forage and supplies impressed.[453] The state wanted a Confederate law passed to authorize receipts for supplies to be given as part of the tax-in-kind.[454] The unequal operation of the impressment system may be seen in the case of Clarke and Monroe counties. In the former, from 16 persons, property amounting to $1700 was impressed. In Monroe, from 37 persons $60,000 worth was taken. The delay in payment was so long that the money was practically worthless when received.[455]


Debts, Stay Laws, Sequestration

In the secession convention the question of indebtedness to northern creditors came up, and Watts of Montgomery proposed confiscation, in case of war, of the property of alien enemies and of debts due northern creditors. The proposal was supported by several members, who declared that the threat of confiscation would do much to promote peace. But the majority of the convention were opposed to any measure looking toward confiscation, and the matter was carried over for the Confederate government to settle.[456]

Stay laws were enacted in Alabama on February 8, 1861, and on[Pg 177] December 10, 1861. The Confederate Provisional Congress enacted a law (May 21, 1861) that debtors to persons in the North (except in Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, and the District of Columbia) be prohibited from paying their debts during the war.[457] They should pay the amount of the debt into the Confederate treasury and receive a certificate relieving them from their debts, transferring it to the Confederate treasury. A Confederate law of November 17, 1862, provided that when payment of the interest on a debt was proffered in Confederate treasury notes and refused, it should be unlawful for the plaintiff to secure more than ¼ of 1 per cent interest. On August 30, 1861, Congress, in retaliation for the confiscation and destruction of the property of Confederate citizens, passed the Sequestration Act, which held all property of alien enemies (except citizens of the border states) as indemnity for such destruction and devastation.[458] Under the Sequestration Act receivers were appointed in each county to take possession of all property belonging to alien enemies. They were empowered to interrogate all lawyers, bank officials, officials of corporations engaged in foreign trade, and all persons and agents engaged for persons engaged in foreign trade, for the purpose of discovering such property. The proceeds were to be held for the indemnity of loyal citizens suffering under the confiscation laws of the United States.[459] Later the property thus seized was sold and the money paid into the Confederate treasury.[460] In the last days of the war (February 15, 1865), the Sequestration Act was extended to include the property of disloyal citizens who had gone within the Federal lines to escape military service, or who had entered the Union service to fight against the Confederacy.[461]

In December, 1861, a law was passed by the legislature which[Pg 178] provided that no suit by or for an alien enemy for debt or money should be prosecuted in any court in Alabama. No execution was to be issued to an alien enemy, and suits already brought could be dismissed on the motion of the defendant.[462] In Alabama much of the time of the Confederate district courts was taken up by sequestration cases. In fact, they did little else. However, but little money was ever turned into the Confederate treasury from this source.[463]

Just as the state sent nearly all its coin through the blockade to pay the interest of its London debt, so the Mobile, Montgomery, or Selma merchant cancelled his indebtedness and sent money, as he was able, during the early years of the war, to his northern and European creditors. Most debts due to northerners were concealed from the government. The stringent laws passed against it were of no avail. As a source of revenue the sequestration of the property of alien enemies hardly paid expenses. After all, however, the northern creditor probably lost nearly all his accounts in the South in the general wreck of property in 1865.


Trade, Barter, Prices

After the outbreak of war, business was soon almost at a standstill. The government monopolized all means of transportation for military purposes. There were few good railroads in the state and few good wagon roads. In one section there would be plenty, while seventy-five or a hundred miles away there would be great suffering from want. Depreciated currency and the impressment laws made the producer wary of going to market at all. He preferred to keep what he had and live upon it, effecting changes in the old way of barter. Cows, hogs, chickens, mules, farm implements, cotton, corn, peas—all were exchanged and reëxchanged for one another. The farmer tended more and more to become independent of the merchant and of money. Consequently the townspeople suffered. Confederate money, at first received at par, soon began to depreciate, though the most patriotic people considered it their duty to accept it at its par value.[464]


Alabama Money.
Confederate Postage Stamps.   Private Money.
Printed in large sheets on one side only and never used.
The other side is a state bill similar to the one above.
Paper was scarce, and the state money was printed so
that when cut apart the private money was destroyed.


[Pg 179]At the end of 1861, Confederate money was worth as much[465] as Federal, but it had depreciated. Often private credit was better than public, and individuals in need of a more stable circulating medium issued notes or promises to pay which in the immediate neighborhood passed current at their face value. Great quantities of this “card money” or shinplasters were issued, and in some communities it almost supplanted the legal money as a more reliable medium of exchange. The Alabama legislature passed severe laws against the practice of issuing “card money,” but with little effect.

The effect of depreciation of paper money was the same as a tax so far as the people were concerned. Forced into circulation, it supported the government, but it gradually depreciated and each holder lost a little. Finally, when almost worthless, it was practically repudiated by the state and by the Confederacy, and funding laws were passed, providing for the redemption of old notes at a low rate in new issues. Depreciation of the currency caused extravagance and other more evil results. A person who handled much money felt that he must at once get rid of all that came into his possession in order to avoid loss by depreciation. Consequently there was speculation, reckless spending, and extravagance. Money would be spent for anything offered for sale. If useful things were not to be had, then luxuries would be bought, such as silks, fancy articles, liquors, etc., from blockade-runners. This was especially the case in Selma, Mobile, and Montgomery, and in northern Alabama. Persons formerly of good character frequently drifted into extravagant and dissipated habits, because they tried to spend their money and there were not enough legitimate ways in which to do so.

[Pg 180]Depreciation, speculation, and scarcity caused prices to rise, especially the prices of the necessaries of life. These varied in the different sections of the state. In Mobile, in 1862, prices were as follows:—

Shoes, per pair     $25.00
Boots, per pair   40.00
Overcoats, each   25.00
Hats, each   15.00
Flour, per barrel   $40.00 to 60.00
Corn, per bushel   3.25
Butter, per pound   1.75
Bacon, per pound   10.00
Soap, per pound (cheap)   1.00
Candles, per pound   2.50
Sugar, per pound   $0.50 to .75
Coffee, per pound   1.75 to 3.25
Tea, per pound   10.00 to 20.00
Cotton and wool cards, per pair   2.00
Board per week at the Battle House, in 1862   $3.50; in 1863, 8.00[466]

In May, 1862, at Huntsville, then in the hands of the Federals, some prices were, in Federal currency:—

Green tea (poor quality), per pound   $4.00
Common rough trousers, per pair   13.00
Boots, per pair   25.00
Shoes, per pair   $5.00 to 12.00[467]

In 1863, in south Alabama, in Confederate currency:—

Meat, per pound     $4.00
Lard, per pound   6.00
Salt, per sack at the works   $80.00 to 95.00
Wheat, per bushel   10.00
Corn, per bushel   3.00
A cow (worth $15 in 1860)   127.00[468]

In March, 1864, prices in Selma were as follows:—

Salt, per bushel   $30.00
Calico, per yard   10.00
Women’s common shoes, per pair   60.00
Men’s rough boots, per pair   125.00
Cotton cards (worth $1.75 in Connecticut)   85.00[469]

[Pg 181]In August, 1864, the prices in Mobile were:—

Flour, per barrel   $250.00 to $300.00
Bacon, per pound   3.00 to 5.00
Cotton thread, per spool   6.00 to 12.00
Calico, per yard   12.50 to 15.00
Common shoes, per pair   150.00 to 175.00
Boots, per pair   250.00 to 300.00
Nails, per pound   4.00
Cotton shirts (each worth 50 to 60 c. in Massachusetts)   50.00 to 60.00[470]

In November, 1864, Colonel Dabney paid the following prices in Montgomery:—

Bacon, per pound     $3.50
Beef, per pound   $2.00 to 2.50
Potatoes, per bushel   6.00
Wood, per cord   50.00
Board, per day   30.00[471]

In Russell County and east Alabama the following prices were paid in 1863-1864:—

A calico dress (9 yards)     $108.00
A plain straw hat   100.00
Half a quire of note paper   40.00
Morocco shoes   375.00
Coffee, per pound   $30.00 to 70.00
Corn, per bushel   12.00 to 13.00
Wax candles, each   .10
Wages, per day   30.00
Soldier’s pay, per month (which he seldom received)   11.00[472]

In southwest Alabama, in December, 1864, prices were:—

A mule (worth before the war $75.00 to $120.00)   $800.00 to $1200.00
A horse (worth before the war $120.00 to $250.00)   1200.00 to 2500.00
A wagon and team cost   2940.00
Beef cattle, each   930.00[473]

At the close of 1864, in Mobile, Alabama, $1 in gold was worth $25 in state currency, and prices were as follows:—

Wheat, per bushel   $30.00 to $40.00
Corn, per bushel   10.00
Coffee, per pound   20.00
[Pg 182]Fresh beef, per pound   150.00
Bacon, per pound   4.00
Domestics, per yard   5.00
Calico, per yard   15.00
A horse   $1500.00 to 2000.00
Salt, per sack   150.00 to 200.00
Quinine, per ounce   150.00[474]

The War Department published, on September 26, 1864, the following prices[475] as agreed upon by the commissioners of February 17, 1864, for the states east of the Mississippi:—

Bacon, per pound   $2.50
Fresh beef, per pound   .70
Flour, per barrel   40.00
Meal, per bushel   4.00
Rice, per pound   .30
Peas, per bushel   6.50
Sugar, per pound   3.00
Coffee, per pound   6.00
Candles, per pound   3.75
Soap, per pound   1.00
Vinegar, per gallon   2.50
Molasses, per gallon   10.00
Salt, per pound   .30

The commissioners’ prices were always lower than the prevailing market price.

A little property or labor would pay a large debt. Merchants did not want to be paid in money, and were sorry to see a debtor come in with great rolls of almost worthless currency. Barter was increasingly resorted to. There were so many different series and issues of money and so many regulations concerning it that no one could know them all, and this operated to discredit the currency. Besides, it was known that much of it was counterfeited at the North and quantities sent South. Prices advanced rapidly in 1865; state money was worth more than Confederate money, though it was much depreciated. Board was worth $600 a month; meals, $10 to $25 each; a boiled egg, $2; a cup of imitation coffee, $5. After the news of Lee’s surrender, few would accept the paper money, though for[Pg 183] two or three months longer, in remote districts, state money remained in circulation.

When Wilson’s army was marching into Montgomery, a young man asked an old negro woman who stood gazing at the soldiers if she could give him a piece of paper to light his pipe. She fumbled in her pocket and handed him a one-dollar state bill. “Why, auntie, that is money!” remarked the young man. “Haw, haw!” the old crone chuckled, “light it, massa; don’t you see de state done gone up?”[476]


Sec. 3. Blockade-running and Trade through the Lines


For several months after the secession of the state, its one important seaport—Mobile—was open, and export and import trade went on as usual. The proclamation of Lincoln, April 19, 1861, practically declared a blockade of the ports of the southern states. A vessel attempting to enter or to leave was to be warned, and if a second attempt was made, the vessel was to be seized as a prize.[477] By proclamations of April 27 and August 16, 1861, the blockade was extended and made more stringent. All vessels and cargoes belonging to citizens of the southern states found at sea or in a port of the United States were to be confiscated.[478] As the summer advanced, the blockade was made more and more effective, until finally, at the end of 1861, the port of Mobile was closed to all but the professional blockade-runners.[479] The fact that the legislature in the fall of 1861 was fostering various new industries and purchasing certain articles of common use shows that the effects of the blockade were beginning to be felt.[480]

[Pg 184]At first the general confidence in the power of King Cotton made most southern people desire to let the blockade assist the work of war, and, by creating a scarcity of cotton abroad, cause foreign governments to recognize the Confederate government and raise the blockade.[481] The pinch of want soon made many forget their faith in the power of cotton; there was a general desire to get supplies through the blockade and to send cotton in exchange. The state administration was distinctly in favor of blockade-running and foreign trade.[482] In 1861 the legislature incorporated two “Direct Trading Companies,” giving them permission to own and sail ships between the ports of the state and the ports of foreign countries for the purpose of carrying on trade.[483] The general regulation of foreign commerce, however, fell to the Confederate government, which was distinctly opposed to all blockade-running not under its immediate control and supervision. The state authorities complained that the course of the Confederate administration was harsh and unnecessary. The state was willing to prohibit blockade-running on private account, but insisted that its public vessels be allowed to import supplies needed by the state. The complaint about restrictions on trade was general throughout the southern states and, in October, 1864, the southern governors, in a meeting in Augusta, Georgia, Governor Watts of Alabama taking a leading part, declared that each state had the right to export its productions and import such supplies as might be necessary for state use or for the use of[Pg 185] the state troops in the army, state vessels being used for this purpose. The governors united in a request to Congress to remove the restrictions on such trade.[484] But the Confederate administration to the last retained control of foreign trade. Agents were sent abroad by the Treasury and War Departments[485] who were instructed to send on vessels attempting to run the blockade, first, arms and ammunition; second, clothing, boots, shoes, and hats; third, drugs and chemicals that were most needed, such as quinine, chloroform, ether, opium, morphine, and rhubarb. These agents were instructed to see that all vessels leaving for southern ports were laden with the articles named. Such part of the cargoes as was not taken by the government was sold at auction to the highest bidder. These blockade auction sales were attended by merchants from the inland towns, whose shelves were almost bare of goods during three years of the war.[486] For two years military and naval supplies were the most important articles brought into the southern ports. The Alabama troops were in great need of all kinds of war equipment, and the state administration made every effort to obtain military supplies from abroad. Shipments of arms from Europe were made to the West Indies, generally to Cuba, and thence smuggled into Mobile and other Gulf ports. The shipments were always long delayed while waiting for a favorable opportunity to attempt a run. A large proportion of the blockade-runners making for Mobile were captured by the United States vessels.[487] Dark nights, and rainy, stormy weather furnished the opportunity to the runners to slip into or out of a port. Once at sea, nothing could catch them, since they were built for fast sailing rather than for capacity to carry freight.[488]

[Pg 186]Most of the arms secured by Alabama came by way of Cuba, as did nearly all the supplies that entered the port of Mobile or were smuggled in on boats along the coast. Havanna was 590 miles from Mobile, and between these ports most of the blockade trade of the Gulf Coast was carried on. One shipment, welcomed by the state authorities, was a lot of condemned Spanish flint-lock muskets, which were remodelled and repaired and placed in the hands of the state troops. Machinery for the naval foundry and arsenal at Selma and for the navy-yard on the Tombigbee was brought through the blockade from England via the West Indies. The Confederate government, besides taking its own half of each cargo, had the first choice of all other goods brought through the blockade and usually chose shoes, clothing, and medicine. The state could only make contracts for the importation of supplies; it could not import them on its own vessels. The Confederate government paid high prices for goods, but, on the whole, paid much less than did the private individual for the remainder of the cargo when sold at auction. The merchants made large profits on the few articles of merchandise secured by them. Speculators bought up lots of merchandise at Mobile and carried them far inland, to the small towns and villages of the Black Belt and farther north, and secured fabulous prices in Confederate money for ordinary calico, shoes, women’s apparel, etc. The central part of the state was more completely shut from the outside world than any other section of the South. The Federal lines touched the northern part of the state, but the traffic carried on through the lines seldom reached the central counties. Consequently, the arrival of a merchant in the Black Belt village with a small lot of blockade calicoes, shoes, hats, scented soap, etc., was a great event, and people came from far and near to gaze upon the fine things exhibited in the usually empty show windows. Few had sufficient Confederate money to buy the commonest articles, but some one could always be found to purchase the latest useless trifle that came from abroad.[489]

[Pg 187]In exchange for goods thus imported, the blockade-runners carried out cargoes of cotton. As has been stated, the Confederate administration was in charge of cotton exportation. The Confederate Treasury Department purchased in Alabama 134,252 bales of cotton for $13,633,621.90—that is, $101.55 a bale. This cotton was to be sold abroad for the benefit of the Confederate government. Nearly all the cotton purchased by the government was in the great producing states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Alabama furnished more than any other state. In 1864 3226 bales of cotton were shipped from Mobile by the Treasury Department, and the proceeds applied to the support of the Erlanger Loan. To avoid competition between the departments of the government, it was agreed, June 1, 1864, that all stores for shipment should be turned over to the Treasury, transported to the vessels by the War Department, and consigned to Treasury agents in the West Indies or in Europe. It was to be sold finally by the Treasury agent at Liverpool and the proceeds placed to the credit of the Treasury. The export business was under the direction of the Produce Loan Office, which had charge of all government cotton and tobacco. Contracts were usually made with companies, to whom the government turned over the cotton for shipment. In November, 1864, there were 115,450 bales of government cotton in Alabama, 18,802 bales having been sold. It is hardly possible that it was all exported; some of it was sold through the lines.[490] It was found very difficult to secure bagging and ties sufficient to bale the cotton for shipping.

The state lost much as well as gained by trade through the blockade. The risks were great and the exporters had to have a large share of the profit; but arms, medicine, and blankets were valuable and very necessary. In spite of regulations, the blockade-runners brought in more luxuries than necessaries, causing much extravagance, and there were people who objected to the practice altogether. In March, 1863, the Mobile Committee of Safety reported that there were several vessels then in the harbor fitting out to carry cotton to Cuba. They were of the opinion that the government ought not to allow them to depart, since the country could not afford to lose[Pg 188] the vessels with their machinery, which could not be replaced. Governor Shorter agreed with them, and a protest was made to the Richmond authorities; but the vessels went out.[491] Judge Dargan, whom many things troubled, wrote to the Richmond authorities that the blockade-runners were ruining the country by supplying the enemy with cotton and bringing in return useless gewgaws.[492]

From March 1, 1864, to the end of the war, the Confederate government succeeded better in regulating the imports by blockade-runners. But after August, when Farragut captured the forts defending the harbor entrance, the port of Mobile received little from the outside world. Before the stringent regulations of the Confederacy went into force, blockade-running was demoralizing. The importers refused to accept paper money for their goods, and thus discredited currency while draining specie from the country. High prices and extortion followed. Cotton, instead of being exchanged for British gold, brought in trinkets, silks, satins, laces, broadcloths, brandy, rum, whiskey, fancy slippers, and ladies’ goods generally. Curiously enough, there was great demand for these, in spite of the wants of the necessaries of life, medicine, and munitions of war. Delicate women, old persons, and children suffered most from the effects of the blockade. As Spears says, there were many tiny graves made in the South because the blockade kept out necessary medicines.[493]

The blockade reduced the Confederacy; the Union navy rather than the Union army was the prime factor in crushing the South; it made possible the victories of the army. As it was, the blockade-runners probably postponed the end for a year or more.[494] Though the number of blockade-runners increased in the latter part of 1864 and in 1865, Alabama profited but little; her one good seaport was closed in August, 1864, by Farragut’s fleet, and with the fleet came the last regular blockade-runner. As the warships were moving up to engage the forts, a blockade-runner passed in with them unnoticed.[495] Small boats still brought in supplies.

 [Pg 189]

Trade through the Lines

The early policy of the Confederate administration was to bring the North to terms by shutting off the cotton supply and by ceasing to purchase supplies which had heretofore been a source of great profit to northern merchants, and was, on the whole, consistently adhered to during the war. The state administration held the same theory until one-fourth of its people were destitute; then it was ready to relax restrictions on trade.[496] Individuals who had plenty of cotton and little to eat and wear soon came to the conclusion that traffic with the North would do no harm, but much good. The United States wanted the products of the South, and made stronger efforts to get them than the blockaded South made to get supplies by the exchange. Until the very last, the North was more active in commercial intercourse than the South, notwithstanding the fearful want all over the southern country. The policy of the North was to have all trade in southern products pass through the hands of its own Treasury agents, who were to strip such products of all extraordinary profits for the benefit of the United States Treasury, and to see that the Confederacy profited as little as possible.[497] The Confederate States government, when forced to allow some kind of trade through the lines, sought to sell only government cotton or to force traders to traffic under its license. The state administration, at times, worked in its agents under Confederate license in order to get supplies for the destitute in the counties near the lines of the enemy. Few regulations of [Pg 190]commercial intercourse were made by the Confederate States, but many were made by the United States. The Confederate States had the problem almost under control; the United States did not, and had to try to regulate what it could not prohibit.

Trade along the Tennessee and Mississippi frontier was subject to the following regulations on the side of the United States: Trade was carried on under the control of the Treasury Department; all trade had to be licensed; there were numerous officials to regulate the trade and the army was directed to assist traders; no coin, no foreign money, and no supplies were to be allowed to get to the Confederates; the trader must not go within Confederate territory; until 1864 the southern seller, whither Confederate or Union, when he went beyond the lines could get only 25 per cent of the New York value of his produce; from 1864 to 1865 he could get 75 per cent of the value if the cotton were not produced by slave labor; in all cases the seller had to take the oath of allegiance to the United States. These regulations were gradually repealed during the latter part of 1865 and early in 1866.[498]

The legislation of the Confederate States was not so full, but the policy was about the same and more consistently enforced. In 1862 the Confederate Congress made it unlawful to sell in any part of the Confederate States in the possession of the enemy any cotton, tobacco, rice, sugar, molasses, or naval stores.[499] Licenses, however, for the sale of certain merchandise could be obtained from the Secretary of War. Trade through the lines was not under the supervision of Treasury officials but was looked after by the generals commanding the frontier. In 1864 a law of Congress prohibited the export of[Pg 191] military and naval stores, and agricultural production, such as cotton and tobacco, except under regulations prescribed by the President.[500]

But the restrictions were not strictly enforced. It was not possible to do so; commerce would find a way in spite of the war. The people of Alabama were, on the whole, disposed to approve the policy of the Confederate authorities, but, when want and destitution came, the owners of cotton proceeded to find a way to sell a few bales. Early in 1863 north Alabama was occupied by the Federals, and trade began along the line of the Tennessee River. Later, there were trade lines to the northwest through Mississippi, and to the northeast through Georgia and Tennessee.[501] After the capture of New Orleans, cotton was sent through Mississippi to New Orleans, or to the banks of the Mississippi River, and always found purchasers. There was a thriving trade between Mobile and New Orleans during the Butler régime in the latter city.

By the trade through the lines, the people of Alabama secured more of the scarcer commodities than by the blockade-running. Much of the trade was carried on by firms in Mobile that had agents or branch houses in New Orleans. Three pounds of cotton were exchanged for one of bacon; army supplies, clothing, blankets, and medical stores were secured in exchange for cotton; salt was also a commodity much in demand. For three years, from 1862 to 1864, trade was quite brisk between the two cities, some of it under license by the Confederate Secretary of War, and some of it purely contraband. As long as Butler controlled New Orleans there was no trouble.[502] When General Canby went to New Orleans, he reported that English houses in Mobile were making contracts to export 200,000 bales of[Pg 192] cotton via New Orleans, and expected to realize $10,000,000 net profits. Canby was of the opinion that the cotton trade aided the Confederates. The character of the Treasury agents in charge of the cotton trade was bad; they were likely to do anything for gain. He stated on the authority of a New Orleans banker, who was the agent of a cotton speculator, that Confederate agents would come to New Orleans with United States legal tender notes and invest in sterling with him, drawing against cotton which was ostensibly purchased from “loyal” or foreign citizens.[503] The speculators would give information to the Confederates with regard to the movements of the Federals, in order that the Confederates might preserve cotton that would in an emergency be destroyed. The speculators would buy the cotton later.

In 1864 a New York manufacturer testified that he had made contracts with firms in Selma, Montgomery, and Mobile to take pay for debts due him in cotton delivered through the lines at New Orleans. The price was $1.24 to $1.30 a pound in New York. Treasury agents made similar contracts for Alabama cotton to be delivered through New Orleans, Pensacola, or through the lines in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Georgia. One agent, H. A. Risley, made contracts with half a dozen persons for more than 350,000 bales of cotton, the bulk of which was to come from Alabama. Most of this, it is needless to say, was not delivered.[504]

The Confederate officials tried to manage that only government cotton went out under the licenses from the War Department and that only necessary supplies were imported in exchange. But there was much abuse of the privilege and much private smuggling of cotton in 1864, through the Mississippi to New Orleans and the river; and on September 22, 1864, General Dick Taylor (at Selma) annulled all cotton export contracts in the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana. However, he said, the Confederate authorities would purchase necessaries imported and would pay for them in cotton at 50 cents a pound. This cotton could then be carried beyond the lines. No luxuries were to be imported, under penalty of confiscation.[505]

[Pg 193]Surgeon Potts, of the Confederate army, stationed at Montgomery, secured medical supplies from the Federal lines in Louisiana and Mississippi, both by water and by land, sending cotton in exchange. One of the last reports made to President Davis was by Lieutenant-Colonel Brand, of Miles’s Louisiana Legion, who stated (April 9, 1865, at Danville, Virginia) that on March 21, 1865, a Mr. McKnight of the Alabama Reserves had presented a permit to General Hodges in Louisiana for indorsement and orders for a grant to escort 1,666,666⅔ pounds of cotton (about 4000 bales) through southwestern Mississippi and eastern Louisiana to exchange for medical supplies for Surgeon Potts. Brand was of the opinion that this was merely a scheme to sell cotton and not to get medicines, as he had known of only one wagon-load of medical supplies that had gone through his territory to Dr. Potts. McKnight had no government cotton to carry, for there was none in that section of the country, but he expected to buy it as a speculation. This practice, Brand stated, was common. Even government cotton would be sold for coffee, soap, flour, etc., under the name of medical supplies, and these would be sold by the speculators.[506]

In north Alabama a brisk trade was carried on for three years with the connivance of the Federal officers, many of whom were interested in the fleecy staple in spite of orders forbidding such conduct.[507] Negroes were given “free papers” in order that they might go in and out of the lines of the armies on contraband trade. The Confederate officials on the border were also often implicated in the traffic or connived at it through a desire to see poor people get supplies.[508]

One of the mildest charges against the Federal General O. M. Mitchel was that he had profited by speculation in the contraband[Pg 194] trade in cotton while he was in command in north Alabama. It was alleged that he used United States transportation to haul cotton when the transportation was needed for other purposes. Mitchel claimed that personally he had received no profit from his trade; it appeared, however, that he had used his official position to advance the interests of his brother-in-law and his son-in-law. The discussion over his case brought out the fact that the northern cotton speculator or agent would go into the Confederate lines and buy cotton at ten and eleven cents a pound, Confederate currency, and take the cotton North and realize immense profits.[509] Mitchel and other Federal officers, it was shown, approved and assisted the trade beyond the lines.[510]

Individual permits were sometimes given by President Lincoln, authorizing the bearers to go within the Confederacy, without restriction, and get cotton and other southern produce. Sometimes, after bringing it out, these people lost their cotton to United States Treasury agents, because the permission given by the President was not in accordance with the Treasury regulations. In north Alabama several agents got into trouble in this way. Lincoln, it seems, understood that the laws gave him authority to issue permits to trade within the Confederate lines.[511]

In 1864, when cotton was selling at forty to fifty cents a pound in coin, numbers of Federal officers resigned in order to speculate in cotton. A former beef contractor who had grown rich in the cotton trade was said to have controlled almost the whole of Huntsville. Both hotels, the waterworks, and the gas works belonged to him, and there was complaint of his extortions.[512]

Small packages, especially of quinine, were sent South through the Adams Express Company, which would guarantee to deliver them within the Confederacy.[513] This caused speculation, and it was finally stopped. Women passed through the lines and brought back quinine and other medicines concealed in their clothing. A druggist in middle Alabama determined to carry on a contraband trade in[Pg 195] cotton and drugs. The South had prohibited private trade in cotton; the North forbade the sale of medical supplies to the Confederates. But following the example of many others, he went into north Mississippi, loaded a wagon with cotton, and carried it to Memphis, then held by the Federals, and sold it for a high price in United States money. He then exchanged his wagon for an ambulance with a white canvas cover, on which was painted the word “SMALLPOX” in large letters, and over which fluttered a yellow flag. He loaded the ambulance with quinine, ether, morphine, and other valuable drugs, and other articles of merchandise scarce in Alabama. The yellow flag and the magic word “SMALLPOX” kept people away, and, after many adventures, he finally reached home.[514] Only by such methods could the beleaguered people obtain the precious medicines.

One of the last contracts on record in respect to trade through the lines was a deal made on January 6, 1865, by Samuel Noble and George W. Quintard, his agent, both of Alabama, to deliver several thousand bales of cotton to an agent of the United States Treasury.[515] There is evidence that some of the cotton was delivered.

The illicit trade in cotton by private parties became so flagrant that in the winter of 1864-1865, a fresh Confederate regiment, which had not yet been touched by the fever of speculation, was sent from the interior of Georgia to guard part of the frontier in Alabama and Mississippi. One of the first persons captured smuggling a cotton train through the lines was the wife of the Confederate commanding general, who, of course, released her.[516] Much of the trade was carried on by poor people who had a few bales of cotton and who were obliged to sell it or suffer from want. This fact caused the Confederate officers to be lax in the enforcement of the regulations.[517]

[Pg 196]The extraordinary prices of cotton in the outside world brought little gain to the blockaded Confederacy. Before the cotton could be brought into the Union lines or beyond the blockade, all the profits had been absorbed by the Confederate speculator, or, most often, by the Union speculators and Treasury agents. Theoretically, the regulations of the United States should have brought much profit to the Federal government. In fact, as Secretary Chase reported, the United States did not realize a great deal from Confederate staples brought into the Union lines. These frauds and the demoralizing effects of the system were evidenced by many reports from officers from the army and navy.[518]

But in spite of the demoralizing effects of the contraband trade within the Confederacy and in spite of the extremely low prices obtained for Confederate staples, much-needed supplies were sent in in such quantities as to enable the contest to be maintained much longer than otherwise it would have lasted. Owing to its interior location, it is probable that Alabama profited less by this trade than the other states.


Sec. 4. Scarcity and Destitution

When the men went away to the army, many poor families began to suffer for the necessaries of life. The suffering was greater in the white counties, where slaves were relatively few, many families feeling the touch of want as soon as the breadwinners left. The Black Belt had plenty, such as it was, until the end of the war.

The first legislature, after the secession of the state, levied a special tax of 25 per cent of the regular tax for the next year to provide for the destitute families of absent volunteers.[519] A month later a law was passed permitting counties to assume the tax and to pay the amount into the state treasury, and thus secure exemption from the state tax.[520] The county commissioners were directed to appropriate money from the county treasury for the support of the[Pg 197] indigent families of soldiers.[521] This was to secure immediate relief, which was imperatively necessary, since the special tax for their benefit would not be collected until the next year.

Early in 1862 portions of north Alabama were so devastated by the Federals that many people, to escape starvation, had to “refugee” to other parts of the country, usually to middle Alabama, there to be supported by the state. At this time all crops were short, owing to a drought, and the poorer people suffered greatly.[522] Speculators had advanced the prices on food, and wage-earners were unable to buy. Impressment by the government made farmers afraid to bring produce to town.[523]

The county commissioners were authorized in 1862 to levy for the next year a tax equal to the regular state tax and to use it for the benefit of the destitute.[524] The state also made an appropriation of $2,000,000 for the same purpose. This appropriation was to be distributed by the county commissioners in the form of supplies or money. The families of substitutes were not made beneficiaries of this fund.[525] The sum of $60,000 was appropriated for cotton and wool spinning cards, which were to be purchased abroad and distributed among the counties in proportion to the white population. They were sold at cost to those able to buy,[526] and several distributions were made to the needy families of soldiers.[527] Salt was the scarcest of all the necessaries of life. The state took entire charge of the whole supply that was for sale and sold it at a moderate price, sometimes at cost, and to those in great need it was furnished free.[528] The county commissioners were authorized to hire and rehire slaves and take in return provisions, which were distributed among the poor families of soldiers.[529] The commissioners of Sumter and Walker counties were permitted to borrow $10,000 in each county for the poor, and to levy a tax of 50 per cent of the state tax with which to repay the borrowed money.[530]

Judge Dargan, member of Congress, wrote to President Davis[Pg 198] in the winter of 1862 that many people of Mobile were destitute.[531] Mobile was farther away from country supplies, and the people suffered greatly. In the spring of 1863 there was suffering in the southern white counties. A party of women, the wives and daughters of soldiers, raided a provision shop in Mobile, when there were instances of dire distress in the families of soldiers.[532] The richer citizens of the city gave $130,000 to support a free market, where for a while 4000 needy persons were furnished daily. Another contribution of $70,000 was raised to clothe a thousand destitute families.[533]

In 1863 the non-combatants of north Alabama suffered more than in the previous year. Houses had been burned, grain and provisions destroyed, and many were homeless and destitute. Numbers were driven from the country by the persecutions of the Federals and tories. The Confederate war tax and the state tax were suspended in districts invaded by the enemy,[534] and in August, 1863, the legislature appropriated $1,000,000 for the support of the destitute families of soldiers during the next three months. Twenty-five pounds of salt were also given to each member of a soldier’s family as a year’s supply.[535] Probate judges impressed provisions and paid for them out of this million-dollar fund. In November, 1863, an appropriation of $3,000,000 was made for the support of soldiers’ families during the coming year. In counties held by the enemy where there were no commissioners’ courts, the probate judges paid to soldiers’ families their share of the appropriation. The county commissioners were authorized to impress provisions for the poor if they were unable to buy them.[536] Washington County was permitted to borrow $10,000 for the relief of soldiers’ families.[537] The policy of giving a county permission to raise money for its own poor was much opposed on the ground that the counties which had furnished most soldiers and where the destitution was greatest were the least able to pay. The legislature declared then that the poor soldiers’ families should be the charge of the state.[538] The sum of[Pg 199] $500,000 was appropriated for the destitute of north Alabama, who had lost everything from the seizure and destruction by the enemy. Disloyal persons and their families were not entitled to aid.[539] Macon County was authorized to levy a tax-in-kind for the poor, and Pike County a tax-in-kind and a property and income tax, practically a duplicate of the Confederate tax.[540]

The legislature of 1864 appropriated $5,000,000 for soldiers’ families,[541] and made a special appropriation of $180,000 for the poor in the counties of Cherokee, De Kalb, Morgan, St. Clair, Marshall, and Blount, which were overrun by the enemy.[542] The probate judge of Cherokee County was authorized to act for De Kalb because the probate judge of that county had been carried off by the Federals.[543] In Lawrence County the Federals raided the probate judge’s office, and took $3000 belonging to the destitute, and the agent was robbed of $3887.50 while trying to carry it to Moulton. Both losses were made good by the state.[544]

Statutes were repeatedly passed, prohibiting the distilling of grain for the purpose of making alcoholic liquors. The state placed this industry under the supervision of the governor, and alcohol and whiskey were distributed among the counties where most needed, to be sold at a moderate price for medicinal purposes, and the profit given to the poor, or to be given away upon physicians’ prescriptions. Later the prohibition was extended to include potatoes, peas, and even molasses and sugar. This prohibition was not a temperance measure, but was designed to preserve as foodstuffs the grain, molasses, peas, and potatoes.[545]

The county commissioners usually had charge of the destitute, and looked after the collection of the special taxes which were levied for the benefit of the poor. They also distributed the supplies, purchased or collected by the tax-in-kind, among the needy people after investigating the merits of each case. In those portions of the state overrun by the enemy or liable to repeated invasion, the probate judge of the county was authorized to take charge of[Pg 200] all matters relating to the relief of the destitute. Many thousand dollars’ worth of supplies were furnished the northern counties when they were within the Federal lines or between the hostile lines. Many of the supplies sent there fell into the hands of tories or Federals, and many undeserving persons obtained assistance. Confederate sympathizers within the Federal lines had a struggle to live, and numbers, completely ruined by the ravages of the Federals and tories, had to flee to the central and southern counties.

The quartermaster-general of the state had charge of the state distribution among the counties, and among the Confederate soldiers. There was an agent of the state whose business it was to look after claims for pay and bounty due the families of deceased soldiers. It is safe to say that little was ever collected on this account.[546] The Confederate soldiers, as plentiful as paper money was, were rarely paid. Much of their supplies came from home. The Confederate government could not supply them even with blankets and shoes. This the state undertook to do and with some degree of success. And at one time, however (1862), after impressing all the leather and shoes in the state, only one thousand pairs could be secured.[547] Agents were sent with the armies going north into Kentucky and Maryland to buy supplies of blankets, shoes, woollen clothing, and salt, for the state. Blankets could not be obtained except by capture, running the blockade, or purchase through the lines, as there was not a blanket factory in the Confederacy in 1862. In the following year the carpets in the state capitol were torn up and sent to the Alabama soldiers to be used as blankets.[548] In 1863 the legislature asked Congress to exempt from payment of the tax-in-kind the people of that part[Pg 201] of north Alabama which was subject to the invasions of the enemy. This was done. Congress was also asked to exempt from the payment of this tax those families of soldiers whose support was derived from white labor.[549] As a result of economic conditions the taxation fell upon the slave owners of central and south Alabama. But the suffering was much greater among the people whose supplies came from white labor. These were the people assisted by the state and county appropriations. Yet when they were able to pay the tax-in-kind, they, at times, almost rebelled against it.

It has been estimated that from the latter part of 1862 to the close of the war at least one-fourth of the white population of the state was supported by the state and counties. This estimate does not include the soldiers.[550] A letter written in April, 1864, to the governor, from Talladega County discloses the following facts in regard to that county: With a white population of 14,634, it had furnished up to April, 1864, 27 companies of volunteers, not counting those who volunteered in other regiments or who furnished substitutes or were enrolled in the reserves or militia. The citizens of the county pledged the soldiers that they would raise $20,000 annually, if necessary, for the support of the soldiers’ families. In May, 1861, 30 persons received aid from the county; in April, 1864, 3799. In 1863, the county received about $80,000 from the state for the poor, and 25 pounds of salt for each member of needy families of soldiers. In addition to this the people of the county raised in that year, for the poor, $7276 in cash, 2570 bushels of corn, 102 bushels of wheat, and 16 sacks of salt. The county bought 21,755 bushels of corn at $3 a bushel, and sold it at 50 cents a bushel to the poor; 920 bushels of wheat at $10 a bushel and sold it at $2 a bushel; 233 sacks of salt at $80 per sack, and sold it at $20 per sack. The destitute families were those of laborers who had joined the army. They lived mostly in the hill country, where they suffered much from the tories. Many were refugees from north Alabama.[551] In May, 1864, 1600 soldiers’ families in Randolph County were supported by the state and county. Many thousand bushels of corn brought from middle Alabama had to be hauled 40 miles from the railway. Eight thousand people, or one-third of the population, were destitute. The same condition[Pg 202] existed in other white counties.[552] Colonel Gibson, probate judge of Lawrence County, relates an experience of his in caring for the destitute. He went in person to Gadsden for 100 sacks of salt. He found the sacks in a very bad condition, and repaired the whole lot with his own hands so as to preserve the precious contents. This judge, with his own money, bought cotton cards for the poor people of his county as well as salt, which at that time cost $100 a barrel.[553] The people who had supplies gave to those who had none, and thus supplemented the work of the state. They felt it a duty to divide to the last with the deserving families of the poorer soldiers.[554]

Early in the war, in order to provide against famine, the authorities, state and Confederate, began to urge the people to plant food crops only. They were asked to plant no cotton, except for home needs. Corn, wheat, beans, peas, potatoes, and other farm produce and live stock were essential.[555] During the winter of 1862-1863 there was much distress among the poor people in the cities and towns, and the next spring the senators and representatives of Alabama united in an address to the people, asking them to stop raising cotton and raise more foodstuffs and live stock. Governor Shorter begged the people to raise food crops to keep the soldiers from starving. The planters were asked as a patriotic duty to raise the largest possible quantities of supplies. The Confederate Congress also urged the people to raise provision crops instead of cotton.[556] Though hard to convince that cotton was not king, the people in 1863 and 1864 turned their attention more to food crops, and had transportation facilities been good in 1864 and 1865, there need not have been any suffering in the state, and the armies could have been fed better.[557]

Because of the few railways, and the bad roads, often people in one section of the state would be starving when there was an[Pg 203] abundance a hundred miles away. In the upper counties, when the soldiers’ families failed to make a crop, and when supplies were hard to get, the probate judges would give the women certificates, and send them down into the lower country for corn. Women whose husbands were at home hiding to escape the conscript officer or the squad searching for deserters, young girls, and old women came in droves into the central counties both by railway and by boat, for free passage was given them, getting off at every landing and station. With large sacks, these “corn women,” as they were called, scoured the country for corn and other provisions. Something was always given them, and these supplies were sent to the station or landing for them. Money was sometimes given to them, and a crowd of “corn women” on their way home would have several hundred dollars and quantities of provisions. These women were usually opposed to the war, and hated the army and every one in it; the negro they especially disliked. The “corn women” became a nuisance to the overseers and planters’ wives on the plantations.[558]

When there was plenty in the country, the towns and the armies were often in want. Speculators controlled the prices on whatever found its way to the market. In 1861 Governor Moore issued a proclamation condemning the extortion of tradesmen, who were buying up the necessaries of life for the purposes of speculation. Such, he declared, was unpatriotic and wicked.[559] The legislature made such an action a penal offence, and to buy up provisions and clothing on the false pretence of being a Confederate agent was “felony.”[560] In 1862 some officers of the Quartermaster’s Department were found guilty of speculation in food supplies.[561] To prevent extortion the legislature afterwards enacted that on all goods for sale or speculation, except medicine and drugs, a profit of 15 per cent only could be made. All over that amount was to be paid into the state treasury.[562] Millers were not to take more than one-eighth for toll.[563]

At times it was unlawful to buy corn or other grain for shipment[Pg 204] and sale in another part of the state or in other states. The military authorities in charge of the railroads sometimes prohibited the shipment of grain or supplies away from the regions where the armies were likely to camp or to march. In December, 1862, it was enacted that no one except the producer or miller should sell corn without a license from the judge of probate, which license limited the sale to one county for one year at a profit of not more than 20 per cent.[564] However, in 1863 the legislature authorized T. B. Bethea of Montgomery to sell corn bought in Marengo County in any market in the state.[565]

Distress was produced in south Alabama by General Pemberton’s order prohibiting shipment by private individuals from Mississippi to Alabama on the railways.[566]

In each state and later in each congressional district there were price commissioners appointed, whose duty it was to fix schedules of prices at which the articles of common use and necessity were to be sold by the owners or paid for by the government when impressed. These prices were fixed for the whole state, were usually for a term of three months, and were often below the real market value. Consequently this had no effect except to make the people hide their supplies from the government.[567] Prices necessarily varied greatly in the different sections of the state, and what was a reasonable value in central Alabama was unreasonably low in north Alabama or at Mobile. In 1863 a Confederate quartermaster in north Alabama insisted that the price commissioners must raise their prices or he would be unable to buy for the army. He wrote that wool and woollen and leather goods sold at Mobile in December, 1863, for from three to five times as much as the scheduled prices of November 1, 1863. Prices in north Alabama, he added, must be made higher than in south Alabama because there was barely enough in that section for the people themselves to live on.[568]

For months after the end of the war the inhabitants of the hill and mountain districts of north Alabama and of the pine barrens[Pg 205] of south Alabama were on the verge of starvation, and a number of deaths actually occurred. The Black Belt fared better, and recovered more quickly from the devastation of the armies.


Sec. 5. The Negro during the War

Military Uses of Negroes

The large non-combatant negro population was not wholly a source of military and economic weakness to the state. In many respects it was a source of strength to the military authorities, who employed negroes in various capacities, thus relieving whites for military service. They were employed as teamsters, cooks, nurses, and attendants in the hospitals, laborers on the fortifications at Mobile, Montgomery, and Selma, around the ordnance factories at Selma, in the salt works of Clarke County, and at the nitre works of central and southern Alabama. Half as many whites could be released for war as there were negroes employed in military industries. The negroes employed by the authorities were usually chosen because trustworthy, and they were as devoted Confederates as the whites, all in all, perhaps, more so. They were efficient and faithful, and rarely deserted to the enemy or allowed themselves to be captured, though many opportunities were offered in north Alabama.[569]

After the secession of the state and before the formation of the Confederacy numerous offers of the services of negro men were made by their masters. The legislature passed an act to regulate the use of men so proffered.[570] Where the negroes were employed in great numbers by the government they worked under the supervision, not of a government overseer, but of one appointed by the master who supported the negroes, and who was paid or promised pay for their work. In the early part of the war the white soldiers wanted to fight, but not to dig trenches, cook, drive teams, or play in the band. Congress authorized, in 1862, the employment of negroes as musicians in the army, and the enlistment of four cooks, who might be colored, for each company.[571] In the same year the state[Pg 206] legislature authorized the governor to impress negroes to work on the fortifications.[572] The state government impressed numbers of negroes as laborers in the various state industries, such as nitre and salt working, building railroads, and hauling the tax-in-kind. The legislature, in August, 1863, declared that negroes ought to be placed in all possible positions in the workshops and as laborers, and the white men thus released should be sent to the army.[573]

Most of the impressment of blacks was done by the Confederate government. The Confederate Impressment Act of March 26, 1863, provided that no farm slave should be impressed before December 1. On February 17, 1864, free negroes were made liable to service in the army as laborers and teamsters. Before the passage of this act free negroes had often been hired as substitutes, and sent to the army as soldiers in place of those who preferred the comforts of home.[574] Bishop-General Polk made a general impressment of negroes in north Alabama to work on the defences in his department, and many protests were made by the owners. A public meeting was held in April, 1864, in Talladega County to protest against further impressment of negroes. This county, in December, 1862, sent 90 negroes to the fortifications; in January, 1863, 120 more were sent; in February, 1863, 160; in March, 1863, 160; and so on. Talladega was one of the counties that had to furnish supplies to the destitute mountain counties, and the loss of labor was severely felt. Randolph and other north Alabama counties made similar protests. From north Alabama 2500 negroes were taken at one time to work on the fortifications in the Tennessee valley; this frequently occurred. Central and south Alabama and southeast Mississippi furnished many negroes to work on the fortifications at Selma, Montgomery, and Mobile. After Farragut passed the forts at Mobile, 4500 negroes were at once set to throwing up earthworks and soon had the city in safety.[575] The lines of earthworks then made by the negroes still stretch for miles around the city, through the pine woods, almost as well defined as when thrown up.

When the crack regiments of young men from the black counties[Pg 207] went to Virginia, early in 1861, nearly every soldier had with him a negro servant who faithfully took care of his “young master” and performed the rough tasks that fell to the soldier—splitting wood, digging ditches about the camp, hauling, and building. The Third Alabama regiment of infantry, one of the best, left Alabama a thousand strong in rank and file and several hundred strong in negro servants. Two years later there were no negro servants; they had been sent home when their masters were killed, or because they were needed at home, or they had been sold and “eaten up” by the youngsters, who now had to do their own work.[576] Only the officers kept body-servants after the first year or two. These servants were always faithful, even unto death. The old Confederate soldiers have pleasant recollections of the devotion of the faithful black who “fought, bled, and died” with him for four years in dreary camp and on bloody battle-field. The old soldier-servants who survive tell with pride of the times when with “young master” and “Mass Bob Lee” they “fowt the Yankees in Virginny” or at “Ilun 10.” Many a bullet was sent into the northern lines by the slaves secretly using the white soldiers’ guns. When capture was imminent, the negro servant would take watches, papers, and other valuables of the master, and, making his way through the enemy’s lines, return to the old home with messages and directions from his master, then in prison. In battle the slave was close at hand to aid his master when wounded or exhausted. With a pine torch at night he searched among the wounded and dead for his master. Finding him wounded, he cared for him faithfully, bore him to hospital or friendly house, or carried him a long journey home. Finding him dead, the devoted slave performed the last duties and alone often buried his master, and then went sadly home to break the news. Sometimes he managed to carry home his master’s body, that it might lie among kindred in the family burying-ground. If he could not do that, he carried to his mistress his master’s sword, horse, trinkets, and often his last message.[577]

The negroes were more willing to serve as soldiers than the whites were for them to serve. The slave owner did not like the idea of[Pg 208] having the negro fight, because it was felt that fundamentally the black was the cause of strife. Others were sensitive about using slave property to fight the quarrels of free men. As the years went on opinion was more and more favorable to negro enlistment, but it was too late before the Confederate government took up the matter.[578]

The average white person and the private soldiers generally were opposed to the enlistment of the negroes. The white soldier thought it was a white man’s duty and privilege to serve as a soldier and that the fight was a white man’s fight. To make a negro a soldier was to grant him military equality at least. To enlist negroes meant to abolish slavery, sooner or later: negro soldiers would be emancipated at once; the rest would be freed gradually. The non-slaveholders were more opposed to such a scheme than the slaveholders. The negro would have made a good soldier under his master, but he was worth almost as much to the Confederacy to raise supplies and perform labor.[579]

The free negro population, though less than 3000 in number, were devoted supporters of the Confederacy, and nearly all free black men were engaged in some way in the Confederate service. Some entered the service as substitutes, others as cooks, teamsters, and musicians. In Mobile they asked to be enlisted as soldiers under white officers. The skilful artisans usually stayed at home at the urgent request of the whites, who needed their work, but, nevertheless, they contributed. All accounts agree that they never avoided payment of the tax-in-kind, and other contributions. One of the best-known of the free negroes was Horace Godwin (or King)[580] of Russell County. He was a constant and liberal contributor to the support of the Confederacy. He also furnished clothes and money to the sons of his former master who were in the army, and erected a monument over the grave of their father.

 [Pg 209]

Negroes on the Farms

During the war the greater part of the farm labor in the white counties was done by old men, women, and children, and in the Black Belt by the negroes. Usually the owner, who was perhaps entitled to exemption under the “twenty-negro” law, went to war and left his family and plantation to the care of the blacks. In no known instance was the trust misplaced. There was no insubordination among the negroes, no threat of violence. The negroes worked contentedly, though they were soon aware that if the war went against their masters their freedom would result.[581] Under the direction of the mistress, advised once in a while by letter from the master in the army, the black overseer controlled his fellow-slaves, planted, gathered, and sold the crops, paid the tax-in-kind (under protest), and cared for the white family.[582] In a day’s ride in the Black Belt no able-bodied white man was to be found.[583] When raiders came, the negroes saved the family valuables and concealed the farm cattle in the swamps, and though often mistreated by the plundering soldiers because they had hidden the property, they were faithful. Women and children felt safer then, when nearly all the white men were away, than they have ever felt since among free negroes.[584] The Black Belt could never again send out one-half as many whites to war, in proportion, as in 1861-1865.

 [Pg 210]

Fidelity to Masters

The negroes had every opportunity to desert to the Federals, except in the interior of the state, but desertions were infrequent until near the close of the war. In the Tennessee valley many were captured and carried off to work in the Federal camps. Numbers of these captives escaped and gladly returned home. As the Federal armies invaded the neighboring states, negroes from Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and Mississippi were sent into the state to escape capture. In many instances the refugee slaves were in charge of one of their own number—the overseer or driver. The invading armies in 1865 found numbers of negro refugees doing their best to keep out of the way of the Federals. As a rule only the negroes of bad character or young boys deserted to the enemy or gave information to their armies. The young negroes who followed the Federal raiders did not meet with the treatment expected, and were glad enough to get back home. Most of the negroes disliked and feared the invaders until they came as intensely as the whites did.[585]

The devotion and faithfulness of the house-servants and of many of the field hands where they came in contact with the white people at “the big house” cannot be questioned.[586] On the part of these there was a desire to acquit themselves faithfully of the trust imposed in them.[587] It is one of the beautiful aspects of slavery. Yet this will not account for the good behavior of the blacks on the large plantations where a white person was seldom seen. They were as faithful almost as the house-servants. It was the faithfulness of trained obedience rather than of love or gratitude, for these were fleeting emotions in the soul of the average African.[588] On the other hand, the negro did not harbor malice or hatred. Constitutionally [Pg 211]good-natured, the negroes were as faithful to a harsh and strict master as to one who treated them as men and brothers. Where one would expect a desire and an effort for revenge, there was nothing of the sort. Not so much love and fidelity, but training and discipline, made insurrection impossible among the blacks. Moreover, the negro lacked the capacity for organization under his own leaders. Had there been strong leaders and agitators, especially white ones, it is likely that there would have been insurrection, and a negro rising in Marengo County would have disbanded the Alabama troops. But the system of discipline prevented that.

The good church people maintain that one of the strongest influences to hold the negro to his duty was his religion. He had often been carefully instructed by preachers, black and white, and by his white master, and his religion was a real and living thing to him. Invariably the influence of the sturdy old black plantation preacher was exerted for good. This influence was strongly felt on the large plantations, where the negroes seldom held converse with white men.[589]

The negroes were frightened, during the last months of the war, at possible capture by the Federals and forced enlistment or deportation to freedom and work in camps. They had somewhat the small white child’s idea of a “Yankee” as some kind of a thing with horns. When the end was at hand and the bonds of the social order were loosening, the negro heard more of the freedom beyond the blue armies, and some of them hoped for and welcomed the invaders. When the armies came at last, most of the negroes helped, as before, to save all that could be saved from the plunderers. At the worst, the negro celebrated freedom by quitting work and following the armies. Much stealing was done by them with the encouragement of their deliverers, but the behavior of the blacks was always better than that of the invaders. Many rode off the plantation stock in order to be[Pg 212] able to follow the army to freedom and no work. Some burned buildings, etc., because the army did. Most of the former house-servants remained faithful to the whites until it was no longer safe for a black man to be the friend of a native white.

On the whole the behavior of the slaves during the war, whatever may be the causes, was most excellent. To the last day of bondage the great majority were true against all temptations. With their white people they wept for the Confederate slain, were sad at defeat, and rejoiced in victory.[590]


Sec. 6. Schools and Colleges; Newspapers and Publishing Houses

Schools and Colleges

During the first year of the war the higher institutions of learning kept their doors open and the common schools went on as usual. The strongest educational institution was the University of Alabama, which was supported by state appropriations. In 1860 a military department was established at the university under Captain Caleb Huse, U.S.A., who afterwards became a Confederate purchasing agent in Europe. This step was not taken in anticipation of future trouble with the United States, but had been contemplated for years. The student body had been rather turbulent and hard to control, and for the sake of order they were put under a strict military discipline similar to the West Point system. Many students resigned early in 1861 and went into the Confederate service. Others, proficient in drill, were ordered by the governor to the state camps of instruction to drill the new regiments. There were no commencement exercises in 1861; but the trustees met and conferred degrees upon a graduating class of fifty-two, the most of whom were in the army.

The fall session of 1861 opened with a slight increase of students,[Pg 213] but they were younger than usual,—from fourteen to seventeen years, and not as well prepared as before the war. Parents sent young boys to school to keep them out of the army; many went to get the military training in order that they might become officers later; the state needed officers and encouraged military education. The university was required to furnish drill-masters to the instruction camps without expense to the state. As soon as the boys were well drilled they usually deserted school and entered the Confederate service. This custom threatened to break up the school, and in 1862 all students were required to enlist as cadets for twelve months, and were not permitted to resign. Yet they still deserted in squads of two, three, and four, and went to the army. Recruiting officers would offer them positions as officers, and they would accept and leave the university. The students refused to study seriously anything except military science and tactics. Numbers refused to take the examinations in order that they might be suspended or expelled, and thus be free to enlist.

In 1862-1863, 256 students were enrolled,—more than ever before,—but mostly boys of fourteen and fifteen. The majority of them were badly prepared in their studies, and it was necessary to establish a preparatory department for them. In 1863-1864 there were 341 boys enrolled—younger than ever. At the end of this session the first commencement since 1860 was held, and degrees were conferred on a few who had enlisted and on one or two who had not. The enrolment during the session of 1864-1865 was between 300 and 400—all young boys of twelve to fifteen. The cadets were called out several times during this session to check Federal raids. Little studying was done; all were spoiling for a fight. When Croxton came, one night in 1865, the long roll was beaten, and every cadet responded. Under the command of the president and the commandant they marched against Croxton, whose force outnumbered theirs six to one. There was a sharp fight, in which a number of cadets were wounded, and then the president withdrew the corps to Marion in Perry County, where it was disbanded a few days later. It was now the end of the war. Croxton had imperative orders to burn the university buildings, and they were destroyed. There was a fine library, and the librarian, a Frenchman, begged in vain that it might be spared. The officers who[Pg 214] fired the library saved one volume—the Koran—as a souvenir of the occasion.[591]

The Hospital for the Deaf and Dumb at Talladega and the Insane Asylum were continued throughout the war by means of state aid, and after the collapse of the Confederacy were not destroyed by the Federals.[592] La Grange College, a Methodist institution at Florence, in north Alabama, lost its endowment during the war, and after the occupation of that section by the Federals was closed. After the war it was given to the state, and is now one of the State Normal Colleges. In 1861, Howard College, the Baptist institution at Marion, sent three professors and more than forty students to the army. Soon there was only one professor left to look after the buildings; the rest of the faculty and all of the students had joined the army. The endowments and equipment of the college were totally destroyed. Nothing was left except the buildings.

The Southern University at Greensboro kept its doors open for three years, but had to close in 1864 for want of students and faculty. Most of its endowment was lost in Confederate securities. After two years of war the East Alabama College at Auburn suspended exercises. The buildings were then used as a Confederate hospital. The endowment was totally lost in Confederate bonds, and after the war the property was given to the state for the Agricultural and Mechanical College, now the Alabama Polytechnic Institute. The Catholic College at Spring Hill near Mobile, the Judson Institute at Marion, a well-known Baptist College for women, and the Methodist Woman’s College at Tuskegee managed to keep going during the war.[593] The student body at both male and female colleges was composed of younger and younger students each successive year. In 1865 only children were found in any of them.

In 1860 there were many private schools throughout the state. Every town and village had its high school or academy. For several[Pg 215] years before the war military schools had been springing up over the state. State aid was often given these in the form of supplies of arms. Several were incorporated in 1860 and 1861. Private academies were incorporated in 1861 in Coffee, Randolph, and Russell counties, with the usual provision that intoxicating liquors should not be sold within a mile of the school. Charters of several schools were amended to suit the changed conditions. These schools were all destroyed, with the exception of Professor Tutwiler’s Green Springs School, which survived the war, though all its property was lost,[594] and two schools in Tuscaloosa. One of these, known as “The Home School,” was conducted by Mrs. Tuomey, wife of the well-known geologist, and the other by Professor Saunders in the building later known as the “Athenæum.”[595]

The only independent city public school system was that of Mobile, organized in 1852, after northern models. The Boys’ High School in this city was kept open during the war, though seriously thinned in numbers. The lower departments and the girls’ schools were always full.[596] The state system of schools was organized in 1855 on the basis of the Mobile system. It was not in full operation before the war came, though much had been done.

During the first part of the war public and private schools went on as usual, though there was a constantly lessening number of boys who attended. Some went to war, while others, especially in the white counties, had to stop school to look after farm affairs as soon as the older men enlisted. Teachers of schools having over twenty pupils were exempt,[597] but as a matter of fact the teachers who were physically able enlisted in the army along with their older pupils. The teaching was left to old men and women, to the preachers and disabled soldiers; most of the pupils were small girls and smaller boys. The older girls, as the war went on, remained at home to weave and spin or to work in the fields. In sparsely settled [Pg 216]communities it became dangerous, on account of deserters and outlaws, for the children to make long journeys through the woods, and the schools were suspended. The schools in Baldwin County were suspended as early as 1861.[598]

Legislation for the schools went on much as usual. After the first year few new schools were established, public or private. Appropriations were made by the legislature and distributed by the county superintendents. When the Federals occupied north Alabama, the legislature ordered that school money should be paid to the county superintendents in that section on the basis of the estimates for 1861.[599] The sixteenth section lands were sold when it was possible and the proceeds devoted to school purposes.[600] A Confederate military academy was established in Mobile and conducted by army officers. The purpose of this institute was to give practical training to future officers and to young and inexperienced officers.

Few, if any, of the schools were entirely supported by public money. The small state appropriation was eked out by contributions from the patrons in the form of tuition fees. These fees were paid sometimes in Confederate money, but oftener in meat, meal, corn, cloth, yarn, salt, and other necessaries of life. The school terms were shortened to two or three months in the summer and as many in the winter. The stronger pupils did not attend school when there was work for them on the farm; consequently the summer session was the more fully attended. The school system as thus conducted did not break down, except in north Alabama, until the surrender, though many schools were discontinued in particular localities for want of teachers or pupils.

The quality of the instruction given was not of the best; only those taught who could do little else. The girls are said to have been much better scholars than the boys, whose minds ran rather upon military matters. Often their play was military drill, and listening to war stories their chief intellectual exercise.[601]

Some rare and marvellous text-books again saw the light during the war. Old books that had been stored away for two generations[Pg 217] were brought out for use. Webster’s “blue back” Speller was the chief reliance, and when the old copies wore out, a revised southern edition of the book was issued. Smith’s Grammar was expurgated of its New Englandism and made a patriotic impression by its exercises. Davies’s old Arithmetics were used, and several new mathematical works appeared. Very large editions of Confederate text-books were published in Mobile, and especially in Richmond; South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia also furnished Confederate text-books to Alabama. Mobile furnished Mississippi.[602] I have seen a small geography which had crude maps of all the countries, including the Confederate States, but omitting the United States. A few lines of text recognized the existence of the latter country. Another geography was evidently intended to teach patriotism and pugnacity, to judge from its contents. Here are some extracts from W. B. Moore’s Primary Geography: “In a few years the northern states, finding their climate too cold for the negroes to be profitable, sold them to the people living farther south. Then the northern states passed laws to forbid any person owning slaves in their borders. Then the northern people began to preach, to lecture, and to write about the sin of slavery. The money for which they had sold their slaves was now partly spent in trying to persuade the southern states to send their slaves back to Africa.... The people [of the North] are ingenious and enterprising, and are noted for their tact in ‘driving a bargain.’ They are refined and intelligent on all subjects but that of negro slavery; on this they are mad....[Pg 218] This [the Confederacy] is a great country! The Yankees thought to starve us out when they sent their ships to guard our seaport towns. But we have learned to make many things; to do without others.

“Q. Has the Confederacy any commerce?

“A. A fine inland commerce, and bids fair, sometime, to have a grand commerce on the high seas.

“Q. What is the present drawback to our trade?

“A. An unlawful blockade by the miserable and hellish Yankee nation.”[603]

In some families the children were taught at home by a governess or by some member of the family. This was the case especially in the Black Belt, where there were not enough white children to make up a school. Many mistresses of plantations were, however, too busy to look after the education of their children, and the latter, when old enough, would be sent to a friend or relative who lived in town, in order to attend school.[604] Sometimes a planter had a school on his plantation for the benefit of his own children. To this school would be admitted the children of all the whites on the plantation, and of the neighbors who were near enough to come.[605]



In 1860 there were ninety-six periodicals of various kinds published in Alabama. About twenty-five of these suspended publication during the war and were not revived afterwards. Numbers of others suspended for a short time when paper could not be secured or when being moved from the enemy. The monthly publications—usually agricultural—all suspended. The so-called “unionist” newspapers of 1860 went to the wall early in the war or were sold to editors of different political principles.[606] In spite of the existence of war, the circulation decreased. Most of the reading men were in the army; the people at home became less and less able to pay for a newspaper as the war progressed, and many persons read a[Pg 219] single copy, which was handed around the community. People who could not read would subscribe for newspapers and get some one to read for them. An eager crowd surrounded the reader. Papers left for a short time in the post-office were read by the post-office loiterers as a right. Few war papers are now in existence, there were so many uses for them after they were read.

It is said that the newspaper men did more service in the field in proportion to numbers than any other class. At the first sound of war many of them left the office and did not return until the struggle was ended. Often every man connected with a paper would volunteer, and the paper would then cease to be issued. There were instances when both father and son left the newspaper office, and one or both were killed in the war. Colonel E. C. Bullock of the Alabama troops was a fine type of the Alabama editor. The law exempted from service one editor and the necessary printers for each paper. But little advantage was taken of this; few able-bodied newspaper men failed to do service in the field.[607]

Sometimes in north Alabama publication had to cease because of the occupation of the country by the Federal forces, which confiscated or destroyed the printing outfits. It was difficult to get supplies of paper, ink, and other newspaper necessaries. No new lots of type were to be had at all during the whole war. Some papers were printed for weeks at a time on blue, brown, or yellow wrapping-paper. The regular printing-paper was often of bad quality and the ink was also bad, so that to-day it is almost impossible to read some of the papers. Others are as white and clean as if printed a year ago. A bound volume presents a variegated appearance—some issues clear and white and strong, others stained and greasy from the bad ink. The type was often so worn as to be almost illegible. In some instances, when the sense could be made out, letters were omitted from words, and even words were omitted, in order to save the type for use elsewhere.

The reading matter in the papers was not as a rule very exciting. Brief summaries were given of military operations, in which the Confederates were usually victorious, and of political events, North and South. One of the latest war papers that I have seen chronicles[Pg 220] the defeat of Grant by Lee about April 10, 1865. Letters were printed from the editor in the field; former employees also wrote letters for the paper, and items of interest from the soldiers’ letters were published. New legislation, state and Confederate, was summarized. The governor’s proclamations were made public through the medium of the county newspapers. It was about the only way in which the governor could reach his people. The orders and advertisements of the army commissaries and quartermasters and conscript officers were printed each week; there were advertisements for substitutes, a few for runaway negroes, and a very few trade advertisements. If a merchant had a stock of goods, he was sure to be found without giving notice. Notices of land sales were frequent, but very few negroes were offered for sale. The price of slaves was high to the last, a sentimental price. Many papers devoted columns and pages to the printing of directions for making at home various articles of food and clothing that formerly had been purchased from the North—how to make soap, salt, stockings, boxes without nails, coarse and fine cloth, substitutes for tea, coffee, drugs, etc.

Mobile, Montgomery, Selma, and Tuscaloosa were the headquarters of the strongest newspapers. The Mobile Tribune and the Register and Advertiser were suppressed when the city fell; the material of the latter was confiscated. Both had been strong war papers. In April, 1865, the Montgomery Advertiser sent its material to Columbus, Georgia, to escape destruction by the raiders, but Wilson’s men burned it there. In Montgomery the newspaper files were piled in the street by Wilson and burned; and when Steele came, with the second army of invasion, the Advertiser, which was coming out on a makeshift press, was suppressed, and not until July was it permitted to appear again. The Montgomery Mail, edited by Colonel J. J. Seibels, who had leanings toward peace, began early in 1865 to prepare the people for the inevitable. Its attitude was bitterly condemned by the Advertiser and by many people, but it was saved from destruction by this course.[608]

 [Pg 221]

Publishing Houses

Most of the people of Alabama had but little time for reading, and those who had the time and inclination were usually obliged to content themselves with old books. The family Bible was in a great number of homes almost the only book read. Most of the new books read were published in Atlanta, Richmond, or Charleston, though during the last two years of the war Mobile publishers sent out many thousand volumes. W. G. Clark and Co., of Mobile, confined their attention principally to text-books, but S. H. Goetzel was more ambitious. His list includes text-books, works on military science and tactics, fiction, translations, music, etc. The best-selling southern novel published during the war was “Macaria,” by Augusta J. Evans of Mobile. It was printed by Goetzel, who also published Mrs. Ford’s “Exploits of Morgan and his Men,” which was pirated or reprinted by Richardson of New York. Evans and Cogswell of Charleston published Miss Evans’s “Beulah.” Both “Macaria” and “Beulah” were reprinted in the North. Goetzel bound his books in rotten pasteboard and in wall-paper. Goetzel was also an enterprising publisher of translations. In 1864 he published (on wrapping-paper) a four-volume translation, by Adelaide de V. Chaudron, of Muhlbach’s “Joseph II and His Court.” He published other translations of Miss Muhlbach’s historical novels,—her first American publisher. Owen Meredith’s poem, “Tanhauser,” was first printed in America in Mobile. An opera of the same name was also published. Hardee’s “Rifle and Infantry Tactics,” in two volumes, and Wheeler’s “Cavalry Tactics” were printed in large editions by Goetzel for the use of Alabama troops.

Lieutenant-Colonel Freemantle’s book, “Three Months in the Southern States,” was published in Mobile in 1864, and in the same year the works of Dickens and George Eliot were reprinted by Goetzel. An interesting book published by Clark of Mobile was entitled “The Confederate States Almanac and Repository of Useful Knowledge.” It appeared annually to 1864 in Mobile and Augusta, and resembled the annual cyclopædias and year-books of to-day. Small devotional books and tracts were printed in nearly every town that had a printing-press. It is said that the church societies published no doctrinal or controversial tracts. Hundreds of different[Pg 222] tracts, such as Cromwell’s “Soldier’s Pocket Bible,” were printed for distribution among the soldiers. But not enough Bibles and Testaments could be made. The northern Bible societies “with one exception” refused to supply the Confederate sinners. The American Bible Society of New York gave hundreds of thousands of Bibles, Testaments, etc., principally for the Confederate troops. At one time 150,000 were given, at another 50,000, and the work was continued after the war. In 1862 the British and Foreign Bible Society gave 310,000 Bibles, etc., for the soldiers, and gave unlimited credit to the Confederate Bible Society.[609]

After the surrender the material of the newspapers and publishing houses was confiscated or destroyed.


Sec. 7. The Churches during the War

Attitude of the Churches toward Public Questions

The religious organizations represented in the state strongly supported the Confederacy, and even before the beginning of hostilities several of them had placed themselves on record in regard to political questions. As a rule, there was no political preaching, but at conferences and conventions the sentiment of the clergy would be publicly declared.

The Alabama Baptist Convention, in 1860, declared, in a series of resolutions on the state of the country, that though standing aloof for the most part from political parties and contests, yet their retired position did not exclude the profound conviction, based on unquestioned facts, that the Union had failed in important particulars to answer the purpose for which it was created. From the Federal government the southern people could no longer hope for justice, protection, or safety, especially with reference to their peculiar property, recognized by the Constitution. They thought themselves entitled to equality of rights as citizens of the republic, and they meant to maintain their rights, even at the risk of life and all things held dear. They felt constrained “to declare to our brethren and fellow-citizens, before mankind and before our God, that we hold ourselves subject to the call of proper authority in defence of the sovereignty and[Pg 223] independence of the state of Alabama and of her sacred right as a sovereignty to withdraw from this Union, and to make any arrangement which her people in constituent assemblies may deem best for securing their rights. And in this declaration we are heartily, deliberately, unanimously, and solemnly united.”[610] Bravely did they stand by this declaration in the stormy years that followed. A year later (1861) the Southern Baptist Convention adopted resolutions sustaining the principles for which the South was fighting, condemning the course of the North, and pledging hearty support to the Confederate government.[611] Like action was taken by the Southern Methodist Church, but little can now be found on the subject. One authority states that in 1860 the politicians were anxious that the Alabama Conference should declare its sentiment in regard to the state of the country. This was strongly opposed and frustrated by Bishops Soule and Andrew, who wanted to keep the church out of politics.[612] From another account we learn that in December, 1860, a meeting of Methodist ministers in Montgomery declared in favor of secession from the Union.[613]

In 1862 a committee report to the East Liberty Baptist Association urged “one consideration upon the minds of our membership: the present civil war which has been inaugurated by our enemies must be regarded as a providential visitation upon us on account of our sins.” This called forth warm discussion and was at once modified by the insertion of the words, “though entirely just on our part.”[614]

In 1863 the Alabama ministers—Baptist, Methodist Episcopal South, Methodist Protestant, United Synod South, Episcopal, and Presbyterian—united with the clergy of the other southern states in “The Address of the Confederate Clergy to Christians throughout the World.” The address declared that the war was being waged to achieve that which it was impossible to accomplish by violence, viz. to restore the Union. It protested against the action of the North in forcing the war upon the South and condemned the abolitionist policy of Lincoln as indicated in the Emancipation [Pg 224]Proclamation. It made a lengthy defence of the principles for which the South was fighting.[615]

By law ministers were exempt from military service.[616] But nearly all of the able-bodied ministers went to the war as chaplains, or as officers, leading the men of their congregations. It was considered rather disgraceful for a man in good physical condition to take up the profession of preaching or teaching after the war began. Young men “called to preach” after 1861 received scant respect from their neighbors, and the government refused to recognize the validity of these “calls to preach.” The preachers at home were nearly all old or physically disabled men. Gray-haired old men made up the conferences, associations, conventions, councils, synods, and presbyteries. But to the last their spirit was high, and all the churches faithfully supported the Confederate cause. They cheered and kept up the spirits of the people, held society together against the demoralizing influences of civil strife, and were a strong support to the state when it had exhausted itself in the struggle. They gave thanks for victory, consolation for defeat; they cared for the needy families of the soldiers and the widows and orphans made by war. The church societies incorporated during the last year of the war show that the state relief administration had broken down. Some of them were, “The Methodist Orphans’ Home of East Alabama,” “The Orphans’ Home of the Synod of Alabama,” “The Samaritan Society of the Methodist Protestant Church,” “The Preachers’ Aid Society of the Montgomery Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South.” The Episcopal Church was incorporated in order that it might make provision for the widows and orphans of soldiers.[617]

In 1861 the Presbyterian, Cumberland Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Methodist churches in Huntsville sent their bells to Holly Springs, Mississippi, and had them cast into cannon for a battery to be called the “Bell Battery of Huntsville.” Before they were used the cannon were captured by the Federals when they invaded north Alabama in 1862.[618]

Each command of volunteers attended church in a body before[Pg 225] departing for the front. On such occasions there were special services in which divine favor was invoked upon the Confederate cause and its defenders. Religion exercised a strong influence over the southern people. The strongest denominations were the Methodists and the Baptists. Nearly all the soldiers belonged to some church, the great majority to the two just named. The good influence of the chaplains over the undisciplined men of the southern armies was incalculable. To the religious training of the men is largely due the fact that the great majority of the soldiers returned but little demoralized by the four years of war.[619]

Not only was the southern soldier not demoralized by his army life, but many passed through the baptism of fire and came out better men in all respects. The “poor whites,” so-called, arrived at true manhood, they fought their way into the front of affairs, and learned their true worth. The reckless, slashing temper of the young bloods disappeared. All were steadied and sobered and imbued with greater self-respect and respect for others. And the work of the church at home and in the army aided this tendency; its democratic influences were strong.

The white congregations at home were composed of women, old men, cripples, and children. Among the women the religious spirit was strongest; it accounts in some degree for their marvellous courage and constancy during the war. They were often called to church to sanctify a fast. The favorite readings in the Bible were the first and second chapters of Joel. They worked and fasted and prayed for protection and for victory.[620] The Bible was the most commonly read book in the entire land. The people, naturally religious before the war, became intensely so during the struggle.[621]


The Churches and the Negroes

After the separation of the southern churches from the northern organizations the religious instruction of the negroes was conducted[Pg 226] under less difficulties, and greater progress was made. There was no longer danger of interference by hostile mission boards controlled by antislavery officials.[622] The mission work among the negroes was prospering in 1861, and while the white congregations were often without pastors during the war, the negro missions were always supplied.[623] Many negro congregations were united to white ones and were thus served by the same preacher; others were served by regular circuit riders. Some of the best ministers were preachers to the blacks, and were most devoted pastors. One winter a preacher in the Tennessee valley, when the Federals had burned the bridges, swam the river in order to reach his negro charge. The faithful[Pg 227] blacks were waiting for him and built him a fire of pine knots. He preached and dried his clothes at the same time.[624]

The fidelity of the slave during these trying times called forth expressions of gratitude from the churches, and all of them did what they could to better his social and religious condition.[625] Often when there was no white preacher, the old negro plantation preacher took his place in the pulpit and preached to the white and black congregation.[626] The good conduct of the slaves during the war was due in large degree to the religious training given them by white and black preachers and by the families of the slaveholders. The old black plantation preacher was a tower of strength to the whites of the Black Belt.[627] The missions were destroyed by the victorious Unionists, and the negro members of the southern churches were encouraged to separate themselves from the “rebel” churches; and never since have the southern religious organizations been able to enter successfully upon work among the blacks.


The Federal Armies and the Southern Churches

With the advance of the Federal armies came the northern churches. Territory gained by northern arms was considered territory gained for the northern churches. Ministers came, or were sent down, to take the place of southern ministers, who were prohibited from preaching. The military authorities were especially hostile to the Methodist Episcopal Church South,[628] and to the Protestant Episcopal Church, annoying the ministers and congregations of these bodies in every way. They were told that upon them lay the blame for the war; they had done so much to bring it on. There were very few “loyal” ministers and no “loyal” bishops, but the Secretary of War at Washington, in an order dated November 30, 1863, placed at the disposal of Bishop Ames of the northern Methodist Church, all houses of worship belonging to the southern Methodist Church in which a “loyal” minister, appointed by a “loyal” bishop, was[Pg 228] not officiating. It was a matter of the greatest importance to the government, the order stated, that Christian ministers should by example and precept support and foster the “loyal” sentiment of the people. Bishop Ames, the order recited, enjoyed the entire confidence of the War Department, and no doubt was entertained by the government but that the ministers appointed by him would be “loyal.” The military authorities were directed to support Bishop Ames in the execution of his important mission.[629] A second order, dated January 14, 1864, directed the military authorities to turn over to the American Baptist Home Mission Society all churches belonging to the southern Baptists. Confidence was expressed in the “loyalty” of this society and its ministers.[630] Other orders placed the Board of Home Missions of the United Presbyterian Church in charge of the churches of the Associate Reformed Church, and authorized the northern branches of the (O. S. and N. S.) Presbyterians to appoint “loyal” ministers for the churches of these denominations in the South.

Lincoln seems to have been displeased with the action taken by the War Department, but nothing more was done than to modify the orders so as to concern only the “churches in the rebellious states.”[631]

Under these orders churches in north Alabama were seized and turned over to the northern branches of the same denomination. In some of the mountain districts this was not opposed by the so-called “union” element of the population. But in most places bitter feelings were aroused, and controversies began which lasted for several years after the war ended. The northern churches in some cases attempted to hold permanently the property turned over to them during the war. In central and south Alabama, where the Federal forces did not appear until 1865, these orders were not enforced.

In the section of the country occupied by the enemy, the military authorities attempted to regulate the services in the various churches. Prayer had to be offered for the President of the United States and for the Federal government. It was a criminal offence to pray for the Confederate leaders. Preachers who refused to pray “loyal”[Pg 229] prayers and preach “loyal” sermons were forbidden to hold services. In Huntsville, in 1862, the Rev. Frederick A. Ross, a celebrated Presbyterian clergyman, was arrested by General Rousseau, and sent North for praying a “disloyal” prayer in which he said, “We pray Thee, O Lord, to bless our enemies and to remove them from our midst as soon as seemeth good in Thy sight.” He seems to have been released, for in February, 1865, General R. S. Stanley wrote to General Thomas’s adjutant-general protesting against the policy of the provost-marshal in Huntsville, who had selected a number of prominent men to answer certain test questions as to “loyalty.” If not answered to his satisfaction, the person catechized was to be sent beyond the lines. Among other prominent citizens two ministers—Ross and Bannister—were selected for expulsion. These, General Stanley said, had never taken part in politics, and he thought it was a bad policy. However, he stated that General Granger wanted the preachers expelled.[632]

Throughout the war there was a disposition on the part of some army officers to compel ministers of southern sympathies to conduct “loyal” services—that is, to preach and pray for the success of the Federal government. It was especially easy to annoy the Episcopal clergy, on account of the formal prayer used, but other denominations also suffered. In one instance, a Methodist minister was told that he must take the oath (this was soon after the surrender) and pray for the President of the United States, or he must stop preaching. For a time he refused, but finally he took the oath, and, as he said, “I prayed for the President; that the Lord would take out of him and his allies the hearts of beasts and put into them the hearts of men, or remove the cusses from office. The little captain never asked me any more to pray for the President and the United States.”[633]

In the churches the situation at the close of the war was not promising for peace. Some congregations were divided; church property was held by aliens supported by the army; “loyal” services were still demanded; the northern churches were sending agents[Pg 230] to occupy the southern field; the negroes were being forcibly separated from southern supervision; the policy of “disintegration and absorption” was beginning. Consequently the church question during Reconstruction was one of the most irritating.[634]


Sec. 8. Domestic Life

Society in 1861

During the early months of 1861 society was at its brightest and best. For several years social life had been characterized by a vague feeling of unrest. Political questions became social questions, society and politics went hand in hand, and the social leaders were the political leaders. The women were well informed on all questions of the day and especially on the burning sectional issues that affected them so closely. After the John Brown episode at Harper’s Ferry, the women felt that for them there could be no safety until the question was settled. They were strongly in favor of secession after that event if not before; they were even more unanimous than the men, feeling that they were more directly concerned in questions of interference with social institutions in the South. There was to them a great danger in social changes made, as all expected, by John Brown methods.[635]

Brilliant social events celebrated the great political actions of the day. The secession of Alabama, the sessions of the convention, the[Pg 231] meeting of the legislature, the meeting of the Provisional Congress, the inauguration of President Davis—all were occasions for splendid gatherings of beauty and talent and strength. There were balls, receptions, and other social events in country and in town. There was no city life, and country and town were socially one. Enthusiasm for the new government of the southern nation was at fever heat for months. At heart many feared and dreaded that war might follow, but had war been certain, the knowledge would have turned no one from his course. When war was seen to be imminent, enthusiasm rose higher. Fear and dread were in the hearts of the women, but no one hesitated. From social gayety they turned to the task of making ready for war their fathers, brothers, husbands, and sweethearts. They hurriedly made the first gray uniforms and prepared supplies for the campaign. When the companies were fitted out and ready to depart, there were farewell balls and sermons, and presentations of colors by young women. These ceremonies took place in the churches, town halls, and court-houses. Speeches of presentation were made by young women, and of acceptance by the officers. The men always spoke well. The women showed a thorough acquaintance with the questions at issue, but most of their addresses were charges to the soldiers, encouragement to duty. “Go, my sons, and return victorious or fall in the cause of the South,” or a similar paraphrase, was often heard. One lady said, “We confide [to you] this emblem of our zeal for liberty, trusting that it will nerve your hearts and strengthen your hands in the hour of trial, and that its presence will forbid the thought of seeking any other retreat than in death.” Another maiden told her soldiers that “we who present this banner expect it to be returned brightened by your chivalry or to become the shroud of the slain.” “The terrors of war are far less to be feared than the degradation of ignoble submission,” the soldiers were assured by another bright-eyed girl. The legends embroidered or woven into the colors were such as these: “To the Brave,” “Victory or Death,” “Never Surrender.”[636]

There were dress parades, exhibition drills, picnics, barbecues; and then the soldiers marched away. After a short season of feverish social gayety, the seriousness of war was brought home to the [Pg 232]people, and those left behind settled down to watch and wait and work and pray for the loved ones and for the cause. It was soon a very quiet life, industrious, strained with waiting and listening for news. For a long time the interior country was not disturbed by fear of invasion. Life was monotonous; sorrow came afresh daily; and it was a blessing to the women that they had to work so hard during the war, as constant employment was their greatest comfort.


Life on the Farm

The great majority of the people of Alabama lived in the country on farms and plantations. They had been dependent upon the North for all the finer and many of the commoner manufactured articles. The staple crop was cotton, which was sold in exchange for many of the ordinary necessaries of life. Now all was changed. The blockade shut off supplies from abroad, and the plantations had to raise all that was needed for feeding and clothing the people at home and the soldiers in the field. This necessitated a change in plantation economy. After the first year of war less and less cotton was planted, and food crops became the staple agricultural productions. The state and Confederate authorities encouraged this tendency by advice and by law. The farms produced many things which were seldom planted before the war, when cotton was the staple crop. Cereals were cultivated in the northern counties and to some extent in central Alabama, though wheat was never successful in central and south Alabama. Rice, oats, corn, peas, pumpkins, ground-peas, and chufas were grown more and more as the war went on. Ground-peas (called also peanuts, goobers, or pindars, according to locality) and chufas were raised to feed hogs and poultry. The common field pea, or “speckled Jack,” was one of the mainstays of the Confederacy. It is said that General Lee called it “the Confederacy’s best friend.” At “laying by” the farmers planted peas between the hills of corn, and the vines grew and the crop matured with little further trouble. Sweet potatoes were everywhere raised, and became a staple article of food.

Rice was stripped of its husk by being beaten with a wooden pestle in a mortar cut out of a section of a tree. The threshing of the wheat was a cause of much trouble. Rude home-made flails were used, for[Pg 233] there were no regular threshers. No one raised much of it, for it was a great task to clean it. One poor woman who had a small patch of wheat threshed it by beating the sheaves over a barrel, while bed quilts and sheets were spread around to catch the scattering grains. Another placed the sheaves in a large wooden trough, then she and her small children beat the sheaves with wooden clubs. After being threshed in some such manner, the chaff was fanned out by pouring the grain from a measure in a breeze and catching it on a sheet.

Field labor was performed in the Black Belt by the negroes, but in the white counties the burden fell heavily upon the women, children, and old men. In the Black Belt the mistress of the plantation managed affairs with the assistance of the trusty negroes. She superintended the planting of the proper crops, the cultivation and gathering of the same, and sent to the government stores the large share called for by the tax-in-kind. The old men of the community, if near enough, assisted the women managers by advice and direction. Often one old gentleman would have half a dozen feminine planters as his wards. Life was very busy in the Black Belt, but there was never the suffering in this rich section that prevailed in the less fertile white counties from which the white laborers had gone to war. In the latter section the mistress of slaves managed much as did her Black Belt sister, but there were fewer slaves and life was harder for all, and hardest of all for the poor white people who owned no slaves. When few slaves were owned by a family, the young white boys worked in the field with them, while the girls of the family did the light tasks about the house, though at times they too went to the field. Where there were no slaves, the old men, cripples, women, and children worked on the little farms. All over the country the young boys worked like heroes. All had been taught that labor was honorable, and all knew how work should be done. So when war made it necessary, all went to work only the harder; there was no holding of hands in idleness. The mistress of the plantation was already accustomed to the management of large affairs, and war brought additional duties rather than new and strange problems; but the wife of the poor farmer or renter, left alone with small children, had a hard time making both ends meet.

 [Pg 234]

Home Industries; Makeshifts and Substitutes

Many articles in common use had now to be made at home, and the plantation developed many small industries. There was much joy when a substitute was found, because it made the people independent of the outside world. Farm implements were made and repaired. Ropes were made at home of various materials, such as bear-grass, sunflower stalks, and cotton; baskets, of willow branches and of oak splints; rough earthenware, of clay and then glazed; cooking soda from seaweed and from corn-cob ashes; ink from nut-galls or ink balls, from the skin of blue fig, from green persimmons, pokeberries, rusty nails, pomegranate rind, and indigo. Cement was made from wild potatoes and flour; starch from nearly ripe corn, sweet potatoes, and flour. Bottles or gourds, with small rolls of cotton for wicks, served as lamps, and in place of oil, cotton-seed oil, ground-pea or peanut oil, and lard were used. Candles made of wax or tallow were used, while in the “piney woods” pine knots furnished all the necessary illumination. Mattresses were stuffed with moss, leaves, and “cat-tails.” No paper could be wasted for envelopes. The sheet was written on except just enough for the address when folded. In other instances wall-paper and sheets of paper with pictures on one side and the other side blank were folded and used for envelopes. Mucilage for the envelopes was made from peach-tree gum. Corn-cob pipes with a joint of reed or fig twig for a stem were fashionable. The leaves of the China tree kept insects away from dried fruit; the China berries were made into whiskey and were used as a basis for “Poor Man’s” soap. Wax myrtle and rosin were also used in making soap. Beer was made from corn, persimmons, potatoes, and sassafras; “lemonade” from may-pops and pomegranates. Dogwood and willow bark were mixed with smoking tobacco “to make it go a long way.” Shoes had to be made for white and black, and backyard tanneries were established. The hides were first soaked in a barrel filled with a solution of lye until the hair would come off, when they were placed in a pit between alternate layers of red oak bark and water poured in. In this “ooze” they soaked for several months and were then ready for use. The hides of horses, dogs, mules, hogs, cows, and goats were utilized, and shoes, harness, and saddles were made on the farm.

[Pg 235]All the domestic animals were now raised in larger numbers, especially beef cattle, sheep, goats, and hogs. Sheep were raised principally for their wool. The work of all was directed toward supplying the army, and the best of everything was sent to the soldiers.

Home life was very quiet, busy, and monotonous, with its daily routine of duty in which all had a part. There were few even of the wealthiest who did not work with their hands if physically able. Life was hard, but people soon became accustomed to makeshifts and privation, and most of them had plenty to eat, though the food was usually coarse. Corn bread was nearly always to be had; in some places often nothing else. After the first year few people ever had flour to cook; especially was this the case in the southern counties. When a family was so fortunate as to obtain a sack or barrel of flour, all the neighbors were invited in to get biscuits, though sometimes all of it was kept to make starch. Bolted meal was used as a substitute for flour in cakes and bread. Most of the meat produced was sent to the army, and the average family could afford it only once a day, many only once a week. When an epidemic of cholera killed the hogs, the people became vegetarians and lived on corn bread, milk, and syrup; many had only the first.[637] Tea and coffee were very scarce in the interior of Alabama, and small supplies of the genuine were saved for emergencies. For tea there were various substitutes, among them holly leaves, rose leaves, blackberry and raspberry leaves; while for coffee, rye, okra seed, corn, bran, meal, hominy, peanuts, and bits of parched or roasted sweet potatoes were used. Syrup was made from the juice of the watermelon, and preserves from its rind. The juice of corn-stalks was also made into syrup. In south Alabama sugar-cane and in north Alabama sorghum furnished “long sweetening.” The sorghum was boiled in old iron kettles, and often made the teeth black. In south Alabama syrup was used instead of sugar in cooking. In grinding sugar-cane and sorghum, wooden rollers often had to be made, as iron ones were scarce. However, when they could be obtained, they were passed from family to family around the community.

 [Pg 236]

Clothes and Fashions

Before the war most articles of clothing were purchased in the North or imported from abroad. Now that the blockade shut Alabama off from all sources of supply, the people had to make their cloth and clothing at home. The factories in the South could not even supply the needs of the army, and there was a universal return to primitive and frontier conditions. Old wheels and looms were brought out, and others were made like them. The state government bought large quantities of cotton and wool cards for the use of poor people. The women worked incessantly. Every household was a small factory, and in an incredibly short time the women mastered the intricacies of looms, spinning-wheels, warping frames, swifts, etc. Negro women sometimes learned to spin and weave. The whites, however, did most of it; weaving was too difficult for the average negro to learn. The area devoted to the cultivation of cotton was restricted by law, but more than enough was raised to supply the few factories then operating, principally for the government, and to supply the spinning-wheels and hand looms of the people.

As a rule, each member of the family had a regularly allotted task for each day in spinning or weaving. The young girls could not weave, but could spin;[638] while the women became expert at weaving and spinning and made beautiful cloth. All kinds of cotton goods were woven, coarse osnaburgs, sheetings, coverlets, counterpanes, a kind of muslin, and various kinds of light cloth for women’s dresses. Wool was grown on a large scale as the war went on, and the women wove flannels, plaids, balmorals, blankets, and carpets.[639] Gray jeans was woven to make clothing for the soldiers, who had almost no clothes except those sent them by their home people. A soldier’s pay would not buy a shirt, even when he was paid, which was seldom the case. Nearly every one wove homespun, dyed with home-made dyes, and it was often very pretty. The women took more pride in their neat homespun dresses than they did before the war in the possession of silks and satins. And there was friendly rivalry between them in[Pg 237] spinning and weaving the prettiest homespun as there was in making the whitest sugar, the cleanest rice, and the best wheat and corn. But they could not make enough cloth to supply both army and people, and old clothes stored away were brought out and used to the last scrap. When worn out the rags were unravelled and the short threads spun together and woven again into coarse goods. Pillow-cases and sheets were cut up for clothes and were replaced by homespun substitutes, and window curtains were made into women’s clothes. Carpets were made into blankets. There were no blanket factories, and the legislature appropriated the carpets in the capitol for blankets for the soldiers.[640] Some people went to the tanyards and got hair from horse and cow hides and mixed it with cotton to make heavy cloth for winter use, which is said to have made a good-looking garment. Once in a long while the father or brother in the army would send home a bolt of calico, or even just enough to make one dress. Then there would be a very proud woman in the land. Scraps of these rare dresses and also of the homespun dresses are found in the old scrap-books of the time. The homespun is the better-looking. No one saw a fashion plate, and each one set the style. Hoop-skirts were made from the remains of old ones found in the garrets and plunder rooms. It is said that the southern women affected dresses that were slightly longer in front than behind, and held them aside in their hands. Sometimes fortunate persons succeeded in buying for a few hundred dollars some dress material that had been brought through the blockade. A calico dress cost in central Alabama from $100 to $600, other material in proportion. Sewing thread was made by the home spinners with infinite trouble, but it was never satisfactory. Buttons were made of pasteboard, pine bark, cloth, thread, persimmon seed, gourds, and wood covered with cloth. Pasteboard, for buttons and other uses, was made by pasting several layers of old papers together with flour paste.[641]

Sewing societies were formed for pleasure and to aid soldiers and the poor. At stated intervals great quantities of clothing and supplies were sent to the soldiers in the field and to the hospitals. All[Pg 238] women became expert in crocheting and knitting—the occupations for leisure moments. Even when resting, one was expected to be doing something. Many formed the habit of knitting in those days and keep it up until to-day, as it became second nature to have something in the hands to work with. Many women who learned then can now knit a pair of socks from beginning to end without looking at them. After dark, when one could not see to sew, spin, or weave, was usually the time devoted to knitting and crocheting, which sometimes lasted until midnight. Capes, sacks, vandykes, gloves, socks and stockings, shawls, underclothes, and men’s suspenders were knitted. The makers ornamented them in various ways, and the ornamentation served a useful purpose, as the thread was usually coarse and uneven, and the ornamentation concealed the irregularities that would have shown in plain work. The smoothest thread that could be made was used for knitting. To make this thread the finest bolls of cotton were picked before rain had fallen on them and stained the fibre.

The homespun cloth had to be dyed to make it look well, and, as the ordinary dye materials could not be obtained, substitutes were made at home from barks, leaves, roots, and berries. Much experimentation proved the following results: Maple and sweet gum bark with copperas produced purple; maple and red oak bark with copperas, a dove color; maple and red walnut bark with copperas, brown; sweet gum with copperas, a nearly black color; peach leaves with alum, yellow; sassafras root with copperas, drab; smooth sumac root, bark, and berries, black; black oak bark with alum, yellow; artichoke and black oak, yellow; black oak bark with oxide of tin, pale yellow to bright orange; black oak bark with oxide of iron, drab; black oak balls in a solution of vitriol, purple to black; alder with alum, yellow; hickory bark with copperas, olive; hickory bark with alum, green; white oak bark with alum, brown; walnut roots, leaves, and hulls, black. Copperas was used to “set” the dye, but when copperas was not to be had blacksmith’s dust was used instead. Pine tree roots and tops, and dogwood, willow bark, and indigo were also used in dyes.[642]

[Pg 239]Shoes for women and children were made of cloth or knitted uppers or of the skins of squirrels or other small animals, fastened to leather or wooden soles. A girl considered herself very fortunate if she could get a pair of “Sunday” shoes of calf or goat skin. There were shoemakers in each community, all old men or cripples, who helped the people with their makeshifts. Shoes for men were made of horse and cow hides, and often the soles were of wood. A wooden shoe was one of the first things patented at Richmond. Carriage curtains, buggy tops, and saddle skirts furnished leather for uppers, and metal protections were placed on leather soles. Little children went barefooted and stayed indoors in winter; many grown people went barefooted except in winter. Shoe blacking was made from soot mixed with lard or oil of ground-peas or of cotton-seed. This was applied to the shoe and over it a paste of flour or starch gave a good polish.

Old bonnets and hats were turned, trimmed, and worn again. Pretty hats were made of cloth or woven from dyed straw, bulrushes, corn-shucks, palmetto, oat and wheat straw, bean-grass, jeans, and bonnet squash, and sometimes of feathers. The rushes, shucks, palmetto, and bean-grass were bleached by boiling and sunning. Bits of old finery served to trim hats as well as feathers from turkeys, ducks, and peafowls, with occasional wheat heads for plumes. Fans were made of the palmetto and of the wing feathers and wing tips of turkeys and geese. Old parasols and umbrellas were re-covered, but the majority of the people could not afford cloth for such a purpose. Hair-oil was made from roses and lard. Thin-haired unfortunates made braids and switches from prepared bark.

The ingenious makeshifts and substitutes of the women were innumerable. They were more original than the men in making use of what material lay ready to hand or in discovering new uses for various things. The few men at home, however, were not always of the class that make discoveries or do original things. In an account of life on the farms and plantations in the South during the war, the white men may almost be left out of the story.


Drugs and Medicines

After the blockade became effective, drugs became very scarce and home-made preparations were substituted. All doctors became botanical practitioners. The druggist made his preparations from[Pg 240] herbs, roots, and barks gathered in the woods and fields. Manufacturing laboratories were early established at Mobile and Montgomery to make medical preparations which were formerly procured abroad. Much attention was given to the manufacture of native preparations, which were administered by practitioners in the place of foreign drugs with favorable results. Surgeon Richard Potts, of Montgomery, Alabama, had exclusive charge of the exchange of cotton for medical supplies, and when allowed by the government to make the exchange, it was very easy for him to get drugs through the lines into Alabama and Mississippi. But this permission was too seldom given.[643]

Quinine was probably the scarcest drug. Instead of this were used dogwood berries, cotton-seed tea, chestnut and chinquapin roots and bark, willow bark, Spanish oak bark, and poplar bark. Red oak bark in cold water was used as a disinfectant and astringent for wounds. Boneset tea, butterfly or pleurisy root tea, mandrake tea, white ash or prickly ash root, and Sampson’s snakeroot were used in fever cases. Local applications of mustard seed or leaves, hickory leaves, and pepper were used in cases of pneumonia and pleurisy, while sumac, poke root and berry, sassafras, alder, and prickly ash were remedies for rheumatism, neuralgia, and scrofula. Black haw root and partridge berry were used for hemorrhage; peach leaves and Sampson’s snakeroot for dyspepsia and sassafras tea in the spring and fall served as a blood medicine. The balsam cucumber was used for a tonic, as also was dogwood, poplar, and rolled cherry bark in whiskey. Turpentine was useful as an adjunct in many cases. Hops were used for laudanum; may-apple root or peach tree leaf tea for senna; dandelion, pleurisy root, and butterfly weed for calomel. Corks were made from black gum roots, corn-cobs, and old life preservers. Barks were gathered when the sap was running, the roots after the leaves were dead, and medicinal plants when they were in bloom.[644] Opium was made from the poppy, cordials from the blackberry, huckleberry, and persimmon, brandy from watermelons and fruits, and wine from the elderberry.[645] Whiskey made in the hills of north Alabama, in gum log stills, formed the basis of nearly all medicinal preparations. The state had agents who looked after the proper distribution of the whiskey among the counties. The[Pg 241] castor beans raised in the garden were crushed and boiled and the oil skimmed off.[646]


Social Life during the War

Life in the towns was not so monotonous as in the country. In the larger ones, especially in Mobile, there was a forced gayety throughout the war. Many marriages took place, and each wedding was usually the occasion of social festivities. In the country “homespun” weddings were the fashion—all parties at the wedding being clad in homespun. Colonel Thomas Dabney dined in Montgomery in November, 1864, with Mr. Woodleaf, a refugee from New Orleans. “They gave me,” he said, “a fine dinner, good for any time, and some extra fine music afterwards, according to the Italian, Spanish, and French books, for we had some of each sort done up in true opera fashion, I suppose. It was a leetle too foreign for my ear, but that was my fault, and not the fault of the music.”[647] The people were too busy for much amusement, yet on the surface life was not gloomy. Work was made as pleasant as possible, though it could never be made play. The women were never idle, and they often met together to work. There were sewing societies which met once a week for work and exchange of news. “Quiltings” were held at irregular intervals, to which every woman came armed with needle and thimble. At other times there would be spinning “bees,” to which the women would come from long distances and stay all day, bringing with them in wagons their wheels, cards, and cotton. When a soldier came home on furlough or sick leave, every woman in the community went to see him, carrying her work with her, and knitted, sewed, or spun while listening to news from the army. The holiday soldier, the “bomb-proof,” and the “feather bed” received little mercy from the women; a thorough contempt was the portion of such people. “Furlough” wounds came to receive slight sympathy.[648] The soldiers[Pg 242] always brought messages from their comrades to their relatives in the community, which was often the only way of hearing from those in the army. Letters were uncertain, the postal system never being good in the country districts. Postage was ten to twenty cents on a letter, and one to five cents on small newspapers. Letters from the army gave news of the men of the settlement who were in the writer’s company or regiment, and when received were read to the neighbors or sent around the community. Often when a young man came home on furlough or passed through the country, there would be many social gatherings or “parties” in his honor, and here the young people gathered. There were parties for the older men, too, and dinners and suppers. Here the soldier met again his neighbors, or rather the feminine half of them, anxious to hear his experiences and to inquire about friends and relatives in the army. The young people also met at night at “corn shuckings” and “candy pullings,” from which they managed to extract a good deal of pleasure. At the social gatherings, especially of the older people, some kind of work was always going on. Parching pindars to eat and making peanut candy were amusements for children after supper.

The intense devotion of the women to the Confederate cause was most irritating to a certain class of Federal officers in the army that invaded north Alabama. They seemed to think that they had conquered entrance into society, but the women were determined to show their colors on all occasions and often had trouble when boorish officers were in command. A society woman would lose her social position if seen in the company of Federal officers. When passing them, the women averted their faces and swept aside their skirts to prevent any contact with the hated Yankee. They played and sang Confederate airs on all occasions, and when ordered by the military authorities to discontinue, it usually took a guard of soldiers to enforce the order. The Federal officers who acted in a gentlemanly manner toward the non-combatants were accused by their rude fellows and by ruder newspaper correspondents of being “wound round the fingers of the rebel women,” who had some object to gain. When the people of a community were especially contemptuous of the Federals, they were sometimes punished by having a negro regiment stationed as a garrison. Athens, in Limestone county, one of the most intensely[Pg 243] southern towns, was garrisoned by a regiment of negroes recruited in the immediate vicinity.[649]

For the negroes in the Black Belt life went on much as before the war. More responsibility was placed upon the trusty ones, and they proved themselves worthy of the trust. They were acquainted with the questions at issue and knew that their freedom would probably follow victory by the North. Yet the black overseer and the black preacher, with their fellow-slaves, went on with their work. The master’s family lived on the large plantation with no other whites within miles and never felt fear of harm from their black guardians. The negroes had their dances and, ’possum hunts on Saturday nights after the week’s work was done. There was preaching and singing on Sunday, the whites often attending the negro services and vice versa. Negro weddings took place in the “big house.” The young mistresses would adorn the bride, and the ceremony would be performed by the old white clergyman, after which the wedding supper would be served in the family dining room or out under the trees. These were great occasions for the negroes and for the young people of the master’s family. The sound of fiddle and banjo, songs, and laughter were always heard in the “quarters” after work was done, though Saturday night was the great time for merrymaking. In July and August, after the crops were “laid by,” the negroes had barbecues and picnics. To these the whites were invited and they always attended. The materials for these feasts were furnished by the mistress and by the negroes themselves, who had garden patches, pigs, and poultry. The slaves were, on the whole, happy and content.

The clothes for the slaves were made under the superintendence of the mistress, who, after the war began, often cut out the clothes for every negro on the place, and sometimes assisted in making them. Some of the negro women had spinning-wheels and looms, and clothed their own families, while others spun, wove, and made their clothes under the direction of the mistress. But most of them could not be trusted with the materials, because they were so unskilful. It took a month or two twice a year to get the negroes into their new outfits. The rule was that each negro should have two suits of heavy material for winter wear and two of light goods for summer. To[Pg 244] clothe the negroes during the war time was a heavy burden upon the mistress.

To those negroes who did their own cooking rations were issued on Saturday afternoon. Bacon and corn meal formed the basis of the ration, besides which there would be some kind of “sweetening” and a substitute for coffee.[650] Special goodies were issued for Sunday. The negroes in the Black Belt fared better during the war than either the whites or the negroes in the white counties. When there were few slaves or in the time of great scarcity, the cooking for whites and blacks was often done in the house kitchen by the same cooks. This was done in order to leave more time for the negroes to work and to prevent waste. Where there were many slaves, there was often some arrangement made by which cooking was done in common, though there were numbers of families that did their own cooking at home all the time. When meat was scarce, it was given to the negro laborers who needed the strength, while the white family and the negro women and children denied themselves.

As the Confederate government did not provide well for the soldiers, their wives and mothers had to supply them. The sewing societies undertook to clothe the soldiers who went from their respective neighborhoods. Once a week or once a month, a box was sent from each society. One box sent to the Grove Hill Guards contained sixty pairs of socks, twenty-five blankets, thirteen pairs of gloves, fourteen flannel shirts, sixteen towels, two handkerchiefs, five pairs of trousers, and one bushel of dried apples. Other boxes contained about the same. Hams and any other edibles that would keep were frequently sent and also simple medicine chests. When blankets could not be had, quilts were sent, or heavy curtains and pieces of carpet. With the progress of the war, there was much suffering among the soldiers and their destitute families that the state could do but little to relieve, and the women took up the task. Besides the various church aid societies, we hear of the “Grove Hill Military Aid Society” and the “Suggsville Soldiers’ Aid Society,” both of Clarke County; the “Aid Society of Mobile”; the “Montgomery Home Society” and the “Soldiers’ Wayside Home,” in Montgomery; the “Wayside Hospital” and the “Ladies’ Military Aid Society” of Selma; the “Talladega Hospital”; the “Ladies’ Humane Society”[Pg 245] of Huntsville,[651] and many others. The legislature gave financial aid to some of them. Societies were formed in every town, village, and country settlement to send clothing, medicines, and provisions to the soldiers in the army and to the hospitals. The members went to hospitals and parole camps for sick and wounded soldiers, took them to their homes, and nursed them back to health. “Wayside Homes” were established in the towns for the accommodation of soldiers travelling to and from the army. Soldiers on sick leave and furlough who were cut off from their homes beyond the Mississippi came to the homes of their comrades, sure of a warm welcome and kind attentions. Poor soldiers sick at home were looked after and supplies sent to their needy families.

The last year of the war a bushel of corn cost $13, while a soldier’s pay was $11 a month, paid once in a while. So the poor people became destitute. But the state furnished meal and salt to all[652] and the more fortunate people gave liberally of their supplies. Many of the poorer white women did work for others—weaving, sewing, and spinning—for which they were well paid, frequently in provisions, which they were in great need of. Some made hats, bonnets, and baskets for sale. The cotton counties supported many refugees from the northern counties, and numerous poor people from that section imposed upon the generosity of the planting section. The overseers, white or black, had a dislike for those to whom supplies were given; they also objected to the regular payment of the tax-in-kind, and to impressment which took their corn, meat, horses, cows, mules, and negroes, and crippled their operations. The mistresses had to interfere and see that the poor and the government had their share.

In the cities the women engaged in various patriotic occupations,—sewing for the soldiers, nursing, raising money for hospitals, etc. The women of Tuskegee raised money to be spent on a gunboat for the defence of Mobile Bay. They wanted it called The Women’s Gunboat.[653] “A niece of James Madison” wrote to a Mobile paper,[Pg 246] proposing that 200,000 women in the South sell their hair in Europe to raise funds for the Confederacy. The movement failed because of the blockade.[654] There were other similar propositions, but they could not be carried out, and year after year the legislatures of the state thanked the women for their patriotic devotion, their labors, sacrifices, constancy, and courage.

The music and songs that were popular during the war show the changing temper of the people. At first were heard joyous airs, later contemptuous and defiant as war came on; then jolly war songs and strong hymns of encouragement. But as sorrow followed sorrow until all were stricken; as wounds, sickness, imprisonment, and death of friends and relatives cast shadow over the spirits of the people; as hopes were dashed by defeat, and the consciousness came that perhaps after all the cause was losing,—the iron entered into the souls of the people. The songs were sadder now. The church hymns heard were the soul-comforting ones and the militant songs of the older churchmen. The first year were heard “Farewell to Brother Jonathan,” “We Conquer or We Die;” then “Riding a Raid,” “Stonewall Jackson’s Way,” “All Quiet Along the Potomac,” “Lorena,” “Beechen Brook,” “Somebody’s Darling,” “When the Cruel War is O’er,” “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.” “Dixie” was sung and played during the entire time, whites and blacks singing it with equal pleasure. The older hymns were sung and the doctrines of faith and good works earnestly preached. The promises were, perhaps, more emphasized. A deeply religious feeling prevailed among the home workers for the cause.

The women had the harder task. The men were in the field in active service, their families were safe at home, there was no fear for themselves. The women lived in constant dread of news from the front; they had to sit still and wait, and their greatest comfort was the hard work they had to do. It gave them some relief from the burden of sorrow that weighed down the souls of all. To the very last the women hoped and prayed for success, and failure, to many of them, was more bitter than death. The loss of their cause[Pg 247] hurt them more deeply than it did the men who had the satisfaction of fighting out the quarrel, even though the other side was victorious.[655]

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Sec. 1. Loss of Life and Property

The Loss of Life

The surviving soldiers came straggling home, worn out, broken in health, crippled, in rags, half starved, little better off, they thought, than the comrades they had left under the sod of the battle-fields on the border. In the election of 1860 about 90,000 votes were cast, nearly the entire voting population, and about this number of Alabama men enlisted in the Confederate and Union armies. Various estimates were made of Alabama’s losses during the war, most of which are doubtless too large. Among these Governor Parsons, in his inaugural address, gives the number as 35,000 killed or died of wounds and disease, and as many more disabled.[656] Colonel W. H. Fowler, for two years the state agent for settling the claims of deceased soldiers and also superintendent of army records, states that he had the names of nearly 20,000 dead on his lists and believed this to be only about half of the entire number; that the Alabama troops lost more heavily than any other troops. He asserted that of the 30,000 Alabama troops in the Army of Northern Virginia over 9000 had died in[Pg 252] service, and of those who were retired, discharged, or who resigned, about one-half were either dead or permanently disabled.[657] These estimates are evidently too large, and they probably form the basis of the statements of Governors Parsons and Patton. Governor Patton estimated that 40,000 had died in service, while 20,000 were disabled for life, and that there were 20,000 widows and 60,000 orphans.[658] A Times correspondent places the loss in war at 34,000.[659] The strongest regiments were worn out by 1865. At Appomattox, when three times as many men surrendered as were in a condition to bear arms, the Alabama commands paroled hardly enough men in each regiment to form a good company. Though the average enlistment had been 1350 to the regiment, one of the best regiments—the Third Alabama Infantry—paroled: from Company B, 8 men; from Company D, 7 men; Company G, 4; Company E, 7; while the Fifth Alabama paroled: from Company A, 2; B, 7; C, 2; E, 2; F, 1; K, 3. The Twelfth Alabama: Company A, 4; C, 6; D, 6; E, 4; G, 3; I, 5; M, 4. Sixth Alabama (over 2000 enlistments): D, 2; F, 2; I, 5; M, 4. Sixty-first Alabama: B, 2; C, 4; E, 1; G, 5; I, 4; K, 3. Fifteenth Alabama: C, 8. Forty-eighth Alabama: C, 6; K, 7. Ninth Alabama: 70 men in all—an average of 7 to a company. Thirteenth Alabama: 85 men in all. Forty-first Alabama: 74 men in all. Forty-first, Forty-third, Fifty-ninth, Sixtieth, and Twenty-third: 220 men in all. Some companies were entirely annihilated, having neither officer nor private at the surrender. A company from Demopolis is said to have lost all except 7 men, that is, 125 by death in the service.[660] The census of 1866 contains the names of 8957 soldiers killed in battle, 13,534 who died of disease or wounds, and 2629 disabled for life.[661] These are the only facts obtainable on which to base calculations, yet the census was very imperfect, as hundreds of families were broken up, thousands of men forgotten, and there was no one to give information regarding them to the census taker.

[Pg 253]The white population decreased 3632 from 1860 to 1866, according to the census of the latter year. But for the war, according to rate of increase from 1850 to 1860, there should have been an increase of 50,000. In 1870 the census showed a further decrease of 1415, due, perhaps, to the great mortality just after the war. In other words, the white population was about 100,000 less in 1870 than it would have been under normal conditions, without immigration. Contemporary accounts state that the negro suffered much more than the whites in the two years immediately following the war, from starvation, exposure, and pestilence, and the census of 1866 showed a decrease of 14,325 in the colored population, when there should have been an increase of nearly 70,000 according to the rate of 1850 to 1860, besides the 20,000 that it has been estimated were sent into the interior of the state from other states to escape capture by the raiding Federals. The census of 1866 was not accurate, for the negroes at that time were in a very unsettled condition, wandering from place to place. However, in 1870, the number of negroes had increased 37,740 over the numbers for 1860, while the number of whites had decreased several thousand, which would seem to indicate that the census of 1866 was defective. But there is no doubt that the negroes suffered terribly during this time.[662]


Destruction of Property

Governor Patton, in a communication to Congress dated May 11, 1866, gives the property losses in Alabama as $500,000,000,[663] which sum doubtless includes the value of the slaves, estimated in 1860 at $200,000,000, or about $500 each.[664] The value of other property in 1860 has been estimated at $640,000,000, the assessed value, $256,428,893, being 40 per cent of the real value.[665]

[Pg 254]A comparison of the census statistics of 1860 and of 1870 after five years of Reconstruction will be suggestive:—

    1860   1870
Value of farms   $175,824,032   $54,191,229
Value of live stock   43,411,711   21,325,076
Value of farm implements   7,433,178   5,946,543
Number of horses   127,000   80,000
Number of mules   111,000   76,000
Number of oxen   88,000   59,000
Number of cows   230,000   170,000
Number of other cattle   454,000   257,000
Number of sheep   370,000   241,000
Number of swine   1,748,000   719,000
Improved land in farms, acres   6,385,724   5,062,204
Corn crop, bushels   33,226,000   16,977,000
  (35,053,047 in 1899)
Cotton crop, bales   989,955   429,482
  (1,106,840 in 1899)

Not until 1880 was the acreage of improved lands as great as in 1860.[666] Live stock, valued at $43,000,000 in 1860, is still to-day $7,000,000 behind. Farm implements and machinery in 1900 were worth $1,000,000 more than in 1860, having doubled in value in the last ten years.[667] Land improvements and buildings, worth $175,000,000 in 1860, were in 1900 still more than $30,000,000 below that mark. The total value of farm property in 1860 was $226,669,511; in 1870, $97,716,055;[668] and in 1900, $179,339,882. Though the population has increased twofold since 1860[669] and the white counties have developed and the industries have become more varied, agriculture has not yet reached the standard of 1860, the Black Belt farmer is much less prosperous, and the agricultural system of the old cotton belt has never recovered from the effects of the war. From the theoretical point of view the abolition of slavery should have resulted in loss only during the readjustment of industrial conditions. Yet $200,000,000 capital had been lost; and, as a matter of fact, the statistics of agriculture show that, while in the white counties in 1900 there was a greater yield of the staple crops,—cotton and corn,—in[Pg 255] the black counties the free negroes of double the number do not yet produce as much as the slaves of 1860.[670]

The manufacturing establishments that had existed before the war or were developed during that time were destroyed by Federal raids, or were seized, sold, and dismantled after the surrender because they had furnished supplies to the Confederacy. The public buildings used by the Confederate authorities in all the towns and all over the country were burned or were turned over to the Freedmen’s Bureau. The state and county public buildings in the track of the raiders were destroyed. The stocks of goods in the stores were exhausted long before the close of the war. All banking capital, and all securities, railroad bonds and stocks, state and Confederate bonds, and currency were worth nothing. All the accumulated capital of the state was swept away; only the soil and some buildings remained. People owning hundreds of acres of land often were as destitute as the poorest negro. The majority of people who had money to invest had bought Confederate securities as a patriotic duty, and all the coin had been drawn from the country. The most of the bonded debt was held in Mobile, and that city lost all its capital when the debt was declared null and void.[671] This city suffered severely, also, from a terrible explosion soon after the surrender. Twenty squares in the business part were destroyed.[672]


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Thousands of private residences were destroyed, especially in north Alabama, where the country was even more thoroughly devastated than in the path of Sherman through Georgia. The third year of the war had seen the destruction of everything destructible in north Alabama outside of the large towns, where the devastation was usually not so great. In Decatur, however, nearly all the buildings were burned; only three of the principal ones were left standing.[673] Tuscumbia was practically destroyed, and many houses were condemned for army use.[674] The beautiful buildings of the Black Belt[Pg 256] were out of repair and fast going to ruin. Many of the fine houses in the cities—especially in Mobile—had fallen into the hands of the Jews. One place, which was bought for $45,000 before the war, was sold with difficulty in 1876 for $10,000. Before the war there were sixteen French business houses in Mobile; none survived the war. The port of Mobile never again reached its former importance. In 1860, 900,000 bales of cotton had been shipped from the port; in 1865-1866, 400,000 bales; in 1866-1867, 250,000 bales; in 1876, 400,000 bales. There was no disposition on the part of the Washington administration to remove the obstructions in Mobile harbor. They were left for years and furnished an excuse to the reconstructionists for the expenditure of state money.[675] Nearly all the grist-mills and cotton-gins had been destroyed, mill-dams cut, and ponds drained. The raiders never spared a cotton-gin. The cotton, in which the government was interested, was either burned or seized and sold, and private cotton, when found, fared in the same way. Cotton had been the cause of much trouble to the commanders on both sides during the war; it was considered the mainstay of the South before the war and the root of all evil. So of all property it received[Pg 257] the least consideration from the Federal troops, and was very easily turned into cash. All farm animals near the track of the armies had been carried away or killed by the soldiers (as at Selma), or seized after the occupation by the troops. Horses, mules, cows, and other domestic animals had almost disappeared except in the secluded districts. Many a farmer had to plough with oxen. Farm and plantation buildings had been dismantled or burned, houses ruined, fences destroyed, corn, meat, and syrup taken. The plantations in the Tennessee valley were in a ruined condition. The gin-houses were burned, the bridges ruined, mills and factories gone, and the roads impassable.[676] In the homes that were left, carpets and curtains were gone, for they had been used as blankets and clothes, window glass was out, furniture injured or destroyed, and crockery broken. In the larger towns, where something had been saved from the wreck of war, the looting by the Federal soldiers was shameful. Pianos, furniture, pictures, curtains, sofas, and other household goods were shipped North by the Federal officers during the early days of the occupation. Gold and silver plate and jewellery were confiscated by the bummers who were with every command. Abuses of this kind became so flagrant that the northern papers condemned the conduct of the soldiers, and several ministers, among them Henry Ward Beecher, rebuked the practice from the pulpit.[677]

Land was almost worthless, because the owners had no capital, no farm animals, no farm implements, in many cases not even seed. Labor was disorganized, and the product of labor was most likely to be stolen by roving negroes and other marauders. Seldom was more than one-third of a plantation under cultivation, the remainder growing up in broom sedge because laborers could not be gotten. When the Federal armies passed, many negroes followed them and never returned. Numbers of them died in the camps. When the war ended, many others left their old homes, some of whom several[Pg 258] years later came straggling back.[678] Land that would produce a bale of cotton to the acre, worth $125, and selling in 1860 for $50 per acre at the lowest, was now selling for from $3 to $5 per acre. Among the negroes, especially after the occupation, there was a general belief, which was carefully fostered by a certain class of Federal officials and by some leaders in Congress, that the lands would be confiscated and divided among the “unionists” and the negroes. When the state seceded, it took charge of the public lands within its boundaries and opened them to settlement. After the fall of the Confederacy those who had purchased lands were required to rebuy them from the United States or to give up their claims. Some lands were abandoned, as the owners were able neither to cultivate nor to sell them, for there was no capital. In Cumberland, a village, at one time there were ninety advertisements of sales posted in the hotel. The planters often found themselves amid a wilderness of land, without laborers, and often rented land free to some white man or to a negro who would pay the taxes.[679] Many hundreds of the people could see no hope whatever for the future of the state, and certainly the North was not acting so as to encourage them. Hence there was heavy emigration to Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, the northern and western states, and much property was offered at a tenth of its value and even less.

The heaviest losses fell upon the old wealthy families, who, by the loss of wealth and by political proscription, were ruined. In middle life and in old age they were unable to begin again, and for a generation their names disappear from sight. Losses, debts, taxes, and proscriptions bore down many, and few rose to take their places.[680] The poorer people, though they had but little to lose, lost all, and suffered extreme poverty during the latter years of the war and the early years of Reconstruction. No wonder they were in despair and seemed for a while a menace to public order. To the power and influence of the leaders succeeded in part a second-rate class—the rank and file of 1861—upon whom the losses of the war fell with less weight, and who were thrown to the front by the war which ruined those above and those below them. They were the sound, hard-working men—the lawyers, farmers, merchants, who had [Pg 259]formerly been content to allow brilliant statesmen to direct the public affairs. Now those leaders were dead or proscribed, for poverty, war, reconstruction, and political persecution rapidly destroyed the old ruling element, and deaths among them after the war were very common. The men who rescued the state in 1874 were the men of lesser ability of 1860, farmer subordinates in the political ranks.[681]


The Wreck of the Railways

The steamboats on the rivers were destroyed. At that time the steamers probably carried as much freight and as many passengers as did the railroads, and served to connect the railway systems. The railroads also were in a ruined condition; depots had been burned, bridges and trestles destroyed, tracks torn up, cross-ties burned or were rotten, rails worn out or ruined by burning, cars and locomotives worn out or destroyed or captured. The boards of directors and the presidents of the roads, because of the aid they had given the Confederacy, were not considered safe persons to trust with the reorganization of the system, and, in August, 1865, Stanton, the Secretary of War, directed that each southern railway be reorganized with a “loyal” board of directors.

In 1860 there were about 800 miles of railways in Alabama. Nearly all of the roads were unfinished in 1861, and, except on the most important military roads, little progress was made in their construction during the war—only about 20 or 30 miles being completed. During this time all roads were practically under the control of the Confederate government, which operated them through their own boards of directors and other officials. The various roads suffered in different degrees. At the close of the war, the Tennessee and Alabama Railroad had only two or three cars that could be used, the rails also were worn out, the locomotives out of order and useless, nearly all the depots, bridges, and trestles destroyed, as well as all of its shops, water tanks, machinery, books, and papers. The Memphis and Charleston, extending across the entire northern part of the state, fell into the hands of the Federals in 1862, who captured at Huntsville nearly all of the rolling stock and destroyed the shops[Pg 260] and the papers. The rolling stock had been collected at Huntsville, ready to be shipped to a place of less danger; but because of the treachery of a telegraph operator who kept the knowledge of the approaching raid from the officials, all was lost, for to prevent its falling into the hands of the enemy much more was destroyed than was captured. When the Federals were driven from a section of the road, they destroyed it in order to prevent the Confederates from using it. The length of this road in the state was 155 miles, and 140 miles of the track were torn up, the rails heated in the middle over fires of burning cross-ties, and the iron then twisted around trees and stumps so as to make it absolutely useless. In 1865 very little machinery of any kind was left. Besides this the company lost heavily in Confederate securities, and the other losses (funds, etc.) amounted to $1,195,166.79.

The Mobile and Ohio lost in Confederate currency $5,228,562.23. Thirty-seven miles of rails were worn out, 21 miles were burned and twisted, 184 miles of road cleared of bridges, trestles, and stations, the cross-ties burned, and the shops near Mobile destroyed. There were 18 of 59 locomotives in working order, 11 of 26 passenger cars, 3 of 11 baggage cars, 231 of 721 freight cars. The Selma and Meridian lost its shops and depots in Selma and Meridian, and its bridges over the Cahaba and Valley creeks. It sustained a heavy loss in Confederate bonds and currency. The Alabama and Tennessee Rivers Railroad lost a million dollars in Confederate funds, its shops, tools, and machinery at Selma, 6 bridges, its trestles, some track and many depots, its locomotives and cars. The Wills Valley Road suffered but little from destruction or from loss in Confederate securities. The Mobile and Great Northern escaped with a loss of only $401,190.37 in Confederate money, and $164,800 by destruction, besides the wear and tear on its track and rolling stock in the four years without repairs. The Alabama and Florida Road lost in Confederate currency $755,343,21. It had at the end of the war only 4 locomotives and 40 cars of all descriptions. The people were so poor that in the summer of 1865 this road, on a trip from Mobile to Montgomery and return, a distance of 360 miles, collected in fares only $13. The Montgomery and West Point, 161 miles in length, and one of the best roads in the state, probably suffered the heaviest loss from raids. It lost in currency $1,618,243, besides all of its[Pg 261] rolling stock that was in running order; much of the track was torn up and rails twisted, all bridges and tanks and depots were destroyed. Both Rousseau and Wilson tore up the track and destroyed the shops and rolling stock at Montgomery and along the road to West Point and also the rolling stock that had been sent to Columbus, Georgia. After the surrender an old locomotive that had been thrown aside at Opelika and 14 condemned cars were patched up, and for a while this old engine and a couple of flat cars were run up and down the road as a passenger train. The worn strap rails used in repairing gave much trouble. The fare was 10 cents a mile in coin or 20 cents in greenbacks.[682] Every road in the South lost rolling stock on the border. The few cars and locomotives left to any road were often scattered over several states, and some of them were never returned.

As the Federal armies occupied the country, they took charge of the railways, which were then run either under the direction of the War Department or the railroad division of the army. After the war they were returned to the stockholders as soon as “loyal” boards of directors were appointed or the “disloyal” ones made “loyal” by the pardon of the President. Contractors who undertook to reopen the roads in the summer of 1865 were unable to do so because the negroes refused to work. The companies were bankrupt, for all money due them was Confederate currency, and all they had in their possession was Confederate currency. Many debts that had been paid by the roads during the war to the states and counties now had to be paid again. All of the nine roads in the state attempted reorganization, but only three were able to accomplish it, and these then absorbed the others. None, it appears, were abandoned.[683]

 [Pg 262]

Sec. 2. The Interregnum; Lawlessness and Disorder

Immediately after the surrender of the armies a general demand arose from the people throughout the lower South that the governors convene the state legislatures for the purpose of calling conventions which, by repealing the ordinance of secession and abolishing slavery, could prepare the way for reunion. This, it was thought, was all that the North wanted, and it seemed to be in harmony with Lincoln’s plan of restoration. General Richard Taylor, when he surrendered at Meridian, Mississippi, advised the governors of Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi to take steps to carry out such measures; and General Canby, to whom Taylor surrendered the department, indorsed the plan, as did also the various general officers of the armies of occupation. But these generals were not in touch with politics at Washington. The Federal government outlawed the existing southern state governments, leaving them with no government at all. Governor Watts and ex-Governors Shorter and Moore were arrested and sent to northern prisons. A number of prominent leaders, among them John Gayle of Selma and ex-Senators Clay and Fitzpatrick, were also arrested. The state government went to pieces. General Canby was instructed by President Johnson to arrest any member of the Alabama legislature who might attempt to hold a meeting of the general assembly. Consequently, from the first of May until the last of the summer the state of Alabama was without any state government;[684] and it was only after several months of service as provisional governor that Parsons was able to reorganize the state administration.

For six months after the surrender there was practically no government of any kind in Alabama except in the immediate vicinity of the military posts, where the commander exercised a certain authority over the people of the community. A good commander could do little more than let affairs take their course, for the great mass of the people only wanted to be left alone for a while. They were tired of war and strife and wanted rest and an opportunity to work their crops and make bread for their suffering families. The strongest[Pg 263] influence of the respectable people was exerted in favor of peace and order. While much lawlessness appeared in the state, it was not as much as might have been expected under the existing circumstances at the close of the great Civil War. Much of the disorder was caused by the presence of the troops, some of whom were even more troublesome than the robbers and outlaws from whom they were supposed to protect the people. The best soldiers of the Federal army had demanded their discharge as soon as fighting was over, and had gone home. Those who remained in the service in the state were, with few exceptions, very disorderly, and kept the people in terror by their robberies and outrages. Especially troublesome among the negro population, and a constant cause of irritation to the whites, were the negro troops, who were sent into the state, the people believed, in order to humiliate the whites. They were commanded by officers who had been insulted and threatened all during the war because of their connection with these troops, and this treatment had embittered them against the southern people. The negro troops were stationed in towns where Confederate spirit had been very strong, as a discipline to the people. For months and even years after the surrender the Federal troops in small detachments were accustomed to march through the country, searching for cotton and other public property and arresting citizens on charges preferred by the tories or by the negroes, many of whom spent their time confessing the sins of their white neighbors. The garrison towns suffered from the unruly behavior of the soldiers. The officers, who were only waiting to be mustered out of service, devoted themselves to drinking, women, and gambling. The men followed their example. The traffic in whiskey was enormous, and most of the sales were to the soldiers, to the lowest class of whites, and to the negroes. The streets of the towns and cities such as Montgomery, Mobile, Selma, Huntsville, Athens, and Tuscaloosa, were crowded with drunken and violent soldiers. Lewd women had followed the army and had established disreputable houses near every military post, which were the centre and cause of many lawless outbreaks. Quarrels were frequent, and at a disorderly ball in Montgomery, in the fall of 1865, a Federal officer was killed. The peaceable citizens were plundered by the camp followers, discharged soldiers, and the deserters who now crawled out of their retreats. Sometimes these marauders dressed in[Pg 264] the Federal uniforms when on their expeditions, in order to cast suspicion on the soldiers, who were often wrongfully charged with these crimes.[685]

As one instance of the many outrages committed at this time the following may be cited: in the summer of 1865, when all was in disorder and no government existed in the state, a certain “Major” Perry, as his followers called him, went on a private raid through the country to get a part of anything that might be left. He was one of the many who thought that they deserved some share of the spoils and who were afraid that the time of their harvest would be short. So it was necessary to make the best of the disordered condition of affairs. Perry was followed by a few white soldiers, or men who dressed as soldiers, and by a crowd of negroes. At his saddle-bow was tied a bag containing his most valuable plunder. From house to house in Dallas and adjoining counties he and his men went, demanding valuables, pulling open trunks and bureau and wardrobe drawers, scattering their contents, and choosing what they wanted, tearing pictures in pieces, and scattering the contents of boxes of papers and books in a spirit of pure destructiveness. At one house they found some old shirts which the mistress had carefully mended for her husband, who had not yet returned from the army. One of the marauders suggested that they be added to their collection. “Major” Perry looked at them carefully, but, as he was rather choice in his tastes, rejected them as “damned patched things,” spat tobacco on them, and trampled them with his muddy boots. Incidents similar to this were not infrequent, nor were they calculated to soften the feelings of the women toward the victorious enemy. Their cordial hatred of Federal officers was strongly resented by the latter, who were often able to retaliate in unpleasant ways.[686]

In southeast Alabama deserters from both armies and members of the so-called First Florida Union Cavalry continued for a year after the close of the war their practice of plundering all classes of people and sometimes committing other acts of violence. Some[Pg 265] persons were robbed of nearly all that they possessed.[687] Joseph Saunders, a millwright of Dale County, served as a Confederate lieutenant in the first part of the war. Later he resigned, and being worried by the conscript officers, allied himself with a band of deserters near the Florida line, who drew their supplies from the Federal troops on the coast. Saunders was made leader of the band and made frequent forays into Dale County, where on one occasion a company of militia on parade was captured. The band raided the town of Newton, but was defeated. After the war, Saunders with his gang returned and continued horse-stealing. Finally he killed a man and went to Georgia, where, in 1866, he himself was killed.[688] He was a type of the native white outlaw.

The burning of cotton was common. Some was probably burned because the United States cotton agents had seized it, but the heaviest loss fell on private owners. A large quantity of private cotton worth about $2,000,000, that had escaped confiscation and had been collected near Montgomery, was destroyed by the cotton burners.[689] Horse and cattle thieves infested the whole state, especially the western part. Washington and Choctaw counties especially suffered from their depredations.[690] The rivers were infested with cotton thieves, who floated down the streams in flats, landed near cotton fields, established videttes, went into the fields, stole the cotton, and carried it down the river to market.[691] A band of outlaws took passage on a steamboat on the Alabama River, overcame the crew and the honest passengers, and took possession of the boat.[692]

A secret incendiary organization composed of negroes and some discharged Federal soldiers plotted to burn Selma. The members of the band wore red ribbon badges. One of the negroes informed the authorities of the plot and of the place of meeting, and forty of the band were arrested. The others were informed and escaped. The military authorities released the prisoners, who denied the charge, though some of their society testified against them.[693] There were[Pg 266] incendiary fires in every town in the state, it is said, and several were almost destroyed.

The bitter feeling between the tories and the Confederates of north Alabama resulted in some places in guerilla warfare. The Confederate soldiers, whose families had suffered from the depredations of the tories during the war, wanted to punish the outlaws for their misdeeds, and in many cases attempted to do so. The tories wanted revenge for having been driven from the country or into hiding by the Confederate authorities, so they raided the Confederate soldiers as they had raided their families during the war. Some of the tories were caught and hanged. In revenge, the Confederates were shot down in their houses, and in the fields while at work, or while travelling along the roads. The convention called by Governor Parsons declared that lawlessness existed in many counties of the state and authorized Parsons to call out the militia in each county to repress the disorder. They also asked the President to withdraw the Federal troops, which were only a source of disorder,[694] and gave to the mayors of Florence, Athens, and Huntsville special police powers within their respective counties in order to check the lawless element, which was especially strong in Lauderdale, Limestone, and Madison counties.[695] These counties lay north of the Tennessee River, along the Tennessee border. There was a disposition on the part of the civil and military authorities in Alabama to attribute the lawlessness in north and northwest Alabama to bands of desperadoes from Tennessee and Mississippi, but north Alabama had numbers of marauders of her own, and it is probable that Tennessee and Mississippi had little to do with it. Half a dozen men, where there was no authority to check them, could make a whole county uncomfortable for the peaceable citizens.[696]

The Federal infantry commands scattered throughout the country were of little service in capturing the marauders. General Swayne repeatedly asked for cavalry, for, as he said, the infantry was the source of as much disorder as it suppressed. The worst outrages, he added, were committed by small bands of lawless men organized[Pg 267] under various names, and whose chief object was robbery and plunder.[697] After the establishment of the provisional government an attempt was made to bring to trial some of the outlaws who had infested the country during and after the war, and who richly deserved hanging. They were of no party, being deserters from both armies, or tories who had managed to keep out of either army. However, when arrested they raised a strong cry of being “unionists” and appealed to the military authorities for protection from “rebel” persecution, though the officials of the Johnson government in Alabama were never charged by any one else with an excess of zeal in the Confederate cause. The Federal officials released all prisoners who claimed to be “unionists.” Sheriff Snodgrass of Jackson County arrested fifteen bushwhackers charged with murder. They claimed to be “loyalists,” and General Kryzyanowski, commanding the district of north Alabama, ordered the court to stop proceedings and to discharge the prisoners. This was not done, and Kryzyanowski sent a body of negro soldiers who closed the court, released the prisoners, and sent the sheriff to jail at Nashville.[698] The military authorities allowed no one who asserted that he was a “unionist” to be tried for offences committed during the war, and any effort to bring the outlaws to trial resulted in an outcry against the “persecution of loyalists.”

In August, 1865, Sheriff John M. Daniel of Cherokee County arrested and imprisoned a band of marauders dressed in the Federal uniform, though they had no connection with the army. A short time afterwards the citizens asked him to raise a posse and arrest a similar band which was engaged in robbing the people, plundering houses, assaulting respectable citizens, and threatening to kill them. And as such occurrences were frequent, Sheriff Daniel, after consulting with the citizens, summoned a posse comitatus and went in pursuit of the marauders. One squad was encountered which surrendered without resistance. A second, belonging to the same band, approached, and, refusing to surrender, opened fire on the sheriff’s party. In the fight the sheriff killed one man. Upon learning that his prisoners were soldiers and were on detail duty, he desisted[Pg 268] from further pursuit, released the citizens who were held as prisoners by the soldiers, and turned his prisoners over to the military authorities. This was on August 24. Daniel was at once arrested by the military authorities and confined in prison at Talladega in irons. Six months later he had had no trial, and the general assembly petitioned the President for his release, claiming that he had acted in the faithful discharge of his duty.[699] The memorial asserts that such outrages were of frequent occurrence. Another petition to the President asked for the withdrawal of the troops, whose presence caused disorder, and who at various times provoked unpleasant collisions. Many of the troops, remote from the line of transportation, subsisted their stock upon the country. This was a hardship to the people, who had barely enough to support life.[700]

For several years the arbitrary conduct of some of the soldiers was a cause of bad feeling on the part of the citizens.[701] But the soldiers were very often blamed for deeds done by outlaws disguised as Federal troops. In northern Alabama a party of northern men bought property, and complained to Governor Parsons of the depredations of the Federal troops stationed near and asked for protection. Parsons could only refer their request to General Davis at Montgomery, and in the meantime the troops complained of drove out of the community the signers of the request for protection. One of them, an ex-captain in the United States army, was ordered to leave within three hours or he would be shot.[702] The soldiers, except at the important posts, were under slack discipline, and their officers had little control over them. At Bladen Springs some negro troops shot a Mr. Bass while he was in bed and beat his wife and children with ramrods. They drove the wife and daughters of a Mr. Rhodes from home and set fire to the house. The citizens fled from their homes, which were pillaged by the negro soldiers in order to get the clothing, furniture, books, etc. The trouble originated in the refusal of the white people to associate with the white officers of the colored troops.[703] These negroes had little respect for their officers and[Pg 269] threatened to shoot their commanding officers.[704] At Decatur the negro troops plundered and shot into the houses of the whites. In Greensboro a white youth struck a negro who had insulted him, and was in turn slapped in the face by a Federal officer, whom he at once shot and then made his escape. The negro population, led by negro soldiers, went into every house in the town, seized all the arms, and secured as a hostage the brother of the man who had escaped. A gallows was erected and the boy was about to be hanged when his relatives received an intimation that money would secure his release. With difficulty about $10,000 was secured from the people of the town and sent to the officer in command of the district. No one knows what he did with the money, but the young man was released.[705]

Before the close of 1865, the commanding officers were reducing the troops to much better discipline and many were withdrawn. The provisional government also grew stronger, and there was considerably less disorder among the whites, though the blacks were still demoralized.


Sec. 3. The Negro testing his Freedom

The conduct of the negro during the war and after gaining his freedom seemed to convince those who had feared that insurrection would follow emancipation that no danger was to be feared from this source. Most of the former slaveholders, who were better acquainted with the negro character and who knew that the old masters could easily control them, at no time feared a revolt of the blacks unless under exceptional circumstances. It was only when the wretched characters who followed the northern armies gained control of the negro by playing upon his fears and exciting his worst passions that the fear of the negro was felt by many who had never felt it before, and who have never since been entirely free from this fear.

When the Federal armies passed through the state, the negroes along the line of march followed them in numbers, though many returned to the old home after a day or two. Yet all were restless and expectant, as was natural. During the war they had understood[Pg 270] the questions at issue so far as they themselves were concerned, and now that the struggle was decided against their masters they looked for stranger and more wonderful things, not so much at first, however, as later when the negro soldiers and the white emissaries had filled their minds with false impressions of the new and glorious condition that was before them. For several weeks before the master came home from the army the negroes knew that, as a result of the war, they were free. They, however, worked on, somewhat restless, of course, until he arrived and called them up and informed them that they were free. This was the usual way in which the negro was informed of his freedom. The great majority of the blacks, except in the track of the armies, waited to hear from their masters the confirmation of the reports of freedom. And the first thing the returning slaveholder did was to assemble his negroes and make known to them their condition with its privileges and responsibilities. It did not enter the minds of the masters that any laws or constitutional amendments were necessary to abolish slavery. They were quite sure that the war had decided the question. Some of the legal-minded men, those who were not in the army and who read their law books, were disposed to cling to their claims until the law settled the question. But they were few in number.[706]


How to prove Freedom

The negro believed, when he became free, that he had entered Paradise, that he never again would be cold or hungry, that he never would have to work unless he chose to, and that he never would have to obey a master, but would live the remainder of his life under the tender care of the government that had freed him. It was necessary, he thought, to test this wonderful freedom. As Booker Washington says, there were two things which all the negroes in the South agreed must be done before they were really free: they must change their names and leave the old plantation for a few days or weeks. Many of them returned to the old homes and made contracts with their masters for work, but at the same time they felt that it was not proper to retain their old master’s name, and accordingly took new ones.[707]

[Pg 271]Upon leaving their homes the blacks collected in gangs at the cross-roads, in the villages and towns, and especially near the military posts. To the negro these ordinary men in blue were beings from another sphere who had brought him freedom, which was something that he did not exactly understand, but which he was assured was a delightful state. The towns were filled with crowds of blacks who left their homes with absolutely nothing, thinking that the government would care for them, or, more probably, not thinking at all. Later, after some experience, they were disposed to bring with them their household goods and the teams and wagons of their former masters. This was the effect that freedom had upon thousands; yet, after all, most of the negroes either stayed at their old homes, or, that they might feel really free, moved to some place near by. But among the quietest of them there was much restlessness and neglect of work. Hunting and fishing and frolics were the duties of the day. Every man acquired in some way a dog and a gun as badges of freedom. It was quite natural that the negroes should want a prolonged holiday to enjoy their new-found freedom; and it is rather strange that any of them worked, for there was a universal impression, vague of course in the remote districts—the result of the teachings of the negro soldiers and of the Freedmen’s Bureau officials—that the government would support them. Still some communities were almost undisturbed. The advice of the old plantation preachers held many to their work, and these did not suffer as did their brothers who flocked to the cities. Many negro men seized the opportunity to desert their wives and children and get new wives. It was considered a relic of slavery to remain tied to an ugly old wife, married in slavery. Much suffering resulted from the desertion, though, as a rule, the negro mother alone supported the children much better than did the father who stayed.[708]

In many districts the negro steadily refused to work, but persisted in supporting himself at the expense of the would-be employer. Thousands of hogs and cattle that had escaped the raiding armies or the Confederate tithe gatherer went to feed the hungry African[Pg 272] whom the Bureau did not supply. The Bureau issued rations only three times a week, and as the homeless negro had nowhere to keep provisions for two or three days, there would be a season of plenty and then a season of fasting. The Bureau reached only a small proportion of the negroes; and, of those it could reach, many, in spite of the regulations, neglected to apply for relief. By causing the negroes to crowd into the towns and cities the Bureau brought on much of the want that it did not relieve. The complaint was made that in the worst period of distress the soldiers in charge of the issue of supplies made no effort to see that the negroes were cared for. It was easier also for the average negro to pick up pigs and chickens than to make trips to the Bureau. During the summer the roving negro lived upon green corn from the nearest fields and blackberries from the fence corners and pine orchards. With the approach of winter suffering was sure to come to those who were now doing well in a vagrant way, but winter was to them too far in the future to trouble them.

The negroes soon found that freedom was not all they had been led to expect. A meeting of 900 blacks held near Mobile decided by a vote of 700 to 200 to return to their former masters and go to work to make a living, since their northern deliverers had failed to provide for them in any way.[709]

The negro preacher, especially those lately called to preach, and the northern missionaries had, during the summer and fall, a flourishing time and a rich harvest. A favorite dissipation among the negroes was going to church services as often as possible, especially to camp-meetings where he or she could shout. It was another mark of freedom to change one’s church, or to secede from the white churches. All through the summer of 1865 the revival meetings went on, conducted by new self-“called” colored preachers and the missionaries. The old plantation preachers, to their credit be it remembered, frowned upon this religious frenzy. The people living near the places of meetings complained of the disappearance of poultry and pigs, fruit and vegetables after the late sessions of the African congregations. The various missionaries filled the late slave’s head with false notions of many things besides religion, and gathered thousands into their folds from the southern religious organizations.[Pg 273] Baptizings were as popular as the opera among the whites to-day. That ceremony took place at the river or creek side. Thousands were sometimes assembled, and the air was electric with emotion. The negro was then as near Paradise as he ever came in his life. The Baptist ceremony of immersion was preferred, because, as one of them remarked, “It looks more like business.” Shouting they went into the water and shouting they came out. One old negro woman was immersed in the river and came out screaming: “Freed from slavery! freed from sin! Bless God and General Grant!”[710]


Suffering among the Negroes

The negroes massed in the towns lived in deserted and ruined houses, in huts built by themselves of refuse lumber, under sheds and under bridges over creeks, ravines, and gutters, and in caves in the banks of rivers and ravines. Many a one had only the sky for a roof and the ground in a fence corner for a bed. They were very scantily clothed. Food was obtained by begging, stealing, or from the Bureau. Taking from the whites was not considered stealing, but was “spilin de Gypshuns.” The food supply was insufficient, and was badly cooked when cooked at all. It was not possible for the army and the Freedmen’s Bureau, which came later, to do half enough by issuing rations to relieve the suffering they caused by attracting the negroes to the cities. While in slavery the negro had been forced to keep regular hours, and to take care of himself; he had plenty to eat and to wear, and, for reasons of dollars and cents, if for no other, his health was looked after by his master. Now all was changed. The negroes were like young children left to care for themselves, and even those who remained at home suffered from personal neglect, since they no longer could be governed in such matters by the directions of the whites. Among the negroes in the cities and in the “contraband” camps the sanitary conditions were very bad. To make matters infinitely worse disease in its most loathsome forms broke out in these crowded quarters. Smallpox, peculiarly fatal to negroes, raged among them for two years and carried off great numbers. The Freedmen’s Bureau had established hospitals[Pg 274] for the negroes, but it could not or would not care for the smallpox patients as carefully as for other sickness. In Selma, for instance, the city authorities had been sending the negroes who were ill to one of the city hospitals. But the military authorities interfered, took the negroes away, and informed the city authorities that the negroes were the especial wards of the government, which would care for them at all times. When smallpox broke out, the military authorities in charge of the Bureau refused to have anything to do with the sick negroes, and left them to the care of the town.[711] Consumption and venereal diseases now made their appearance. The relations of the soldiers of the invading army and the negro women were the cause of social demoralization and physical deterioration. An eminent authority states that from various causes the efficient negro population was reduced by one-fourth.[712] Though this estimate must be too large, still the negro population decreased between 1860 and 1866, as the census of the latter year shows,[713] in spite of the fact that thousands of negroes[714] were sent into Alabama during the war from Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Florida to escape capture by the Federal armies. The greatest mortality was among the negroes in the outskirts of the cities and towns. Some of the loss of population must be ascribed to the enrolment of negroes as soldiers and to the capture of slaves by the Federal armies.[715] For several years after the war young negro children were scarce in certain districts. They had died by hundreds and thousands through neglect.[716]

 [Pg 275]

Relations between Whites and Blacks

For a year or two the relations between the blacks and whites were, on the whole, friendly, in spite of the constant effort of individual northerners and negro soldiers to foment trouble between the races. As a result of the work of outsiders, there was a growing tendency to insolent conduct on the part of the younger negro men, who were convinced that civil behavior and freedom were incompatible. On the part of some there was a disposition not to submit to the direction of the white men in their work, and the negro’s advisers warned him against the efforts of the white man to enslave him. Consequently he refused to make contracts that called for any responsibility on his part, and if he made a contract the Bureau must ratify it, and, as he had no knowledge of the obligation of contracts, he was likely to break it. In an address of the white ministers of Selma to the negroes, they said that papers had been circulated among the negroes telling them that they were hated and detested by the whites, and that such papers caused bad feeling, which was unfortunate, as the races must live together, and the better the feeling, the better it would be for both. At first, the address added, there was some bad feeling when certain negroes, in order to test their freedom, became impudent and insulting, but on the part of the white man this feeling was soon changed. Later the negroes were poisoned against their former masters by listening to lying whites, and then they refused to work. The ministers warned the negroes against their continual idleness and their immoral lives, and told them that those of them who pretended to work were not making one bushel of corn where they might make ten, and that the whites wanted workers. The self-respecting negroes were asked to use their influence for the bettering of the worthless members of their race.[717]

When the negroes became convinced that the government would not support them entirely, they then took up the notion that the lands of the whites were to be divided among them. In the fall of 1865 there was a general belief that at Christmas or New Year’s Day a division of property would be made, and that each negro would get his share—“forty acres of land and an old gray mule” or the equivalent in other property. The soldiers and the officials of the Freedmen’s[Pg 276] Bureau were responsible for putting these notions into the heads of the negroes, though General Swayne endeavored to correct such impressions. The effect of the belief in the division of property was to prevent steady work or the making of contracts. Many ceased work altogether, waiting for the division. In many cases northern speculators and sharpers deceived the negroes about the division of land, and, in this way, secured what little money the latter had.

The trust that the negro placed in every man who came from the North was absolute. They manifested a great desire to work for those who bought or leased plantations in the South, and nearly all observers coming from the North in 1865 spoke of the alacrity with which the blacks entered into agreements to work for northern men. At the same time there was no ill feeling toward the southern whites; only, for the moment, they were eclipsed by these brighter beings who had brought freedom with them. Two years’ experience at the most resulted in a thorough mutual distrust. The northern man could make no allowances for the difference between white and negro labor, he expected too much; the negro would not work for so hard a taskmaster.

The northern newspaper correspondents who travelled through the South in 1865 agreed that the old masters were treating the negroes well, and that the relations between the races were much more friendly than they had expected to find. When cotton was worth fifty cents a pound, it was to the interest of the planter to treat the negro well, especially as the negro would leave and go to another employer on the slightest provocation or offer of better wages. The demand for labor was much greater than the supply. The lower class of whites, the “mean” or “poor whites,” as the northern man called them, were hostile to the negro and disposed to hold him responsible for the state of affairs, and, in some cases, mistreated him. The negro, in turn, made many complaints against the vicious whites, and against the policemen in the towns, who were not of the highest type, and who made it hard for Sambo when he desired to hang around town and sleep on the sidewalks. One correspondent said that the Irish were especially cruel to the negroes.

The negro freedman undoubtedly suffered much more from mistreatment by low characters than the negro slave had suffered. In slavery times his master saw that he was protected. Now he had[Pg 277] no one to look to for protection. The strongest influence of the great majority of the whites was used against any mistreatment of the negro, and the meaner element of the whites was suppressed as much as it was possible to do when there was no authority except public opinion. All in all the negro had less ill treatment than was to be expected, and suffered much more from his own ignorance and the mistaken kindness of his friends.[718]


Sec. 4. Destitution and Want in 1865 and 1866

When the war ended, there was little good money in the state, and industry was paralyzed. The gold and silver that remained was carefully hoarded, and for months there was none in circulation except in the towns. A Confederate officer relates that on his way home, in 1865, he gave $500 in Confederate currency to a Federal soldier for a silver dime, and that this was the only money he saw for several weeks. The people had no faith in paper money of any kind, and thought that greenbacks would become worthless in the same way as Confederate currency. All sense of values had been lost, which may account for the fabulous and fictitious prices in the South for several years after the war, and the liberality of appropriations of the first legislature after the surrender, which in small matters was severely economical. The legislators had been accustomed to making appropriations of thousands and even millions of dollars, with no question as to where the money was to come from, for the state had three public printers to print money. Now it was hard to realize that business must be brought to a cash basis.

Here and there could be found a person who had a bale or two of cotton which he had succeeded in hiding from the raiders and the Treasury agents. This was sold for a good price and relieved the wants of the owner; but those who had cotton to sell often spent the money foolishly for gewgaws and fancy articles to eat and wear, such as they had not seen for several years. There was an almost maddening desire for the things which they had once been accustomed[Pg 278] to, and which the traders and speculators now placed in tempting array in the long-empty store windows. But the majority of the people had no cotton to sell, and in many cases a pig or a cow was driven ten or fifteen miles to sell for a little money to buy necessaries, or frequently trinkets.

In certain parts of the state the crops planted by the negroes were in good condition in April, 1865, but after the invasions they were neglected, and in thousands of cases the negroes went away and left them. In the white counties conditions were as bad as it was possible to be. Half of the people in them had been supported by state and county aid which now failed. Nearly all the men were injured or killed, and there were no negroes to work the farms. The women and the children did everything they could to plant their little crops in the spring of 1865, but often not even seed corn was to be had. All over the state, where it was possible, the returning soldiers planted late crops of corn, and in the Black Belt they were able to save some of the crops planted by the negroes. But in the white counties, especially in the northern part of the state, nothing could be done. Often the breadwinner had been killed in the war, and the widow and orphans were left to provide for themselves. The late crops were almost total failures because of the drought, not one-tenth of the crop of 1860 being made. In this section everything that would support life had been stripped from the country by the contending armies and the raiding bands of desperadoes. A double warfare had devastated the country, “tories” raiding their neighbors and vice versa; and the bitter state of feeling prevented neighbor from relieving neighbor. But the “Unionists,” who were sure that their turn had come, wanted the destitute cared for, even if some were fed “who curse us as traitors.” This part of the country had been supported by the central Black Belt counties, but in 1865 the supply was exhausted. In the cotton counties there was enough to support life, and had the negroes remained at home and worked, they would not have suffered. As it was, those who left the plantation were decimated by disease and want. Soon after the occupation, the army officers distributed the supplies captured from the Confederates among the needy whites and blacks who applied for aid. But many out of reach of aid starved, and especially did this happen among the aged and helpless who made no[Pg 279] appeal for aid, but who died in silence from want of shelter and food.

After several months the Freedmen’s Bureau, under the charge of General Swayne, who was a man of discretion and common sense, and who understood the real state of affairs, extended its assistance to the destitute whites. Among the negroes the Bureau created much of the misery it relieved, for in the cotton belt there was enough to support life; and had the negroes not flocked to the Bureau, they would have lived in plenty. Besides, the aged and infirm negroes were not assisted by the Bureau, but remained with their master’s people, who took care of them. But the generous assistance extended by that much-abused institution saved many a poor white from starvation. In the fall of 1865, 139,000 destitute whites were reported to the provisional government. They were mostly in the mountain counties of north and northeast Alabama, though in southeast Alabama there was also much want. And in Governor Parsons’s last message to the legislature (December, 1865), he stated that those in need of food numbered 250,000.[719] A state commissioner for the destitute was appointed to coöperate with General Swayne and the Freedmen’s Bureau. The legislature appropriated $500,000 in bonds to buy supplies for the poor, but the attitude of Congress toward the Johnson state governments prevented the sale of state securities. However, the governor went to the West and succeeded in getting some supplies. In December, 1865, it was believed that there were 200,000 people who needed assistance in some degree.

The failure of the crops in 1865 left affairs in even a worse condition than before. Small farmers could not subsist while making a new crop, and many widows and children were in great need. Some of the latter walked thirty or forty miles for food for themselves and for those at home.[720]

In January, 1866, the state commissioner, M. H. Cruikshank, reported to Governor Patton that 52,921 whites were entirely destitute.[Pg 280] These were mostly in the counties of Bibb, Shelby, Jefferson, Talladega, St. Clair, Cherokee, Blount, Jackson, Marshall, all white counties; nine other counties had not been heard from.[721] During the same month, a Freedmen’s Bureau official who travelled through the counties of Talladega, Bibb, Shelby, Jefferson, and Calhoun reported that the suffering among the whites was appalling, especially in Talladega County. The Freedmen’s Bureau had neglected the poor whites, though there was little suffering in the richer sections where the negroes lived. He stated that near Talladega many white families were living in the woods with no shelter except the pine boughs, and this in the middle of winter.[722]

In Randolph County, in January, 1866, the probate judge said that 5000 persons were in need of aid. Most of these had been opposed to the Confederacy. The “unionists” complained that the Confederate foragers had discriminated against them, which, while very likely true, was more than offset by the depredations of the tories and Federals on the Confederate sympathizers. All accounts agree that the Confederate sympathizers were in the worse condition; many of them had not tasted meat for months. But charges were brought that the probate judges of the provisional government, who certainly were not strong Confederates, did not fairly distribute provisions among the “damned tories,” as the latter complained that they were called.[723] The state commissioner could relieve only about one-tenth of the destitute whites. In January, 1866, he gave assistance in the form of meal, corn (and sometimes a little meat) to 5245 whites and 2426 blacks; in February, to 13,083 whites and to 4107 blacks; and in March, to 17,204 whites and to 5877 blacks, most of whom were women and children, the men receiving assistance being old, infirm, or crippled. General Swayne of the Freedmen’s Bureau helped Cruikshank in every way he could, and took charge of some of the negroes. But owing to the failure of the crops in 1865, the situation was growing worse,[Pg 281] and there was no hope for any relief until the summer of 1866 when vegetables and corn would ripen.[724]

In May, 1866, Governor Patton said that of 20,000 widows and 60,000 orphans, three-fourths were in need of the necessaries of life, that they had been able to do very little for themselves, even those who had land being unable to work it to any advantage, and that their corn crop of the previous year had failed.[725] There is little doubt that many died from lack of food and shelter during 1865 and 1866, but in the disordered times incomplete records were kept. Many cases of starvation were reported, especially in north Alabama, but few names can now be obtained. Near Guntersville there were three cases of starvation, while hundreds were in an almost perishing condition. From Marshall County, where, it was said, there were 2180 helpless and destitute persons and 2000 who were able to work, but could get nothing to do, it was reported that not more than twenty people had more than enough to supply their own needs. The people of Cherokee County, when on the verge of starvation, appealed to south Alabama for aid. They asked for corn, and said that if they could not get it they must leave the country. Hundreds, they said, had not tasted meat for months, and farm stock was in a wretched condition. Nashville sent $15,000 and Montgomery $10,000 to buy provisions for them.[726] From Coosa County much distress was reported among the old people, widows, children, refugees, and the families whose heads had returned from the army too late to make a crop. However, the negroes in this section who had remained on their farms had made good crops and were doing well.[727] In the valley of the Coosa, in northeast Alabama, several cases of starvation were reported. One woman went seventeen miles for a peck of meal, but died before she could reach home with it. Another, after fasting three days, walked sixteen miles to obtain supplies, and failing, died. One family lived on boiled greens, with no salt nor pepper, no meat nor bread. An old woman, living eighteen miles from Guntersville, walked to that village to get meal for her grandchildren. It has been estimated that there were 20,000 people[Pg 282] in the five counties south of the Tennessee river—Franklin, Lawrence, Morgan, Marshall, De Kalb—in a state of want bordering on starvation.[728]

The majority of the destitute whites never appealed for aid, but managed, though half starved, to live until better times. Numbers left the land of famine and went where there was plenty, and where they could get work. Others who could not emigrate and those broken in spirit received assistance. From January to September, 1866, 15,000 to 20,000 whites, and 4000 to 14,000 negroes were aided each month by the Freedmen’s Bureau and by the state. Most of these were women and children, the rule being not to assist able-bodied whites except in extreme cases.

In 1866 the state succeeded in selling some of its bonds, and raised money in other ways. Much was spent for supplies for the poor, for in 1866 the crops almost failed again. From November, 1865, to September, 1866, the Freedmen’s Bureau and the state commissioner issued, to black and white, 3,789,788 rations. There were also large donations from the West and from Tennessee and Kentucky. After this the Freedmen’s Bureau gave less, though during the year from September, 1866, to September, 1867, it issued 214,305 rations to whites and 274,399 to blacks. To the whites, and partly to the blacks, the issue of provisions was made under the general supervision of General Swayne, and through state agents in each county who were acceptable to Swayne.[729]

In November, 1867, the Freedmen’s Bureau reported that there were 10,000 whites and 50,000 blacks without means of support, and 450,000 rations per month were asked for. It would have been much better to have put an end to relief work, since by this time the officials of the Freedmen’s Bureau were very active in politics and showed a disposition to report their political henchmen as destitute and in need of support. And in another way there was much abuse of the[Pg 283] charity of the government, for some broken-down, spiritless people would never work for themselves as long as they could draw rations for nothing. The negroes, especially, were demoralized by the issue of rations. Fear of the contempt of their neighbors would drive all but the meaner class of whites back to work, but the negro came to believe that he would be supported the rest of his life by the government.

As late as October, 1868, it was reported that there was great want in middle and south Alabama, and soup houses were established by the state and the Bureau in Mobile, Huntsville, Selma, Montgomery, and other central Alabama towns.[730] The location of the soup kitchens, and the date, lead one to suspect that politics, perhaps, had something to do with the matter. These towns were the very places where there was less want than anywhere else in the state, but Grant was to be elected, and there were many negro votes.

For more than two years after the war in all the small towns were seen emaciated persons who had come long distances to get food. General Swayne thought the condition of the poor white much worse than that of the negro. The latter, he said, was hindered by no wounds nor by a helpless family, for his aged and helpless kin were cared for at the old master’s. The “refugees,” as the poor whites were called who had but little and lost all by the war, lived in a different part of the country,—in the mountains and in the pine woods,—beyond the reach of work or help, clinging to the old home places in utter hopeless desolation. For the negro, Swayne thought, there was hope, but for the “refugee” there was none; he existed only.[731]

It was years before a large number of the people again attained a comfortable standard of living. Some gave up altogether. Many died in the struggle. Numbers left the country; others, in reach of assistance, became trifling and worthless from too much aid. In later years the opening of mines and the building of railroads in north Alabama, the lumber industry and the rapid development of south Alabama, saved the “refugee” from the fate that General Swayne thought was in store for him.



[Pg 284]




Sec. 1. Confiscation Frauds

Restrictions on Trade in 1865

At the time of the collapse of the Confederacy trade within the state of Alabama was subject to the following regulations: gold and silver was in no case to be paid for southern produce; all trade was to be done through officers appointed by the United States Treasury Department;[732] the state was divided into districts and sub-districts called agencies, under the superintendence of these Treasury agents, whose business it was to regulate trade, and collect captured, abandoned, and confiscable property; in making purchases of cotton, and other produce the agents were to pay only three-fourths of the value, or to purchase the produce at three-fourths its value, and then at once resell it to the former owner at full value, with permission to export or ship to the North; in order to get permission to sell, the owner must take the Lincoln amnesty oath of December 8, 1863; there was, besides, an internal revenue tax of two cents a pound, and a shipping fee of four cents a pound.[733] So for a month after the surrender the person who owned cotton near any port or place of sale had to sell to United States Treasury agents, or pretended agents, and have twenty-five per cent to fifty per cent of the value of his cotton deducted before it could be sent North. On May 9, 1865, a regulation provided that “all cotton not produced by persons with their own labor or with the labor of freedmen or others employed and paid by them, must, before shipment to any port or[Pg 285] place in a loyal state, be sold to and resold by an officer of the government ... and before allowing any cotton or other product to be shipped ... the proper officer must require a certificate from the purchasing agent or the internal revenue officer that the cotton proposed to be shipped had been resold by him or that 25 per cent of the value thereof has been paid to such purchasing agent in money.”[734]

This was in accord with the general policy of Johnson, at first, viz. to punish the slaveholding class and to favor the non-slaveholders. Cotton was then worth $250 or more a bale, and cotton raised by slave labor had to pay the 25 per cent tax—$60 to $75. However, the regulations ordered that no other fees were to be exacted after the fourth was taken. Nearly all the cotton not yet destroyed was in the Black Belt, and was raised by slave labor. The few people who had cotton raised by their own labor might sell it after paying the tax of three cents a pound, or $12 to $15 a bale.

May 22, 1865, the proclamation of the President removed restrictions on commercial intercourse except as to the right of the United States to property purchased by agents in southern states, and except as to the 25 per cent tax on purchases of cotton. No exceptions were made to the 25 per cent tax. The ports were to be opened to foreign commerce after July 1, 1865.[735] After June 30, 1865, restrictions as to trade were removed except as to arms, gray cloth, etc.[736] And after August 29, 1865, even contraband goods might be admitted on license.[737]


Federal Claims to Confederate Property

The confiscation laws relating to private property under which the army and Treasury agents were acting in Alabama in 1865 were: (1) the act of July 17, 1862, which authorized the confiscation and sale of property as a punishment for “rebels”; (2) the act of March 12, 1863, which authorized Treasury agents to collect and sell “captured and abandoned” property,—but a “loyal” owner might within two years after the close of the war prove his claim, and “that[Pg 286] he has never given any aid or comfort” to the Confederacy, and then receive the proceeds of the sales, less expenses; (3) the act of July 2, 1864, authorizing Treasury agents to lease or work abandoned property by employing refugee negroes. “Abandoned” property was defined by the Treasury Department as property the owner of which was engaged in war or otherwise against the United States, or was voluntarily absent. According to this ruling all the property of Confederate soldiers was “abandoned” and might be seized by Treasury agents. North Alabama suffered from the operation of these laws from their passage until late in 1865, the rest of Alabama only in 1865.

The blockade prevented the people from disposing of most of the cotton raised during the war; there were heavy crops in 1860, 1861, 1862, and small ones in 1863 and 1864. The number of bales produced in 1859 was 989,955; in 1860, about the same; and less in 1861 and 1862.

Comparatively little cotton was sent out on blockade-runners, and not very much was sent through the lines from the cotton belt proper, so that at the close of the war there were many thousands of bales of cotton in the central counties of the state. Cotton was selling for high prices—30 cents to $1.20 a pound, or $200 to $500 a bale. It was almost the sole dependence of the people to prevent the severest suffering. The state and Confederate governments had some kind of a claim on much of the cotton early in 1865. No one knew how much nor exactly where all of the Confederate cotton was stored, and it bore no marks that would distinguish it from private cotton. But the records surrendered by General Taylor and others showed who had subscribed to the Cotton or Produce Loan. Many thousand bales had been destroyed by the raiders in 1864 and 1865, and many thousand more had been burned by Confederate authorities to prevent its falling into the hands of the Federals.[738]

[Pg 287]On October 30, 1864, a report was made to Secretary of the Treasury[739] Trenholm which showed the amount of Confederate cotton in the southern states. By far the greater part that was still on hand was in Alabama. In this state the Confederacy had received as subscriptions to the Produce Loan, 134,252 bales, at an average cost of $101.55, in all, $13,633,621.90. Other sales or subscriptions on other products to this Produce or Cotton Loan raised the amount in Alabama to $16,691,500. Alabama, as one of the producing states, and the one least affected by the ravages of war, furnished to all of these loans more produce than any other state.[740] The people, unable to sell their cotton abroad, exchanged some of it for Confederate bonds. Several thousand bales (6000 in 1864) were gathered by the cotton tithe. After shipping several thousand bales through the blockade, and smuggling some through the lines, and after some destruction by the enemy, or to prevent seizure by the enemy, there remained in the state, in the fall of 1864, 115,450 bales of Confederate cotton. Nearly all of this was destroyed in 1865, before the surrender, by Federals and Confederates, and very little remained which the Federal government could rightfully claim as Confederate property. This claim was based on the theory that cotton subscribed to the Produce Loan was devoted to the aid of the Confederacy, in intention at least, and therefore was forfeited to the United States, even though the owner had never delivered the cotton or other produce, and though the United States held that the Confederacy could not legally acquire property.[741] There were three classes of property claimed by the United States: (1) “captured” property or anything seized by the army and navy; (2) “abandoned” property, the owner being in the Confederate service, no matter whether his family were present or not; (3) “confiscable” property, or that liable to seizure and sale under the Confiscation Act of July[Pg 288] 17, 1862. Until 1865, all sorts of property were seized and used by the Federal forces, or, if portable, sent North for sale. Live stock, planting implements and machinery, wagons, etc., were in some cases sent North and sold;[742] but most was used on the spot.

After the surrender the Secretary of Treasury ordered household furniture, family relics, books, etc., to be restored to all “loyal” owners or to those who had taken the amnesty oath.[743] In no case had a person who could not prove his or her “loyalty” any remedy against seizure of property. Until the surrender the people of north Alabama were despoiled of all property that could be moved, and after the surrender the same policy was pursued all over the state, especially in regard to cotton. No right of property in cotton was there recognized, but by a previous law a “loyal” owner had until two years after the war to prove his claim and his “loyalty.”[744]

The Attorney-General delivered an opinion, July 5, 1865, that cotton and other property seized by the agents or the army was de facto and de jure, captured property, and that neither the President nor the Secretary of the Treasury had the power to restore such property to the former owners. They must go through the courts, and under the laws only “loyal” claimants had any basis for claims, and “loyalty” must first be determined by the courts.[745] After the opinion of the Attorney-General, Secretary McCulloch followed it so far as[Pg 289] captures by the army were concerned, but still continued to “revise the mistakes” of the cotton agents who “frequently seized the property of private individuals.” Proof of “loyalty” was, however, required in all cases before restoration, and the fourteen classes excepted by the amnesty proclamation of May 29, 1865, could get no restoration. In all cases the expenses charged against the property had to be paid before the owner could get it. After April 4, 1867, by request of the Joint Sub-Committee on Retrenchment, no further releases of any kind were made.[746] On March 30, 1868, a joint resolution of Congress covered into the Treasury all money received from sales of property in the South. After this only an act of Congress could restore the proceeds to the owner.[747]

The result was in the long run that the “disloyal” owners never received restoration of their property seized by the army, and by the Treasury agents during and after the war, but claim agents and perjurers have pursued a thriving business in proving “loyal” claims against the Treasury. “Disloyal” persons, whose property was liable to confiscation, and who could not recover in the Court of Claims, were, as decided by that body: those who served in the military, naval, or civil service of the state or the Confederacy; those who voted for secession or for secession candidates; those who furnished supplies to the Confederacy, engaged in business that aided the Confederacy, subscribed to its loans, resided or removed voluntarily within the Confederate lines, or sold produce to the Confederacy. Women who had sons or husbands in the Confederate army, or who belonged to “sewing societies,” or made flags and clothing for, or furnished delicacies to, Confederate soldiers were “disloyal” and could not recover property. “Loyalty” had to be proven, not only for the original owner, but also for the heirs and claimants. The claims of deserters were allowed. In order to test the “loyalty” of claimants, they were asked to answer in writing lists of questions (numbering at various times 49, 62, 79, and 80 questions) regarding their conduct during the war. The questions covered several hundred points, and embraced every possible activity from 1861 to 1865. No man and few women who lived within the state until 1865 could,[Pg 290] without perjury, pass the examination and prove a claim. Yet numbers have proved claims.[748]


Cotton Frauds and Stealing

The minority report of the Ku Klux Committee in 1872 asserted that, of the 5,000,000 bales of cotton in the South at the close of the war, 3,000,000 had been seized by United States Treasury agents or pretended agents.[749] The Gulf states, and especially Alabama, were for a year or more filled with agents and “cotton spies,” seeking Confederate cotton and other property. They were paid a percentage of what they seized—25 to 50 per cent. Native scoundrels united with these, and all reaped a rich harvest.[750]

On much of the cotton subscribed to the Confederate Produce Loan the government had advanced a small amount to the owner and allowed him to keep it. In many cases no payment had been made. The farmer considered that the cotton still belonged to him, but that the Confederacy had a claim on a part of it. The records kept were imperfect, and few persons knew just what was Confederate cotton and what was not. Much of the cotton subscribed had been destroyed or sent to government warehouses in Selma, Mobile, Montgomery, and Columbus, where it was burned in April and May, 1865. Of course each man considered that the cotton destroyed was Confederate cotton, and that all left was private cotton. In most cases the claim of the government was very shadowy. Where cotton was still in the hands of the planter, private and government cotton could not be distinguished. The records did not show whether a man had kept or delivered the cotton he had subscribed to the Produce Loan. The agents proceeded upon the assumption that he had kept it, and that all he had kept was government cotton.[751] No proof to the contrary would convince the average agent. Secretary[Pg 291] McCulloch said, “I am sure I sent some honest cotton agents South; but it sometimes seems very doubtful whether any of them remained honest very long.”[752] It was said that Secretary Chase had foreseen the trouble that would result if the cotton were confiscated, and had proposed to leave all cotton in the hands of the former owners who then held it. When the records were certain, the cotton might be confiscated; but in most cases there were no correct records. Such a policy would have been generous and magnanimous, and would have had a good effect.[753] The plan of Chase was not accepted, and a carnival of corruption followed. In August, 1865, President Johnson wrote to General Thomas, “I have been advised that innumerable frauds are being practised by persons assuming to be Treasury agents, in various portions of Alabama, in the collection of cotton pretended to belong to the Confederate States government.”[754] The thefts of the Treasury agents and the worst characters of the army did much to arouse bitter feelings among the people who lost their only possession that could be turned into ready money. It was assumed, as a general rule, that all cotton belonged to the government until the real owner could prove his claim and his “loyalty,” and of course he could seldom do this to the satisfaction of the agent or of the army officer who was bent on supplementing his pay. Cotton had been all along an object of the special hostility of Federals. The old southern belief that cotton was king and the hopes that Confederates had founded on this belief were well known. “Cotton is the root of all evil” was a common declaration of the invading army and of the cotton agents. When no other private property was taken or destroyed, cotton was sure to be. Every cotton-gin and press in reach of the armies was burned from 1863 to 1865. There seemed to be an intense desire to destroy the royal power of King Cotton. As opportunity offered, officers in the army, contrary to orders, began to interest themselves in speculations in cotton—captured, purchased, or stolen. The small garrisons were not officered by the best men of the army, and many who would never have touched money from any other kind of plunder thought it perfectly legitimate to fill their pockets by the seizure and sale of cotton. They[Pg 292] did not consider it defrauding the government, for the latter, they knew, had no more title to it than they had.[755]

The disposition of the cotton collectors to regard the people as without rights resulted in the growth of a feeling on the part of the latter that it was perfectly legitimate to keep the government and its rascally agents from profiting by the use of Confederate property. In every way people began to hinder the agents and the army in its work of collecting cotton. Colonel Hunter Brooke stated, in 1866, that most of the people who had subscribed cotton to the Confederate government or on whose cotton the Confederates had some claim utterly refused to recognize the title of the United States to that property and refused to give any assistance to the authorities in tracing the cotton. At times the citizens rose in rebellion against the invasion of Treasury agents and the military escorts sent with them. A cotton spy was sent into Choctaw County to collect information about cotton stealing. He had an escort of twenty soldiers, but the people drove them out. A battalion of cavalry was then sent. Steamers sent up the rivers to get the cotton seized by the agents were sometimes fired upon.[756]

Not only cotton but stores collected on private plantations for the army, no matter whether private property or not, were seized. Horses and mules used in the Confederate service were taken, notwithstanding the terms of surrender and the fact that the Confederate soldiers owned the cavalry horses.[757] The counties of Cherokee,[Pg 293] Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Lauderdale, Limestone, Madison, Morgan, St. Clair, Walker, and Winston—all white counties—lost principally corn, fodder, provisions, harness, mules, horses, and wagons.[758]

As to cotton, much pure stealing was done by the followers of the army and thieving soldiers and some natives, but sooner or later the officials became implicated in it, since only by their permission could the commodity be shipped. A thieving southerner would find where a lot of cotton was stored and inform a soldier, usually an officer, who would make arrangements to ship the cotton, and the two would divide the profits. Planters who were afraid that their cotton would be seized by Treasury agents went into partnership with Federal officers and shipped their cotton to New Orleans or to New York. No one outside the ring could ship cotton until five or ten dollars a bale was paid the military officers who controlled affairs. Along the line of the Mobile and Ohio Railway 10,000 bales of cotton were said to have been stolen from the owners and sold in Mobile and New Orleans. The thieves often paid $75 a bale to have the cotton passed through to New Orleans.[759]

But all petty thievery went unnoticed when the Treasury agents began operations. They harried the land worse than an army of bummers. There was no protection against one; he claimed all cotton, and, unless bribed, seized it. Thousands of bales were taken to which the government had not a shadow of claim. In November, 1865, the Times correspondent (Truman) stated that nearly all the Treasury agents in Alabama had been filling their pockets with cotton money, and that $2,000,000 were unaccounted for. One agent took 2000 bales on a vessel and went to France. Their method of proceeding was to find a lot of cotton, Confederate or otherwise, and give some man $50 a bale to swear the cotton belonged to him, and that it had never been turned over to the Confederate States. Then the agent shipped the cotton and cleared $100 a bale.[760]

[Pg 294]Secretary McCulloch said that the most troublesome and disagreeable duty that he was called upon to perform was the execution of the law in regard to Confederate property. The cotton agents, being paid by a commission on the property collected, were disposed to seize private property also. There was no authority at hand to check them. And people were disposed, he thought, to lay claim to Confederate cotton and “spirited away” much of it, while on the other hand much private property was taken by the agents.[761]

Five years later the testimony taken in Alabama at the instance of the minority members of the Ku Klux Committee exposed the methods of the cotton agents.[762] The country swarmed with agents or pretended agents and their spies or informers; the commission given was from one-fourth to one-half of all cotton collected; everybody’s cotton was seized, but for fear of future trouble a proposition from the owner to divide was usually listened to and a peaceable settlement made; when private or public cotton was shipped it was consigned by bales and not by pounds; the various agents through whose hands it passed were in the habit of “tolling” or “plucking” it, often two or three times, about one-fifth at a time; in this way a bale weighing 500 pounds would be reduced to 200 or 300 pounds; even after the private cotton arrived at Mobile or New Orleans, paying “toll” all the way, it was liable to seizure by order of some Treasury agent; as a rule, terms could be arranged by which a planter might keep one-fourth to three-fourths of his cotton, whether Confederate or not; it was safer for the agent to take a part of the cotton with the consent and silence of the owner than to steal both from the owner and from the government for which he pretended to work, and in this way the owners saved some for themselves; much private cotton was seized on the plantations near the rivers before the owners came home from the war; cotton seized in the Black Belt was shipped to Simeon Draper, United States cotton agent, New York, while that from north Alabama was sent to William P. Mellen, Cincinnati;[763] complaint was made by those few owners who succeeded in tracing[Pg 295] their cotton that, after being reduced by “tolling” or “plucking,”[764] it was sold by the agent in the North, by samples which were much inferior to the cotton in the bales, and in this way the purchaser, who was in partnership with the agents, would pay ten or fifteen cents a pound for a lot of cotton certainly not worth more than that if the samples were honest, but which was really good cotton, worth 35 cents to $1.20 a pound in New York.

So in case the Secretary of the Treasury could be brought to “revise the mistakes” of his agents, the owner would get only the small sum paid in for inferior cotton, and even this was reduced by excessive charges and fees.[765] There was also complaint that when a lot of private cotton was seized and traced to Draper, the latter would inform the owners that only a small proportion of what had been seized was received,[766] and that had been sold at a low price. It was afterwards shown that Draper never gave receipts for cotton received. There was nothing businesslike about the cotton administration. Cotton was consigned to Draper or Mellen by the bale and not by the pound. A bale might weigh 200 or 500 pounds. As soon as cotton was seized the bagging was stripped off, and it was then repacked in order to prevent identification.[767] Many persons who knew nothing of the law and who saw that their property was unsafe were induced by the Treasury agents to surrender their cotton to the United States government, even though there might be no claim against it, the agents promising that the United States would pay to the owners the proceeds upon application to the Treasury Department. When the Secretary of the Treasury discovered this, and when the agent would certify that such was the case, his “mistake was revised” and the money received from the sale of cotton was refunded.[768] The owner had no remedy if the agent declined to [Pg 296]certify, and he usually declined, since the cotton had probably never been turned over to the United States by him.

The experience of Hon. F. S. Lyon[769] is typical of many in the Black Belt. He stated[770] that after the surrender of Taylor, General Canby issued an order that all who had sold cotton to the Confederate government must now surrender it to United States authorities under penalty of confiscation of other property to make good the failure to deliver Confederate cotton. Under this order some cotton was seized to replace Confederate cotton that had disappeared. United States army wagons, guarded by soldiers, went over the country day and night, gathering cotton for persons who pretended to be Treasury agents. Lyon had 384 bales of Confederate cotton which were claimed by General Dustin, a cotton agent (later a carpet-bag politician), and Lyon agreed to haul it to the railroad, under an “agreement” with Dustin. But one night a train of army wagons, guarded by soldiers, came and carried off 26 bales, and the next day, 70 bales. (They had asked the manager “if he would accept $2000 and sleep soundly all night.”) The wagons were traced to Uniontown, and the commanding officer there was induced to hold the cotton until the question was settled. General Hubbard, commanding the district, arrested one Ruter, who, with the soldiers, had taken the cotton. Ruter claimed to be acting under the authority of a cotton agent in Mississippi, but could show no evidence of his authority, and his name was not on the list of authorized agents. However, General Hubbard was ordered by superior authority to regard Ruter as a cotton agent and to discharge him. The 70 bales were lost.

The Mobile agent, Dustin,[771] would not make a decision in disputed cases because he was afraid of appeal to Washington. A proposition to divide the profits, however, would always secure from him a declaration that the cotton had no claims against it. Lyon reported that not one-tenth of the cotton seized was consigned to government[Pg 297] agents, but that the agents usually sold it on the spot to cotton buyers. The planter was held responsible for cotton sold or subscribed to Confederate government. Cotton stolen from the agent had to be made good by the person from whom the agent had seized it. Seed cotton was often hauled away at night by pretended agents. In every part of the cotton belt the looting of cotton went on.

There were frequent changes of agents. As soon as a man became rich his place would be taken by another. The chief cotton agents sold for high prices appointments as collecting agents. The new agents often seized the cotton that through bribery had escaped former agents; and in this way the same lot would be seized two or three times. One cotton agent, a mere youth, at Demopolis received as his commission for one month 400 bales of cotton which netted him $80,000. The Treasury Department made a regulation allowing one-fourth to a person who had kept the Confederate cotton and delivered it safely to the United States authorities, but the agents did not make known the regulation, and the one-fourth went to them.[772]

There were complaints of the seizure of cotton grown after the war. The Planters’ Factory of Mobile lost 240 bales of cotton grown in 1865. This company was made up of “Union” and northern men who were able to obtain an order for the release of the cotton. There was of course no way to tell what cotton was seized, and 240 bales of “dog tail,” worth six cents a pound, were turned over to the factory instead of the good cotton, worth sixty cents, a pound.[773]


Dishonest Agents Prosecuted

The Federal grand jury reported that at the end of the war there were 150,000 bales of cotton in Alabama to which the government[Pg 298] had clear title;[774] the records showed the history and location of each bale, and these records were placed in the hands of the cotton agents; the papers of two agents, in south Alabama, Dexter and Tomeny, showed that while a large part of this cotton had been shipped but little of it had been consigned to the government, the bulk of it having become a source of private profit to the agents; the 20,000 bales turned over to the government by these agents had been much reduced in weight, in some cases as much as one-third, and exorbitant expenses had been charged against them; large quantities of cotton had been fraudulently released to parties who presented fictitious claims; cotton belonging to private individuals had often been seized, and release refused unless the owner sold at a ruinous sacrifice to S. E. Ogden and Company, who seemed to be on the inside at New York; cotton thus seized was not released except through the influence of Ogden and Company, and it was said that Tomeny openly advised some parties to make arrangements with Ogden and Company, who paid less than half-price for cotton under such circumstances.[775] The grand jury declared that in Alabama 125,000 bales had been stolen by agents. Tomeny, who seems to have secured a much smaller share of the spoils than Dexter, stated that when he began business in November, 1865, nearly all cotton had been collected or stolen, and that not a hundred bales had been received by himself except from other agents who had collected it. He consigned all his cotton to Simeon Draper, in New York City. None was released to Ogden and Company, and they bought only one lot of cotton that had been seized—505 bales seized from Ellis and Alley, themselves cotton agents under the First Agency. This lot, Tomeny claimed, was bought by Ogden and Company without his knowledge or consent.[776]

Two cotton agents, T. C. A. Dexter and T. J. Carver, were finally arraigned, in the fall and winter of 1865, in the Federal courts, and Judge Busteed proceeded to try them; but they denied the jurisdiction of the court, and the army interfered and stopped the proceedings, whereupon Busteed closed the court. Then a military[Pg 299] commission was convened, and before it the cases were tried. Lieutenant-Colonel Hunter Brooke presided over the commission. The culprits denied the legality of this trial by a military commission in time of peace and ultimately were pardoned on this account. Carver was convicted of fraud in the collection of cotton, and was fined $90,000 and sentenced to imprisonment for one year and until the fine should be paid. Carver had paid Dexter $25,000 for his commission as cotton agent. So it seems the office must have carried with it certain opportunities. Dexter was convicted of fraud in the cotton business and for selling the appointment to Carver. Only 3321 bales of government cotton could be traced directly to his stealing.[777] He was fined $250,000 and imprisoned for one year and until the fine should be paid.[778]


Statistics of the Frauds

The minority report of the Ku Klux Committee asserted, as has been said, that in 1865 there were 5,000,000 bales of cotton in the South, and that the agents seized 3,000,000 bales for themselves and for the government;[779] Dr. Curry said that there were about 250,000 bales of Confederate cotton;[780] another expert estimate placed the total number of bales of Confederate cotton at 150,000 on April 1, 1865; after April 1, many thousand bales were destroyed in Alabama, where most of the Confederate cotton was gathered; the report of A. Roane, in 1864, showed 115,000 bales in Alabama. It is not probable, after all the burnings which later took place in Alabama,[Pg 300] that there was much government cotton left in Alabama, 20,000 bales at the most.

Secretary McCulloch, on March 2, 1867, reported that the total receipts from captured and abandoned property amounted to $34,052,809.54, netting $24,742,322.55.[781] The cotton sold for $29,518,041.17.[782] The records show that only 115,000 bales were turned over to the United States, and of these Draper received 95,840½ bales which he sold for about $15,000,000 when cotton was worth 33 cents to $1.22 a pound, and a bale weighed 400 to 450 pounds. This cotton was worth in New York $500,000,000.[783] The records of the agencies were badly kept or not kept at all, and many agents made no reports. The government never knew how many bales had been collected in its name.

The First Special Agency reported that in Alabama it had seized cotton (after June 1, 1865) in the counties of Greene, Marengo, Perry, Dallas, Pickens, Montgomery, Sumter, and Tuscaloosa, during October, November, and December, 1865, and January, 1866. This agency had, before June 1, 1866,[784] shipped 5697 bales to the government agent in New York, who sold them for $750,702.68, and had made charges of $209,338.58 for freight, fees, etc., $35 a bale. The Ninth Agency, under the notorious T. C. A. Dexter and J. M. Tomeny, gathered cotton from the counties of Dallas, Marengo, Sumter, Montgomery, Wilcox, Lowndes, Barbour, Butler, Tuscaloosa, Macon, and Mobile. This agency had thirty-six collecting agents, and turned over to the government only 9,712 bales, which sold for $1,412,335.68, with fees and charges amounting to $540,962.38.[785]

[Pg 301]Most of the government cotton was consigned to New York agents and sold there.[786]

The army quartermasters at Mobile received 19,396 bales of cotton, of which 6149 were delivered to Dexter and 9741 were, it was claimed, destroyed by the great explosion. Dexter turned over to the government only 7469 bales and Tomeny 7732, other agents accounted for enough to bring the total up to about 30,000 bales. Dexter sold $823,947 worth of other property.[787]

The Freedmen’s Bureau in Alabama was supported for two years by the sale of confiscated property, of which no accounts were kept. The army also sold cotton and other confiscated property and used the proceeds. “Abandoned” cotton netted to the Treasury $2,682,271.69. After June 30, according to Treasury records, 33,638 bales (worth $7,650,675.93, but netting only $4,886,671) were illegally seized. It is this money which is still held because the former owners once subscribed to the Confederate Produce Loan. “Loyal” claimants, 22,298 in number in 1871, were asking damages, to the amount of $60,258,150.44. When Congress, on March 30, 1868, called into the Treasury all proceeds of captured and abandoned property, it was found that Jay Cooke and Company had $20,000,000, which they had been using in their business for years. The cotton agents and others interested lobbied persistently in Washington[Pg 302] against legislation in behalf of claimants, fearing investigation and exposure.

The statistics given in the public documents are often those for the whole South, but usually only for Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Seldom can the figures for Alabama be separated from the others. Alabama lost more from the invasion of Treasury agents than any other state, since in 1865 she had more cotton and other property, and many more agents visited her soil. The United States Treasury received only a small fraction of the confiscated property, and most of the proceeds of that have been released to people who were willing to commit perjury in order to get it.[788]

Under the act of March 12, 1863, “loyal” owners had until two years after the war to file claims, and by February, 1888, $9,864,300.75 had been paid out to satisfy these people. Since 1888, $520,700.18 has been paid out. Under the act of May 18, 1872, providing for return of proceeds of cotton seized illegally after June 30, 1865, 1337 claims were filed, 339 of which were from Alabama. These Alabama claims called for 23,529 bales. Only a very small amount ($195,896.21) was returned to the claimants, because the records showed that most of them had once sold cotton to the Confederate government. Therefore, they now say, all cotton seized after June 30, 1865, was Confederate cotton, and the proceeds will be held. Only about four and a half millions now (1904) remain in the Treasury, as the proceeds of all the cotton seized. This is the amount for which the cotton seized after June 30, 1865, was sold. All other proceeds have either been returned to “loyal” claimants or have been absorbed by expenses. Very few, if any, claimants not able to prove “loyalty” have been able to secure restoration, since “loyalty” was in most cases a prerequisite to consideration.[789]

[Pg 303]The confiscation policy, it may be concluded, profited the government nothing; the Treasury agents and pretended agents were enriched by their stealings and but few were punished; nearly all private cotton was lost; the people were reduced to more desperate want and exasperated against the government which, it seemed, had acted upon the assumption that the ex-Confederates had no rights whatever.


Sec. 2. The Cotton Tax

Another heavy burden imposed on the prostrate South was the tax levied by the United States government on each pound of cotton raised. An act of July, 1862, imposed a tax of one-half cent a pound on cotton, but this tax could be collected only on that part of the crop that was brought through the lines by speculators. January 30, 1864, the tax was increased to two cents a pound, collectible on all cotton coming from the Confederate States. This was raised to two and a half cents a pound on March 3, 1865, and to three cents a pound, or $15 a bale, on July 13, 1866.[790] After the war the tax bore with crushing weight on the impoverished farmers.[791] On March 2, 1867, in anticipation of Reconstruction, the tax was reduced to two and a half cents a pound, or $12.50 a bale, to take effect after September 1, 1867. A year later, partly because of the decided objections of those carpet-baggers, scalawags, and negroes who had small farms and whose remonstrances had more influence than those of the planters, the tax was discontinued on all cotton raised after the crop of 1867. The tax was a lien on the cotton from the time it was baled until the tax was paid, and was often collected in the states to which the cotton was shipped.

[Pg 304]The collections in the South amounted to the following sums:—

For the year ending June 30, 1863   $351,311.48
For the year ending June 30, 1864   1,268,412.56
For the year ending June 30, 1865   1,772,983.48
For the year ending June 30, 1866   18,409,654.90
For the year ending June 30, 1867   23,769,078.80
For the year ending June 30, 1868   22,500,947.77
Total,   $68,072,388.99[792]

Of this tax Alabama paid within her borders $10,388,072.10,[793] and since she was one of the three great cotton states, her share of the tax paid in northern ports must have been several million dollars more. Of the other cotton states,—Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee, and Arkansas,—all except Georgia, which paid about a million dollars more than Alabama, suffered in less degree.

From April 1, 1865, to February 1, 1866, Alabama paid in other taxes, into the United States Treasury, $1,747,563.51, of which $1,655,218.31 was internal revenue, and from September 1, 1862, to January 30, 1872, $14,200,982 internal revenue.[794] The former sum was much more than the Federal government spent in Alabama during that year for the relief of the destitute, both black and white. The cotton spirited away by thieves and confiscated by the government would have paid several times over all the expenses of the army and the Freedmen’s Bureau during the entire time of the occupation. Many times as much money was taken from the negro tenant in the form of this cotton tax as was spent in aiding him. The most crushing weight of the tax came in 1866 and 1867, and it was much heavier than the taxation imposed by the Confederate and state governments even in the darkest days of the war. Had the price of cotton remained high, the tax would not have borne so heavily on the people; but with the decline of the price the tax finally amounted to a third of the net value of the cotton, while the amount raised in these years was about one-fifth of the value of the farming lands.[795] The tax absorbed all the profits of cotton planting and left the farmer nothing.

[Pg 305]A letter from the Secretary of the Treasury in reference to the propriety of refunding the money received from the cotton tax stated some of the arguments of the opponents of the tax. It was claimed (1) that the tax was unconstitutional because it was not uniform and because it was virtually a tax upon exports; (2) that the tax was unequal and oppressive in its operations because it fell entirely upon cotton producers; (3) that it was levied without the consent of the people and when they were not represented in Congress; and (4) that in addition to the cotton tax the producers of the cotton were subject to all taxes paid by citizens of other states.[796] These objections were answered by the Secretary, who said that the tax was added to the price of cotton and was borne by the consumer, not the producer, and that it was the fault of the cotton states that they were not represented. He asserted that the tax on cotton was an excise like that on tobacco and whiskey.[797]

In 1866 an effort was made in Congress to raise the tax to five cents a pound. Such a tax, they said, would raise $66,000,000, or, at the least, $50,000,000 a year, of which Alabama’s share would be about $12,000,000 to $15,000,000. The Committee on the Revenue reported that such a tax “will not prove detrimental to any national interest.” The testimony of experts was quoted to prove that the tax would fall upon the consumer, though most of the experts, who were manufacturers from New England, said that on account of the great demand and excessive prices of cotton goods the tax would fall upon the manufacturer for the present time. Nevertheless, they were all in favor of the proposed tax, except one manufacturer and one planter from Georgia, who objected on the ground that the producer would have the burden to bear.[798]

The business men of New York and other northern cities opposed[Pg 306] the tax and defeated the extra levy. The New York Chamber of Commerce, when the measure to raise the cotton tax to five cents a pound was proposed, memorialized Congress against the injustice of the tax. The memorial stated that the North and the West must not take advantage of the South in the days of her weakness; that the cultivation of cotton should not be thus discouraged. It was shown that the manufacturer would be protected by the drawback of five cents a pound allowed on cotton goods exported, while the cotton farmer would pay a five-cent tax. By the operation of such a tax, they stated, the rich would be made richer, and the poor made poorer. That in the proposed law “there is a want of impartiality which is calculated to provoke hostility at the South, and to excite in all honest minds at the North the hope that such a purpose will not prevail.”[799]

By the people who had to pay the tax it was considered an unjust and purely vindictive measure, which was the more exasperating because they had no voice in the matter and because no attention was paid to their remonstrances. They complained that it was levied as a penalty, that it was confiscation under color of law. They felt that it was a blow of revenge aimed at them when there was no fear of resistance or hope of protection, as no other part of the country had its exports taxed.[800] The fact that the tax was removed because of the objections of the carpet-baggers, scalawags, and negroes, instead of pleasing the whites, was a source of irritation to them. The respectable people had asked for justice and it was refused them, but was granted to those who were of opposing politics. Those who paid the tax never believed that the mass of the people at the North were in favor of such a measure, and they hoped that favorable elections would reverse the policy of Congress, which, then recognizing the unconstitutionality of the tax, would refund it, if not to individuals, at least to the states in proportion to the amount raised in each, or, that Congress would give it to the states as a long-time loan.[801][Pg 307] For years there was a belief among the farmers that the unjust tax would be refunded, and the cotton tax receipts were carefully preserved against a day of reimbursement, but, like the negroes’ “forty acres and a mule,” the money never came.[802]



[Pg 308]




After the Surrender

The paroled Confederate soldier returned to his ruined farm and went to work to keep his family from extreme want. For him the war had decided two questions, the abolition of slavery, and the destruction of state sovereignty. Further than that he did not expect the effects of the war to extend, while punishment, as such, for the part he had taken in the war[803] was not thought of. He knew that there would be a temporary delay in restoring former relations with the central government, but political proscription and humiliation were not expected. That after a fair fight, which had resulted in their defeat, they should be struck when down, was something that did not occur to the soldiers at all. No one thought of further opposition to the United States; the results of the war were accepted in good faith, and the people meant to abide by the decision of arms. Naturally, there were no profuse expressions of love for the United States,—which was the North,—but there was an earnest desire to leave the past behind them and to take their place and do their duty as citizens of the new Union.[804]

[Pg 309]The women and the children, who heard with a shock of the surrender, felt a terrible fear of the incoming armies. The raids of the latter part of the war had made them fear the northern soldiers, from whom they expected harsh treatment. The women had been enthusiastic for the Confederate cause; their sacrifices for it had been incalculable, and to many the disappointment and sorrow were more bitter than death. The soldier had the satisfaction of having fought in the field for his opinions, and it was easier for him to accept the results of war. A certain class of people who had served during the war at duties which kept them at home professed to be afraid of hanging, of confiscation, of negro suffrage and negro equality, and many other horrible things; they were loud in their denunciation of the surrender; they would have “fought and died in the last ditch,” they declared. It is hard to see how they could so flatter themselves as to think the conqueror would hold them responsible for anything, unless for their violent talk on political questions before and during the war.

Such was the state of feeling in the first stage, before there was any general understanding of the nature of the questions to be solved or of the conflicting policies. News from the outside world came in slowly; each country community was completely cut off from the world; the whole state lay prostrate, breathless, exhausted, resting. Little interest was shown in public questions; the long strain had been removed, and the people were dazed about the future. There was no information from abroad except through the army officials, who reported the news to suit themselves. The railroads and steamboats were not running; for months there was no post-office system, and for years the service was poor. The people settled down into a lethargy, seemingly indifferent to what was going on, and exhibiting little interest in the government and in politics. Some persons dumbly awaited the worst, but the soldiers feared nothing; at present they took no interest in politics; they were working, when they were able, to provide for their families.

With many people there was a disposition to see in the defeat the work of God. There was a belief that fate, destiny, or Providence had been against the South, and this state of mind made them the more ready to accept as final the results of war. The fear expressed by northern politicians that in case of foreign war the South would[Pg 310] side with the enemy was without cause. The South had had enough and too much of war. It disliked England and France more than it hated the North, because they had withheld their aid after seeming to promise it.

From the general gloom and seeming despair the young people soon recovered to some degree, and among them there was much social gayety of a quiet sort. For four years the young men and young women had seen little of each other, and there had been comparatively few marriages. Now they were glad to be together again, and all the surviving young men proceeded to get married at once. This revival of spirits did not extend to the older people. Nearly all were grieving over the loss of sons, brothers, husbands, or relatives. Much that made life worth living was lost to them forever, and unable to adapt themselves to changed conditions or to recover from the shock of grief and the strain of war, they died one after the other, until soon but few were left.[805]

One of the first things to awaken the people of Alabama from the blank lethargy into which they had fallen was the question of what was to be done by the United States government with the Confederate leaders who had been arrested. President Davis and Vice-President Stephens, Senator Clay, the war governors,—Moore, Shorter, and Watts,—Admiral Semmes, several judicial officers of the state, and many minor officials were arrested and imprisoned in the North. Davis, Moore, and Clay were known to be in feeble health, and from them came accounts of harsh treatment. The arrests of lesser personages were purely arbitrary, and in most cases were probably done by the military without any higher authority. It was announced unofficially that all who had held office before the war and who had supported the Confederacy, even those who had never taken an oath to support the Constitution and laws of the United States, would be arrested and tried for treason.[806] During the spring and summer of 1865 rumor was busy. Thus, fear of arrest and imprisonment, the sympathy of the people for their leaders who[Pg 311] were being made to suffer as scapegoats, the irritating methods of the Freedmen’s Bureau, the work of various political and religious emissaries among the negroes, and the confiscation of property served progressively to awaken the people from the stupor into which they had fallen, and they began to take an interest in affairs of such vital importance to them. The newspapers began to discuss the problems of Reconstruction and to condemn the treatment of the political prisoners from the South. This renewed interest was characterized by a section of the northern press and by prominent politicians as “disloyalty,”—a proof of a “rebellious” spirit which ought to be chastised.


“The Condition of Affairs in the South”

The President, who began with a vindictive policy, gradually modified it until it was as fair as the South could expect from him. To support his policy, he sent agents to the South to ascertain the state of feeling here and the exact condition of affairs. These agents were General Grant, the head of the army, Carl Schurz, a sentimental foreign revolutionist and politician with an implicit belief in the Rights of Man, and Benjamin C. Truman, a well-known and able journalist.

General Grant reported: “I am satisfied that the thinking men of the South accept the present condition of affairs in good faith. The questions that have heretofore divided the sentiment of the people of the two sections, slavery and state rights, or the right of a state to secede from the Union, they regard as having been settled by the highest tribunal—arms—that man can resort to.” He believed that acquiescence in the authority of the general government was universal, but that the demoralization following four years of civil war made it necessary to post small garrisons throughout the South until civil authority was fully established.[807]

The report of Carl Schurz was distinctly unfavorable to the [Pg 312]southerners. He made a classification of the people into four divisions: (1) The business and professional men and men of wealth who were forced into secession. These, though prejudiced, were open to conviction, and accepted the results of the war. However, as a class, they were neither bold nor energetic. (2) The professional politicians who supported the policy of the President and wanted the state readmitted at once, as they hoped then to be able to arrange things to suit themselves. (3) A strong lawless element, idlers and loiterers, who persecuted negroes and “union” men, and in politics would support the second class. They appealed to the passions and prejudices of the masses and commanded the admiration of the women. (4) The mass of the people, who were of weak intellect, with no definite ideas about anything; who were ruled by those who appealed to their impulses and prejudices. He stated, however, that all were agreed that further resistance to the government was useless and that all submitted to its authority. The people, he said, were hostile toward the soldiers, northern men, unionists, and negroes; their loyalty was only submission to necessity; and they still honored their old political leaders.[808]

B. C. Truman, the journalist, after a long stay in the South, of which about two months were spent in Alabama, reported to the President that the southerners were loyal to the government and were cheerfully submissive and obedient to the law. The fates were against them, the people thought, and it was the will of God that they should lose; the dream of independence was over, and secession would never be thought of again; the war had decided this question, and the decision was accepted. The Confederate soldier, the backbone and sinew of the South, who must be the real basis of reconstruction and worthy citizenship, was exerting his influence for peace and reconciliation;[Pg 313] there were few more potent influences at work in promoting real and lasting reconciliation and reconstruction than that of the Confederate soldier. The fear that in case of foreign war the South would fight against the United States he knew to be unfounded; the soldiers hated England, and would fight for the United States; this, Hardee, McLaws, and Forrest had told him; but, he added, the soldiers preferred to have no war at all, they had had all that they wanted. At the collapse of the Confederacy, there had been a general feeling of despair. The people at home, especially, had expected the worst; and the reaction was wrongly called “disloyal.” The people were gradually returning to old attachments, but that they would repudiate their old leaders was not to be expected; neither would they acknowledge any wrong in their former belief in slavery and the right of secession, though ready to grant that those no longer existed. They were better friends to the negro than the northern men who came South; and the courts, magistrates, and lawyers would see that justice was done the negro.[809]

In order to produce a report which would justify the action of Congress in opposing the President’s plan,[810] a committee of Congress for several months held an inquest at Washington and examined selected witnesses who gave the desired testimony relative to the condition of affairs in the South. The committee consisted of six senators and nine representatives. Only three Democrats were on this committee, and not one of them was on the sub-committee that took testimony relating to affairs in Alabama.[811] All sessions of the subcommittees were held in Washington, far removed from the state under inquisition. Care was exercised in calling as witnesses only Republicans, and these usually were not citizens of the state. No citizens of Alabama testified except two deserters,[812] one tory,[813] and one[Pg 314] man who, during the war, had been an agent of the Confederate government “to examine political prisoners,”[814] but who told the committee that during the war he had been a “union” man. A witness from Ohio claimed to be a citizen of Alabama.[815] Another witness was a cotton speculator from Massachusetts, and still another, a land office man from the North. Three hailed from Illinois, three from Iowa, one each from California and Minnesota, and the remainder were from the North, with the exception of General George H. Thomas, who had been a Virginian and who had not been allowed to remain in ignorance of what the Virginians called his “treasonable” conduct toward his native state. Three were connected with the Freedmen’s Bureau, already fiercely criticised in all sections of the country, and twelve were, or had been, connected with the army, and for short periods had served in some part of Alabama.[816]

Of the five men who resided in the state, each was bitter in denunciation of existing conditions and tendencies in Alabama. The course they had taken during the war made it impossible for them to attain to any position of honor or profit so long as the Confederate [Pg 315]sympathizers were not proscribed. Existing institutions must be overthrown before they could hope for political preferment.[817]

The conflicting stories of most of the witnesses neutralized one another, and the remainder corroborated the testimony of General Wager Swayne, the head in Alabama of that much-hated institution, the Freedmen’s Bureau. General Swayne stated that he had been agreeably disappointed in the temper of the people. In most of his conclusions he agreed with Truman. He said that he had observed a gradual cessation of disorder, the opening of courts to the negro, and favorable legislation for him; but a marked increase of political animosity. He thought the northerner was well treated except socially. He thought the people were determined to make it honorable to have been engaged in “rebellion” and dishonorable to have been a “unionist” among them during the war.[818] The statements of General Swayne were probably as near to the truth as the average human being could attain to.[819] His account was from the northern standpoint, but was as impartial as any one could make at that time.[820] A few weeks later he said that the bluster of a few irreconcilables should not be exaggerated into the threatening voice of a whole people.[821] This he repeatedly asserted.

[Pg 316]Ex-Governor Andrew B. Moore spoke for the people when he said: “Slavery and the right of secession are settled forever. The people will stand by it.” Rev. Thomas O. Summers, who lived in the heart of the Black Belt, said, “I have not found a planter who does not think the abolition of slavery a great misfortune to both races; but all recognize abolition to be an accomplished fact.”[822]

The people had little faith in the free negro as a laborer, but were disposed to make the best of a bad situation and to give the negro a fair chance. The old soldiers took a hopeful view, and the great wrong of Reconstruction was not so much in the enfranchising of the ignorant slave as in the proscription and humiliation of the better whites with the alienated negro as an instrument.

There was no indication at this time that the people could ever be united into one political party. Before the war party lines had sharply divided the people, and the divisions were deep and political prejudices strong, though not based to any great extent on differences of principles. The war had served to unite the people only temporarily, and the last years of the struggle showed that this temporary union would fall to pieces when the pressure from without was removed. When normal conditions should be restored, local political strife was sure to be warm and probably bitter, and parties would separate along the old Whig and Democratic lines. At this time there was a disposition on the part of Whig and Democrat, secessionist and coöperationist, each to charge the responsibility for present evils upon the other, and by the “bomb-proof” people there was much talk of the “twenty-nigger law,” of “the rich man’s war and the poor man’s fight,” etc., in order to discredit the former leaders.[823]


The “Loyalists”

An unpleasant and violent part of the population was the Union “loyal” or tory party, consisting of a few thousand persons who had now returned from the North or had crept out of their hiding-places and were demanding the punishment of the “traitors” who had carried the state into war. Hanging, imprisonment, disfranchisement, confiscation, banishment, was the programme demanded by[Pg 317] them. From the Johnson régime in the state they could hope only for toleration, never for official preferment, nor even for respect. They demanded the assistance of the Federal government to place them in power and maintain them there.[824]

About this time it became difficult to distinguish the various species of “loyal” men or “loyalists.” There were: (1) Those who had taken the side of the United States in the war. These numbered two or three thousand and they were “truly loyal,” as they were called. (2) Those who had escaped service in the Confederate army by hiding out or by desertion, or who engaged in secret movements intended to overthrow the Confederate government. These claimed and were accorded the title of “loyalists” or “union” men. (3) All who during the war became in any way disaffected toward the Confederate or state government and gave but weak support to the cause asked to be called “loyalists” or “unionists.” (4) All negroes were, in the minds of the northern radical politician, “loyalists” by virtue of their color, and had all the time been “devoted to the Union”; the fact, of course, was that the negroes had been about as faithful as their masters to the Confederate cause. (5) All who took the oath in 1865 or were pardoned by the President and who promised to support the government thereby acquired the designation of “loyal” men. These included practically all the population except negroes and the first class. (6) A small number included in the fifth class who were conservative people, and who now used their influence to bring about peace and reconstruction. This was the best class of the citizens, and the majority of them were old soldiers,—men like Clanton, Longstreet, Gordon, and Hardee. (7) Later, only those who approved the policy of Congress were “loyal,” while those who disapproved were “disloyal.” The first and second classes coalesced at once, and finally they admitted the right of the third class to bear the designation “loyal.” They, for a long time, would not admit the claims of the negro to “loyalty,” but at last political necessity drove them to it; they denied always that the sixth class had any right to share the rewards of “loyalty.” These various definitions of [Pg 318]loyalty were made by the men themselves, by the various political parties, and by the party newspapers. Every man in the South was some kind of a “loyalist,” and most of them were also “disloyal,” according to the various points of view.


Treatment of Northern Men

There was no question more irritating to both sides than that of social relations between the southern people and the northerners. After the first weeks of occupation the relations between the enlisted men of the Union army and the native whites became somewhat friendly and in most cases remained so, while, with few exceptions, the regular officers and the people maintained friendly relations, in public matters, at least. The volunteers, however, were much more disagreeable, especially the volunteer officers, who lacked the social training of the regulars. Too often the northerners seemed to feel that they had conquered in war the right to enter the most exclusive southern society, and individuals made themselves disliked more than ever by striving to obtain social recognition where they were not known and were not desired. They had a newspaper knowledge of social conditions before the war, and, while professing to scorn the pretensions of the “southern chivalry and beauty,” yet were very desirous of closer acquaintance with both, and especially the latter. Soon after the armies of occupation came, matters were pretty bad for the southern people. The less refined subordinate volunteer officers almost demanded entrance, and even welcome, into southern social circles. They found that while the southern men would meet them courteously in business relations and in public places, they were never invited to the homes. On all occasions the women avoided meeting the northern men; this was their own wish, as well as that of their male relatives. They felt the losses of war more keenly than did the men because they had lost more. All of them had lost some loved one in the war, and quite naturally had no desire to meet in social relations the men who had overcome their country and possibly killed their fathers, brothers, husbands, lovers. They must have time to bury their dead, and it was long before the sight of a Federal soldier caused other than bitter feelings of sorrow and loss. Yet most of the northerners overlooked this fact. The southern women[Pg 319] reigned supreme over society; the death in the war of so large a number of young men had only strengthened the influence of the women; as a rule, they were better educated than the men, especially the young men, whose education had been interrupted by the war.[825]

When the families of the northern people came South, the doors of the southern homes were not opened to them. The northerners resented this ostracism by the southerners, and the coldness of society toward them caused many a sarcastic and sneering letter to be written home or to the newspapers.[826] There was constant interference in semi-social relations: the mistress of the house was told how she must treat her colored cook; the employer was warned that his conduct must be more respectful toward the negroes in his employ; ex-Confederates were forbidden to wear their uniforms, or even to use their buttons; nor could southern airs be sung or played.[827] The soldiers would crowd a woman off the sidewalk in order to make her look at them. Women would go far out of the way to avoid meeting[Pg 320] a Federal officer, and when forced to pass one, would sweep their skirts aside as if to avoid contagion. Forthwith the man insulted indited an epistle in which such incidents were related and the size of the ladies’ feet and ankles and the poverty-stricken appearance of their dress commented upon. This naturally found its way into the newspapers, as home letters from soldiers usually do. Soldiers, white and black, would sit on the back fence and jeer at the former mistress of slaves as she worked at the family washing. United States flags were hung over the sidewalks to force the women to walk under them, and in some instances, when they refused to do so and went out into the street, efforts were made to force them to pass under the flag. For refusal and for exceedingly “disloyal” remarks made under the excitement of such treatment, several were arrested and lectured by coarse officials. Drunken soldiers terrorized women in the garrison towns. A lot of drunken officers in a launch in Mobile Bay habitually terrified pleasure parties of women who were on the bay in small boats. The officers invited the women to balls and entertainments, but the latter paid no attention to what they considered impertinence. This angered the officers. The northern newspapers of 1865, 1866, and 1867 have many letters from correspondents in the South complaining of social neglect or ostracism. Letters were written about the coarseness, unlovely tempers, and character of the southern men and women who, it was insisted, were of the best families.[828]

These letters the violent southern press afterward made a practice of copying for political reasons.[829] The more incorrigible officers were accustomed to express their most offensive sentiments in regard to[Pg 321] negro inequality, the position of the negro, the slavery question, and the treatment of the negro by the whites. The Bureau officials were cordially disliked for their tendency to such conduct. Though only a small portion of the northerners and Federal officials were guilty of offensive actions, the relations in many places being kindly and the conduct of most of the officers considerate and courteous, yet the insolent behavior of some caused all to be blamed.[830]

The question of the social standing of the tory element may be summed up in a few words. They were mercilessly ostracized and thoroughly despised by the Confederate element of the population at that time, and the same feeling of social contempt had descended to their children’s children. It is rather a feeling of indifference now, but the result is even more deadly. The true Unionist was disliked but respected.

All the witnesses called before the sub-committee at Washington complained of the dislike exhibited toward “unionists” and northerners. It was a burning question and had much influence on the later course of reconstruction.[831]


Immigration to Alabama

As soon as the war was ended, there was an influx of northern men and northern capital into Alabama. Cotton was selling at a[Pg 322] fabulous price,—40 to 50 cents a pound, $200 to $250 a bale,—and the newcomers expected to make fortunes in a few years. They were welcomed by the planters who wanted to sell or to lease their plantations, which, for want of funds, they were unable to cultivate. General Swayne said that in 1866 there were 5000 northern men[832] in Alabama engaged in trading and planting. They were sought for as partners or as overseers by those who hoped that northern men could control free negro labor. Lands were sold or leased at low prices, and many soldiers, especially officers, decided to buy land and raise cotton. Numbers of large plantations in the Black Belt were bought or leased by officers of the army, all of whom had lofty ideas as to what they were going to do. The soil was fertile, cotton was selling for high prices, and the free blacks, they were sure, would work for them out of gratitude and trust. They wanted to help reconstruct southern industry, and to show what could be done toward developing the great natural resources of the state. They embarked in large enterprises, and as long as their money lasted bought everything that was offered for sale. Their success or failure was dependent largely upon the negro laborer, who was to make the cotton, and the new planters made extraordinarily liberal terms with him. They dealt with the negro as if he were a New Englander with a black skin, and they purchased expensive machinery for him to use. They would not listen to southern advice, but went as far as possible to the opposite extreme from southern methods of farming. All suggestions were met with the assurance that the southern man was used only to slaves, and could not know how free men would work.

Reports, generally false and made mainly for political purposes, were continually published by the northern press in regard to the ill treatment of northern men who wished to make their homes in the South.[833] But not a single authenticated case of violence to such persons can be found to have taken place in Alabama.

In some localities, on account of bands of outlaws, for several[Pg 323] months after the war it was not safe for any stranger to settle. The ignorant whites had no liking for the northern men (and may not have to this day). The better class of people was in favor of much immigration from the North, and Governor Parsons made a tour through the North to induce northern men and capital to come to Alabama.[834] The people had no capital, and wanted to induce those who possessed it to come and live in the state. The testimony of travellers was that the accounts of cruelty and intolerance toward northerners were almost entirely false; that they were welcomed if they did not attempt to stir up trouble between the races.[835] The refusal of Congress to recognize the state government and the rejection of the members elected to Congress caused a fresh outburst of bitter feeling against the North; but General Swayne, who had the best opportunities for observation, said that rudeness and insult and the occasional attentions of a horse-thief were the worst things that had happened to the northern settlers.[836]

These northern men meant well but, as a rule, were incompetent as farmers and business men. Consequently they failed, and most of them never quite understood the reasons for their failure. They knew next to nothing of plantation economy, and the negroes were their only teachers. Most of them were from the West, and had never seen cotton growing before. It was almost pathetic to see these 5000 northerners risking all they possessed upon their faith in the negro, and losing. The northern merchant gave the negro unlimited credit and lost; the planter gave his tenant all he asked for, whenever it pleased him to ask. The farm stock was driven to camp-meetings[Pg 324] and frolics while the grass was killing the cotton. Mills and factories were built and negro laborers employed, but the negroes, because of a lack of quickness and sensitiveness of touch, proved to be unfit for factory work. Besides, the noise of the machinery made them sleepy, and it was beyond their power to report for work at a regular hour each morning. At first, the negroes showed great confidence in the northern man and were glad to work for him, but too much was required of them, and after a year or two the disgust was mutual. The revulsion of feeling following failure and disappointment and ostracism injured the South by creating hostile opinion in the North. Nearly all the northern men went home, but the less desirable ones remained to assist in the political reconstruction of the state, when many of them became state officials.[837]


Troubles in the Church

At the close of the war, the churches were in a disturbed condition, owing to the attitude of the Washington government. Most of the southern churches held by the northern organizations were restored to their former owners. The northern Methodist Church caused irritation by retaining southern church property that had been placed under its control by the military authorities. But the most aggravated ill feeling was aroused in the Protestant Episcopal Church.

After the collapse of the Confederate government, Bishop Wilmer of Alabama directed the Episcopal clergy to omit that portion of the prayer mentioning the President of the Confederate States. Further, he ordered that when civil authority should be restored, the prayer for the President of the United States should be used.[838] Bishop Wilmer, consecrated in 1862, had never made a declaration of conformity to the constitution and canons of the church in the United States, and, consequently, even by the northern Episcopal Church, was not considered amenable to its constitution.[839]

[Pg 325]For several months his directions were not noticed by the Federal authorities, and services were held in conformity to the bishop’s orders. In September, “Parson” William G. Brownlow of Tennessee, it is said, brought the matter of the Wilmer pastoral letters to the attention of General George H. Thomas, who commanded the Military Division of the Tennessee, to which belonged the Department of Alabama. Thomas, like Wilmer, was a Virginian, and was regarded by the latter and other southerners as a traitor to his native state. Thomas was peculiarly sensitive to such a charge, and disliked Wilmer, who had expressed his opinion in regard to the matter. So it was easy to secure his interference. General Woods, at Mobile, was directed to investigate the matter. An officer was sent to ask Wilmer when he intended to order the clergy to pray for the President of the United States. The bishop refused to direct its use at the dictation of the military authority, or while the state was under military domination, since no one desired “length of life,” nor the least prosperity to such a government.[840] The result was the argumentative order which follows:[841]

Headquarters Department of Alabama,
Mobile, Ala., Sept. 20, 1865.

General Order No. 38:

The Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States has established a form of prayer to be used for “the President of the United States and all in civil authority.” During the continuance of the late wicked and groundless rebellion the prayer was changed to one for the President of the Confederate States, and so altered, was used in the Protestant Episcopal churches of the Diocese of Alabama.

Since the “lapse” of the Confederate government, and the restoration of the authority of the United States over the late rebellious states, the prayer for the President has been altogether omitted in the Episcopal churches of Alabama.

This omission was recommended by the Rt. Rev. Richard Wilmer, Bishop of Alabama, in a letter to the clergy and laity, dated June 20, 1865. The only reason given by Bishop Wilmer for the omission of a prayer, which, to use his own language, “was established by the highest ecclesiastical authorities, and has[Pg 326] for many years constituted a part of the liturgy of the church,” is stated by him in the following words:—

“Now the church in this country has established a form of prayer for the President and all in civil authority. The language of the prayer was selected with careful reference to the subject of the prayer—all in civil authority—and she desires for that authority prosperity and long continuance. No one can reasonably be expected to desire a long continuance of military rule. Therefore, the prayer is altogether inappropriate and inapplicable to the present condition of things, when no civil authority exists in the exercise of its functions. Hence, as I remarked in the circular, we may yield a true allegiance to, and sincerely pray for grace, wisdom, and understanding in behalf of a government founded on force, while at the same time we could not in good conscience ask for its continuance, prosperity, etc.”

It will be observed from this extract, first, that the bishop, because he cannot pray for the continuance of “military rule,” therefore declines to pray for those in authority; second, he declares the prayer inappropriate and inapplicable, because no civil authority exists in the exercise of its functions. On the 20th of June, the date of his letter, there was a President of the United States, a Cabinet, Judges of the Supreme Court, and thousands of other civil officers of the United States, all in the exercise of their functions. It was for them specially that this form of prayer was established; yet the bishop cannot, among all these, find any subject worthy of his prayers.

Since the publication of this letter a civil governor has been appointed for the state of Alabama, and in every county judges and sheriffs have been appointed, and all these are, and for weeks have been, in the exercise of their functions; yet the prayer has not been restored.

The prayer which the bishop advised to be omitted is not a prayer for the continuance of military rule, or the continuance of any particular form of government or any particular person in power. It is simply a prayer for the temporal and spiritual weal of the persons in whose behalf it is offered—it is a prayer to the High and Mighty Ruler of the Universe that He would with His power behold and bless His servant, the President of the United States, and all others in authority; that He would replenish them with grace of His holy spirit that they might always incline to His will and walk in His ways; that He would endow them plenteously with heavenly gifts, grant them in health and prosperity long to live, and finally, after this life, to attain everlasting joy and felicity. It is a prayer at once applicable and appropriate, and which any heart not filled with hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness, could conscientiously offer.

The advice of the bishop to omit this prayer, and its omission by the clergy, is not only a violation of the canons of the church, but shows a factious and disloyal spirit, and is a marked insult to every loyal citizen within the department. Such men are unsafe public teachers, and not to be trusted in places of power and influence over public opinion.

It is therefore ordered, pursuant to the directions of Major-General Thomas, commanding the military division of Tennessee, that said Richard Wilmer, Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Diocese of Alabama, and the Protestant Episcopal clergy of said diocese be, and they are hereby suspended from [Pg 327]their functions, and forbidden to preach, or perform divine service; and that their places of worship be closed until such time as said bishop and clergy show a sincere return to their allegiance to the government of the United States, and give evidence of a loyal and patriotic spirit by offering to resume the use of the prayer for the President of the United States and all in civil authority, and by taking the amnesty oath prescribed by the President.

This prohibition shall continue in each individual case until special application is made through the military channels to these headquarters for permission to preach and perform divine service, and until such application is approved at these or superior headquarters.

District commanders are required to see that this order is carried into effect.

By order of
Major-General Charles R. Woods,
Frederick H. Wilson, A. A.-G.

Wilmer denied the right of civil or military officials to interfere in such matters. Prayer, he said, was religious, not political, and was not to be prescribed by secular authority.[842] Woods threatened to use force, and had the churches closed by soldiers. St. John’s Church in Montgomery having been closed by the military authorities, the congregation attempted to meet in Hamner Hall, a school building, but was dispersed by soldiers at the point of the bayonet. Much to the indignation of Generals Woods and Thomas, services were held in private houses.[843] The House of Bishops of the northern church protested against this edict to the President. Wilmer appealed to Governor Parsons and found that the “civil governor” of G. O. No. 38 was only a subordinate military official with no power. President Johnson at first refused to interfere, but was finally induced to direct Thomas to revoke the suspension of the clergy. This was done in the following remarkable order:[844]

Military Division of the Tennessee,
Nashville, Tenn., Dec. 22, 1865.

General Orders No. 40:

Armed resistance to the authority of the United States having been put down, the President, on the 29th of May last, issued his Proclamation of Amnesty, declaring that armed resistance having ceased in all quarters, he invited those lately in rebellion to reconstruct and restore civil authority, thus proclaiming the magnanimity of our government towards all, no matter how criminal or how deserving of punishment.

[Pg 328]Alarmed at this imminent and impending peril to the cause in which he had embarked with all his heart and mind, and desiring to check, if possible, the spread of popular approbation and grateful appreciation of the magnanimous policy of the President in his efforts to bring the people of the United States back to their former friendly and national relations one with another, an individual, styling himself Bishop of Alabama, forgetting his mission to preach peace on earth and good will towards man, and being animated with the same spirit which through temptation beguiled the mother of men to the commission of the first sin—thereby entailing eternal toil and trouble on earth—issued, from behind the shield of his office, his manifesto of the 20th of June last to the clergy of the Episcopal Church of Alabama, directing them to omit the usual and customary prayer for the President of the United States and all others in authority, until the troops of the United States had been removed from the limits of Alabama; cunningly justifying this treasonable course, by plausibly presenting to the minds of the people that, civil authority not yet having been restored in Alabama, there was no occasion for the use of said prayer, as such prayer was intended for the civil authority alone, and as the military was the only authority in Alabama it was manifestly improper to pray for the continuance of military rule.

This man in his position of a teacher of religion, charity, and good fellowship with his brothers, whose paramount duty as such should have been characterized by frankness and freedom from all cunning, thus took advantage of the sanctity of his position to mislead the minds of those who naturally regarded him as a teacher in whom they could trust, and attempted to lead them back into the labyrinths of treason.

For this covert and cunning act he was deprived of the privileges of citizenship, in so far as the right to officiate as a minister of the Gospel, because it was evident he could not be trusted to officiate and confine his teachings to matters of religion alone—in fact, that religious matters were but a secondary consideration in his mind, he having taken an early opportunity to subvert the church to the justification and dissemination of his treasonable sentiments.

As it is, however, manifest that so far from entertaining the same political views as Bishop Wilmer, the people of Alabama are honestly endeavoring to restore the civil authority in that state in conformity with the requirements of the Constitution of the United States, and to repudiate their acts of hostility during the past four years, and have accepted with a loyal and becoming spirit the magnanimous terms offered them by the President; therefore, the restrictions heretofore imposed upon the Episcopal clergy of Alabama are removed, and Bishop Wilmer is left to that remorse of conscience consequent to the exposure and failure of the diabolical schemes of designing and corrupt minds.

By command of
Major-General Thomas.
William D. Whipple,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

Wilmer had won, and three days after the order was promulgated in Alabama he directed the use of the prayer for the President of the United States. Two months earlier, the General Council of the [Pg 329]Confederate States had provided for such a prayer, but this provision was not to have the force of law in any diocese until approved by the bishop. This was to enable Wilmer to win the fight and then to resume the use of the prayer.[845]

The General Council of the Confederate Church, in November, 1865, decided that each diocese should decide for itself whether to remain in union with the General Council (of the Confederate States) or to withdraw and unite with the General Convention (of the United States). A small party in the northern church wanted “to keep the southern churchman out for a while in the cold,” and “to put the rebels upon stools of repentance,” but better feeling and better policy prevailed. The southern church was met halfway by the northern church, and the only important reunion of churches separated by sectional strife was accomplished. The diocese of Alabama was the last to join, Bishop Wilmer making the declaration of conformity January 31, 1866.[846]

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Sec. 1. Theories of Reconstruction

Owing to the important bearing upon the problem of Reconstruction of the disputes between the President and Congress in regard to the status of the seceded states, it will be of interest to examine the various plans and theories for restoring the Union. From the beginning of the war the question of the status of the seceded states was discussed both in Congress and out, and with the close of the war it became of the gravest importance. There was nothing in the Constitution to guide the President or Congress, though each sought to base a policy on that ancient instrument. Many questions confronted them. Were the states in the Union or out? If in the Union, what rights had they? If out of the Union, were they conquered territories subject to no law but the will of the United States government, or were they United States territory with rights under the Constitution? Must they be reconstructed or restored, and who was to begin the movement—the people of the states, Congress, or the President? Were the states in their corporate capacity, or the people as individuals, responsible for secession? What punishment was to be inflicted, and on whom or what must it fall—the people or the states? Who or what decides who are the political people of the state? Exactly what was a state? Was the Union the old Union of Washington, or a new one? Congress and the President could never agree in their answers to these questions.[847]


Conservative Theories

As to the status of the seceded states and the proper method of Reconstruction, all interested persons had theories, but the only one which was logical and consistent with regard to the “Constitution[Pg 334] as it was” was the so-called Southern theory. This theory was that secession having failed, state sovereignty was at an end; the doctrine was worthless; secession was a nullity, and therefore the states were not out of the Union; the state was indestructible. The war was prosecuted against individuals and not against states, and the consequences must fall upon individuals; the states had all the rights they ever possessed, but, being out of their proper relation to the Union, its officers must take the oath of allegiance to the United States government, representatives must be sent to Congress, and the people must submit to the authority of the government. Then the Union would be restored as it was.[848] At the fall of the Confederacy the general belief was that restoration would proceed along these lines. Many of the higher officials of the United States army were of the same opinion, and on this theory the celebrated Johnston-Sherman convention was drawn up by General Sherman, which promised amnesty to the people and recognition of the state governments as soon as the officials should have taken the oath of allegiance.[849] Likewise, in the Southwest, General Dick Taylor, with the approval of General Canby, advised the governors of the states in his department to take steps toward restoring their states to their former relations to the Union. General Thomas, and perhaps General Grant, had likewise advised the people of north Alabama, and the subordinate Federal commanders in the Southwest favored such reconstruction and were inclined to help along the movement. But orders from Washington put an end to any such course by directing the arrest of all state officials who endeavored to act. Among those who had taken steps to restore the former relations with the Union were the governors of Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida.[850]

The Presidential and Democratic theories, like the Southern theory, were based on the doctrine of the indestructibility of the state. In the beginning the Democratic theory would have recognized the state governments of the seceded states and thus practically coincided with the later Southern theory. The Presidential theory, as formulated later, would not have recognized the state governments,[Pg 335] and to this view the Democrats came after the war. The Union was indestructible and was composed of indestructible states. To assert that the states as states were not in the Union was to admit the success of secession and the dissolution of the Union. But the people as insurgents were incapable of political recognition by the United States government. So the state after the war was in a condition of suspended animation: the so-called state governments were not governments in a constitutional sense; the President could have the citizens tried for treason and punished, or he could pardon them and thus restore to them all their former rights, which, of course, included the right to reëstablish their governments and to resume their former relations with the Union. Congress had no power to interfere or to disfranchise any man, nor to regulate the suffrage in any way. Its only part in Reconstruction was to admit to Congress the representatives of the states as soon as constitutional government was restored by the people with the assistance of the President.[851]

The earliest legislative declaration touching this subject was in the Crittenden Resolutions passed by the House of Representatives on July 22, 1861.[852] Two days later practically the same resolutions were introduced in the Senate by Andrew Johnson of Tennessee and passed with only five dissenting voices.[853] They declared that “war is not waged upon our part in any spirit of oppression, nor for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, nor for the purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of these states, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution with all the dignity, equality, and rights of the several states unimpaired; and that as soon as these objects are accomplished the war ought to cease.”[854] To this declaration of principles the Democratic party adhered throughout the war and after. The Union as it was must be restored and maintained, one and indivisible.[855]

President Lincoln had no such regard for the “sacred rights of a state” as had the Democrats and his successor, Andrew Johnson. In his inaugural address he asserted that the Union existed before the states and was perpetual; that no state could withdraw from the Union; that secession was null and void; and that the Union was[Pg 336] unbroken.[856] In the formation of the provisional governments by the aid of the military authorities in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana, Lincoln showed that he expected the political institutions of 1861 to be restored. In December, 1863, he brought forth this plan for restoration: When one-tenth of the voting population of a state in 1861 should take an oath to support the Constitution and should establish a government on the basis of the state constitution and laws in 1861, such a government would be recognized as the government of the state.[857] In July, 1864, he announced by proclamation that he was unwilling to commit himself formally to any fixed plan of restoration. This was in answer to the Wade-Davis bill passed by Congress, which, if approved, would set aside the governments he had erected in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arkansas, and it showed that he considered it the prerogative of the executive to bring about and recognize the restored government.[858] These restored states he expected to take their places in the Union on the old terms,[859] for as soon as the people submitted and civil governments were established, constitutional relations would be resumed, and Congress would be obliged to admit their representatives.[860] Early in the war, he said nothing about abolition, but rather to the contrary. Later he advocated gradual and compensated emancipation by state action. At the close of the war, after the practical, if not the theoretical, abolition of slavery, he suggested that the newly established governments might, as a measure of expediency, confer the privilege of voting upon the best negroes.[861] He considered the matter of the suffrage beyond the control of the central government. The enfranchisement of the negro as a measure of revenge, and as a means of keeping the southern whites down and the Republican party in power, never entered his thoughts.

President Johnson succeeded to the policy of Lincoln, or, at least, to Lincoln’s belief that restoration was a matter for the executive attention, not for the legislative. He asserted that secession[Pg 337] was null and void from the beginning; that a state could not commit treason; that by the attempted revolution the vitality of the state was impaired and its functions suspended but not destroyed; that it was the duty of the executive to breathe into the inanimate state the life-giving breath of the Constitution. He recognized no power in Congress to pass laws preliminary to or restricting the admission of duly qualified representatives of the states.[862]



Andrew Johnson.
Charles Sumner.   Thaddeus Stevens.


The plan of Lincoln was, in theory and at first in practice, objectionable. It would recognize as the political people of a state the loyal minority, which would be an oligarchy, and the principle of the rule of majorities would thus be repudiated. Those who claimed to be loyal were not promising material for a new political people, and the “10 per cent” governments were treated with just contempt. But the plan was based, not on any narrow principle of legality, but on the broader grounds of justice and expediency, and was capable of expansion into a very different plan from what it was in the beginning. As applied to Louisiana and Arkansas, it was severely, and in theory justly, criticised on the ground that the President was assuming absolute authority in dealing with the seceded states, and that by this plan the entire political power would be given to a small class not capable of using it. As later modified, his plan would have admitted to participation in Reconstruction nearly or quite all the citizens of the southern states.

President Johnson, a war Democrat, gave promise of being more harsh than Lincoln in the work of restoration. Lincoln’s policy was based on expediency; Johnson’s, on the narrow legal principles of a State Rights Democrat. He had a strong regard for the “sacred rights of a state.” He proposed to reëstablish the state governments by means of a political people of the lower classes, and the old political leaders were to be disfranchised. Lincoln imposed certain conditions on individuals as a prerequisite to participation in reconstruction. Having created by the pardoning power a political people, he expected the initiative to come from them. The executive then retired into the background and waited the impulse of the people. He shrank from interfering with the states, not from any great respect for their rights, but from motives of policy. As Johnson applied his theory, there was little initiative left to the people. The executive[Pg 338] authority as the source of power set the machinery of restoration in motion, and the people were obliged to do as he ordered, many of them being at first excluded from participation. The whole programme was prescribed by him, and he watched every step of the progress made. For a firm believer in the rights of states he took strange liberties with them while restoring their suspended animation. Lincoln advised a limited suffrage for the blacks; but negroes could have no part in the Johnson scheme. Like Lincoln, however, Johnson so modified his plan that practically all the white people were to take part in the reëstablishment of the government. The conservative theories contemplated restoration, not reconstruction.


Radical Theories

The Republican majority in Congress soon advanced from the position taken in the Crittenden-Johnson resolutions. Most of the Republican party had no fixed opinions in regard to Reconstruction, but formed a kind of a centre or swamp between the Democrats and the President on the one extreme, and the Radicals on the other. The plan of Lincoln, as first announced and applied, was offensive to all parties, and some leaders never seem to have recognized that the President had, to any appreciable degree, modified his policy. The extreme Radicals were not sorry to have the matter of reconstruction fall from the hands of the wise and kind Lincoln into those of the narrow and vindictive Johnson. But the seeming defection of the latter soon disappointed those who were in favor of harsh measures in dealing with the defeated southerners. The best-known of the Radical theories advanced in opposition to the presidential policy were (1) the State Suicide theory of Charles Sumner, (2) the Conquered Province theory of Thaddeus Stevens, and (3) the Forfeited Rights theory, practically the same as the Conquered Province theory, but expressed in less definite language for the benefit of the more timid members of the Republican party.

Charles Sumner, the Radical leader of the Senate, set forth the Suicide theory in a series of resolutions to the effect that the ordinances of secession were void, and, when sustained by force, amounted to abdication by the state of all constitutional rights; that the treason involved worked instant destruction of the body politic, and the state[Pg 339] became territory under the exclusive control of Congress. Consequently, there were no state governments in the South, and all peculiar institutions had ceased to exist—among them slavery. Sumner constantly asserted that Congress now had exclusive jurisdiction over the southern territory.[863] He made strong objection to the despotic power of the President as applied in dealing with the seceded states, and declared that the executive was encroaching upon the sphere of Congress, which was the proper authority to organize the new governments. The seceded states, he affirmed, by breaking the constitutional compact had committed suicide, and no longer had corporate existence, and that the “loyalists,” who were few in number, should not have the power formerly possessed by all. The whole South was a “tabular rasa,” “a clean slate,” upon which Congress might write the laws.[864] The existence of slavery was declared to be incompatible with a republican form of government, which it was the duty of Congress to establish. For it is necessary to such a form of government that there be absolute equality before the law, suffrage for all, education for all, the choice of “loyal” citizens for office, and the exclusion of “rebels.” The negro must take part in Reconstruction, for his vote would be needed to support the cause of human rights and “the party of the Union”—meaning, of course, the Republican party.[865]

Sumner cared little for the Constitution except for the clause about guaranteeing a republican form of government to the states, and on this he based the power of Congress to act. The Declaration of Independence was to him the supreme law and above the Constitution, and to make the government conform to that document was his aim. He wearied his colleagues with his continual harping on the Declaration of Independence as the fundamental law, upon which footing the seceded states must return. That, he declared, would destroy slavery and all inequality of rights, political and civil.[866]

The Conquered Province theory was originated by Thaddeus Stevens, the Radical leader of the House of Representatives, who, however, refused to call it a theory. He made no attempt to harmonize his plan with the Constitution, and frankly expressed his[Pg 340] opinion that there was nothing in the Constitution providing for such an emergency; that the laws of war alone should govern the action of Congress, allowing no constitutions to interfere.[867] It was impossible to execute the Constitution in the seceded states, he said, which the victors must treat “as conquered provinces and settle them with new men and exterminate or drive out the present rebels as exiles from this country.”[868] Every inch of the soil of the southern states should be held for the costs of the war, to pay damages to the “loyal” citizens and pensions to soldiers and their families, and slavery should be abolished.[869] Secession, according to Stevens, was so far successful that the southern states were out of the Union and the people had no constitutional rights.[870] All ties were broken by the war. The states in their corporate capacities made war, and were out of the Union so far as the conqueror might choose to consider them, and must come back into the Union as new states or remain as conquered provinces with no rights except such as the conqueror might choose to grant. Perpetual ascendency of the North must be secured by giving the ballot to the negro, by confiscation, and by banishment. The Constitution, in his opinion, had been torn to atoms; it was now a “bit of worthless parchment,” and there could be no reconstruction on the basis of that instrument. Congress had absolute jurisdiction over the whole question.[871] Stripped of its violence, Stevens’s theory was probably the correct one from the point of view of public law. It was more in accord with historical facts. It recognized the great changes wrought by war in the structure of the government. It was frank, explicit, and practical. Unfortunately, the statesmanship necessary to carry to success such a plan was entirely lacking in its supporters.

Sumner would limit the authority of Congress only by the provisions of the Declaration of Independence; Stevens would have Congress unchecked by any law. By martial law and the law of nations, he meant no law at all, as his utterances show; nothing must stand in the way of the absolute powers of Congress. Both theories agreed in reducing the states to a territorial status. Sumner would[Pg 341] leave the people of these states the rights of people in the United States territories. Stevens would deny that they had any such rights whatever under any law, but that they were to be considered conquered foes, with their lives, liberty, and property at the mercy of the conqueror.[872]

The Forfeited Rights theory, patched up to suit the more timid Radicals who would not concede that the states had succeeded in getting outside of the Union or that they could be destroyed, was, in effect, the Stevens theory, though recognizing some kind of a survival of the states. The names and boundaries of the states alone survived; the political institutions were entirely destroyed, and must be reconstructed by Congress.

It is a waste of time to try to find a basis in the old Constitution for any of the theories advanced. If a legal basis must be had, it will have to be found in the Constitution as revolutionized by seventy-five years of development and four years of war. The main purposes of the congressional plans were to reduce the late dictatorial powers of the President, to remove forever from political power the political leaders of the South, to give the ballot to the negro as a measure of revenge and to assure the continuation in power of the Republican party.[873]

Owing to the fact that Congress was not in session for several months after the downfall of the Confederacy, the President had a good opportunity to put into operation the executive plan for restoring the southern states to their proper standing in the Union.


Sec. 2. Presidential Plan in Operation

Early Attempts at Restoration

In the early spring of 1865, Governor Watts, in a speech calling upon the people to make renewed exertions against the invader, said: “We hold more territory than a year ago, more of Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas, Georgia is overrun but is ready to rise. Our financial condition is better than four years ago. Arms, [Pg 342]commissary and quartermaster’s stores are more abundant now.”[874] But there were no more men. A month later Lee had started on the march to Appomattox; two months later Dick Taylor was surrendering the last Confederate armies east of the Mississippi; three months later the war governors of Alabama were in northern prisons, and not a vestige of the Confederate or state governments remained. There was no government.

Even before the collapse of the Confederacy there were indications of an approaching revolution in the state government, to be carried out by the union of all discontented factions. The object was to gain control of the state government or to organize a new one and return to the Union. This movement was strongest in north Alabama and was supported and encouraged by the Federal military authorities. One of the disaffected clique testified before the Subcommittee on Reconstruction that in the last years of the war a “Reconstruction” or “Union” party was organized in Alabama, which, at the time of the surrender, had a majority in the lower house of the legislature.[875] But the Senate, elected in 1861, held over and prevented any action by the House. During the year 1865 the “Union” party hoped to secure both the governorship and the Senate in the first elections which were to occur under the new constitution, and thus secure control of the state. But the invasion and surrender stopped the movement.[876]

There were indications during the winter and spring of 1865 that Reconstruction movements were going on in the northern half of the state. After the invasion of the state in April many people more influential than the ordinary peace party men began to think of Reconstruction. General Thomas authorized the citizens of Morgan, Marshall, Lawrence, and the neighboring counties to organize a civil government based on the Alabama laws of 1861. J. J. Giers, a brother-in-law of State Senator Patton (later governor), was sent by the military leaders to “reorganize civil law.” Thomas invited[Pg 343] the people of the other northern counties to do likewise and thus show that they were “forced into rebellion.” Colonel Patterson of the Fifth Alabama Cavalry accepted the terms for his forces, and Giers stated that Roddy’s men were so pleased with Thomas’s letter that they released their prisoners and stopped fighting. A Reconstruction meeting was held at Somerville, Morgan County, and was largely attended by soldiers. This was early in April.[877] In the central and southern portions of the state the movement did not begin until the Federal forces traversed the country. General Steele with the second army of invasion reported from Montgomery, May 1, 1865, that J. J. Seibels, L. E. Parsons, and J. C. Bradley[878] had approached him and had told him that two-thirds of the people of the state would take up arms to “put down the rebels.”[879] A meeting was held at Selma, in Dallas County, on May 10, and called upon the governor to convene the legislature and take the state back into the Union. Judge Byrd,[880] one of the speakers, said that the war had decided two things—slavery and the right of secession—and both against the South. He counselled a spirit of conciliation and moderation, and in this he expressed the general sentiment of the people.[881]

A more important meeting was held the next day in Montgomery. A number of the more prominent politicians met to take steps to place the state in the way of readmission to the Union.[882] George Reese[883] of Chambers County presided over the meeting and Albert Roberts was secretary. Seibels introduced resolutions, which were adopted, pledging to the United States government earnest and zealous coöperation in the work of restoring the state of Alabama to its proper relation with the Union at the earliest possible moment. The murder[Pg 344] of Lincoln and the attempt on the life of Seward were condemned as “acts of infamous diabolism revolting to every upright heart.” The bad effect the crime would have on political matters was deplored. The desire was expressed that all guilty of participation in the attempt might be brought to speedy and condign punishment, and “we shall hold as enemies all who sympathize with the perpetrators of the foul deed.” The majority reported a memorial to the President asking him to permit the governor of Alabama to convene the legislature, which would call a convention in order to restore the state to her political relations to the United States. This they believed was the most speedy method. But if this were not permitted, then the President was requested to appoint a military governor from among the most prominent and influential “loyal” men of the state and invest him with the power to call a convention. They were encouraged to ask this, the memorial stated, by the recent statement of the President of the principle that the states which attempted to secede were still states, and not being able to secede would not be lost in territorial or other division. “To forever put an end to the doctrine of secession; to restore our state to her former relations to the Union under the Constitution and the laws thereof; to enable her to resume the respiration of her life’s breath in the Union,—is a work in which we in good faith pledge you our earnest and zealous coöperation, and we hazard nothing in the assurance that the people of Alabama will concur with us with a majority approaching almost unanimity.”

Colonel J. C. Bradley presented a memorial from the minority of the committee. It was the same as the other memorial, except that the part relating to the appointment of a military governor was omitted. Such an official was not desired nor needed, he stated. After some discussion both memorials were adopted and each person present signed the one he preferred. The chairman appointed a committee to bear the memorials to the President. The general sentiment of the meeting and of the people seemed to be that, since they had failed to maintain their independence, there was nothing left to do but to accept as a working basis the theory that a state could not secede, and to get straight into the Union by having the President restore the suspended animation of the Constitution. The best and shortest way, they thought, was for Governor Watts to convene the legislature, which should begin the work, and a convention[Pg 345] of the people would complete it. Governor Watts and the Supreme Court (Stone and Phelan) approved the action of the meeting, though they took no part in it.[884]

Another meeting on the same day (May 11), at Guntersville, in Marshall County, in the heart of the devastated section of the state, proposed to submit cheerfully to the decision of war and return to the Union. Two soldiers, Major A. C. Baird and Colonel J. L. Sheffield,[885] were the leaders in the meeting.[886] Two mass-meetings were held in Covington County (one at Andalusia on May 17) and passed resolutions favoring a restoration of the Union. The Union General Asboth said that these people had returned to their allegiance early in April and had organized and armed to resist the “rebels.” The resolutions were signed by 280 and 376 persons respectively. Asboth reported great excitement on account of the action taken by the meeting.[887] On May 23 there was a meeting of citizens in Franklin County. James W. Ligon was president, H. C. Tompkins, vice-president, and R. B. Lindsey (governor in 1870-1872) addressed the meeting. This meeting seems to have been behind the times, for it accepted the overtures of Thomas made April 13, and promised to assist cheerfully in restoring law and order. They were anxious to resume former friendly relations to the United States and wanted a state convention called to settle matters.[888]

About this time the President, General Grant, and Stanton, by repeated orders, managed to reach the generals who were encouraging the movement toward Reconstruction, and put an end to their plans by ordering them not to recognize the state government in Alabama and to prevent the assembly of the legislature.[889] Thereupon, on[Pg 346] May 23, a memorial was signed by 106 prominent citizens of Mobile, asking the President to take steps to enable Alabama to be restored to the Union. Robert H. Smith[890] and Percy Walker[891] were sent as a committee to General Granger, who commanded in the city, to ask him to transmit the memorial to the President. General Granger did so with the indorsement that no impediment existed to immediate restoration, that the signers were influential men and represented the sentiment of the people of the state.[892] At Athens, in Limestone County, the citizens met and adopted resolutions declaring that all must be restored to the Union; that the state officials should be recognized, but that a new election should be held under the laws of Alabama as they were before secession; that a convention was not necessary and in the present unsettled condition of the county it would be dangerous to hold one; that the constitution of 1819, changed by amendment, should be used. The murder of Lincoln was deplored.[893] Similar meetings were held all over the state, especially in north Alabama.[894]

The “loyal” element held a meeting in north Alabama about the first of June.[895] Resolutions were introduced by K. B. Seawell to the effect that the government of Alabama had been illegally set aside in 1861 by a combination of persons regardless of the best interests of the state, that secession was not the act of the people, and that the Confederacy was a usurpation. It was decided that Alabama must go back to the Union, and the authority of the United States was invoked to enable “loyal” citizens to form a state government.[896] The sentiments of the more violent “unionists” or tories may be understood from a letter of D. H. Bingham,[897] then at West Point, New York. He said that reconstruction must not be [Pg 347]committed to the hands of the “rebels”; that Parsons, who was spoken of for provisional governor, was not one of the “union” men of Alabama and would use his influence to secure control to the old slave dynasty; that his appointment would be unfair to the “union” men; that the masses were coerced and deluded into fighting the battles of slavery; “I, George W. Lane,[898] and J. H. Larcombe,” he said, “never gave way to secession.” The non-slaveholding whites in slaveholding districts were trained to obey, he wrote, and the official class used its influence to keep the non-slaveholders in ignorance. Hence the small number of slaveholders (of whom most were owners of few slaves and hence were union men) controlled the “union” population of over 5,000,000. He said that the Alabama delegates, then in Washington,[899] were not inactive in producing these results, though they claimed to be “unionists.” They were once “union” men, but went over. Now they alleged that they were carried into rebellion by a great wave of public feeling. Such men should not be trusted until they had passed through a probationary state.[900]

The southerners who wanted immediate restoration of constitutional rights and privileges on the basis of the Crittenden Resolution of 1861,[901] soon found that this plan would not work; so, to make the best of a bad situation, all accepted the Johnson plan and declared that the state, since it had not had the right to secede, must still be in the Union. The press and the prominent men, even those who would be disfranchised by the President’s plan, gave it a hearty support in order to give peace to the land and restore civil government.[902] At this time the Johnson plan promised to be one of merciless proscription of the prominent men. As Johnson himself expressed it: “The American people must be made to understand the nature of the crime, the length, the breadth, the depth, and height of treason. For the thousands who were driven into the infernal rebellion there[Pg 348] should be amnesty, conciliation, clemency, and mercy. For the leaders, justice—the penalty and the forfeit should be paid. The people must understand that treason is the blackest of crimes and must be punished.”[903] The leaders were not afraid of such threats and meant not to stand in the way. The people intended to make the best they could out of a bad state of affairs. They believed then and always that their cause was right, secession justifiable and necessary; that the provocation was great, and that they were the aggrieved party; that the abolitionists and fanatics forced secession and civil war. But since they were beaten in war, after they had done all that men could do, they meant to accept the result and abide by the decision of the sword. There was a general purpose to stand by the government—certainly no dream of opposition to it. The people meant (which was neither treasonable nor unreasonable) to ally themselves to the more conservative political party in the North in order to secure as many advantages as possible to the South. Their aim was to preserve as much of their old constitution as they could, all the while recognizing that state sovereignty and slavery ended with the war. Their course in ceasing at once all useless opposition and proceeding to secure reinstatement on the old terms was, The Nation declared, “a display of consummate political ability.” Southerners like to think that had Lincoln lived his plan would have succeeded, and that the most shameful chapter of American history would not have to be written.[904] Johnson helped to ruin his own cause and his supporters along with it. The people never seem to have taken seriously the proposed merciless plans of Johnson, and the opposition of moderate advisers and the pleasure of pardoning southern “aristocrats” (and later Radical criticism) caused a distinct modification of his policy in the direction of mildness until the proscriptive part was almost lost sight of.[905]

The southern leaders[906] saw clearly that there was no hope for their party unless the President could win the fight against the Radicals[Pg 349] in Congress, and they attempted to disarm northern hostility outside Congress until the Radical party, aided by the rash conduct of the President, educated the people of the North to the proper point for approving drastic measures.[907]


The President begins Restoration

On May 29 the President began his attempt at restoration by proclaiming amnesty to all, except certain specified classes of persons. They were pardoned and therefore restored to all rights of property, except in slaves, on condition that the following oath be taken:—

“I   do solemnly swear (or affirm) in the presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Union of the states thereunder; and that I will, in like manner, abide by and faithfully support all laws and proclamations which have been made during the existing rebellion, with reference to the emancipation of slaves: So help me God.”[908]

Fourteen classes of people were excluded from the benefits of this proclamation; of these twelve were affected in Alabama:—

(1) The civil or diplomatic officers, or domestic or foreign agents of the Confederacy; (2) those who left judicial positions under the United States to aid the Confederacy; (3) all above the rank of colonel in the army and lieutenant in the navy; (4) those who left seats in the United States Congress and aided the Confederacy; (5) those who resigned commissions in the United States army and navy to escape service against the Confederacy; (6) persons who went abroad to aid the Confederacy in a private capacity; (7) graduates of the naval and military academies who were in the Confederate service; (8) the war governors of Confederate states; (9) those who left the United States to aid the Confederacy; (10) Confederate sailors (considered as pirates); (11) all in confinement as prisoners of war or for other offences; (12) those who supported the Confederacy and whose taxable property was over $20,000.

The classes excluded embraced practically all Confederate and state officials, for the latter had acted as Confederate agents, all the old political leaders of the state, many of the ablest citizens who had not been in politics but had attained high position under the Confederate government or in the army, the whole of the navy,—officers and men,—several thousand prisoners of war, a number of political[Pg 350] prisoners, and every person in the state whose property in 1861 was assessed at $20,000 or more. According to the proclamation the assessment was to be in 1865, but it was made on the basis of 1861, at which time slaves were included and a slaveholder of very moderate estate would be assessed at $20,000. In 1865 there were very few people worth $20,000.

It was provided that persons belonging to these excepted classes might make special application to the President for pardon, and the proclamation promised that pardon should be freely granted.[909] The oath could be taken before any United States officer, civil, military, or naval, or any state or territorial civil or military officer, qualified to administer oaths.[910] In Alabama 120 army officers were sent into all the counties to administer the amnesty oath. These officers were strict in barring out “all improper persons” and subscription went on slowly until the military commander issued orders that all who were eligible must take the oath. Less than 50,000 persons took the oath; 90,000 had voted in 1860.

There was a fight for appointment to the provisional governorship. William H. Smith of Randolph and D. C. Humphreys of Madison, both of whom had opposed secession, then entered the Confederate service, and later deserted; D. H. Bingham of Limestone, who had been a tory during the war; and L. E. Parsons of Talladega, who had aided the Confederacy materially and damned it spiritually—all wanted to oversee the restoration of the state.[911]

June 21, 1865, the President, acting as commander-in-chief of the army and under the clause in the Constitution requiring the United States to guarantee to each state a republican form of government and protect each state against invasion and domestic violence,[912] proceeded to breathe the breath of life into the prostrate state by appointing Lewis E. Parsons provisional governor.[913]

[Pg 351]It was made the duty of Parsons to call a convention of delegates chosen by the “loyal”[914] people of the state. This convention was to amend or alter the state constitution to suit the changed state of affairs, to exercise all the powers necessary to enable the people to restore the state to its constitutional relations with the central authority, and to set up a republican form of government. All voters and delegates must have taken the oath of amnesty, and must have the qualifications for voters prescribed by the Alabama constitution and laws prior to the secession of the state. This excluded the fourteen proscribed classes and said nothing of the negroes. The convention, when assembled, was to prescribe qualifications for voters and for office holders. The military and naval officers of the United States were directed to assist the provisional officials and to refrain from hindering and discouraging them in any way. The Secretary of State was directed to put in force in the state of Alabama all laws of the United States, the administration of which belonged to the State Department. The Secretary of the Treasury was directed to nominate assessors, collectors, and other treasury officials, and to put into execution in Alabama the revenue laws of the United States. The Postmaster-General was ordered to establish post-offices and post routes and to enforce the postal laws. The Attorney-General and the Federal judges were directed to open the United States courts in the state. The Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of the Interior were ordered to put in execution the regulations of their respective departments, so far as related to Alabama.[915]

In making appointments to office in the southern states, the departments were to give preference to “loyal”[916] persons of the district or state where they were to serve. If no “loyal” persons could be found in the state or district, such persons might be imported from other states or districts.

In this measure the difference appears between the Lincoln and the Johnson plan of restoration. Lincoln believed that the executive should only make things easy for the people to erect a government for themselves. He kept as much as possible in the background[Pg 352] and let it appear that the movement originated with the people. Several times he merely suggested that negroes with certain qualifications should be granted the suffrage. Johnson, on the other hand, made it clear that he was the source of all authority in the movement. He himself made stringent regulations of the suffrage, thus creating a body of citizens, and set up a government of his own for the purpose of creating a new state government. The people were to do as he bade them. He did not suggest negro suffrage in any form and was, like most southern Unionists, opposed to it. The Johnson provisional government was a military government with the President as the source of authority. Parsons was a military governor appointed by the commander-in-chief and paid by the War Department.[917] Lincoln’s provisional government would have been popular government based on election by the people.

The appointment of Parsons gave general satisfaction to all parties except the more violent tory element in the northern part of the state, who wanted men like D. H. Bingham or William H. Smith. A correspondent of The Nation who travelled among them in August, 1865, when this element of the people seemed likely to form a strong portion of the new ruling class of the South, before the President modified his plans, said of them: they are ignorant and vindictive, live in poor huts, drink much, and all use tobacco and snuff; they want to organize and receive recognition by the United States government in order to get revenge—really want to be bushwhackers supported by the Federal government; they “wish to have the power to hang, shoot, and destroy in retaliation for the wrongs they have endured”; they hate the “big nigger holders,” whom they accuse of bringing on the war and who, they are afraid, would get into power again; they are the “refugee,” poor white element of low character, shiftless, with no ambition.[918] To proscribe the mass of leading citizens, the experienced men in public affairs, as Johnson’s plan at first promised to do, would have had serious results, but his later, more liberal, policy restored the rights of all except the more prominent. But the old leaders were never again leaders, thinking it more politic to put forward less well-known men. At first Johnson had the mountaineer’s dislike of the “slave [Pg 353]aristocracy,” as he called it, and his plan was devised to humiliate and ruin this class.[919]

A month after his appointment Governor Parsons issued (July 20) a proclamation to the people, drawn largely from the census of 1860, showing how prosperous the state was at that time and inviting attention to the present condition of affairs. The question of slavery and secession, he said, had been decided against the South, but every political and property right, except slavery, still remained. He thus repudiated any former belief he may have had in the right of secession. A funny comparison was made in exuberant language and with many mixed metaphors, likening the Union to a steamship and the state of Alabama to a man swimming around in the water, trying to get on board. The following officers of the Confederate state government who were in office on the 22d of May,[920] 1865, were reappointed to serve during the continuance of the provisional government: justices of the peace, constables, members of common councils, judges of courts, except probate, county treasurers, tax collectors and assessors, coroners, and municipal officers. Judges of probate and sheriffs who were in office on May 22 were directed to take the amnesty oath and serve until others were appointed. All officers reappointed were to take the amnesty oath and give new bond. The right was reserved to remove any officer for disloyalty or for misconduct in office. Thus there was a continuity between the Confederate administration and the “restoration” administration.

The civil and criminal laws of the state as they stood on January 11, 1861, except as to slavery, were declared in full force, and an election of delegates to a constitutional convention was ordered for August 31, and the convention was to meet on September 10.[921] No one could vote in the election or be a candidate for election to the convention who was not a legal voter according to the law on January 11, 1861, and all voters and candidates must first take the amnesty oath or must have been pardoned by the President. Instructions were given as to how a person who was excluded from the benefits of the amnesty proclamation might proceed in order to secure a[Pg 354] pardon. A list of questions was appended by which “an improper person” might test his case and see how bad it was. They ran like this:—

(1) Are you under arrest? Why? (2) Did you order, advise, or aid in the taking of Fort Morgan and Mount Vernon? (3) Have you served on any “vigilance” committee for the purpose of trying cases of disloyalty to the Confederate States? (4) Did you order any persons to be shot or hung for disloyalty to the Confederate States? (5) Did you shoot or hang such a person? (6) Did you hunt such a person with dogs? (7) Were you in favor of the so-called ordinance of secession? (8) You are not bound to answer any except the first of these questions. (9) Will you be peaceable and loyal in the future? (10) Have proceedings been instituted against you under the Confiscation Act? (11) Have you in your possession any property of the United States?[922]

Parsons appointed to assist him a full staff of secretaries as follows: Wm. Garrett, Secretary of State; M. A. Chisholm, Comptroller of Accounts; L. P. Saxton, Treasurer; —— Collins, Adjutant-General; M. H. Cruikshank, Commissioner for the Destitute; John B. Taylor, Superintendent of Education.

A report on the condition of the treasury on September 1, 1865, shows that of $791,294 in the treasury on May 24, 1865, only $337 was in silver and $532 in gold. The rest was in state and Confederate money, now worthless. The financial status of the provisional treasury was uncertain. Receipts from July 20 to September 21, 1865, were $1766 and disbursements had been $1572. The bonded debt of the state, held in London, was $1,336,000, in New York, $2,109,000, a total of $3,445,000.[923]

Parsons could hardly do otherwise than reappoint the old state officials as temporary officers, but it created some dissatisfaction in the state and much in the North; and in truth the Confederate state officers in 1865 were not, in general, very efficient, being old men, cripples, incapables, “bomb-proofs,” “feather beds,” and deadheads. They were not much liked by any party unless perhaps by the few who put them in office. The Huntsville Advocate may have been voicing the objections of either “tory” or “rebel” when it condemned Governor Parsons’s reappointment of the de facto state [Pg 355]officers—“they are not the proper persons to rekindle the fires of patriotism in the hearts of the people.”[924]

The provisional governor was obliged to rely upon inferior material in restoring the state government. Though the President’s plan soon was shorn of its worst proscriptive features, the work of restoration had begun by excluding the natural leaders from a share in the upbuilding of the state, and they were thus rendered somewhat indifferent to the process. The class to whom the task fell was good, but it was not the best. The best men went into the southern army or otherwise committed themselves strongly to the cause of the Confederacy. The strong men of the state who sulked in their tents during the war were few in numbers, and they were usually disgruntled and cranky, and now, without influence, were much disliked by the people. The so-called “union” men who stayed at home in “bomb-proof” offices, or as teachers, overseers, ministers, etc., were not the kind of men to reconstruct the shattered government. The few who had openly espoused the Union cause had not the character, experience, and training necessary to fit them to rule a state. Though the administration began on a basis of very inferior material, yet the modification of the plan of the President gradually admitted the second-rate leaders to political privileges, and, had the experiment continued, they would have gradually resumed control of the politics of the state. It was in some degree the hope of this that made them willing to submit to proscription and exclusion for a while and support the reconstruction measures of the President. They hoped for better times.[925]

Parsons revised the official lists thoroughly, and many of the old officers were discharged and new ones appointed. However, they had little to do; the army and the Freedmen’s Bureau usurped their functions. A proclamation of August 19, 1865, directed the probate judge, sheriff, and clerk in each county to destroy, after August 31, old jury lists and make new ones from the list of names of “loyal” citizens who had taken the amnesty oath and registered. Circuit court judges were directed to hold special sessions of court for the trial of state cases and to have their grand juries inquire particularly into the cases of cotton and horse stealing, now common crimes.[926]

 [Pg 356]

“Proscribing Proscription”

One of the principal occupations of the provisional government was securing pardons for those who were excluded from the general amnesty of May 29, 1865. Governor Parsons was for reconciliation, and those who hoped to profit by the disfranchisement of the leaders complained of the lenient treatment of the latter. Parsons’s policy of “proscribing proscription” was greatly disliked by those who would profit by disfranchisement. If it were continued, they saw there would be no spoils for them. One of the aggrieved parties related a case which might well have been his own: A prominent “union” man went to the President to get his pardon, stating that he had been as much a Union man as possible for the last four years. “I am delighted to hear that,” the President said. Directly the “union” man said that he had been forced to become somewhat implicated in the rebellion, that he had been obliged to raise money by selling cotton to the Confederates, and, as he was worth over $20,000, it was necessary to get a pardon. “Well, sir,” the President answered, “it seems that you were a Union man who was willing to let the Union slide. Now I will let you slide.” On the other hand, Judge Cochran of Alabama told the President that he had been a rabid, bitter, uncompromising rebel; that he had done all he could to cause secession, and had fought in the ranks as a private; that he regretted very much that the war had resulted as it had; that he was sorry they had not been able to hold out longer. But he now accepted the results. The President asked: “Upon what ground do you base your application for pardon? I do not see anything in your statement to justify you in making such an application.” Judge Cochran replied, “Mr. President, I read that where sin abounds, mercy and grace doth much more abound, and it is upon that principle that I ask for pardon.” The pardon was granted.[927]

The President in the end granted pardons to nearly all persons who applied for them, but not a great number applied. The total number pardoned in Alabama from April 15, 1865, to December 4, 1868, was less than 2000, and of these most were those who had been worth over $20,000 in 1861 and had aided the Confederacy with their[Pg 357] substance. For this offence (for offence it was in Johnson’s eyes) 1456 people (of whom 72 were women) were pardoned before the general amnesty in 1868.[928] How many of this class of excepted persons did not ask for pardon is not known. It is certain that all who possessed that amount of wealth assisted the Confederacy. Half at least of the $20,000 must have been slave property.[929]

Few of the state and Confederate officials applied for pardon. Many worth over $20,000 in 1861 did not apply. Most of those who were wealthy in 1861 lost all they had in the war. To December 31, 1867, the President had pardoned in Alabama only 12 generals, viz. Battle, Baker, F. M. Cockerill, Clayton, Deas, Duff C. Green, Holtzclaw, Morgan, Moody, Pettus, Roddy, and Wood; 11 members of the Confederate Congress had been pardoned, 1 former United States judge, 1 former member United States Congress, 1 West[Pg 358] Point graduate; 2 naval officers, and 2 governors. These were the only prominent political leaders who applied for pardon.[930]


Sec. 3. The “Restoration” Convention

Personnel and Parties

The election for delegates was held August 31, and the convention met in Montgomery September 12 and adjourned on September 30. The total vote cast for delegates was about 56,000,[931] a very large vote when all things are considered. This being a representative body of the men who were to carry out the Johnson plan of restoration, it will be of interest to examine closely the personnel of the convention. There were 99 delegates, of whom only 18 were under forty years of age, the majority being over fifty; it was a body of old rather than middle-aged men; 26 were natives of Alabama; 24 were born in Georgia; Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina furnished 28; Maryland, Kentucky, and Tennessee, 14; 6 were from northern states, and 1 from Ireland. There were 23 Methodists; 19 Baptists; 16 Presbyterians (the most able members), and 5 Episcopalians; 34 belonged to no church (not a mark of respectability at that time). There were 33 lawyers and 42 farmers and planters; 6 physicians, 9 merchants, 2 teachers, and 7 ministers. The proportion of ministers and non-church-members is remarkable. As to politics, 45 were old Whigs and had voted for Bell and Everett electors in 1861, 24 voted for Breckenridge, and 30 for Douglas; 18 had been in favor of immediate secession and a few of these were now called “precipitators”; 11 had been in the convention of 1861, and 10 had then voted for secession. Only one member of the convention of 1861 from the southern and central parts of the state was returned to the convention of 1865. All the others had by their course in the war made themselves ineligible. Fifty-two had had no previous experiences in public life. There were two ex-governors, two former members of Congress, and one who had been minister to Belgium.[932]

 [Pg 359]

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There were several extreme “union” men, a few “precipitators,” who, however, made no factious opposition, and a large majority of conservative men. The votes on test questions showed a wide difference between the extremists from north Alabama and the other members. The proportion was about 63 conservatives to 36 north Alabama anti-Confederates. It was the old sectional division. The minority was made up about equally of rampant “union” men and old conservative Whigs; the majority, of the more liberal Whigs and conservative Democrats. Neither party was as united as the parties had been in 1861. There were almost as many minor divisions as there were members, but the most of them acted together in order to transact business, and none were allowed to obstruct. As a body the convention was much inferior in ability to that of 1861 and lacked experience. Nearly all were men of ordinary ability, while those of 1861 were the best from both sections of the state. Yet this was quite a respectable conservative body.[933] The secessionists and former Democrats were the ablest members, and were more inclined to accept the results of war in a philosophical spirit, and, making the best of things, to go to work to bring order out of political chaos. The Herald correspondent said that John A. Elmore was the strongest[Pg 360] man in the convention. He had been an ardent secessionist of the Yancey school, yet in the convention he did more than any other man to bring the weaker men around to correct views and harmony of action.[934]

Ex-Senator and Ex-Governor Fitzpatrick was chosen to preside, and Governor Parsons administered the amnesty oath. The convention at once notified President Johnson of the desire and intention of the people to be and to remain loyal citizens of the United States. It indorsed his administration and policy and asked him to pardon all who were not included in the amnesty proclamation of May 9, 1865.[935]


Debates on Secession and Slavery

The debate on the action to be taken as to the ordinance of secession was warm and extended over the entire session. The dispute was concerning the form of words to be used in repealing or otherwise getting rid of the ordinance of secession. One delegate proposed that it be declared “unconstitutional and therefore illegal and void”; another wanted it declared “null and void”; another, “the so-called ordinance of secession, null and void”; others, “unconstitutional, null and void”; “unauthorized, null and void”; or “unauthorized and void from the beginning.” The minority proposition to declare it “unauthorized, null and void,” was laid on the table by a vote of 69 to 21, the minority being from north Alabama. A proposition to declare it “unconstitutional, null and void” was lost by the same vote. And all similar propositions fared about the same.[936] However, a proposition to say that “it is and was unconstitutional” secured 34 votes against 59. Clark of Lawrence, who had been in the convention of 1861, wanted this convention to declare the ordinance of secession “unauthorized, null and void,” because, he said, in 1861, the majority of the people voted for “union and coöperation,” and that, as the convention refused to submit its work to the people, the people were misrepresented and the ordinance of secession was unauthorized. Yet he would not say that it was unconstitutional and void from the beginning. Other members said that the convention of 1861 had full authority. From the act of the[Pg 361] legislature of 1860 which provided for the calling of the convention, the people understood that it had full authority and they also knew that it would use its authority to secede. “Unauthorized” would mean that there was no cause for calling the convention of 1861, and would even deny the right to secede as a revolutionary right. It would mean consent to the doctrine of passive obedience, and also that the convention of 1861 and those who supported it had usurped authority, and “we thereby impliedly should leave the memory of our dead who died for their country to be branded as traitors and rebels and turn over the survivors, so far as we are concerned, to the gibbet.”[937] The ordinance favored by the majority of the convention declared that the ordinance of secession “is null and void,” and was adopted by a unanimous vote.[938] All other ordinances, resolutions, and proceedings of the convention of 1861, and such provisions of the constitution of 1861 as were in conflict with the Constitution of the United States, were declared null and void.[939]

The state bonded debt in aid of the war was $3,844,500, which was held principally in Mobile. There were other indirect war debts, but no one knew the amount. On a test vote early in the session the convention was divided, 58 to 34, against repudiating the war debt.[940] Later, by a vote of 60 to 19, all debts created by the state of Alabama, directly or indirectly in aid of the war, were declared void, and the legislature was forbidden to pay any part of it, or of any debts contracted directly or indirectly by the Confederacy or its agents or by its authority.[941]

[Pg 362]In the debate in regard to the abolition of slavery, Mr. Coleman of Choctaw[942] desired to know by what authority the people of Alabama had been deprived of their constitutional right to property in slaves.[943] He urged the convention not to pass an ordinance to abolish slavery, but to leave the President’s proclamations and the acts of Congress to be tested by the Supreme Court; that there was no such thing as secession; a state could not be guilty of treason, and Alabama had committed no crime; individuals had done so; others were loyal and were entitled to their rights. Not only those who had always been loyal but also those who had taken the amnesty oath were entitled to their property;[944] those pardoned by the President were entitled to the same rights, and Congress had no authority to seize property except during the lifetime of the criminal. The Federal government had no right to nullify the Constitution. The abolition of slavery should be accepted as an act of war, not as the free and voluntary act of the people of Alabama which latter course would prevent the “loyalists” of Alabama, from receiving compensation for slaves. He denied that slavery was non-existent; Lincoln’s proclamation did not destroy slavery; it was a question for the Supreme Court to decide, and to admit that Lincoln’s proclamation destroyed slavery was to admit the power of the President and Congress to nullify every law of the state. For all these reasons it was inexpedient for the convention to declare the abolition of slavery.

Judge Foster of Calhoun answered that the war had settled the question of slavery and secession; that the question of slavery was beyond the power of the courts to decide, and, besides, a decision of the Supreme Court would not be respected. The question had to be decided by war, and having been so decided, there was no appeal from the decision. The institution of slavery had been destroyed[Pg 363] by secession. The question was not open for discussion. Slavery, he said, does not exist, is utterly and forever destroyed,—by whom, when, where, is no matter. The power of arms is greater than all courts. Citizens should begin to make contracts with their former slaves. Should the Supreme Court declare the proclamations of the Presidents and the acts of Congress unconstitutional, slavery would not be restored. Whether destroyed legally or illegally, it was destroyed, and the people had better accept the situation and restore Federal relations.[945]

Mr. White of Talladega[946] proposed to abide by the proclamations of the President and the acts of Congress until the Supreme Court should decide the question of slavery. White said that he had opposed secession as long as he could; that the states were not out of the Union, but had all their rights as formerly.[947] Mr. Lane of Butler wanted an ordinance to the effect that since the institution of slavery had been destroyed in the state of Alabama by act of the Federal government, therefore slavery no longer exists. This was lost by a vote of 66 to 17.[948] On September 22, 1865, an ordinance was adopted by a vote of 89 to 3 which declared that the institution of slavery having been destroyed, neither slavery nor involuntary servitude should thereafter exist in the state, except as a punishment for crime. All provisions in the constitution regarding slavery were struck out, and it was made the duty of the next legislature to pass laws to protect the freedmen in the full employment of all their rights of person and property and to guard them and the state against any evils that might arise from their sudden emancipation.[949] Mr. Taliafero Towles of Chambers, a “loyalist,” proposed an ordinance to make all “free negroes”[950] who were not inhabitants of the state[Pg 364] before 1861 leave the state. Mr. Langdon of Mobile regretted this proposition, and thought it would do harm. Mr. Towles explained that he lived near the Georgia line and that he was much annoyed by the negroes who came into Alabama from Georgia. Mr. Patton[951] of Lauderdale opposed such a policy. It was unwise, he said; let people go where they pleased; he would invite people from all parts of the Union to Alabama. Mr. Mudd of Jefferson thought that such a measure would be extremely unwise. Mr. Hunter of Dallas said that it was very unwise, that it would do no good, and at such a time would be harmful. Passions must be allayed. Towles withdrew the resolution.[952]

Mr. Saunders of Macon introduced a memorial to the President to release President Davis. It was referred to a committee and was not heard from.[953] General Swayne of the Freedmen’s Bureau sent to the convention a memorial from a negro mass-meeting in Mobile praying for the extension of suffrage to them. It was unanimously laid on the table.[954]


“A White Man’s Government”

General Swayne had made an arrangement with the governor by which the state officials were required to act as agents of the Freedmen’s Bureau. The convention now passed an ordinance requiring these officers to continue to discharge the duties of agents of the Bureau “until the adjournment of the next general assembly.” Seventeen north Alabama men opposed the passage of this ordinance.[955]

Mr. Patton of Lauderdale proposed an ordinance in regard to the basis of representation in the general assembly. It was not correctly understood in north Alabama, which section, thinking it called for representation based on population, rose in wrath. The Huntsville Advocate said: “This is a white man’s government and a white man’s state. We are opposed to any changes in the convention except such as are necessary to get the state into the Union again.”[956] Mr. Patton explained that the purpose of his measure[Pg 365] was to base representation on the white population. He cheerfully indorsed north Alabama doctrine, “This is a white man’s government and we must keep it a white man’s government.”[957] The ordinance as passed provided for a census in 1866, and the apportionment of senators and representatives according to white population as ascertained by the census. The delegates from the white counties of north Alabama and southeast Alabama voted for the ordinance, and thirty delegates from the Black Belt voted against it.[958]

This measure destroyed at a blow the political power of the Black Belt, and had the Johnson government survived, the state would have been ruled by the white counties instead of by the black counties. This was partly the result of antagonism between the white and black counties.

Early in the session Mr. Sheets of Winston, “loyalist,” demanded that all amendments to the Constitution adopted by the convention should be referred to the people for ratification or rejection, except such as related to slavery.[959] Mr. Webb of Greene, chairman of the Committee on the Constitution, reported that, on account of the state of the times, it was not expedient to refer the amendments to the people. Mr. Clark of Lawrence[960] wanted the people to have an opportunity to show whether they favored the work of the convention. He said that, in 1861, had the ordinance of secession been referred to the people, it would have been defeated.

The members who were in favor of not sending the amendments to the people said that there was not time, and that there were too many other elections; that the people had confidence in the convention or they would not have elected the delegates who were there. But the north Alabama delegates insisted that their constituents not only expected to have the amendments submitted to them, but that they (the delegates) had pledged that they would have the amendments sent before the people.[961] The north Alabama party could not consistently do anything but object to the adoption of the constitution by proclamation. Some had never recognized the supreme[Pg 366] authority of a constitutional convention; others were opposed to the expediency of adoption by proclamation. By a vote of 61 to 25 the constitution was proclaimed in force without reference to the people.[962]



The convention did some important legislative work necessary to put the business of administration in running order again. All the laws enacted during the war not in conflict with the United States Constitution, and not relating to the issue of money and bonds nor to appropriations, were ratified and declared in full force since their dates.[963] All officials acts of the state and county officials, all judgments, orders, and decrees of the courts, all acts and sales of trustees, executors, administrators, and guardians, not in conflict with United States Constitution were ratified and confirmed. Deeds, bonds, mortgages, and contracts made during the war were declared valid and binding. But in cases where payments were to be made in Confederate money the courts were to decide what the true value of the consideration was at the time.[964] Divorces granted during the war by the chancery court were declared valid.[965] Marriages between negroes, whether during slavery or since emancipation, were declared valid; and in cases where no ceremony had been performed, but the parties recognized each other as man and wife, such relationship was declared valid marriage. The children of all such marriages were declared legitimate. Fathers of bastard negro children were required to provide for them. The freedmen were placed under the same laws of marriage as the whites, except that they were not required to give bond.[966] The legislature was commanded to pass laws prohibiting the intermarriage of whites with negroes or with persons of mixed blood.[967]

In view of the lawlessness prevailing in some of the counties, the provisional governor was authorized to call out the militia in each county, and the mayors of Huntsville, Athens, and Florence were given police jurisdiction over their respective counties until the[Pg 367] legislature should act. The ante-bellum militia code was declared in force, and all other laws in regard to the militia were repealed.[968]

The governor was ordered to pay the interest on the bonded debt of the state that was made before 1861, and the convention pledged the faith of the people that the old debt should be paid in full with interest.[969] The state was divided into six congressional districts. The negro was no longer counted in the “Federal number,” and the representation of the state in Congress was thus reduced. Elections were ordered for various offices in November and December, 1865, and March and May, 1866. The provisional governor was authorized to act as governor until another was elected and inaugurated. It was ordered that in the future no convention be held unless first the question of convention or no convention be submitted to the people and approved by a majority of those voting.[970]

Finally, the convention asked that the President withdraw the troops from the state, the people and the convention having complied with all the conditions and requirements necessary to restore the state to its constitutional relations to the Federal government.[971] The convention adjourned on September 30, having been in session ten days in all. The constitution went into effect gradually, Parsons enforcing some of it; Patton and the newly elected legislature organized the government under it from December, 1865, to May, 1866. But it never became more than a provisional constitution, which was set aside by the President at pleasure.


Sec. 4. “Restoration” Completed

By convention ordinance and by constitutional amendment the civil rights of the freedmen were made secure, family relations legalized, property rights secured; the courts of law were open to them, and in all cases affecting themselves, their evidence was admissible. The admission of negro testimony was generally approved by the bar and the magistracy, but disliked by the ignorant classes of whites. All magistrates and judicial officers who refused to admit negro testimony or to act as Bureau agents were removed from office by the governor. One mayor (of Mobile) and one judge were removed.

[Pg 368]Affairs were going on well, though the civil government was weakened and lost prestige by being subordinated to the military authorities.[972] The convention having authorized Parsons to organize the militia to aid in restoring order, several companies were organized and instructed to act solely in aid of the civil authorities and in subordination to them. They were to act alone only when there was no civil officer present.[973]

Among the whites there was a vague but widespread fear of negro insurrections, and toward Christmas this fear increased. The negroes were disappointed because of the delayed division of lands, and their temper was not improved by the reports of adventurers, black and white, who came among them as missionaries and sharpers. There was a general and natural desire among the freedmen to get possession of firearms, and all through the summer and fall they were acquiring shotguns, muskets, and pistols in great quantities. Most of the guns were worthless army muskets, but new arms of the latest pattern were supplied by their ardent sympathizers in the belief that the negroes were only seeking means of protection. A sharper who claimed to be connected with the government travelled through some of the black counties, telling the negroes that they were mistreated and must arm themselves for protection. He sold them certificates for $2.50 each which he said would entitle the bearers to muskets if presented at the arsenals at Selma, Vicksburg, etc.[974] Hence arose the fears of the whites who were poorly armed.

In several instances where there was fear of negro insurrection the civil authorities, backed by the militia, searched negro houses for concealed weapons, and sometimes found supplies of arms, which were confiscated. There was a general desire to disarm the freedmen until after Christmas, when the expected insurrection failed to materialize; but no order for disarming was issued by the governor, and a bill for that purpose was defeated in the legislature. Some of the militia companies undertook to patrol the country to scare the negroes with a show of force,[975] and in some places disguised patrols rode through the negro settlements to keep them in order.[Pg 369] There were several instances of unauthorized disarming and lawless plunder under the pretence of disarming the blacks, by marauders who took advantage of the state of public feeling and followed the example of the disguised patrol bands. General Swayne himself was afraid of negro insurrection, and before Christmas did not interfere with the attempts of the whites to control the blacks. After Christmas the negroes quieted down, and most of them made some pretence of working. The next case of disarming that occurred brought the interference of General Swayne, who ordered that neither the civil nor the military authorities should again interfere with the negroes under any pretext, unless by permission from himself. He threatened to send a negro garrison into any community where the blacks might be interfered with. After that, he says, the people were “more busy in making a living,” and the militia organizations disbanded. Two classes of the population were now beyond the reach of the civil government, the “loyalists” and the negroes, and the civil authorities maintained that these were the source of most disorder.[976]

An act of Congress, July 2, 1862, prescribed that every person elected or appointed to any office under the United States government should, before entering upon the duties of the office, subscribe to the “iron-clad” test oath,[977] which obliged one to swear that he had never aided in any way the Confederate cause. Outside of the few genuine Union men of North Alabama, there were not half a dozen respectable white men in the state who could take[Pg 370] such an oath. Those who had been opposed to secession had nearly all aided in the prosecution of the war or had held office under the Confederate government. The thousands who had fallen away from the Confederates in the last year of the war could not take the oath. The women could not take it, and few even of the negroes could. Those who could take the oath were detested by all, and the unfitness of such persons for holding office was clearly recognized by the administration. By law, certain Federal offices had to be filled by men who lived in the county or state. The Federal service did not exist in Alabama at the end of the war, and the President and Cabinet, agreeing that the requirement of the oath could not be enforced, made temporary appointments in the Treasury and postal service of men who could not take the oath. In Alabama the men appointed were the old conservatives, those who had opposed secession. The officers appointed were marshals and deputy marshals, collectors and assessors of internal revenue, customs officers, and postmasters. Objection was made in Congress to the payment of these officers, and Secretary McCulloch of the Treasury made a report on the subject. He stated that it was difficult to find competent persons who could take the oath, and that it was better for the public service and for the people that their own citizens should perform the unpleasant duty of collecting taxes from an exhausted people. There was no civil government whatever, and it was necessary that the Federal service be established. In regard to future appointments, he said, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find competent men in the South who could take the oath, that very few persons of character and intelligence had failed to connect themselves in some way with the insurgent cause. The persons who could present clean records for loyalty would have been able to present equally fair records to the Confederate government had it succeeded, or else they lacked the proper qualifications. Northern men of requisite qualifications would not go South for the compensation offered. For the government to collect taxes in the southern states by the hands of strangers was not advisable. Better for the country politically and financially to suspend the collection of internal revenue taxes in the South for months or years than to collect them by men not identified with the taxpayers in sympathy or interest. It would be a calamity to the nation and to the cause of civil liberty [Pg 371]everywhere if, instead of a policy of conciliation, the action of the government should tend to intensify sectional feeling. To make tax-gatherers at the South of men who were strangers to the people would be a most unfortunate course for the government to pursue, and fatal consequences, he thought, would follow such a policy. He asked that the oath be modified so that the men in office could take it.[978] The Postmaster-General made similar recommendations.[979]

For years after the war the test oath obstructed administration and justice in the South. The Alabama lawyers could not take the oath, and United States courts could not be held because there were no lawyers to practise before them. There were many cases of property libelled which should have come before the United States courts, but it was not possible.[980] As men of character could not be found to fill the offices, the Post-office Department tried to get women to take the post-offices, but they could not take the test oath. Many post-offices remained closed, and mail matter was sent by express. Letters were thrown out at a station or given to a negro to carry to the proper person. Juries in the Federal courts had to take practically the same oath as the “iron-clad,” and the jury oath was in existence long after the others were modified. So for years a fair jury trial was in many localities impossible.[981]

The effect of the proscription by the test oaths of the only men who were fit for office was distinctly bad. It drove the old Whig-coöperationist-Unionist men into affiliation with the secessionists and Democrats. The division of the whites into different parties[Pg 372] was made less likely. The Senate regularly rejected nominations made by the President of men who could not take the oath,[982] and the military authorities were inclined to enforce the taking of the test oath by the state and local officials of the provisional government.[983]

The convention ordered an election, on November 30, for governor, state and county officials, and legislature. There were three candidates for governor, all respectable, conservative men, old-line Whigs, from north Alabama, the stronghold of those who had opposed secession. They were R. M. Patton of Lauderdale, M. J. Bulger of Tallapoosa, and W. R. Smith of Tuscaloosa.[984] The section of Alabama where the spirit of secession had been strongest refrained from putting forward any candidate. The radical “loyalists” had no candidate. The few prominent men of that faction saw that it would be political suicide for them to commit themselves to the Johnson plan after he had begun the pardoning process, and were now working to overthrow the present political institutions. Only in case the plan of the Radicals in Congress should succeed would the “loyalists” get any share in the spoils. The Conservative candidates were in sympathy with the north Alabama desire for “a white man’s government.” Mr. Patton in the late convention had secured the revision of the constitution so as to base representation on the white population. During the war General M. J. Bulger, the second candidate, made a speech at Selma in which he said he had opposed secession and had refused to sign the ordinance, but had deemed it his duty to fight when the time came and had served throughout the war. There could be, he said, no negro suffrage, no negro[Pg 373] equality.[985] W. R. Smith had been the leader of the coöperationists in the convention of 1861. The election resulted in the choice of R. M. Patton of Lauderdale over Bulger and Smith by a good majority.[986]

The new legislature met on November 20, but Patton was not inaugurated until a month later, owing to the refusal of the Washington administration to allow Parsons to resign the government into the hands of what the administration intended should be the permanent, “restored” state government. The object in the delay was the desire of the President to have the Thirteenth Amendment ratified before he relinquished the state government. It was a queer mixture of a government—an elected constitutional legislature and a governor and state administration appointed by the commander-in-chief of the army.[987] The legislature was recognized, but the governor elected at the same time was not. Several acts of legislation were done by this military-constitutional government during the thirty days of its existence, the most important being the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment by the legislature. This was done with the understanding, the resolution stated, that it did not confer upon Congress the power to legislate upon the political status of the freedmen in Alabama.[988] The amendment was ratified December 2, 1865, and[Pg 374] on the 10th, Secretary Seward telegraphed to Parsons that the time had arrived when in the judgment of the President the care and conduct of the proper affairs of the state of Alabama might be remitted to the constitutional authorities chosen by the people. Parsons was relieved, the instructions stated, from the trust imposed in him as provisional governor. When the governor-elect should be qualified, Parsons was to transfer papers and property to him and retire.[989] On the strength of these instructions Governor Patton was inaugurated December 13, 1865. In his inaugural address the new governor said that the extinction of slavery was one of the inevitable results of the war. “We shall not only extend to the freedmen all their legitimate rights,” he stated, “but shall throw around them such effectual safeguards as will secure them in their full and complete enjoyment. At the same time it must be understood that politically and socially ours is a white man’s government. In the future, as has been the case in the past, the state affairs of Alabama must be guided and controlled by the superior intelligence of the white man. The negro must be made to realize that freedom does not mean idleness and vagrancy. Emancipation has not left him where he can live without work.”[990]

Though Patton was inaugurated on December 13, the Washington authorities did not authorize the formal transfer of the government until December 18, and the charge was made on December 20, 1865.

The legislature at once elected ex-Governor Parsons and George S. Houston to the United States Senate. The people had already elected six congressmen of moderate politics.[991] So far as concerned[Pg 375] the state of Alabama, the presidential plan of restoration was complete, if Congress would recognize the work.

A proclamation of the President on December 1, revoking and annulling the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, expressly excepted all the southern states and the southern border states. It was not until April 2, 1866, that the President declared the rebellion at an end.[992] He had little faith in his restored governments, or else he liked to interfere, and he still retained the power to do so.



[Pg 376]




Status of the Provisional Government

It was generally understood in the state that while Congress was opposed to the presidential plan of restoration and repudiated it as soon as it convened, yet if the state conventions should abolish slavery, and the state legislatures should ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, their representatives would be admitted to Congress. This was the meaning, it seemed, of a resolution offered in the Senate December 4, 1865, by Charles Sumner, one of the most radical of the Radical leaders.[993] On the same day, in the House of Representatives, Thaddeus Stevens, the Radical leader of the lower house, introduced a resolution, which was adopted, to appoint a joint committee of the Senate and House to inquire into conditions in the southern states. Until the committee should make a report, no representatives from the southern states should be admitted to Congress.[994] Under this resolution, the Committee of Fifteen on Reconstruction was appointed. In order to support a report in favor of the congressional plan of reconstruction and to justify the overturning of the southern state governments, the committee took testimony at Washington which was carefully calculated to serve as a campaign document. Such Radicals as Stevens professed to believe that the arbitrary rule of the President was hateful to the southern people. Stevens said: “That they would disregard and scorn their present constitutions forced upon them in the midst of martial law, would be most natural and just. No one who has any regard for freedom of elections can look upon these governments, forced upon them in duress, with any favor.”[995] Just exactly how much of this he meant may be inferred from his later[Pg 377] course as leader of the Radicals of the House, in the movement which forced the negro-carpet-bag government upon the southern states. Now Stevens proposed to “take no account of the aggregation of whitewashed rebels who, without any legal authority, have assembled in the capitals of the late rebel states and simulated legislative bodies.”[996]

The Republican caucus instructed Edward McPherson, clerk of the House, to omit from the roll the names of the members-elect from the South as certified by the Secretary of State. This was done, and the southern congressmen were not even allowed the usual privileges of contestants.[997]

As soon as the leaders in Congress felt that they were strong enough to carry through their plan to destroy the governments erected under the President’s plan, they agreed that no senator or representative from any southern state should be admitted to either branch of Congress until both houses should have declared such state entitled to representation.[998] The state governments were recognized as provisional only, and for a year or more Congress was occupied in the fight with the President over Reconstruction. The consequence was that Patton became provisional governor of a territory and not the constitutional governor of a state. The state suffered from much government at this time. First, came the military authorities with military commissions; then, the Freedmen’s Bureau with its courts supported by the military; the Bureau also acted independently of the army and with civilian officers; it was also a part of the Parsons provisional government, and later of the Patton government, and so controlled the minor officials of the state administration. To complicate matters further, the President constantly interfered by order or direction with all the various administrations, for all were subject to his supervision. The many governments were bound up with one[Pg 378] another, and by interfering with the action of one another increased the general confusion. The people lost respect for authority, and only public opinion served to regulate the conduct of individuals.


Legislation about Freedmen

For several months the industrial system was entirely disorganized, especially in the neighborhood of the cities, and many people realized the absolute necessity of laws to regulate negro labor. The negro insisted on taking a living from the country without working for it. There were also fears of insurrection by the idle negroes who were waiting for the division of spoils, and General Swayne of the Bureau felt a touch of the apprehension.[999]

When the legislature met, a few of the demagogues who had told their constituents that they would soon regulate all troubles introduced many bills to regulate labor, and thousands of copies were printed for distribution. On December 15 it was agreed to print ten thousand copies of all bills relating to freedmen.[1000] This was done, and though the governor had not approved them, the country members went home with pockets full of bills introduced by themselves, to show to their constituents and to scare the negroes into work. The regulations proposed made special provision for the freedmen, and under different circumstances it would have been well for the negro if they had been passed into law and enforced; but it was not good policy at this time to propose such regulations, in view of the fact that the Radicals were watching for such action and hoping for it. However, it is probable that nothing that the southern whites could have done would have met with the approval of the Radicals.

Governor Patton asked General Swayne for advice in regard to the pending bills relating to freedmen, and Swayne informed him of the probable bad effect on public opinion in the North. After Christmas the Senate passed some obnoxious bills, and these the governor vetoed. The other bills that came up from the lower house failed to pass in the Senate. Similar bills, modified in many details, but which would have been of much use could they have been enforced as law, were passed by both houses only to be vetoed by the governor. The[Pg 379] negroes were now showing a disposition to work, and the legislature did not attempt to pass the bills over the governor’s veto. Next, a law relating to contracts between whites and blacks was attempted. General Swayne was known to favor such a law, but Governor Patton vetoed it. He declared that such a law would cause much trouble; he had information that everywhere freedmen were going to work on terms satisfactory to both parties and that they were disposed to discharge their obligations, and there should not be, he said, one law for whites and another for blacks; special laws for regulating contracts between whites and freedmen would do no good and might cause harm; the common law gave sufficient remedy for violations of contracts, viz. damages. General Swayne had been strongly of the opinion that contracts regularly made and carefully inspected on behalf of the negro were necessary. Later he came to the conclusion that the negro needed no protection by contract or by special law; that he had a much better protection in the demand for his labor, and would only be injured by artificial safeguards; contracts would cause litigation, and it was best for both parties to be able to break an engagement at pleasure. He was of the opinion that the whites preferred contracts, while the negro disliked to bind himself to anything. Hunger and cold, he declared, were the best incentives to labor. Swayne further reported that all objectionable bills relating to freedom had been vetoed.[1001]

A bill passed both houses to extend to freedmen the old criminal laws of the state formerly applicable to free persons of color. Governor Patton vetoed the bill on the ground that a system of laws enacted during slavery was not applicable to present conditions. He showed how the proposed laws would act, and the legislature not only accepted the veto, but repealed all such laws then in the code and on the statute books.[1002] At the close of the session there were two laws on the statute books which made a distinction before the law between negroes and whites. The first made it a misdemeanor, with a [Pg 380]penalty of $100 fine and ten days’ imprisonment, to purchase or receive from a “free person of color” any stolen goods, knowing the same to have been stolen.[1003]

The second act gave the freedmen the right to sue and be sued, to plead and be imprisoned, in the state courts to the same extent as whites. They were competent to testify only in open court, and in cases in which freedmen were concerned directly or indirectly. Neither interest in the suit nor marriage should disqualify any black witness.[1004] This law, if restrictive at all, was never in force in the lower courts where minor magistrates and judicial officers presided; for, by the order of the convention and later of the legislature, the state officials were ex officio agents of the Freedmen’s Bureau, and sworn to make no distinction between white and black.[1005]

Two laws were passed for the purpose of regulating labor, in theory applicable equally to white and black. They had the approval of General Swayne, who was always present when labor legislation was discussed.[1006] The first law made it a misdemeanor to interfere with, to hire, entice away, or induce to leave the service of another any laborer or servant who had made a contract in writing, as long as the contract was in force, unless by consent of the employer given in writing or verbally “in the presence of some reputable white person.” The penalty for inducing a laborer to break a contract was a fine of $50 to $500,—in no case less than double the amount of the injury sustained by the employer; and half the fine was to go to the injured[Pg 381] party.[1007] The compilers of the Penal Code refused to incorporate this statute into the code on the ground that it was inconsistent with other provisions of the code as adopted by the legislature. The Penal Code had an old ante-bellum provision which made it a penal offence to entice, decoy, or persuade a servant or apprentice to leave the service of his master. The penalty was a fine of $20 to $100, and imprisonment for not more than three months might also be allowed.[1008]

The second labor law defined the relations of master and apprentice. The war had made orphans of many thousand children, white and black, and there were few people who could look after them. Under slavery no regulation of such things had been necessary for negro children. Now the children were running wild, in want, neglected, becoming criminals and vagabonds. Negro fathers ran off when freedom came, left their wives and children, and took unto themselves other and younger wives. The negro mother, left alone, often incapable and without judgment, could not support her children; and many negro children were found both of whose parents had died, or who had deserted them. As a result of the war, there were many white orphan children and many widowed mothers who were unable to care for their children. For years (1862-1875) there was much suffering among the children of the poorer whites and the negroes. The apprentice law was an extension of an old statute, and was designed to make it possible to care for these dependent children. It was made the duty of county officials to report to the probate courts all minors under the age of eighteen who were destitute orphans, or whose parents refused or were unable to support them; and the court was to apprentice them to suitable persons. In case the minor were the child of a freedman, the former owner should have the preference when he or she should be proven a suitable person. In such cases the probate judge was to keep a record of all the proceedings. The master to whom the minor was apprenticed was obliged to give bond that he would furnish the apprentice sufficient food and clothing, treat him humanely, furnish medical attention in case of sickness, and teach or have him taught to read and write, whether white or black, if under the age of fifteen.[Pg 382] Power was given to inflict such punishment as a father or guardian might inflict on a child or ward, but in no case should the punishment be cruel. In case the apprentice should leave the employment of the master without the consent of the latter, he might be arrested by the master and carried before a justice of the peace, whose duty it was to remand the apprentice to the service of his master. If the apprentice refused to return, he was to be committed to jail until the next session of the probate court, which would investigate the case, and, if convinced that the apprentice had not good cause for leaving his master, would punish the apprentice under the vagrancy laws. If the court should decide that the apprentice had good cause to leave his master, he was to be released from the indenture and the master fined not more than $100, which was to be given to the apprentice. Apprenticeship was to end at the age of twenty-one for men and eighteen for women. Parents could bind out minor children under the regulations of this act.[1009] It was a penal offence to sell or give intoxicating liquors to apprentices or to gamble with them.[1010]

The definition of vagrancy was extended to include stubborn and refractory servants, laborers, and servants who loitered away their time or refused, without cause, to comply with a contract for service. A vagrant might be fined $50 and costs, and hired out until the fine was paid, but could not be hired for a longer time than six months. The proceeds of fines and hiring in all cases were to go to the county treasury for the benefit of the poor.[1011]

[Pg 383]These statutes form the so-called “Slave Code” or “Black Code” of the state which was so harshly criticised by the Radicals as being designed to reënslave the negroes.[1012] There is no doubt that if enforced they would have affected the blacks more than the whites, though they were meant to apply to both.[1013] Something of the kind was felt to be a necessity. There were hundreds of negroes wandering about the country, living by petty theft, and some rascally whites made it a business to purchase stolen property, especially cotton, from them. White vagrants were numerous. The refuse of both armies and numbers of the most worthless whites, who had lost all they had in the war, travelled about the country as tramps, their sole occupation being to victimize the ignorant by some scheme. Stringent laws, strictly enforced, would have done much to restore order.[1014]


The Negro under the Provisional Government

The lawlessness prevalent in the state consequent upon civil war and emancipation had resulted in filling the jails with all sorts and conditions of criminals—mostly negroes—who were charged with minor offences, such as stealing, fighting, burning, which were committed during the jubilee after the coming of the Federal troops. They were clearly guilty of the crimes alleged, since they were imprisoned by consent of the Freedmen’s Bureau, which allowed no negro to be arrested without its permission. There were some whites confined for similar small offences, and there were many “union” men, or “rebels,” according to locality, who were under arrest for crimes committed during the war. Most of the crimes were not serious[Pg 384] or were committed under the abnormal conditions of war. The governor, after consultation with General Swayne, “with entire singleness of purpose” (Swayne), issued a proclamation of amnesty and pardon[1015] for all offences, except murder and rape, committed between April 13, 1861, and July 20, 1865.[1016] Many hundred prisoners were thus liberated, among them eight hundred freedmen[1017] confined for penitentiary offences. No bad results followed.[1018]

By state law and military order the negro was now freed from slavery and given all the civil rights possessed by the whites, unless in certain cases of law between whites in the higher courts where the negro was not permitted to testify. In all cases concerning his own race, directly or indirectly, his standing before the court was the same as that of a white or better. The races were forbidden to intermarry. The apprentice and vagrancy laws, which were meant to regulate the economic relations between the races, could not be enforced because of technical and practical difficulties, and because the officials who were to enforce them were ex officio agents of the Bureau and therefore forbidden to enforce such laws. The Bureau upheld the negro in all his rights and much beyond. There was the most urgent demand for his labor, and to secure his wages there was a lien on the employer’s crop. The negro was free to come and go when he pleased, and his pleasure led him to do this so often that written contracts fell into immediate disfavor on account of the useless litigation and disputes that ensued. Many of the more thrifty blacks began to acquire small bits of property.

The travellers who visited the South in the fall of 1865 and in 1866 agreed (except Schurz) that there was no thought of reënslavement of the negro by the white; that the white was more afraid of the negro than the negro of the white; that there was no need of protection, for the demand for his labor would protect him. There were more colored artisans than white, and all were sure of employment. At first the strong conviction that they were not free unless they were careering around the country in idleness resulted in a [Pg 385]general wandering. In the fall and winter a large majority returned to their old homes. “Once being assured of their liberty to go and come at will, they generally returned to the service of the southerner.”[1019] The courts gave substantial justice, it was reported; the judge and jury would prefer the case of a black to that of a mean white man; negro testimony in lawsuits was more and more favored, and the standing of the negro in the courts became more and more secure. Conditions as to the treatment of the negroes were steadily improving.[1020] An unfriendly critic who travelled through the Gulf states said that the negro was fairly well paid and fairly well treated.[1021] A charge to the grand jury of Pike County by Judge Henry D. Clayton, on September 9, 1866, will serve to show the sentiments of the judicial officers and members of the bar as well as juries. It was reprinted at the North as a campaign document. The following is a summary:—

A certain class of our population is clothed with civil rights and privileges that it did not possess until recently, and in dealing with them some embarrassment will be felt. One of the results of the war was the freedom of the black race. We deplore the result as injurious to the country and fatal to the negroes, but we are in honor bound to observe the laws which acknowledge their freedom. “When I took off my sword in surrender, I determined to observe the terms of that surrender with the same earnestness and fidelity with which I first shouldered my musket.” We may cherish the glorious memories of that past, in the history of which there is nothing of which we need be ashamed, but now we have to reëstablish society and rebuild our ruined homes. Those unwilling to submit to this condition of things may seek homes abroad.[1022] We are bound to this soil for better or for worse. What is our duty? Let us deal with the facts as they are. The negro has been made free, though he did not seek freedom. Nominally free, he is beyond expression helpless by his want of self-reliance, of experience, of ability to understand and appreciate his condition. For promoting his welfare and adapting him to this new[Pg 386] relation to society, all agencies from abroad will prove inadequate. The task is for us who understand him. To remedy the evil growing out of abolition two things are necessary: (1) we must recognize the freedom of the race as a fact, enact just and humane laws, and willingly enforce them; (2) we must in all our relations with the negro treat him with perfect fairness. We shall thus convince the world of our good faith, get rid of the system of espionage [the Freedmen’s Bureau] by removing the pretext for its necessity, and secure the services of the negroes, teach them their place, and convince them that we are their friends. We need the labor of the negro and it is worth the effort to secure it. We owe the negro no grudge; he has done nothing to provoke our hostility; freedom was forced upon him. “He may have been the companion of your boyhood; he may be older than you, and perhaps carried you in his arms when an infant. You may be bound to him by a thousand ties which only a southern man knows, and which he alone can feel in all their force. It may be that when, only a few years ago, you girded on your cartridge box and shouldered your trusty rifle to go to meet the invaders of your country, you committed to his care your home and your loved ones; and when you were far away upon the weary march, upon the dreadful battle-field, in the trenches, and on the picket line, many and many a time you thought of that faithful old negro, and your heart warmed toward him.”[1023]


Movement toward Negro Suffrage

The Freedmen’s Bureau and the provisional government had set aside, repealed, or suspended laws which treated the negro as a separate class. It was soon seen that the civil government had little real authority, being frequently overruled by the officials of the army[Pg 387] and Bureau and by the President. The civil officials became accustomed to considering Swayne or Woods, the commander of the troops in Alabama, rather than the state government, as the source of authority. It was known that the Radicals were bent on giving the ballot to the negro and on disfranchising southern political and military leaders. Some politicians began to consider the question of giving the ballot to the negro under certain restrictions. This was not done from any faith in the political intelligence of the negro, or belief that he was fitted for or needed the exercise of the franchise; for it was and is an article of the political faith of the southern people that the exercise of suffrage is a high privilege, an historical and inherited right, not the natural and absolute right of all men. The reasons were very different, and were based entirely on expediency and necessity: (1) Such action would forestall the Radical programme and disarm, to some extent, the hostile party at the North. (2) It would enable the native leaders, by conferring the privilege on the negro, to gain his confidence, control his vote, and thereby make it harmless. It was certain, it seemed, that two widely separated white political parties would arise as soon as outside pressure should be removed, and each hoped to get control of most of the negro vote. (3) Such a measure would increase the representation of the state in the Congress, thus giving them needed strength at a critical period. (4) The Black Belt hoped in this way to regain its former political influence. The new constitution, by making the white population the basis of representation, had transferred political supremacy to the white counties.

As early as October, 1865, Truman remarked that some leaders were thinking of giving the ballot to the negroes. He thought that suffrage for the negroes would harm them and would inflame the lower classes of whites against them. But if left to the leaders and politicians, they, for the sake of increased representation in Congress, would bring the people around, and by 1870 the negro would be voting.[1024] About the same time a correspondent of The Nation observed that there was no great objection to giving the negro the ballot because the white leaders thought that they could control it. It would not be opposed by the planters of the South, but by the middle and poorer classes,—the merchants, mechanics, and laborers.[1025] Early in 1866[Pg 388] Representative Brooks[1026] of Lowndes, a black county, introduced a bill in the lower house providing for a qualified negro suffrage based on education and property. It was laid on the table, but not before a calm and dispassionate discussion. The bill proposed by Brooks was opposed more because it disfranchised a large number of whites than because it gave suffrage to the negro. The debates showed that later the legislature would do something along that line if assured that such a course would result in readmission into the Union. In the discussion the idea was urged that something must be done to prevent the Radicals from taking the question of suffrage to the central government. This, it was held, would be dangerous to the South, with its peculiar population, to which general Federal legislation would not well apply, and hence it would be dangerous for the suffrage question to become one of national instead of state concern. Then, too, the people were intensely weary of provisional rule, and wanted to resume their proper position in the Union.[1027]

The people of the north Alabama white counties, the hilly section of the state, were opposed to any form of negro suffrage, though some of their leaders who understood the state of affairs were willing to think of it as a last resort to defeat the intentions of the Radicals. The Black Belt people, who had less prejudice against the negro and who were sure that they could control him and gain in political power, were more favorably inclined. Left alone, the various interests would have united to carry through the project in time. Suffrage so conferred upon the blacks would have been strictly limited,—a premium offered, not a right acknowledged,—under the control of the native white leaders and supporting their interests, just exactly the situation of the lower-class voters everywhere else, and the reverse of the southern situation since 1867.

One of the north Alabama leaders, L. Pope Walker,[1028] after consulting with other prominent men, went to Montgomery and conferred with General Swayne in regard to the state of affairs. Swayne gave assurance that a qualified negro suffrage would be favorably received[Pg 389] at the North, would create a good impression, and assist, perhaps, in an early restoration of the state to the Union. He knew that suffrage for the negro brought about in this way would result in gaining the black vote for the southern and probably for the Democratic party. Though a believer in the rights of all men to vote and a strong Republican, Swayne was not then committed to the Radical programme and was ready to encourage the movement. An opportunity for the entering wedge was now at hand. Many of the minor magistrates and the sheriffs were also administering the affairs of the Freedmen’s Bureau, and consequently were more or less under the direction of Swayne, who was the assistant commissioner in Alabama. His instructions to agents, before the convention, directed that all laws be administered without regard to color. Governor Parsons approved these directions and required all provisional officers to take oath accordingly. The convention sanctioned this arrangement, and ordered it to continue until the close of the next general assembly. This general assembly had practically continued the arrangements already made. In consequence, the state officials, whether willingly or not, were still, at the time when the movement for negro suffrage began, obliged to obey the directions of Swayne. The bulk of the people being opposed to the movement, it was proposed to make an experiment on the responsibility of the Freedmen’s Bureau and to use that much-disliked institution as an instrument, for the people would not be much surprised at anything it would do. So the sheriff of Madison County, in the winter of 1866-1867, when some local election was at hand, wrote to General Swayne, asking if the election laws also were to be carried out regardless of color. He announced his willingness to carry out instructions. Here was an opportunity to begin the experiment, but public feeling became so irritated by the Radical measures in Congress that nothing was done, the election was not held, and the Reconstruction Acts, coming soon after, prejudiced the people more strongly than ever against anything of the kind.[1029]

[Pg 390]About December 1, 1866, a bill was introduced into the state legislature “to amend the constitution of the state according to impartial suffrage, and then ask representation, leaving the amnesty question in the hand of Congress.” Reporting this action to Chief Justice Chase, Swayne added: “This I am told is popular, and the member is sustained by his constituents.”[1030] The legislature, at the same time, intended to reject the Fourteenth Amendment.

It has been stated that in February, 1867, an effort was made, with the indorsement of the President, to induce the southern legislatures which had rejected the Fourteenth Amendment to adopt a qualified negro suffrage. This was tried in Alabama and North Carolina, and probably hastened congressional Reconstruction.[1031]

With the passage of the Reconstruction Acts and other congressional action in regard to the negroes, affairs changed complexion rapidly. The alienation of the races began. It was seen that the negro vote would now be controlled by worthless outsiders and native whites. The expected division of the whites into two well-defined parties did not occur; there was an almost united white party. A few whites, indeed, there were who were ready to try negro suffrage, not those, however, who had been thinking of it during the past two years. The result of the war had intensified party spirit. The old “Union” men were intensely bitter against the secessionists or “precipitators,” and in the present crisis some otherwise good citizens were so blinded by party passion as to put revenge above the welfare of their country, and were ready to accept the aid of their former slaves in their fight against the men whom they considered responsible for the present condition of affairs. Others who now took up negro suffrage were mere politicians, content to take office at any price to the country, and who could never hope for office until existing institutions were destroyed.[1032]

 [Pg 391]

New Conditions of Congress and Increasing Irritation

The first general assembly under the provisional government ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, “with the understanding that it does not confer upon Congress the power to legislate upon the political status of freedmen in this state.”[1033] The same legislature requested the President to order the withdrawal of the Federal troops on duty in Alabama, for their presence was a source of much disorder and there was no need of them.[1034]

The President was asked to release Hon. C. C. Clay, Jr., who was still in prison.[1035] At the end of the session a resolution was adopted approving the policy of President Johnson and pledging coöperation with his “wise, firm, and just” work; asserting that the results of the late contest were conclusive, and that there was no desire to renew discussion on settled questions; denouncing the misrepresentations and criminal assaults on the character and interest of the southern people; declaring that it was a misfortune of the present political conditions that there were persons among them whose interests were promoted by false representations; confidence was expressed in the power of the administration to protect the state from malign influences; slavery was abolished and should not be reëstablished; the negro race should be treated with humanity, justice, and good faith, and every means be used to make them useful and intelligent members of society; but “Alabama will not voluntarily consent to change the adjustment of political power as fixed by the Constitution of the United States, and to constrain her to do so in her present prostrate and helpless condition, with no voice in the councils of the nation, would be an unjustifiable breach of faith.”[1036]

During the year 1866 there was a growing spirit of independence in the Alabama politics. At no time had there been a subservient spirit, but for a time the people, fully accepting the results of the war, were disposed to do nothing more than conform to any reasonable conditions which might be imposed, feeling sure that the North would[Pg 392] impose none that were dishonorable. To them at first the President represented the feeling of the people of the North, perhaps worse. The theory of state sovereignty having been destroyed by the war, the state rights theories of Lincoln and Johnson were easily accepted by the southerners, who were content, after Johnson had modified his policy, to leave affairs in his hands. When the serious differences between the executive and Congress appeared, and the latter showed a desire to impose degrading terms on the South, the people believed that their only hope was in Johnson. They believed the course of Congress to be inspired by a desire for revenge. Heretofore the people had taken little interest in public affairs. Enough voters went to the polls and voted to establish and keep in operation the provisional government. The general belief was that the political questions would settle themselves or be settled in a manner fairly satisfactory to the South. Now a different spirit arose. The southerners thought that they had complied with all the conditions ever asked that could be complied with without loss of self-respect. The new conditions of Congress exhausted their patience and irritated their pride. Self-respecting men could not tamely submit to such treatment.[1037]

During the latter part of 1865 and in 1866, ex-Governor Parsons travelled over the North, speaking in the chief cities in support of the policy of the President. He asked the northern people to rebuke at the polls the political fanatics who were inflaming the minds of the people North and South. He demanded the withdrawal of the military. There had been, he said, no sign of hostility since the surrender; the people were opposed to any legislation which would give the negro the right to vote; and it was the duty of the President, not of Congress, to enforce the laws.[1038]

Much angry discussion was caused by the passage of the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill in 1866. The Bureau officials had caused themselves to be hated by the whites. They were a nuisance, when no worse, and useless,—a plague to the people. Though there were comparatively few in the state, they were the cause of disorder and ill-feeling between the races. Though there was now even less need of the institution than a year before, the new measure was much more[Pg 393] offensive in its provisions.[1039] There was great rejoicing when the President vetoed the bill, which the Mobile Times called “an infamous disorganization scheme of radicalism.” The Bureau had become a political machine for work among white and black. The passage of the bill over the veto was felt to be a blow at the prostrate South.[1040]

The Civil Rights Bill of 1866 was also a cause of irritation. There was a disposition among the officials of the Freedmen’s Bureau to enforce all such measures before they became law. Orders were issued directing the application of the principles of measures then before Congress. The United States commissioner in Mobile decided that under the “Civil Rights Bill”[1041] negroes could ride on the cars set apart for the whites. Horton, the Radical military mayor of Mobile, banished to New Orleans an idiotic negro boy who had been hired to follow him and torment him by offensive questions. Horton was indicted under the “Civil Rights Bill” and convicted. The people of Mobile were much pleased when a “Yankee official was the first to be caught in the trap set for southerners.”[1042]

Another citizen of Mobile, a magistrate, was haled before a Federal court, charged with having sentenced a negro to be whipped, contrary to the provisions of the “Civil Rights Bill.” The magistrate explained that there was nothing at all offensive about the whipping. He had not acted in his magisterial capacity, but had himself whipped the negro boy for lying, stealing, and neglect of duty while in his employ.[1043] The agent of the Bureau at Selma notified the mayor that the “chain gang system of working convicts on the streets had to be discontinued or he would be prosecuted for violation of the ‘Civil Rights Bill.’”[1044] Judge Hardy of Selma decided in a case brought before him that the “Civil Rights Bill” was unconstitutional. He declared it to be an attack on the independence of the judiciary.[1045]

 [Pg 394]

Rejection of the Fourteenth Amendment

In the fall of 1866 the proposed Fourteenth Amendment was submitted to the legislature. There was no longer any belief that further yielding would do any good; the more the people gave the more was asked. State Senator E. A. Powell wrote to John W. Forney that the people would do nothing about the Fourteenth Amendment because they were convinced that any action would be useless. Condition after condition had been imposed and had been absolved; slavery had been abolished, secession acknowledged a failure, and the war debt repudiated by the convention; the legislature had ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, had secured the negro in all the rights of property and person; and after all the state was no nearer to restoration.[1046] This was the view of nearly all the newspapers of the state, and in this they represented popular opinion. They were intensely irritated by the fact that, although they had made so many concessions, still they were excluded from representation in Congress, and were heavily and unjustly taxed.[1047] Moreover, they were opposed to the amendment because it branded their best men as traitors.[1048] One newspaper, alone, advocated adoption of the amendment as the least of evils.[1049]

John Forsyth, in the Mobile Register, said: “It is one thing to be oppressed, wronged, and outraged by overwhelming force. It is quite another to submit to voluntary abasement” by adopting the Fourteenth Amendment. It should be rejected, he said, because it would disfranchise the very best of the respectable whites, the beloved leaders of the people. Judge Busteed, in a charge to the Federal grand jury, delivered a political harangue advocating the adoption of the Amendment. Many ultra “union” men in north Alabama opposed the Amendment for three reasons: (1) though it would disfranchise the leaders, the great mass of the white people would still be allowed to vote, especially those who had not held civil office during the war; (2) some of these “union” men had been ardent secessionists at the beginning and had thus compromised themselves,[Pg 395] or had been elected to the legislature or to some “bomb-proof” office during the war—as “obstructionists,” they claimed—and the proposed amendment would disfranchise them along with the Confederate leaders; (3) this class as a rule disliked the negro and never wanted negro suffrage if it were possible to secure the overthrow of existing institutions without it. Two planters of the Black Belt were ready for negro suffrage to one “buckra.”[1050] Those men who considered themselves “unionists” wanted no negro suffrage, nor anything so weak as the Fourteenth Amendment; but desired some kind of a military régime in which the United States government should place them in permanent possession of the state administration and exclude all who were not like themselves. The test should be a political one, they said. It seems to be a fact that a few hundred such men with, at the most, five thousand followers expected to have the whole state administration under their direction for years. Yet it would have required a special law of exemption for each of them in order to protect them from the proscription which was to be visited upon the ex-Confederates. For these “unionists” had often betrayed both sides during the war. Their most patriotic duty had been “obstruction.”

By most persons the question of negro political rights was considered to belong to the state and was not a matter for the Federal government to regulate. “Loyalists” as well as “rebels” were afraid to leave negro affairs to the regulation of Congress. In his annual message to the legislature, in November, 1866, Governor Patton advised the legislature not to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment, on the ground that it could do no good and might do harm. It involved a creation of a penalty after the act. On this point, he said that it was an ex post facto law, and contrary to the whole spirit of modern civilization; that such a mode of dealing with citizens charged with offences against government belonged only to despotic tyrants; that it might accomplish revengeful purposes, but that was not the proper mode of administering justice; that adoption would vacate merely all offices in most of the unrepresented states—governors, judges, legislators, sheriffs, justices of peace, constables—and the state governments would be completely broken up and reduced to utter and hopeless anarchy; that the disabilities imposed by the[Pg 396] test oath were seriously detrimental to the interests of the government; that ratification of the Amendment could not accomplish any good to the country and might bring upon it irretrievable disaster.[1051]

Under the circumstances, the legislature refused to consider the Amendment. But the governor during the next few weeks was induced by various considerations to recommend the ratification, and on December 7, 1866, he sent a special message stating that there was a purpose on the part of those who controlled the national legislation to enforce their own terms of restoration at all hazards; and that their measures would immeasurably augment the distress already existing and inaugurate endless confusion. The cardinal principle of restoration seemed to be, he said, favorable action on the Fourteenth Amendment. Upon principle he was opposed to it. Yet necessity must rule. So now he recommended reconsideration. If they should ratify and restoration should follow, they might trust to time and their representatives to mitigate its harshness. If they should ratify and admission should be delayed, it would serve as a warning to other states and thus prevent the necessary number for ratification.[1052]

The message created excitement in the legislature and the chances were favorable for ratification; but ex-Governor Parsons, who was in the North, advised against it. He thought the northern people would support the President in the matter. The legislature refused to ratify by a vote of 27 to 2 in the Senate, and 69 to 8 in the House.[1053] Potter of Cherokee gave notice that on January 15 he would move to reconsider the vote. Governor Patton, moreover, was convinced[Pg 397] that Congress meant to carry out its plan of reconstruction, and that opposition might make matters worse. General Swayne kept a strong pressure upon him, assuring him that Congress would have its own way. During the Christmas holidays the governor made speeches in north Alabama in favor of ratifying the Amendment. Congress would require it, he said. On principle he opposed the measure, but it must come at last. “Look the situation squarely in the face,” he said; only 2000 or 3000 men (himself included) would be deprived of office, and to oppose Congress was to ruin the state, to territorialize it. There were men in Washington, he said, who were already working in order to be made provisional governor under the new régime.[1054] After the recess Patton sent a second message recommending that the Amendment be adopted, since it was the evident purpose of Congress to enforce their own terms.[1055] For a day or two it was considered, General Swayne and the governor using their influence with the members, and it seemed almost sure to be ratified. But Parsons, then in Montgomery, telegraphed (January 17, 1867) to the President that the legislature was reconsidering the Amendment. Johnson replied saying that no possible good could come of such action; that he did not believe the people of the country would sustain “any set of individuals” in attempts to change the whole character of the government, but that they would uphold those who stood by the Constitution; and that there should be no faltering on the part of those who were determined to sustain the coördinate departments of the government in accordance with its original design. For the third time the Amendment failed to pass.[1056] One of the last resolutions passed by the provisional legislature before it was abolished by the Reconstruction Acts was on February 1, 1867, in regard to memorializing Congress to establish a uniform system of bankruptcy. Relief was needed, they stated, “yet the promptings of self-respect forbid the propriety of further intruding our appeals upon a Congress which refuses to recognize the state of Alabama for any purpose other than that of taxation. It is a source of regret that Congress has assumed[Pg 398] an attitude toward the state of Alabama totally incompatible with the mutual obligations of allegiance and protection.”[1057]


Political Conditions, 1865-1867; Formation of Parties

In the convention of 1865 two well-defined parties had appeared, though generally, at that time, for the sake of harmony they acted together. These parties grew farther and farther apart. One of them, consisting of most of the people, especially of the central and southern section of the state, supported the policy of the President. The other party was a motley opposition. In it were the few original “Union” men, the tories, and many more self-styled “union” men, who saw an opportunity for advancement for themselves if the present government were overthrown. There were others who thought that the old ruling class should now retire absolutely from public life and allow their former followers to take their places. There was a fair sprinkling of respectable men who were bitterly opposed to any party or policy that suited the former Democrats, and believing that Congress would not be too severe, they were willing to see three or four thousand of the leaders disfranchised in order to get the state back into the Union. They were willing also to become leaders themselves in the place of those disfranchised.

During the year 1866 these parties were organized to some degree, held meetings, and made bids for northern support. The opposition worked into the hands of the Radical party at the North, though many of them did not favor the full Radical programme, especially as regarded negro suffrage. The other party took the name of the “Conservative” or “Democratic and Conservative.” It was composed of former Democrats, Whigs, Know-nothings, Anti-Know-nothings, Bell and Everett men,—nearly all of the respectable voting people. These allied with the “Conservative” party in other southern states and with the Democrats in the North and formed the “National Union Party.” Its platform was essentially the presidential plan of Reconstruction.[1058] The campaign of 1866 was made on many issues,—the Civil Rights Bill, Freedmen’s Bureau Bill, Fourteenth Amendment, the plans of Reconstruction. Ex-Governor Parsons and other prominent Alabamians spoke in the cities of the North in support of[Pg 399] the policy of the President. Ex-Governor Shorter, in a public letter, said that he had been a “rebel” until the close of the war, and understood the feeling of the people of Alabama. There had not been since the surrender and there was not now, he said, any antagonism to the United States government, and Reconstruction based on the assumption of this would be harmful and hopeless. The people had given their allegiance to the government and had remodelled their state organizations in good faith.[1059]

“Southern outrages” now began afresh. The Radical press and Radical politicians began to manufacture tales of outrage and cruelty on the part of the southern whites against negroes. There had been all along a disposition to look for “outrages” in the South, and the reports of Schurz and the Joint Committee on Reconstruction seemed to put the seal of truth on the tissue of falsehoods, and for campaign purposes “outrages” were increased. For several years, judging from some accounts, the entire white population—men, women, and children—must have given much of their time to persecuting, beating, and killing negroes and northern men. The Radical papers seized upon the silly things said or done by the idlers of bar-rooms and street corners or printed in the small newspapers and magnified them into the “threatening voice of a whole people.” Against this mistake General Swayne repeatedly protested. He had no special liking for the southern people, but he scorned to misrepresent the true state of affairs for political capital. During his stay in the state (more than two years) the tenor of his reports was: There was no trouble from the southern whites; northern men were welcomed in a business way; disorder and lawlessness existed in sections of the state, but this was a natural result of long war and civil strife among the people. In his reports, Swayne repeatedly stated that as time went on the condition of affairs was gradually improving. Newspaper correspondents sent to write up conditions in the South went among the most worthless part of the population, in bar-rooms, hotel lobbies, on street corners, in country groceries, and wrote up the doings and sayings of these people as representative of all. Even E. L. Godkin was not above doing such a thing at times.[1060][Pg 400] These writers carefully recorded the idle talk about the negro and the North and dressed it up for Radical information. A favorite plan was to find some woman, coarse and vulgar and cruel-minded, and describe her and her speeches as representative of southern women. The southern newspapers republished such correspondence as specimens of Radical methods. The whites were more and more irritated. This aggravating correspondence and the more aggravating editorials continued in some papers long after the Reconstruction period.[1061]

On the other hand, northern men received little or no social welcome in the South. Most of them would not have been sought after in any section; few representatives of northern culture came South. The indiscretions of some caused the ostracism of all. But that was not the sole reason. General Swayne seemed surprised at “social exclusion” and mentioned it before the Reconstruction sub-committee. But, said an Alabama correspondent, what else can he expect? Why is he surprised? Can the sister, the mother, and the father who have lost their loved ones care to meet those who did the deeds? They meet with respectful treatment; let them not ask too much.[1062]

What the people needed and wanted was a settled and certain policy. The mixed administrations of the provisional authorities and the President, of the Freedmen’s Bureau and the army, did not result in respect for the laws. The talk of confiscation and disfranchisement kept the people irritated. They thought that they had already complied with the conditions imposed precedent to admission to the Union and now believed that Congress was acting in bad faith. Many were willing to affiliate even with conservative Republicans in order to overthrow the Radicals. Much was hoped for in the way of good results from the “National Union” movement. Few or none of the northern business men in the state thought that the Radical plan was necessary. They did not expect or desire its success.[1063]

[Pg 401]There was a convention of the Conservative party at Selma in July, 1866. Delegates were elected to the National Union convention at Philadelphia.[1064] The Selma convention indorsed the policy of Johnson and condemned the Radical party as the great obstacle to peace. The most prominent men of the state were present, representing both of the old parties—Whigs and Democrats.[1065] The national platform adopted in Philadelphia stated the principles to which the southerners had now committed themselves, viz.: the war had decided the national character of the Constitution; but the restrictions imposed by it upon the general government were unchanged and the rights and authority of the states were unimpaired; representation in Congress and in the electoral college was a right guaranteed by the Constitution to every state, and Congress had no power to deny such right; Congress had no power to regulate the suffrage; there is no right of withdrawal from the Union; amendments to the Constitution must be made as provided for by the Constitution, and all states had the right to a vote on an amendment; negroes should receive protection in all rights of person and property; the national debt was declared inviolable, the Confederate debt utterly invalid; and Andrew Johnson’s administration was indorsed.[1066]

Ex-Governor Parsons and others from Alabama spoke in New York, New Jersey, Maine, and Pennsylvania, at National Union meetings. Parsons told the North that the conservative people of Alabama were in charge of the administration, and would not send extreme men to Congress; the representatives chosen had opposed secession. The “Union” party,—a large one in the state,—he said, had hoped that after the war each individual would have to answer for himself, but instead all were suffering in common.[1067]

[Pg 402]The opposition party was weak in numbers and especially weak in leaders. The tory and deserter element, with a few from the obstructionists of the war time and malcontents of the present who wanted office, made up the native portion of the party. Northern adventurers, principally agents of the Freedmen’s Bureau, teachers and missionaries, and men who had failed to succeed in some southern speculation, with a number of those who follow in the path of armies to secure the spoils, composed the alien wing of the opposition party.[1068] The fundamental principle upon which the existence of the party was based required the destruction of present institutions and the creation of a new political people who should be kept in power by Federal authority. The northern soldiers of fortune saw at once that it would be necessary to give the ballot to the negro. The native Radicals disliked the idea of negro suffrage and seemed to think that the central government should proscribe all others, place them in power and hold them there by armed force until they could create a party.

Such a party could secure a northern alliance only with the extreme Radical wing of the Republican party. A convention of “Southern Unionists” was held in Washington, in July, 1866, which issued an address to the “loyalists” of the South, declaring that the reconstruction of the southern state governments must be based on constitutional principles, and the present despotism under an atrocious leadership must not be permitted to remain; the rights of the citizens must not be left to the protection of the states, but Congress must take charge of the matter and make protection coextensive with citizenship; under the present state governments, with “rebels” controlling, there would be no safety for loyalists,—they must rely on Congress for protection. A meeting of “southern loyalists” was called to be held in September, in Independence Hall in Philadelphia.[1069] The Alabama delegates to this convention were George Reese, D. H. Bingham, M. J. Saffold, and J. H. Larcombe. This Philadelphia convention condemned the “rebellion as unparalleled for its causelessness, its cruelty, and its criminality.” “The unhappy policy” of the President was “unjust, oppressive, and intolerable.” The policy of Congress was indorsed, but regret was expressed that it did not provide[Pg 403] by law for the greater security of the “loyal” people in the southern states. Demand was made for “the establishment of influences of patriotism and justice” in each of the southern states. Washington, Lincoln, the Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia, and Independence Hall—all were brought in. The question of negro suffrage was discussed, and most of the delegates favored it. Of the five delegates from Alabama, two announced themselves against it.[1070] At a Radical convention in Philadelphia about the same time the delegates from Alabama were Albert Griffin, an adventurer from Ohio; D. H. Bingham, a bitter tory, almost demented with hate; and M. J. Saffold, who had been an obstructionist during the war. Here was the beginning of the alliance of carpet-bagger and scalawag that was destined to ruin the state in six years of peace worse than four years of war had done. The convention indulged in unstinted abuse of Johnson and demanded “no mercy” for Davis. Bingham was one of the committee that presented the hysterical report demanding the destruction of the provisional governments in the South. Saffold opposed the negro suffrage plank. He had no prejudice himself, he explained, but thought it was not expedient. He was hissed and evidently brought to the correct opinion.[1071]

After the report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction in 1866 it was believed by the Radicals that Congress would be victorious over the President, and the party in Alabama that expected to control the government under the new régime began to hold meetings and organize preparatory to dividing the offices. January 8-9, 1867, a thinly attended “Unconditional Union Mass-meeting” was held at Moulton, in Lawrence County. Eleven of the counties of north Alabama were represented, the hill and mountain people predominating. Nicholas Davis, who presided, said that none but “loyal” men must control the states, lately in rebellion.[1072] The action of Congress was [Pg 404]commended by the convention; the proposed Fourteenth Amendment was indorsed; and Congress was asked to distinguish between the “precipitators” and those “coerced or otherwise led by the usurpers.”[1073] They asked for $100 a year bounty for all Union soldiers from north Alabama, and for the compensation of Unionists for property lost during the war. The leaders here present were Freedmen’s Bureau agents, Confederate deserters, and former obstructionists.[1074]

A “Union” convention was held in Huntsville, March 4, 1867. Seventeen north Alabama counties were represented by much the same crowd that attended the Moulton convention.[1075] General Swayne was there, carried along by the current, and, it was said, hoping for high office under the new régime.[1076] The convention declared that a large portion of the people of the South had been opposed to secession, but rather than have civil war at home had acquiesced in the revolution; that the true position of these “unionists” now was with the party that would protect them against future rebellion; it was necessary that the Federal government be strengthened; the “union” men of each county were asked to hold meetings and send delegates to a state convention to be held during the summer.[1077]

The spring of 1867 saw the white Radical party stronger than it ever was again. The few native whites who were to take part in the Reconstruction had chosen their side. After this time the party gradually lost all its respectable members. The carpet-baggers and[Pg 405] Bureau agents had not yet shown their strength. The scalawags did not foresee that to the carpet-baggers would fall the lion’s share of the plunder, owing to their control over the negro vote.

The President’s plan failed, not because of any inherent defect in itself, but because of the bungling manner in which it was administered. If President Johnson had been content to place confidence in any one of the agencies to which were intrusted the government of the South, it would have been better. Had the governments set up by him been endowed with vigor, it is probable that Congress would not have fallen wholly under the control of the Radicals. The penalty for the indiscretions of the President was visited upon the South. To-day the southern people like to believe that, had Lincoln lived, his policy would have succeeded, and the horrors of Reconstruction would have been mitigated or prevented. Johnson’s policy was that of Lincoln, except that he reserved to himself a much larger part in setting up and running the provisional governments. He established state governments, pronounced them constitutional, completed, perfected, and asked Congress to recognize them before he had proclaimed the rebellion at an end or restored the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.[1078]

He interfered himself, and allowed or ordered the army to interfere, in the smallest details of local administration. The military rule in Alabama was on the whole as well administered as it could be, which is seldom well. There were too few soldiers and the posts were too widely separated for the exercise of any firm or consistent authority. But the people were sorry to see even the worst of this give place to the reign of carpet-bagger, scalawag, and negro. The interference of the army and the President discredited the civil government in the minds of the people. The absolute rule of the President over the whole of ten states, though never used for bad purposes, was, nevertheless, not to be viewed with equanimity by those who were afraid of the almost absolute power that the executive had assumed during the war. That the power had not been used for bad purposes was no guarantee against future misuse. There was some excuse for the pretended fright of the Radical leaders, like Sumner and Stevens, and the real anxiety of more moderate men, at the [Pg 406]dictatorial course of Johnson. But it must be said that a desire for a share in political appointments was a cause of much of this “real anxiety.”

From 1865 to 1868, and even later, there was, for all practical purposes, over the greater part of the people of Alabama, no government at all. There was little disorder; the people were busy with their own affairs. Public opinion ruled the respectable people. Until the close of Reconstruction, the military and civil government touched the people mainly to annoy. From 1865 to 1874 government and respect for government were weakened to a degree from which it has not yet recovered. The people governed themselves extra-legally and have not recovered from the practice.

By taking cases from the civil authorities for trial before military commission, by dictating the course of the civil government, by nullifying the actions of the highest executive officers, the acts of the legislature, and the decisions of the highest courts, the army was mainly responsible for the lack of confidence in the civil administration.



[Pg 407]



In the account of the affairs thus far we have seen many evidences of the active participation of the military power of the United States in the conduct of government in Alabama. It will be useful at this point to examine with some care the form and scope of the authority concerned during the period of the provisional state government’s existence.

The Military Division of the Tennessee (1863), under General Grant, included the Department of the Cumberland, under the command of General George H. Thomas. Several counties of north Alabama in the possession of the Federals formed a part of this department and for three years were governed entirely by the army, except for two short intervals, when the Federal forces were flanked and forced to retire. Anarchy then reigned, for the civil government had been almost entirely destroyed in ten of the northern counties. June 7, 1865, the Military Division of the Tennessee was reorganized under General Thomas, and included in it was the Department of Alabama, commanded by General C. R. Woods, with headquarters at Mobile. In October, 1865, Georgia and Alabama were united into a military province called the Department of the Gulf, under General Woods. This department was still in the Military Division of the Tennessee, commanded by General Thomas. June 1, 1866, Alabama and Georgia were formed into the Department of the South and were still in Thomas’s Military Division of the Tennessee. General Woods commanded, with headquarters at Macon, Georgia. Alabama was ruled by General Swayne from Montgomery. August 6, 1866, the Military Division of the Tennessee was discontinued and was made a department, General Thomas retaining the command. In this department Georgia and Alabama formed the District of the Chattahoochee, with headquarters at Macon, commanded by General Woods. The Sub-district of Alabama[Pg 408] was commanded by General Swayne, who was also in charge of the Freedmen’s Bureau at Montgomery. This organization lasted until the Third Military District, under the Reconstruction Acts of March 2, 1867, was formed of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, and General Thomas (immediately superseded by General Pope) was put in command.[1079]


The Military Occupation

Within a month after the surrender of Lee, Alabama was occupied by Federal armies, and garrisons were being stationed at one or more points in all the more populous counties. Everywhere, the state and county government was broken up by the military authorities, who were forbidden to recognize any civil authority in the state. Into each of the 52 counties soldiers were sent to administer the oath of allegiance to the United States to any one who wished to take it. Most people were indifferent about it.[1080]

For several months there was no civil government at all, and no government of any kind except in the immediate vicinity of the army posts and the towns where military officers and Freedmen’s Bureau agents regulated the conduct of the negroes, and incidentally of the whites, well or badly, according to their abilities and prejudices. Some of the officers, especially those of higher rank, endeavored to pacify the land, gave good advice to the negroes, and were considerate in their relations with the whites; others incited the blacks to all sorts of deviltry and were a terror to the whites.[1081] Each official in his little district ruled as supreme as the Czar of all the Russias. He was the first and last authority on most of the affairs of the community.

Early in the summer each city and its surrounding territory was formed into a military district under the command of a general[Pg 409] officer, who was subject to the orders of General Woods at Mobile. There were the districts of Mobile, Montgomery, Talladega, and Huntsville—each with a dozen or more counties attached. Then there were isolated posts in each. The district was governed by the rules applying to a “separate brigade” in the army.[1082] The different posts, districts, and departments were formed, discontinued, reorganized, with lightning rapidity. Hardly a single day passed without some change necessitated by the resignation or muster out of officers or troops. Commanding officers stayed a few days or a few weeks at a post, and were relieved or discharged. Some of the officers spent much of their time pulling wires to keep from being mustered out. Others resigned as soon as their resignations would be accepted. Few or none had any adequate knowledge of conditions in their own districts, nor was it possible for them to acquire a knowledge of affairs in the short time they remained at any one post.

After the establishment of the provisional government, the army was supposed to retire into the background, leaving ordinary matters of administration to the civil government. This it did not do, but constantly interfered in all affairs of government. The army officers cannot be blamed for their meddling with the civil administration, for the President did the same and seemed to have little confidence in the governments he had erected, though he gave good accounts of them to Congress. The struggle at Washington between the President and Congress over Reconstruction confused the military authorities as to the proper policy to pursue. The instructions from the President and from General Grant were sometimes in conflict.

In August, 1865, the military commander published the President’s Amnesty Proclamation of May 29, 1865, and sent officers to each county to administer the oath.[1083] Instructions were given that “no improper persons are to be permitted to take the oath.” The oath was to be signed in triplicate, one copy for the Department of State, one for military headquarters, and one for the party taking the oath. Regulations were prescribed for making special applications for[Pg 410] pardon by those excepted under the Amnesty Proclamation. There were 120 stations in the state where officials administered the oath of amnesty.[1084] The military authorities gave the term “improper persons” a broad construction and excluded many who applied to take the oath. The various officers differed greatly in their enforcement of the regulations. Special applications for pardon had to go through military channels, and that meant delays of weeks or months; so, after civil officials were appointed in Alabama, “improper persons” took the oath before them, and then their papers were sent at once to Washington for the attention of the President. There was some scandal about the provisional secretary of state accepting reward for pushing certain applications for pardon. But there was no need to use influence, for the President pardoned all who applied.

Soon after Parsons was appointed provisional governor, an order stated that the United States forces would be used to assist in the restoration of order and civil law throughout the state and would act in support of the civil authorities as soon as the latter were appointed and qualified. The military authorities were instructed to avoid as far as possible any assumption or exercise of the functions of civil tribunals. No arrest or imprisonment for debt was to be made or allowed, and depredations by United States troops upon private property were to be repressed.[1085]


The Army and the Colored Population

As acting agents of the Freedmen’s Bureau, the army officers had to do with all that concerned the negroes; but sometimes, in a different capacity, they issued regulations concerning the colored race. It is difficult to distinguish between their actions as Bureau agents and as army officers. On the whole, it seems that each officer of the army considered himself ex officio an acting agent of the Bureau.

Soon after the occupation of Montgomery, an order was issued prohibiting negroes from occupying houses in the city without the consent of the owner. They had to vacate unless they could get permission. Negroes in rightful possession had to show certificates to that effect from the owner. All unemployed negroes were advised[Pg 411] to go to work, as the United States would not support them in idleness.[1086] This order was intended to discourage the tendency of the negro population to flock to the garrison towns. The first troops to arrive were almost smothered by the welcoming blacks, who were disposed to depend upon the army for maintenance. The officers were at first alarmed at the great crowds of blacks who swarmed around them, and tried hard for a time to induce them to go back home to work. Their efforts were successful in some instances. In view of the fact that the posts and garrisons were the gathering places of great numbers of unemployed blacks, an order, issued in August, 1865, instructed the commanders of posts and garrisons to prohibit the loitering of negroes around the posts and to discourage the indolence of the blacks.[1087]

In Mobile some kind of civil government must have been set up under the direction of the military authorities, for we hear of an order issued by General Andrews that in all courts and judicial proceedings in the District of Mobile the negro should have the same standing as the whites.[1088] These may have been Bureau courts.

It was represented to the military commander that the negroes of Alabama had aided the Federals in April and May, 1865, by bringing into the lines, or by destroying, stock, provisions, and property that would aid the Confederacy, and that they were now being arrested by the officers of the provisional government for larceny and arson. So he ordered that the civil authorities be prohibited from arresting, trying, or imprisoning any negro for any offence committed before the surrender of Taylor (on May 4, 1865), except by permission of military headquarters or of the assistant commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau.[1089] When the Federal armies passed through the state in April and May, 1865, thousands of negroes had seized the farm stock and followed the army, for a few days at least. There was more of this seizure of property by negroes after garrisons were stationed in the towns. The order was so construed that practically no negro could be arrested for stealing when he was setting out for[Pg 412] town and the Bureau. A few weeks before the order was issued, Woods stated, “I do not interfere with civil affairs at all unless called upon by the governor of the state to assist the civil authorities.”[1090]

Terrible stories of cruel treatment of the negroes were brought to Woods by the Bureau officials, and he sent detachments of soldiers to investigate the reports. Nothing was done except to march through the country and frighten the timid by a display of armed force, which was evidently all the agents wanted. One detachment scoured the counties of Clarke, Marengo, Washington, and Choctaw, investigating the reports of the agents.[1091]

The commanding officers at some posts authorized militia officers of the provisional government to disarm the freedmen when outbreaks were threatened. But after Christmas General Swayne ordered that no authority be delegated by officers to civilians for dealing with freedmen, but that such cases be referred to himself as the assistant commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau.[1092] There had been great fear among some classes of people that the negroes would engage in plots to massacre the whites and secure possession of the property, which they were assured by negro soldiers and Bureau agents the governor meant them to have. About Christmas, 1865, the fear was greatest. For six months the blacks had been eagerly striving to get possession of firearms. The soldiers and speculators made it easy for them to obtain them. In Russell County $3000 worth of new Spencer rifles were found hidden in negro cabins.[1093] There were few firearms among the whites, for all had been used in war and were therefore seized by the United States government. Some feared that the negroes were preparing for an uprising, but it is more probable that they merely wanted guns as a mark of freedom. The purchase of firearms by whites was discouraged by the army. The sale of arms and ammunition into the interior was forbidden, but speculators managed to sell both. General Smith, at Mobile, had one of them—Dieterich—arrested and confined in the military prison at Mobile.[1094] The Mobile Daily Register was warned that it[Pg 413] must not print articles about impending negro insurrections,[1095] a very good regulation; but the violent negro sheet in Mobile was not noticed, though it was a cause of excitement among the blacks.

In the fall of 1866 it was reported to the Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, that negroes were being induced to go to Peru on promise of higher wages. Seward induced Howard, the commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau, to have the Bureau annul or disapprove all contracts of freedmen to go beyond the limits of the United States. General Swayne, who was now both assistant commissioner and military commander, was directed to enforce Howard’s order in Alabama.[1096]


Administration of Justice by the Army

From April to December, 1865, all trade and commerce had to go on under the regulations prescribed by the army. The restrictions placed on trade caused demoralization both in the army and among the Treasury agents, who worked under the protection of the military.[1097] It was ordered that civilians guilty of stealing government cotton should be punished, after trial and conviction by military commission, according to the statutes of Alabama in force before the war. Later all cases of theft of government property were tried by military commission.[1098]

When the cotton agents were tried by military commission[1099] there arose a conflict of authority between the military authorities and the Federal Judge. One agent, T. C. A. Dexter, was arrested and sued out a writ of habeas corpus before Busteed, the Federal judge. The writ was served on General Woods and Colonel Hunter Brooke, who presided over the military commission. The officers declined to obey, saying that a military commission had been convened to try Dexter, and that no interference of the civil authorities would be permitted. Busteed ordered Dexter to be discharged, and Woods to appear before him and show why he should not be prosecuted for contempt of court. Woods paid no attention to this order, and Busteed sent the United States marshal to arrest him. The[Pg 414] marshal reported that he was unable to get into the presence of Woods, because the military guard was instructed not to allow him to pass. Woods sent a message to Busteed that the writ had not been restored in Alabama. Busteed made a protest to the President and asserted that the trial could not lawfully proceed except in the civil courts. President Johnson sustained the course of General Woods, and thereby gave a blow to his provisional government, for Busteed at once adjourned his court—the only Federal court in the state. The sentiment of the people was with Busteed in spite of his own notorious character and that of the defendant. All wanted the civil government to take charge of affairs.[1100]

Of the cases of civilians tried by summary courts in the summer of 1865, there is no official record; of the cases tried by military commission during 1865 and 1866, only incomplete records are to be found. A partial list of the cases, with charges and sentences, is here given:—

Wilson H. Gordon,[1101] civilian, murder of negro, May 14, 1865. Convicted.

Samuel Smiley,[1101] civilian, murder of negro, 1865. Acquitted.

T. J. Carver,[1102] cotton agent, stealing cotton. Fined $90,000 and one year’s imprisonment.

T. C. A. Dexter,[1103] cotton agent, stealing cotton (3321 bales) and selling appointment of cotton agent to Carver for $25,000. Fined $250,000 and imprisonment for one year.

William Ludlow,[1104] civilian, stealing United States stock. Four years’ imprisonment.

L. J. Britton,[1105] civilian, guerilla warfare and robbery. Fined $5000 and imprisonment for ten years. (Fine remitted by reviewing officer.)

George M. Cunningham,[1106] late Second Lieutenant 47th Ill. Vol. Inf., stealing government stores. Fined $500.

John C. Richardson,[1107] civilian, guerilla warfare and robbery. Imprisonment for ten years.

Owen McLarney,[1107] civilian, assault on soldier. Acquitted.

William B. Rowls,[1107] civilian, guerilla warfare and robbery. Imprisonment for ten years.

Samuel Beckham,[1107] civilian, receiving stolen property. Imprisonment for three years.

[Pg 415]John Johnson,[1108] civilian, robbery and pretending to be United States officer. Fined $100, “to be appropriated to the use of the Freedmen’s Bureau.”

Abraham Harper,[1108] civilian, robbery and pretending to be United States officer. Fined $100 “to be appropriated to the use of the Freedmen’s Bureau.”

Most of the civilians tried by the military commissions were camp followers and discharged soldiers of the United States army. Those charged with guerilla warfare were regularly enlisted Confederate soldiers and were accused by the tory element, who were guilty of most of the guerilla warfare.[1109] It was impossible to punish outlaws for any depredations committed during the war, and for several months after the surrender, if they claimed to be “loyalists,” which they usually did. The civil authorities were forbidden to arrest, try, and imprison discharged soldiers of the United States army for acts committed while in service.[1110] A similar order withdrew all “loyal” persons from the jurisdiction of the civil courts so far as concerned actions during or growing out of the war.[1111] The negroes had already been withdrawn from the authority of the civil courts so far as similar offences were concerned.[1112]

Upon the complaint of United States officials collecting taxes and revenues of the refusal of individuals to pay, the military commanders over the state were ordered to arrest and try by military commission persons who refused or neglected “to pay these just dues.”[1113]

Numerous complaints of arbitrary arrests and of the unwarranted seizure of private property called forth an order from General Thomas, directing that the persons and property of all citizens must be respected. There was to be no interference with or arrests of[Pg 416] citizens unless upon proper authority from the district commander, and then only after well-supported complaint.[1114]

The local military authorities were directed to arrest persons who had been or might be charged with offences against officers, agents, citizens, and inhabitants of the United States, in cases where the civil authorities had failed, neglected, or been unable to bring the offending parties to trial. Persons so arrested were to be confined by the military until a proper tribunal might be ready and willing to try them.[1115] This was another one of many blows at the civil government permitted by the President, who allowed the army to judge for itself as to when it should interfere.

These are the more important orders issued by the military authority relating to public affairs in Alabama during the existence of the two provisional or “Johnson” state governments. It will be seen from the scope of the orders that the local military officials had the power of constant interference with the civil government. A large part of the population was withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the civil administration. The officials of the latter had no real power, for they were subject to frequent reproof and their proceedings to frequent revision by the army officers. Both Governor Parsons and Governor Patton wanted the army removed, confident that the civil government could do better than both together. Parsons appealed to Johnson to remove the army or prohibit its interference.[1116] He complained that the military officials had caused and were still causing much injustice by deciding grave questions of law and equity upon ex parte statements. Personal rights were subject to captious and uncertain regulations. The tenure of property was uncertain, and citizens felt insecure when the army decided complicated cases of title to land and questions of public morals. A military commission at Huntsville, acting under direction of General Thomas, had assumed to decide questions of title to property, and in one case, a widow was alleged to have been turned out of her home.[1117] The citizens of Montgomery were indignant because the military authorities had issued licenses for the sale of liquor, and had permitted[Pg 417] prostitution by licensing houses of ill repute. Circular No. 1, District of Montgomery, September 9, 1865, required that all public women must register at the office of the provost marshal; that each head of a disorderly house must pay a license tax of $25 a week in addition to $5 a week for each inmate, and that medical inspection should be provided for by military authority. In case of violation of these regulations a fine of $100 would be imposed for each offence, and ten to thirty days’ imprisonment. The bishop and all the clergy of the Episcopal Church were suspended and the churches closed for several months because the bishop refused to order a prayer for the President.[1118] The restaurant of Joiner and Company, at Stevenson, was closed by order of the post commander because two negro soldiers were refused the privilege of dining at the regular table.[1119] Admiral Semmes, after being pardoned, was elected mayor of Mobile, but the President interfered and refused to allow him to serve. Many arrests and many more investigations were made at the instigation of the tory or “union” element, and on charges made by negroes.[1120]


Relation between the Army and the People

The unsatisfactory character of the military rule was due in a large measure to the fact that the white volunteers were early mustered out, leaving only a few regulars and several regiments of negro troops to garrison the country.[1121] These negro troops were a source of disorder among the blacks, and were under slack discipline. Outrages and robberies by them were of frequent occurrence. There was ill feeling between the white and the black troops. Even when the freedmen utterly refused to go to work, they behaved well, as a rule, except where negro troops were stationed. There is no reason to believe that it was not more the fault of the white officers than of the black soldiers, for black soldiers were amenable to discipline when they had respectable officers. Truman reported to the President that the negro troops[Pg 418] should be removed, because “to a great extent they incite the freedmen to deeds of violence and encourage them in idleness.”[1122] The white troops, most of them regulars, behaved better, so far as their relations with the white citizens were concerned. The general officers were as a rule gentlemen, generous and considerate. So much so, that some rabid newspaper correspondents complained because the West Pointers treated the southerners with too much consideration.[1123] In the larger posts discipline was fairly good, but at small, detached posts in remote districts the soldiers, usually, but not always, the black ones, were a scourge to the state. They ravaged the country almost as completely as during the war.[1124] The numerous reports of General Swayne show that there was no necessity for garrisons in the state. He wanted, he said, a small body of cavalry to catch fugitives from justice, not a force to overcome opposition. The presence of the larger forces of infantry created a great deal of disorder. The soldiers were not amenable to civil law, the refining restraints of home were lacking, and discipline was relaxed.[1125]

Of the subordinate officers some were good and some were not, and the latter, when away from the control of their superior officers and in command of lawless men, ravaged the back country and acted like brigands. For ten years after the war the general orders of the various military districts, departments, and divisions are filled with orders publishing the results of court-martial proceedings, which show the demoralization of the class of soldiers who remained in the army after the war. The best men clamored for their discharge when the war ended and went home. The more disorderly men, for whom life in garrison in time of peace was too tame, remained, and all sorts of disorder resulted. Finally “Benzine” boards, as they were called, had to take hold of the matter, and numbers of men[Pg 419] who had done good service during the war were discharged because they were unable to submit to discipline in time of peace.

The rule of the army might have been better, especially in 1865, had there not been so many changes of local and district commanders and headquarters. Some counties remained in the same military jurisdiction a month or two, others a week or two, several for two or three days only. The people did not know how to proceed in order to get military justice. Orders were issued that business must proceed through military channels. This cut off the citizen from personal appeal to headquarters, unless he was a man of much influence. Often it was difficult to ascertain just what military channels were. Headquarters and commanders often changed before an application or a petition reached its destination.[1126]

The President merited failure with his plan of restoration because he showed so little confidence in the governments he had established. He was constantly interfering on the slightest pretexts. He asked Congress to admit the states into the Union, and said that order was restored and the state governments in good running order, while at the same time he had not restored the writ of habeas corpus, had not proclaimed the “rebellion” at an end, and was in the habit of allowing and directing the interference of the army in the gravest questions that confronted the civil government. In this way he discredited his own work, even in the eyes of those who wished it to succeed. His intentions were good, but his ju