Gen. Stephen D. Lee’s 1906 Address that Contains the SCV Charge

A Series on the Daring Exploits of Our Confederate Ancestors in the War Between the States.
UCV Medal, Sixteenth Reunion, April 25-27, 1906, New Orleans.
Gen. Stephen D. Lee's 1906 Address
to the UCV that Contains the SCV Charge
Gen. Stephen Dill Lee, Commander-in-Chief, United Confederate Veterans.
Gen. Stephen Dill Lee, Commander-in-Chief, United Confederate Veterans, 1904-1908.

Below is the full text, verbatim, of Gen. Stephen D. Lee's speech as commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans at their Sixteenth National Reunion, April 25-27, 1906 in New Orleans. The speech was delivered that first day, Wednesday, April 25th. This was 41 years after the War Between the States, eight years after the Spanish-American War, and eight years before World War I. Teddy Roosevelt was president. As stated on the Stephen D. Lee Institute website: "Stephen Dill Lee was an exceptional soldier and important leader in the Confederate Army and, after the war, a leading American educator, historian, and commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans...". He was one of the three Confederates who rowed over to Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 in a futile effort to prevent the war. He was a West Point graduate and became the Confederacy's youngest lieutenant general. In this speech, he begins passing the baton from the UCV to the SCV. He died in 1908, two years later.

From "Gen. S. D. Lee's Address at New Orleans," Confederate Veteran magazine, Vol. XIV, No. 6, June, 1906.

Gen. Stephen D. Lee on the left with other Confederate veterans.
Gen. Stephen D. Lee on left. Not sure when or where this photo was taken.

[When the greetings and welcomes of the hospitable New Orleans authorities had been expressed at the opening of the last great U. C. V. Reunion in New Orleans, Gen. Stephen D. Lee, upon taking the chair as presiding officer, said:]

The United Confederate Veterans are again met in the city of their origin. We are once more the guests of those patriotic and energetic men, into whose labors we have entered and to whom the thanks of all surviving Confederates are due.

Again and again we have returned to taste of the inexhaustible bounty of your hospitality, to be refreshed by the patriotism and enthusiasm of this generous and beautiful city.

The flags of France and of Spain, of the Union and of the Confederacy, have floated over the soil upon which we stand; but always over brave men and lovely women, loyal to the best they knew, faithful alike to the living and to the dead; a civilization transplanted like a rare flower of France, blossoming in the New World and bearing exquisite fruit.

The Confederate cannot forget the city of the gallant and accomplished Beauregard, the brave and unfortunate Hood, the city where Jefferson Davis loved to walk, and which honored him in his death with an outpouring of loyalty and grief which did honor to the Southern heart.

Here is Metairie, where Albert Sidney Johnston speaks in imperishable bronze, and the monument to the Army of Northern Virginia rises, tall and white, like the soul of its great chieftain.

We love you, Louisiana, where the stern blood of the Anglo-Saxon has been touched with the grace and the genius of France.

Here amid the very chivalry of patriotism there is welcome for all who prize noble and generous deeds, and most of all a welcome for him who loved his country best and bore her cross of pain--the Confederate soldier.

We who grieved for this unhappy city in the hour of its capture and humiliation rejoice in its pride today--standing second only to New York among American ports of export, your mighty river filled with the ships of all nations, your historic streets alive with the commerce of the world.

We behold with satisfaction great railroad systems struggling to enter your gates and the merchants of a thousand cities listening for the murmurs of your markets.

We wait the coming of the day when the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific shall mingle together, and on both alike shall float the commerce of this imperial city, when the sons of those who struggled in vain for Southern supremacy shall here behold a peaceful victory more magnificent than those of their great armies, a commercial supremacy more splendid than their noblest visions, and here beside the Father of Waters shall be realized the capital of their dreams.

UCV 16th Reunion parade, Canal Street, New Orleans, April 27, 1906.

We have lost dear friends and comrades since we met together, none more beloved and more honored than the soldier who was recently laid to rest at Arlington.

Joe Wheeler won his spurs by true and honorable service. He was a superb cavalry leader, and earned on many a hard-fought field the right to lead where brave men follow.

When the heart of our common country yearned to express to her Confederate sons that their welcome home was complete, to Wheeler it was given to show on our behalf that every star on the flag was now dear to us, and that we were ready to follow it to the very "Isles of the Sea."

It was Southern hands that set star after star in that blue field of glory; and if any more stars are ever planted there, it will be strange if Southerners are not found assisting at the service.

Comrades, there is one thing committed to our care as a peculiar trust--the memory of the Confederate soldier.

So far as lies in our power, we have striven that history many not lack the evidence of his purity of motive, his fortitude, his heroism.

I, for one, do not fear that justice, however long delayed, will not ultimately be done to one of the grandest bodies of men who ever battled for independence or, triumphing over defeat, bound up the bleeding wounds of their country.

Gen. Stephen D. Lee during the War Between the States.
Gen. Stephen D. Lee during the War Between the States.

There are three things peculiarly left for our concern.

One of these is the erection of public monuments to our Confederate dead; not only to our leaders, but, above all, to those private soldiers who made our leaders immortal.

We must not overtask posterity by expecting those who come after us to build monuments to heroes whom their own generations were unwilling to commemorate.

The South has reached a position of material prosperity which justified both State and private beneficence to honor the faithful dead.

In all human lot, there has nothing better been found for man than to die for his country. If there be any virtue, if there be any praise, this fate is to be preferred above all others.

We feel it is well with those who have thus fulfilled the highest of all trusts, the duty of a citizen to his native land. Whatever may have been their private faults, their public service on the field of battle has rightly given them a place with the immortals.

Theirs was the martyr's devotion without the martyr's hope.

Their generation and their country imposed upon them this high service. They fulfilled it without flinching. They felt that the issue of the battle was with God; the issue of their duty was with themselves.... [sic]

I urge monuments to the Confederate soldier, first for the sake of the dead, but most for the sake of the living, that in this busy industrial age these stones to the Confederate soldier may stand like great interrogation marks to the soul of each beholder.

Let us pass the remainder of our days in such ways that nothing we shall do will bring shame and regret that we also were Confederate soldiers.

As we shared with them the glory of their sufferings, the fame of their victories, the tragedy of their overthrow, and that sympathy of their countrymen which covered the defeated with a mantle of imperishable love, let us also share as best we may their simplicity of heart, their scorn of all ignoble actions, their dignity of soul, that our descendants may say of us with swelling hearts: "He also followed Johnston; he also fought with Lee."

To this day there stands carved upon the graves of our English ancestors the symbol of the Crusaders. Their names are forgotten, but the cross remains. So let it be with the Confederate soldier!... [sic]

And is there any message we would give to the States we loved and on whose behalf we drew our swords more than a generation ago?

As we have sorrowed over your devotion, we now rejoice in your prosperity.

We chose for you the fortune of war rather than a shameful peace. We battled for your principles rather than yield them, not to conviction but to force. With breaking hearts we bowed beneath the stroke of fate.

We chose the only course worthy of Americans. Better defeat than dishonor; better the long, bitter story of reconstruction than tame surrender of the convictions we received from our fathers, the principles which we cherished as the basis of our liberties.

We leave our motives to the judgment of posterity. In the choice we made we followed the dictates of conscience and the voice of honor.

We sacrificed all that men hold dear for the land of our birth; and, while we have no fear that history will record our deeds with shame, we do not regard even the verdict of posterity as the equivalent of a clear conscience; nor ought we to have been false to our convictions even to win the eternal praises of mankind.

If our children shall praise us, it is well; if our own hearts tell us we have fulfilled our duty, it is better.

Last of all, let us remember our less prosperous comrades. If we can perhaps sweeten the last years of those old men, bring back, maybe, the light of other days in their fading eyes, awake in their hearts the great memories, they will bless us by our receiving more than we are giving.

Many of the States whom they so nobly served are gathering them in soldiers' homes, institutions which combine the beauty of charity with the grace of gratitude. But there are many other old veterans who will never be brought within such hospitable walls and who are left to our personal charge for such sympathy and assistance as are honorable alike to them and to us.

Let each Camp continue its special care for this beneficent labor, and see to it that true comradeship shall cease only when all of us have passed beyond human power to relieve.

To you, Mothers of the Memorial Association, will be given the service of commemorating the soldier's virtues in the hearts of those who come after us by the story of the illustrious dead, of comforting the hearts of those who mourn our lost heroes with such ministrations as bespeak the sympathy of the patriot and the loving-kindness of those who are familiar with the same sorrow.

To you, Sons of Confederate Veterans, we will commit the vindication of the cause for which we fought. To your strength will be given the defense of the Confederate soldier's good name, the guardianship of his history, the emulation of his virtues, the perpetuation of those principles which he loved and which you love also, and those ideals which made him glorious and which you also cherish.

Are you also ready to die for your country? Is your life worthy to be remember along with theirs? Do you choose for yourself this greatness of soul?

"Not in the clamor of the crowded street,
Not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng,
But in ourselves are triumph and defeat."

To you, Daughters of the Confederacy, will be given the loving service of remembering the Confederate dead and of ministering to the living who were dear to him and are in need of your help and tenderness.

Worthy daughters you shall be of the immortal women, your mothers, who gave to womanhood a new perfection of heroism and a more divine expression of sacrifice and devotion.

To you, brave people of the South; to you, true-hearted Americans everywhere; to you, world-conquering race from which we sprung--to all men everywhere who prize in man the manliest deeds, who love in man the love of country, who praise fidelity and courage, who honor self-sacrifice and noble devotion, will be given an incomparable inheritance, the memory of our prince of men, the Confederate soldier.

[At the conclusion of General Lee's address the bright and beautiful young daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Madison presented him an exquisite group of flowers.]

About Gen. Stephen D. Lee, by the National Park Service.
Vicksburg National Military Park, Gen. Stephen D. Lee, CSA. Lee was chairman of the park at one time.
Vicksburg National Military Park, statue of Gen. Stephen D. Lee, CSA. Lee was chairman of the park at one time.

(No words or sentences were changed in Gen. Lee's speech but some paragraphs were broken up to make it easier to read online.)

The Right of Secession, Part Two of Two

The Right of Secession
Part Two of Two

by Gene Kizer, Jr.

 

The Southern States unquestionably had the right to secede from the Union. That Southerners lost a catastrophic war, which, if it occurred today, would count 8.7 million dead and 10 million wounded, only glorifies and enshrines in the annals of human history, the courage of Southerners and their commitment to democracy, self-government, the Founding Fathers, and especially the Declaration of Independence with its assertion that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Other direct evidence of the right of secession abounds.

Albert Taylor Bledsoe wrote in 1866 what is thought to be the best book ever written on the right of secession: Is Davis a Traitor; or Was Secession a Constitutional Right Previous to the War of 1861?

Richard M. Weaver, who was during his lifetime a professor and author of several noted books on the South, called Is Davis a Traitor "the masterpiece of the Southern apologias."1 Weaver described it as a "brilliant specimen of the polemic" out of the entire "extensive body of Southern political writing."2

Clyde N. Wilson, Emeritus Distinguished Professor of History at the University of South Carolina, editor of The Papers of John C. Calhoun, and author of many outstanding books, essays and articles, goes even further.

In the Introduction to a 1995 reprint of Is Davis a Traitor, Dr. Wilson lists the top seven books defending the South and the right of secession and says "Bledsoe did it first and best," his argument for the right of secession being "absolutely irrefutable to any honest mind."3

Bledsoe was born in Frankfort, Kentucky in 1809. He graduated from West Point in 1830 and had been there part of the time with Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Leonidas Polk and Albert Sydney Johnston.

He loved mathematics and theology, but practiced law for nine years in Springfield, Illinois as part of a bar that included Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas.

Bledsoe faced Lincoln in court several times and "it was said that Bledsoe won six out of eleven cases tried against Lincoln." Also, Bledsoe had given Lincoln lessons, at one point, on using a broadsword because Lincoln had been challenged to a duel.4

After his legal career, Bledsoe taught astronomy and mathematics at the University of Mississippi, acquiring a "legendary" genius for mathematics. In 1854, he began teaching mathematics at the University of Virginia.

During the war, Bledsoe served briefly as the colonel of a regiment of infantry from Virginia, then later in the Confederate War Department, and finally he was sent to Europe by President Davis on what is thought to have been a secret diplomatic mission to influence public opinion in Britain.

After the war, until his death in 1877, Bledsoe published The Southern Review in which he continued to argue the justice and truth of the Southern cause.5

Bledsoe began working on Is Davis a Traitor while in England and published it just after the war "as a part of the campaign of Davis's defense."

The Confederate President was in prison at Fort Monroe, a U.S. Army installation in Hampton, Virginia where he spent a miserable two years waiting to be tried for treason.

He was in irons with a bright light shining in his cell twenty-four hours a day with guards marching back and forth. The bright light was an additional measure of vindictiveness since it was known that Davis had never been able to sleep except in total darkness.

Davis wanted to be tried for treason because he was confident he could prove the right of secession. In talking about the effectiveness of Is Davis a Traitor, Richard Weaver writes that

Bledsoe witnessed some practical result of his labor when Robert Oulds and Charles O'Conor, attorneys for Jefferson Davis, made use of the book in preparing their defense; but the Federal government, apparently feeling the weakness of its legal position, allowed the case to be dismissed.6

Here was the North's big chance to prove the South wrong once and for all in a solemn, dignified court of law in the eyes of the world and for all of posterity, but they refused to take it. Why?

They certainly had not suddenly had a change of heart toward the South. It was Reconstruction, the body of the assassinated Lincoln was barely cold in the ground. South-hating radical Republicans held great sway in Congress. Northern troops were in charge of most Southern states while large numbers of former Confederates were disenfranchised.

This was exactly the time the Federal Government would have wanted to convict the Southern president if it had a case. It was willing to kill hundreds of thousands of Southerners on the battle field so there can be no doubt it would have relished humiliating Jefferson Davis in a courtroom.

But the Federal Government knew it would lose so it dropped its case.

The Federal Government, like that embodiment of the North, Horace Greeley, knew there was an absolute right of secession. The Declaration of Independence is very clear.

There were no treason trials against any former Confederates because any one trial would prove the right of secession, and imminently practical Northerners were not about to lose in a court of law what they had won on the battlefield.

Bledsoe's "irrefutable" argument in Is Davis a Traitor begins with the Constitution as a compact or legal agreement among the members to the compact.

The reason Bledsoe starts here is because any member that has acceded to (agreed to) the terms of a compact, can secede from that compact if the terms are broken by one of the other members. This is exactly what Morse said as well.

Bledsoe produces the writings and statements of the strongest opponents of the Constitution as compact -- Daniel Webster and others -- who have admitted that if the Constitution is a compact, then states can secede from it.7

Webster was the great spokesman for the North with the credibility and reputation to go along with it. Bledsoe writes:

Thus, the great controversy is narrowed down to the single question -- Is the Constitution a compact between the States? If so, then the right of secession is conceded, even by its most powerful and determined opponents; by the great jurist, as well as by 'the great expounder' [Webster] of the North.8

If the Constitution was a compact, the North had clearly broken specific terms of the compact.

As Morse stated earlier, Northern states had statutes on their books nullifying constitutional and congressional laws with regard to fugitive slaves.

Many in the North believed, as William H. Seward stated, that they were operating according to a "higher law" than the Constitution therefore the Constitution meant nothing and did not have to be obeyed.

The more radical had long called the Constitution a "covenant with death and agreement with hell."9

How could the North be trusted if they were going to violate the Constitution at will?

The reason for breaking the law does not justify breaking the law. If one doesn't like a law, one has to change the law, not break it. Breaking laws according to a "higher law" is what ISIS and the Taliban do.

Men and women who believe in the rule of law do not break the law. They change the law when it needs changing.10

If somebody breaks the law, they are no longer trustworthy and other parties are not obligated to remain in any arrangement with them.

The North's having clearly broken the compact guaranteed that secession was legal if the Constitution was a compact that was "acceded to" by the original makers.

Did the original states "accede" to a compact?

Webster railed against the Constitution as a compact. He said that saying "the States acceded to the Constitution" was "unconstitutional language."11 Discrediting the single word, "accede," was very important to Webster.

So Bledsoe researched in great detail the words of the Founders and finds that in the Constitutional Convention of 1787, "Mr. James Wilson . . . preferred 'a partial union' of the States, 'with a door open for the accession of the rest.'"12

However, "Mr. Gerry, a delegate from Massachusetts, was opposed to 'a partial confederacy, leaving other States to accede or not to accede, as had been intimated.'"13

Father of the Constitution, James Madison, "used the expression 'to accede' in the Convention of 1787, in order to denote the act of adopting 'the new form of government by the States.'"14

Virginia Governor Randolph, also at the Convention of 1787, said "That the accession of eight States reduced our deliberations to the single question of Union or no Union."15

Patrick Henry had said that if the Constitution "be amended, every State will accede to it."16

Mr. Grayson asks if Virginia will gain anything from her prominent position "by acceding to that paper."17

Benjamin Franklin, whom Bledsoe says was next in importance at the Constitutional Convention to Washington, later said "Our new Constitution is now established with eleven States, and the accession of a twelfth is soon expected."18

George Washington, as he watched states join the Constitution, said "If these, with the States eastward and northward of us, should accede to the Federal government . . .".19

Chief Justice John Marshall used the word "accede" in reference to joining the Constitution, and even Mr. Justice Story, a staunch opponent of the belief in Constitution as compact, said "The Constitution has been ratified by all the States; . . . Rhode Island did not accede to it, until more than a year after it had been in operation;".20

Webster had attacked the word "accede" as something invented by proponents of the Constitution as compact.

Bledsoe points out that Webster's attack on "accede" by calling it a "new word" was totally incorrect because "accede" had been exactly "the word of the fathers of the Constitution" led by Washington. They had all used the word "accede" in reference to states joining the Constitution, and, of course, the converse of "accede" is "secede."21

Over and over Bledsoe demolishes each and every argument that maintains secession was not legal or a right.

He produces the words of the Founding Fathers specifically calling the Constitution a compact starting with the Father of the Constitution, James Madison. In the Virginia Resolutions of 1798, Madison states:

That this assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the Federal Government as resulting from the compact, to which the States are parties.22

Bledsoe further mentions a letter from Madison to a Mr. Everett in 1830 in which Madison says that the Constitution is "'a compact among the States in their highest sovereign capacity.'"23

Bledsoe then convicts Webster using Webster's own words.

Webster had admitted that the Constitution was a compact in a debate three years earlier on "Foote's resolutions." Bledsoe says "that Mr. Webster himself, had, like everyone else, spoken of the Constitution as a compact, as a bargain which was obligatory on the parties to it." Webster had said:

[I]t is the original bargain, . . . the compact -- let it stand; let the advantage of it be fully enjoyed. The Union itself is too full of benefits to be hazarded in propositions for changing its original basis. I go for the Constitution as it is, and for the Union as it is.24

Perhaps the strongest argument against the right of secession is based on the words "We the people" in the Constitution's Preamble.

Those who argue that the Constitution is not a compact but is a national document, believe that "We the People" means all of the American people in one body and not in their sovereign states.

This, says Bledsoe, "is the great stronghold, if it has one, of the Northern theory of the Constitution. The argument from these words appears in every speech, book, pamphlet, and discussion by every advocate of the North. It was wielded by Mr. Webster in his great debate with Mr. Calhoun, in 1833, . . .".25

If the Constitution was written as a document for all of the American people in one body, then individual states had no right to withdraw from it.

The Committee on Style of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 was headed by Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania. Here's what Gouverneur Morris said is meant by "We the people," which he authored:

The Constitution . . . was a compact not between individuals, but between political societies [states], the people, not of America, but of the United States, each [state] enjoying sovereign power and of course equal rights.26

Morris himself believed in the right of secession and supported New England's move to secede during the War of 1812, which culminated in the Hartford Convention.27

Bledsoe quotes The Madison Papers and refers to some 900 pages of the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in which are recorded the debate over method of ratification.

He points out that nowhere in that vast record is there a discussion of the "people" as meaning the entire American people outside of their states.

The big debate was over whether the legislatures of each state would ratify the Constitution, or the "people" of each state in special convention.

It was decided that since a later legislature might rescind the ratification of an earlier legislature, it would be a more sound foundation to have the people of each state ratify the Constitution in special conventions called for the single purpose of ratification.28

That is exactly why the Southern States used conventions to secede.

The Constitutional Convention of 1787 had set the precedent when it decided that states should use the convention method to ratify the Constitution, and, as Mr. H. Newcomb Morse said in the Stetson Law Review, "not one [Southern] state was remiss in discharging this legal obligation" to use a convention of the people when it seceded from the Union.

The reason there is no listing in the Preamble of specific states ratifying the Constitution as had been done in the body of the Articles of Confederation is because nobody knew how many states, or which ones, would ratify the Constitution.

If all the states had been listed and one refused to ratify, then the document would be invalid. The number "nine" was decided on, as the number of states necessary to put the Constitution into effect, but, in debating the issue, it was brought up that the Constitution could only apply to those states ratifying it, therefore no references could be made to "all" of the American people.

Bledsoe writes that Rufus King suggested adding "between the said states, so as to confine the operation of the government to the States ratifying the same."29 The words were cleaned up and found their way into the Constitution in Article VII which starts out:

The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.

Bledsoe further clarifies:

[W]hen it was determined that the Constitution should be ratified by 'the Conventions of the States,' and not by the legislatures, this was exactly equivalent, in the uniform language of the Convention of 1787, to saying that it shall be ratified by 'the people of the States.' Hence, the most ardent friend of State rights, or State sovereignty, saw no reason why he should object to the words, 'We, the people of the United States,' because he knew they were only intended to express the mode of ratification by the States . . . in their sovereign capacity, as so many political societies or peoples, as distinguished from their legislatures.30

Bledsoe goes on by pointing out that the Federal Government had no legal right whatsoever to coerce a state into following its laws, therefore it had no right to force a seceding state back into the Union.

President Buchanan had stated in his lame duck period between Lincoln's election of November 6, 1860, and March 4, 1861, when Lincoln would be inaugurated, while state after state was seceding, that as president of the United States, he had no power to coerce a state, even though he denied that secession was legal.

Bledsoe notes the contradiction in Buchanan's position and writes "if we say, that coercion is a constitutional wrong, or usurpation, is not this saying that the Constitution permits secession, or, in other words, that it is a Constitutional right?"

He says "Coercion is unconstitutional . . . wrong . . . strikes down and demolishes the great fundamental principle of the Declaration of Independence: The sacred right of self-government itself."

About secession, he says "Secession, on the other hand, asserts the right of self-government for every free, sovereign, and independent State in existence."31

Bledsoe discussed the views of credible foreign observers and writes that Alexis de Tocqueville, in Democracy in America, said:

The Union was formed by the voluntary agreement of the States; and in uniting together they have not forfeited their nationality, nor have they been reduced to the condition of one and the same people. If one of the States choose to withdraw from the compact, it would be difficult to disprove its right of doing so, and the Federal Government would have no means of maintaining its claims directly either by force or right.32

To Tocqueville, Bledsoe adds "Mackay, and Spence, and Brougham, and Cantu, and Heeren," then he goes on "as well as other philosophers, jurists and historians among the most enlightened portions of Europe, [who] so readily adopt the Southern view of the Constitution, and pronounce the American Union as a confederation of States."33

Bledsoe continues with more persuasive argument, the words of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, who assert, beyond doubt, that the Constitution is a compact and the states, sovereign.

He discusses William Rawl of Philadelphia and his book, A View of the Constitution of the United States, which stresses the right of secession and was used as a textbook at West Point for a while during the antebellum era.

He also mentions the States' Rights Hartford Convention of New England states, which strongly supported the right of secession, though it went way beyond its legal right to secede and actually aided the British in the War of 1812 thus becoming the most treasonous assembly in American history.34

As stated earlier, Horace Greeley, as the embodiment of the North, had thoroughly believed in the right of secession.

He had written in his New-York Daily Tribune on December 17, 1860, just as South Carolina's secession convention was starting, a brilliant editorial entitled "The Right of Secession." Here again, is most of it:

We have repeatedly asked those who dissent from our view of this matter to tell us frankly whether they do or do not assent to Mr. Jefferson's statement in the Declaration of Independence that governments "derive their just powers from the consent of the governed; and that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government," &c., &c. We do heartily accept this doctrine, believing it intrinsically sound, beneficent, and one that, universally accepted, is calculated to prevent the shedding of seas of human blood. And, if it justified the secession from the British Empire of Three Millions of colonists in 1776, we do not see why it would not justify the secession of Five Millions of Southrons from the Federal Union in 1861. If we are mistaken on this point, why does not some one attempt to show wherein and why? . . . -- we could not stand up for coercion, for subjugation, for we do not think it would be just. We hold the right of Self-government sacred, even when invoked in behalf of those who deny it to others . . . if ever 'seven or eight States' send agents to Washington to say 'We want to get out of the Union,' we shall feel constrained by our devotion to Human Liberty to say, Let Them Go! And we do not see how we could take the other side without coming in direct conflict with those Rights of Man which we hold paramount to all political arrangements, however convenient and advantageous.35

Horace Greeley and the North had it right until they realized their "devotion to Human Liberty" and belief in "those Rights of Man which we hold paramount to all political arrangements" meant nothing to them when compared to their money and power.

The "shedding of seas of human blood" was OK with them, and that is exactly what they got.

The Southern States unquestionably had the right to secede from the Union, as Horace Greeley just reiterated.

That Southerners lost a catastrophic war, which, if it occurred today, would count 8.7 million dead and 10 million wounded, only glorifies and enshrines in the annals of human history, the courage of Southerners and their commitment to democracy, self-government, the Founding Fathers, and especially the Declaration of Independence with its assertion that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.

 

This article comes from The Right of Secession, Part II of Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States, The Irrefutable Argument. by Gene Kizer, Jr. (Charleston, SC: Charleston Athenaeum Press, 2014) available on this website.

End of Part Two of Two

Click Here to go to Part One

 


1 By "apologia," Weaver means a formal explanation and defense of a position, not an apology.

2 George M. Curtis, III, and James J. Thompson, Jr., eds., The Southern Essays of Richard M. Weaver (Indianapolis: LibertyPress, 1987), 152. Richard M. Weaver graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1932, earned an M.A. degree at Vanderbilt University, and a doctorate in English from Louisiana State University in 1943. He taught at the University of Chicago until his death in 1963. He wrote scores of essays and published several books. He is best known for his books Ideas Have Consequences, and The Ethics of Rhetoric.

3 Albert Taylor Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor; or Was Secession a Constitutional Right Previous to the War of 1861? (Baltimore: Innes & Company, 1866; reprint, North Charleston: Fletcher and Fletcher Publishing, 1995), Introduction to the 1995 reprint by Clyde N. Wilson, i-ii. The other six works that best defend the South and right of secession according to Dr. Wilson are the two-volume work A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States by Alexander H. Stephens; The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government by Jefferson Davis; A Defence of Virginia and Through Her of the South by Robert L. Dabney; The Creed of the Old South by Basil L. Gildersleeve; The Southern States of the American Union Considered in their Relations to the Constitution of the United States and the Resulting Union by Jabez L. M. Curry; and The Lost Cause by Edward A. Pollard.

4 Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor;, Introduction to the 1995 reprint by Clyde N. Wilson, i-viii.

5 Ibid.

6 Curtis and Thompson, eds., The Southern Essays of Richard M. Weaver (Indianapolis: LibertyPress, 1987), 153-154.

7 Taking on Webster also takes on most of the others who did not believe the Constitution was a compact because most of them quoted Webster and used his argument.

8 Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor;, 6.

9 Statement by the famous abolitionist, William Lloyd Garrison, publisher of The Liberator, who burned a copy of the Constitution and Fugitive Slave Act on the 4th of July, 1854, to cheers and hisses. Robert Toombs might have disagreed with Garrison but he respected Garrison. Toombs said Garrison believed what he said unlike the "political abolitionists" of the North who were in anti-slavery to vote themselves a farm or a tariff. Quotations from Garrison, Seward and others come from Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor;, 151-153.

10 And certainly the Fugitive Slave Law and similar laws were unfair with huge areas of unfair potential abuse, and they needed changing.

11 Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor;, 16, 12.

12 Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor;, 12-17.

13 Ibid.

14 Ibid.

15 Ibid.

16 Ibid.

17 Ibid.

18 Ibid.

19 Ibid.

20 Ibid.

21 Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor;, 17.

22 Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor;, 25.

23 Ibid.

24 Daniel Webster, on Foote's resolutions in Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor;, 25.

25 Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor;, 61.

26 Gouverneur Morris, Life and Writings, Vol. iii, p. 193, as quoted in Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor;, 64-65. Morris would have been even more clear if he had not capitalized "United." It is not capitalized in the Declaration of Independence which reads "The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America." Clearly that is what Morris is saying, that the individual sovereign states are "united" with equal rights and sovereign power.

27 Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor;, 64-65.

28 Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor;, 66-73.

29 Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor;, 72.

30 Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor;, 73.

31 Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor;, 154.

32 Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, as quoted in Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor;, 155. The reference to Democracy in America footnoted by Bledsoe is Vol. i, Chap. xviii., p 413.

33 Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor;, 157.

34 The New England states had threatened to secede many times such as with the Louisiana Purchase, the Mexican War, anything that added territory to the South that would dilute New England's political power. During the War of 1812, New England was deeply aggrieved over trade issues affecting commerce and shipping. They called the Hartford Convention and made plans to secede. The Hartford Convention (December 15, 1814 to January 5, 1815, in Hartford, Connecticut) quickly became the most dishonorable affair in American history. New England governors had deliberately sabotaged the American war effort by withholding troops and refusing to support the United States against Great Britain. Massachusetts' Gov. Caleb Strong refused to retake part of Maine captured by the British, then later sent a secret Massachusetts delegation to make a separate peace with the British. President James Madison was truly concerned that all of New England would make a separate peace with Great Britain. Shortly after the Hartford Convention, Massachusetts sent three commissioners to Washington, D.C. who arrived in February, 1815 to air their grievances but Andy Jackson and the Southern boys in New Orleans had already whipped the British and the war was over. The commissioners quickly returned to Massachusetts in disgrace. The Hartford Convention, thereafter became synonymous with treason since they had aided and abetted an enemy during war. The Federalist Party, which had supported the Hartford Convention, was all but destroyed, though it continued strong in Massachusetts for some years. See Hartford Convention, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hartford_Convention, accessed August 26, 2014.

35 "The Right of Secession," The New-York Daily Tribune, December 17, 1860, in Perkins, ed., Northern Editorials on Secession, 199-201.

The Right of Secession, Part One of Two

The Right of Secession
Part One of Two

by Gene Kizer, Jr.

 

. . . conceivably, it was the Northern States that acted illegally in precipitating the War Between the States. The Southern States, in all likelihood, were exercising a perfectly legitimate right in seceding from the Union.1

H. Newcomb Morse
Stetson University College of Law
Stetson Law Review, 1986

 

Senator Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana was a brilliant legal mind who was later attorney general, secretary of war and secretary of state of the Confederacy.

In his farewell speech to the United States Senate on February 5, 1861 he went into great detail about the right of secession.

He asserted that the denial of that right is a "pretension so monstrous" that it "perverts a restricted agency [the Federal Government], constituted by sovereign states for common purposes, into the unlimited despotism of the majority, and denies all legitimate escape from such despotism . . . and degrades sovereign states into provincial dependencies."

He said that "for two-thirds of a century this right [of secession] has been known by many of the states to be, at all times, within their power."2

No American who believes in the Declaration of Independence can ever doubt the right of secession.

Our country was born of secession from the British Empire. Secession is defined by Merriam-Webster as "the act of separating from a nation or state and becoming independent."3 The Declaration of Independence starts with:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, . . .

The Southern States unquestionably had the right to secede from the Union. There is a preponderance of direct evidence supporting the right of secession.

Historian Kenneth M. Stampp in his book The Imperiled Union points out that "the case for state sovereignty and the constitutional right of secession had flourished for forty years before a comparable case for a perpetual Union had been devised," and even then its logic was "far from perfect because the Constitution and the debates over ratification were fraught with ambiguity."4

Historians such as Professor Stampp are like lawyers who have clients they know are guilty but they still have to defend them.5

If, as Professor Stampp (along with Judah Benjamin, Horace Greeley, Alexis de Tocqueville, Charles Dickens, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Massachusetts, and most leaders North and South including Abraham Lincoln in 18476) said -- "the case for state sovereignty and the constitutional right of secession had flourished for forty years" - then that means it was born from the country's founding and created by its Founding Fathers and it existed. Period. It is indisputable. How could it not be?

The Founding Fathers did not say that states had the right to secede for 40 years then they lose that right.

The Founding Fathers did not put a time limit or expiration date on it despite the economic/political needs of the North to promote a perpetual union to justify its war on the South.

Southerners had the right to secede and there is nothing that could take it away from them.

It would be so much more truthful if some historians would call an obvious truth a truth, but they have that guilty client to defend so they cloud the issue and give their client the benefit of the doubt, lest they be accused of being unpatriotic or, God forbid, a racist.

It makes no sense for a group of colonies, designated as individual sovereign states by King George III at war's end, who had just fought a bloody war to escape from a political union with the British Empire, to, so casually, lock themselves into another political union that they could not escape from. They wouldn't and didn't.

The right of secession was assumed but three states specifically reserved it before acceding to the Constitution. It was a condition they demanded, and that demand had to be met before they would ratify the Constitution and join the Union.

Those states are Virginia, New York and Rhode Island.

They specifically put in writing that they had the right to secede from the Union if it should ever become detrimental to their best interests, and they get to decide when that has happened.

All the other states approved of this right of secession of Virginia, New York and Rhode Island's, therefore, since all the states are equal, they had it too.

That is the kind of guarantee of freedom and self-government the Founding Father's bequeathed to us and it is in direct conflict with Lincoln and the North's idea.

Lincoln and the North are often represented in the secession debate in the South by the concept of the "tyranny of the majority" which Judah Benjamin mentioned at the beginning of this essay.

The tyranny of the majority is why the Founding Fathers created a republic and not a pure democracy where 50% plus one vote can hang the other 49%.

The ideas developed by Lincoln and the North were a result of their economic situation. They wanted centralization so they could use their majority to rule the entire country for their own wealth, aggrandizement and commercial gain.

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that the urge for centralization in the 19th century was a powerful urge worldwide.

That's why the idea that the good North went to war to free the slaves rather than to increase its money and power is a fraud of biblical proportions and easily disproven.

H. Newcomb Morse writes persuasively about the right of secession in the Stetson Law Review, a publication of the Stetson University College of Law.

In an excellent article entitled "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," Morse writes that the War Between the States did not prove that secession was illegal because

many incidents both preceding and following the War support the proposition that the Southern States did have the right to secede from the Union. Instances of nullification prior to the War Between the States, contingencies under which certain states acceded to the Union, and the fact that the Southern States were made to surrender the right to secession all affirm the existence of a right to secede . . .7

He adds that the Constitution's "failure to forbid secession" and amendments dealing with secession that were proposed in Congress as Southern states were seceding strengthened his argument that

the Southern States had an absolute right to secede from the Union prior to the War Between the States.8

Morse argues that because the Constitution did not forbid secession, then every state acceding to the Constitution had the implied right to secede from it.

He says that if men of the caliber of Madison, Hamilton, Wilson and the others meant to forbid secession, they definitely would have said so, and the omission of a prohibition on secession in the Constitution is strong proof that the right of secession existed and was assumed.9

He quotes James Madison in The Madison Papers who wrote "a breach of any one article by any one party, leaves all other parties at liberty to consider the whole convention as dissolved."10

Vermont and Massachusetts, he points out, nullified with statutes the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793 and those two breaches of the compact alone were enough for the South to consider the compact dissolved.

There were many other violations of the Constitution discussed throughout the secession debate in the South including Northern Personal Liberty Laws that, in effect, nullified the Fugitive Slave Law of the Compromise of 1850 as well as Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution, which dealt with fugitive slaves. At least ten Northern states had statutes that nullified the two aforementioned laws.

Other breaches of the Constitution included the harboring of fugitives from justice in the North, specifically two of John Brown's sons who were with Brown at Harpers Ferry and were wanted in Virginia for murder. They were being harbored in Ohio and Iowa.

Brown himself had been backed by Northerners and financed with Northern money.

Fanatical abolitionists with the acquiescence of states like Massachusetts tried desperately to destroy "domestic tranquility" in the South by sending incendiary abolitionist material in the mail encouraging slaves to revolt and murder.

There is also, as mentioned earlier, the Republican endorsement of Hinton Helper's The Impending Crisis of the South, which called for the throats of Southerners to be cut.

The Republican Party was not a great movement trying to end the difficult slavery problem with good will. Their ranks included murderers and promoters of state-sponsored murder and terrorism.

They knew how to end slavery if that had been their desire. They had ended it in the North with gradual, compensated emancipation, which was Lincoln's strong belief and approach, and the method used by most countries on earth.

Ending slavery was not the Republican desire.

No Republican could be elected suggesting that Northerners spend their hard-earned sweatshop money to free the slaves in the South who would then come North and be job competition.

Control of the government for their own wealth and commercial empowerment was the Republican desire.

Hate was simply a tool to help them get there.

To prove the right of a state to determine for itself when the Constitution had been violated, Morse quotes Jefferson's Kentucky Resolutions, which point out that if the government had the right to determine when the Constitution was violated, then the government would be the arbiter of its own power and not the Constitution. The Kentucky Resolutions also reaffirm state sovereignty and independence.11

Morse demonstrates that congressional discussions and proposed legislation during the secession of Southern states indicated that Congress believed the right of secession to exist.

One piece of legislation was introduced to deal with the disposition of federal property within a seceding state as well as a seceding state's assumption of its share of the national debt. Another scrambled to forbid secession unless approved by two-thirds of the members of both houses of Congress, the president, as well as all the states.

Morse then points out that thirty-six years earlier, Chief Justice John Marshall, in Gibbons v. Ogden, wrote that "limitations of a power furnish a strong argument in favor of the existence of that power. . . ."12 Morse concludes:

What would have been the point of the foregoing proposed amendments to the Constitution of the United States prohibiting or limiting the right of secession if under the Constitution the unfettered right of secession did not already exist? Why would Congress have even considered proposed amendments to the Constitution forbidding or restricting the right of secession if any such right was already prohibited, limited or non-existent under the Constitution?13

Morse goes on to discuss the aforementioned conditional ratification of the Constitution by three of the original thirteen states, which specifically reserved for those states the right of secession. The states were Virginia, New York and Rhode Island.

Virginia referred to the wording of her conditional ratification of the U.S. Constitution in her Ordinance of Secession.14

Morse points out that since the other states, which had unconditionally ratified the Constitution, consented to Virginia's conditional ratification, then they "ostensibly assented to the principle that Virginia permissibly retained the right to secede."

He adds that with the additional acceptance of "New York's and Rhode Island's right to secede, the existing states of the Union must have tacitly accepted the doctrine of secession."

Further, Morse states that according to the Constitution, all the new states that joined the Union after the first thirteen also had the right of secession since new states entered on an equal footing with the exact same rights as the existing states.15

Southerners during the secession debate knew that Virginia, New York and Rhode Island had reserved the right of secession, thus all the states had the right of secession.

Senator Judah P. Benjamin, in his farewell speech to the United States Senate on February 5, 1861, said:

The rights of Louisiana as a sovereign state are those of Virginia; no more, no less. Let those who deny her right to resume delegated powers, successfully refute the claim of Virginia to the same right, in spite of her expressed reservation made and notified to her sister states when she consented to enter the Union.16

Morse skips forward to Reconstruction and points out that "the Northern occupational armies were removed from Arkansas, North Carolina, Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia only after those former Confederate States had incorporated in their constitutions a clause surrendering the right to secede." Morse then argues brilliantly that

by insisting that the former Confederate States surrender their right to secede, the United States government had implicitly admitted that those states originally had the right. How could they surrender a right, unless they had it in the first place?17

To summarize, Morse points out that before the war, under Virginia's conditional ratification of the Constitution, when the people decided that government power had been "perverted to their injury or oppression," they had the right to secede.

When Northern states passed Personal Liberty Bills and other statutes nullifying the fugitive slave laws of the Constitution (Article IV, Section 3), a "perversion" occurred which gave the Southern states the right to secede.

Reinforcing that perversion even further was the federal government's not forcing those Northern states to abide by the Constitution, therefore

the Northern States conceivably "perverted" national law to the "injury or oppression" of the people of the Southern States. Thus, the reassumption of the powers of government by the people of the Southern States was a natural consequence of the Northern States' conduct and the federal government's failure to prohibit that conduct.18

The only other issue, according to Morse, was whether the Southern states conducted their act of secession legally.

Morse points out that the people are the sovereign having supreme, absolute and perpetual power, therefore secession would have to be accomplished by the people of each state rather than their legislatures.

He says "convention delegates elected by the people of the state to decide one question constitute authority closer to the seat of the sovereign -- the people themselves," therefore a convention in each Southern state would be necessary as a "special agent of the people of the state."

Did the Southern States conduct themselves legally and therefore perfect their acts of secession and independence? Morse says:

When the Southern States seceded from the Union in 1860 and 1861, not one state was remiss in discharging this legal obligation. Every seceding state properly utilized the convention process, rather than a legislative means, to secede. Therefore, not only did the Southern States possess the right to secede from the Union, they exercised that right in the correct manner.19

Morse's conclusion is that

conceivably, it was the Northern States that acted illegally in precipitating the War Between the States. The Southern States, in all likelihood, were exercising a perfectly legitimate right in seceding from the Union.20

 

This article comes from The Right of Secession, Part II of Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States, The Irrefutable Argument. by Gene Kizer, Jr. (Charleston, SC: Charleston Athenaeum Press, 2014) available on this website.

End of Part One of Two

Go to Part Two of Two

 


1 H. Newcomb Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," Stetson University College of Law, Stetson Law Review, Vol. XV, No. 2, 1986), 436.

2 Judah P. Benjamin, "Farewell Address to the U.S. Senate" delivered February 5, 1861, in Edwin Anderson Alderman, and Joel Chandler Harris, eds., Library of Southern Literature (Atlanta: The Martin and Hoyt Company, 1907), Volume 1, 318-319.

3 Merriam-Webster online definition of "secession," http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/secession, accessed August 11, 2014.

4 Kenneth M. Stampp, The Imperiled Union, Essays on the Background of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), 35-36.

5 The right of secession is like the bright sun in front of Professor Stampp's face but he can't (or won't) see it. He writes on page four of The Imperiled Union that "the Unionist case was sufficiently flawed to make it uncertain whether in 1865 reason and logic were on the side of the victors --" but he adds his obligatory disclaimer to cloud the issue by stating that we really can't tell "in the tangled web of claims and counter-claims" if reason and logic "were indisputably on either side." He says on page 11 that "In truth, the wording of the Constitution gives neither the believers in the right of secession nor the advocates of a perpetual Union a case so decisive that all reasonable persons are bound to accept it." At least Professor Stampp knew better than to deny the right of secession as he defends his guilty client.

6 In 1847, on the floor of the United States House of Representatives, Abraham Lincoln said:

Any people, anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right, a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world.

SOURCE: Abraham Lincoln, 1847 Congressional debate in the United States House of Representatives in John Shipley Tilley, Lincoln Takes Command (Nashville: Bill Coats, Ltd., 1991), xv. Tilley's source, as stated in footnote #4 on page xv, was Goldwyn Smith, The United States: An Outline of Political History, 1492-1871 (New York and London, 1893), 248.

7 Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," 420.

8 Ibid.

9 There had to be a specific constitutional prohibition on secession for it to be illegal. Conversely, there did not have to be a specific constitutional affirmation of the right of secession for it to be legal because the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution states:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

There was no constitutional prohibition on secession, nor was there a constitutional sanctioning of any kind of federal coercion to force a state to obey a federal law. To do so would be to perpetrate an act of war on the offending state by the other states, for whom the federal government was their agent.

10 James Madison, The Madison Papers (Philadelphia: 1840), 895, in Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," 420.

11 Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," 422-427.

12 Chief Justice John Marshall, Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1 (1824), 200, in Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," 428.

13 Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," 428.

14 VIRGINIA: AN ORDINANCE to repeal the ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America by the State of Virginia, and to resume all the rights and powers granted under said Constitution.

The people of Virginia in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in convention on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, having declared that the powers granted under said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression, and the Federal Government having perverted said powers not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slave-holding States . . . (Bold emphasis added.)

Adopted by the convention of Virginia April 17, 1861.

[It should again be noted that Virginia's secession had NOTHING whatsoever to do with slavery. Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas and Tennessee seceded because of Lincoln's call for 75,000 volunteers to invade the South, which they viewed as illegal, unconstitutional and immoral. Virginia's action was immediate. A brief chronology is illustrative. The bombardment of Fort Sumter began April 12, 1861. Fort Sumter surrendered April 13th. Major Anderson, with full military honors, saluted his flag and marched out of the fort April 14th. On April 15th, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to invade the South, and on April 17th, Virginia seceded. She was followed by Tennessee and Arkansas on May 6th and North Carolina on May 20th, thus the completion of the Southern republic.]

15 Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," 428-32.

16 Judah P. Benjamin, "Farewell Address to the U.S. Senate" delivered February 5, 1861, Library of Southern Literature, Vol. 1, 318.

17 Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," 433.

18 Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," 433-434.

19 Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," 434-436.

20 Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," 436.

Our Confederate Ancestors: Running the Blockade by Gen. Bennett H. Young

A Series on the Daring Exploits of Our Confederate Ancestors in the War Between the States.

On the prow of this lookout a couple of men were placed to make observations as to the presence of a blockader. It was awfully dark with no sound except the paddles as they stirred and pounded the waves. All sailors and passengers were ordered not to speak above a whisper, and all was quiet except the ripple that came from the prow of the craft as it plowed its way through the current of the ocean and the strokes of the paddles which were beating the water as the craft glided with all haste on its bosom of blue.

Running the Blockade

by Gen. Bennett H. Young,
Louisville, Kentucky

(From the original Confederate Veteran magazine, September, 1916, when Gen. Young was 73. He died three years later. The events he describes below occurred when he was 20.)

Bennett H. Young, 1863, age 20.
Bennett H. Young, 1863, age 20.

On the 26th of July, 1863, while riding with Gen. John H. Morgan on the Ohio raid, I was made a prisoner of war. The long march of one thousand miles from Burksville, Ky., to Salineville, Ohio, running through twenty-six days, had been a tremendous strain on the physical endurance of General Morgan's troops. When captured I was first carried to the Ohio penitentiary and left there a short while, then sent to Camp Chase and thence to Camp Douglas, Chicago, Ill., whence I escaped in January, 1864.

As the days grew darker for the life of the Confederacy, my desire to return was intensified by the misfortunes of my people. The short and easy way to return to the South would have been through Kentucky; but at that time General Burbridge, in command there, with cruel and relentless barbarity was putting to death on the slightest pretense many Confederate prisoners who were taken in that State, and my family suggested that, while I had a right to risk my own life, I had no right to risk theirs piloting me through the State of Kentucky into the Confederate lines.

The Federal sentinel whom I had bribed by paying a hundred dollars to allow me to climb the fence at Camp Douglas had also been induced by the money of other Kentucky boys to grant them the same privilege. Cash was plentiful with Morgan's men. They had postal communication with outside friends, and this accommodating "bluecoat" had driven a thriving business in trading with those restive raiders. It was said about the prison at that time that he had made about eight thousand dollars while engaged in this brokerage escape business. As the evidence of his trade began to accumulate, and as he really had enough to take care of him, certainly during the war, he wisely concluded to emigrate to Canada, where he could meet the Kentucky gentlemen whom he had obliged by permitting them to scale the walls of Camp Douglas.

The Confederate commissioners had been informed that there were a thousand escaped Confederates in Canada. This was greatly exaggerated. I was designated and commissioned to gather up such soldiers as were willing to return to the South and continue fighting. "Powder food" at that time was extremely scarce in the Confederacy, and a thousand strong, lusty cavalrymen were deemed by the Confederate government a most promising source of help in the depleted ranks of the Southern army.

Traveling from place to place where these Confederates were residing in numerous colonies, I was disappointed to find only twenty who were willing to return. The Confederate government provided the money for the transportation of all who were ready to go, and I was directed to take the men to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and from there take passage by British vessels to the Bermuda Islands, and then to reenter the Confederacy at Wilmington, N. C., or Charleston, S. C., through the numerous blockade runners that were carrying supplies through these two ports of the Confederacy.

The St. Lawrence River was closed during the winter months, and there was no railroad then from Montreal to Halifax; so I went on the first boat that passed down the St. Lawrence after the ice floes had passed out. There was a bimonthly line between Halifax and the Bermudas, and with my twenty-one men I reached St. George's, Bermuda, and had the pleasure of meeting John Newland Maffitt, who commanded the privateer Florida.

John Newland Maffitt.
John Newland Maffitt.

He was good enough to offer me a commission in the navy and desired me to go with him on his privateer, which was then lying in the harbor at St. George's, with several Federal cruisers outside waiting for his departure. One dark night he went out and started anew his career of destruction of Federal ships.

At that time St. George's was the gate that was used for the blockade line into Wilmington, and while I was there twenty-one boats were waiting for the dark of the moon.

Confederate blockade runner in St. George's Harbour, Bermuda circa 1864.
Confederate blockade runner in St. George's Harbour, Bermuda circa 1864.

These trips could be made only about ten days each month. It was impossible to enter the harbor which led up the Cape Fear River to Wilmington except in the darkest of the night, and this, as is well known, always preceded the breaking of day. At the proper season of the month St. George's harbor and town were scenes of extremest activity. Enfield rifles and power, bacon, clothing, and war materials of all kinds were hurried aboard these vessels. The risk was very great, but a safe trip of a blockade runner with a cargo of cotton outbound was worth two or three times the cost of a vessel.

Six or eight of these vessels were to leave on Sunday night. Among the gentlemen who had gone back South under my command were James S. Schooling, of Lebanon, Ky., John D. Allison, of Henderson, and J. R. Morton, afterwards Circuit Judge of the Lexington District. The war had not obliterated the scruples of a strict Presbyterian training concerning the sacredness of the Sabbath, although my experiences with Morgan had rudely shattered some of its ideas, so I decided not to go out Sunday night. Eight of the vessels were going to leave Sunday night, eight or ten more Monday night.

I had paid $150 for passage to Wilmington for the soldiers on these blockade runners. They were pure and simple money-makers. They did not gush at all over the Confederacy and its soldiers, and they demanded $250 for each passenger. They were manned largely by British officers and sailors. Very few Confederates were engaged in these expeditions. Employees received fabulous wages; ordinary seamen were paid a hundred dollars a month.

The Thistle was a spry little boat, and Schooling and Allison decided to go out Sunday night on this vessel. I suggested that they had better wait until Monday night, but they insisted that "the better the day, the better the deed," and so I shipped them on the Thistle.

There was a little vessel called the Florie that struck my eye. She was long and slender and rakish-looking and painted white, as were all these vessels, and had paddle wheels almost as big as a Mississippi River steamer.

Blockade runner, Advance, sometimes known as the A.D. Vance. The Florie might have looked like this.
Blockade runner, Advance, sometimes known as the A.D. Vance. The Florie might have looked like this.

She afterwards made several successful trips and earned fabulous sums for her owners. Her officers were almost altogether men who had resigned from the British navy. She could make over twenty knots an hour, and her officers felt that she could walk away from any blockader in the fleet.

The commander of the Florie was a young Charlestonian, not more than twenty-two years of age. Skilled in his business, nervy to a degree which bordered on recklessness, he had been given command of the Florie, which was making her first trip. That he was "dead game," none who looked into his eye would dare deny, and he struck me as a man who would capably handle all the emergencies of the adventures we were apt to meet on a hazardous voyage. He knew the North Carolina coast like a boy knows his A B C's; and whatever might betide, I felt sure he would meet the calls of the hour. He wanted us to go on his ship and said if we had no funds we could go "deadhead." I told him I had Confederate gold to pay our way.

I shipped on the Florie with four of my comrades, and we left on schedule time Monday night. All went well until the fourth day out, when we were off the mouth of the Cape Fear River about one hundred and fifty miles. The distance from the entrance to Bermuda was something like nine hundred and fifty miles. We had expected that night to make the port. Standing out a hundred and fifty miles would enable us to run in so as to pass the cordon of blockaders at about two or three o'clock in the morning.

While steaming slowly and leisurely along, our attention was called to two great columns of smoke ascending about twenty miles north. One ship was directly in line of the other, and from the amount of smoke that was escaping it was evident that each was speeding her best. They came closer and closer, and we could discover with the aid of glasses that the Thistle, which had only one smokestack, was being pursued by a Federal blockader. Closer and closer the pursuer came, and about five o'clock in the afternoon it became evident that the blockader would overtake the little vessel, which, with maddening speed and effort, was seeking to escape until the darkness of the night, when it might lose itself in the wideness of the ocean. The Florie turned south and ran out of her course a hundred miles to get rid of the blockader. When we last saw the blockader, she was so close to the Thistle that it was apparent that escape was impossible.

Upon the capture of the Thistle all the crew and passengers were lined up and required to swear that they were citizens of Great Britain. Schooling and Allison both had naturalization papers of British citizenship, which they had borrowed from sympathizing friends.

They were not undisposed to lie in this matter up to the point of swearing. At that both hesitated and said they would not perjure themselves; that they were Confederate prisoners who were returning to their country.

They were taken to Fort Warren, at Boston Harbor, and kept until sometime after the war. Both of them became prominent citizens. Schooling was prosecuting attorney of the Lebanon judicial district and Allison a leading merchant in Western Kentucky.

Floating, steaming slowly, and still circling so as to get the right position off the entrance to Cape Fear River, on the following day about five o'clock the Florie began to turn toward the port of entry.

Wilmington and the mouth of the Cape Fear River.
Wilmington and the mouth of the Cape Fear River.

It was yet a long run to the forts that defended the port of Wilmington, so vital to the Confederate cause. Every eye was scanning the horizon, and every heart, however brave, beat a little quicker as we drew near the real scene of danger. Ten hours would tell the story -- blown up, destroyed, captured, or safe in the Confederacy.

This is a year later but it shows the same area the Florie would have had to go through.
This is a year later but it shows the same area the Florie would have had to go through.

These were the issues we were now facing, and they were surely problems that required both courage and steady nerve. The lights were all put out, everything was done to muffle the sounds, and the ship was put to its best. Reckonings were carefully taken and then retaken. She was running something like twenty-two miles an hour.

On the prow of this lookout a couple of men were placed to make observations as to the presence of a blockader. It was awfully dark with no sound except the paddles as they stirred and pounded the waves. All sailors and passengers were ordered not to speak above a whisper, and all was quiet except the ripple that came from the prow of the craft as it plowed its way through the current of the ocean and the strokes of the paddles which were beating the water as the craft glided with all haste on its bosom of blue.

It turned out afterwards that we had miscalculated just a few minutes. The blockaders obscured their portholes, painted their sides black, and, with every light put out, it was difficult to see them on the horizon while we were thus racing along and hoping that we would not be discovered.

In an instant, without warning, the portholes of a blockader were suddenly opened, such searchlights  as they had were used to locate the presence of the blockade runner, and through his trumpet the captain of the blockader loudly demanded its surrender.

The captain of the Florie had not been trained in early life to any degree of piety, and through his trumpet he answered back: "Go to hell, damn you; go to hell!"

In an instant the blockader turned loose, and the Florie veered from her direction, so she was not more than four or five hundred feet from the ship, the form of which was now plainly to be seen. Then we began the race for life.

The first shot either scared of or knocked off the watchman in the crow's nest, and all the crew except the pilot made a wild dash to get below deck. As we carried many tons of powder in the hold, they did not seem to realize that that was the worst place they could go. The captain felt that he must have somebody in the crow's nest, and he asked me if I would go up.

There ran through my mind the idea that I was nothing but a landlubber, and the crow's nest was not the best place for a man who had not been to sea before; but the instinct of a soldier and the pride of a Kentuckian came to the rescue, and I clambered up to the crow's nest as if I really wanted to go. This, however, was not true.

It seemed to me that every ship in the world was that night off the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Shot after shot was fired; and as from the crow's nest I caught views of the blockaders on the right and blockaders on the left, it appeared to me years in which we were making that fierce flight and brave fight for life, without very much hope of getting safely away.

All the blockaders opened their portholes and strung themselves along the line through which the Florie was preparing to enter the harbor and which was not very wide. They knew well enough the road the fleeting and fleeing ship and its beleaguered crew must travel.

I had learned the amount of powder that was aboard the Florie and it was not a very comfortable thought that if a shot or shell should hit just right, about the engine or powder, the world would never find even a button off the clothing of the men who were aboard the Florie.

The minutes lengthened, the game became more exciting, the gray dawn of morning was just creeping up the eastern horizon, and as we looked with limited vision along the path we must go we still saw blockaders with, it seemed to us, no fear of the Confederate guns which commanded the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Those guns stood waiting to defend and protect the Little Florie if she could only get within their sympathetic range.

Once discovered, there was no use of hiding. The only chance of escape was to drive through the cordon where a possible opening appeared and take chances of a shot or shell sinking the little craft.

The furnace was fired with  bacon; every piece of iron and wood in the vessel trembled with the mighty strain that was placed upon it. The great paddles were driven to their utmost tension, and they seemed to lift the vessel off the face of the water, and still in the face of all this down went the word to their engineer: "Fire up! Fire up!" and he was told to "Drive harder! Drive her like hell!"

I was not so reckless as the captain. He was getting a thousand dollars a month and a percentage of the cargo that he took out, and up on the crow's nest I began to think maybe it was not such a great thing, after all, to fight for the Confederacy, and certainly a man had better take his chances through West Virginia or Tennessee or down into the Confederacy by land; and more than once I regretted that I did not take my chances with Burbridge and walk through, if needs be, from Canada to the borders of the Confederacy.

The game grew hotter and hotter and the efforts of the blockaders to catch the little vessel stronger and stronger, while up in my perch with shaded eye I sang out the dangers that were ahead down to the captain on the bridge.

I called out without a tremor in my voice: "Blockader on the right! Blockader on the left!" It looked to me that the fate of the landlubber was hard, but I was in for the whole game and resolved that, whatever came, I would do the best a landlubber knew how.

The charge was long, the pursuit fierce, the efforts to destroy relentless, but through it all a generous Providence brought the little craft. True, she had been struck several times, but she escaped a stroke at the vital spot. Battered, hammered a little, she had run through the fierce storm of shot and shell. She had successfully accomplished her purpose.

Just as the daylight gave clear vision of the surroundings, the little vessel landed at the dock under Fort Fisher, and, looking up, we saw the garrison who had been watching with eager interest the fight and flight, and above it all was the Stars and Bars, to me then a signal of safety, an object of love.

We clambered out of the little vessel onto the pier, and I walked up into the fort and kissed the folds of the red-and-white flag. The officers congratulated us on our bold and fearless conduct; but the little captain, as handsome as an Adonis, with as brave a heart as ever beat in the breast of mortal man, while receiving the congratulations of the Confederates did not seem to think that he had done anything out of the ordinary.

Looking back across the line of the harbor, we saw another blockade runner, the Will-o'-the-Wisp. She too was running the gauntlet, and she was passing through an ordeal worse than ours because she was a few minutes behind us.

Finding escape impossible, the bold captain beached the little vessel and was fortunate enough to do so under the protection of the guns of Fort Fisher. Torn by shot and shell, she lay on the beach. She had made the port, but it was after a trial as if by fire.

The things she had were precious to the Confederacy, and lighters and boats crowded around the craft to relieve her of her load of shot, shell, clothing, and provision, and in a short while she was floated safely into the harbor.

The Florie soon passed the twenty-five miles between Fort Fisher and Wilmington, and by nine o'clock we were at the dock at Wilmington. I was extremely anxious to return thanks to the beneficent Providence that had brought us safely through the excitement, danger, exposure, and experiences of the night.

I hastened to the First Presbyterian Church of Wilmington to join in its prayers and praise and to give thanks to God, who had taken care of us most wonderfully in the difficulties and dangers of the weird and soul-trying scenes of the night before.

Ordered out of the Confederacy on reaching Richmond, I had the good fortune to strike the Florie on her return trip, just a month later. She carried a thousand bales of cotton. These were packed around her smokestack, and every available space was filled with the precious fiber.

We went out on our return trip without even seeing a blockader and landed safely at St. George's, Bermuda with $750,000 worth of Confederate cotton,.

The Florie made several other trips, and in 1867, while living abroad and visiting Glasgow, Scotland, at the pier I saw the Florie. She did not look quite as smart and as trim as she did in 1864.

I went aboard her, but there was to be found no trace of anybody who made the perilous journey with me into Wilmington. I could but feel a deep attachment for the little boat which had such marvelous experiences in her career.

Gen. Bennett H. Young later in life.
Gen. Bennett H. Young later in life.

Bennett H. Young (b. May 25, 1843, d. February 23, 1919) is best known for his October 19, 1864 raid on St. Albans, Vermont, as a lieutenant, in which he and his approximately 20 men, all former Confederate prisoners who had escaped Yankee prisons to Canada, with perfect planning, looted three banks and captured $201,522. They were called 5th Company, Confederate States Retributors. Most of them made it to Canada after the St. Albans raid but were retained by Canadian authorities and faced trials but eventually were freed. They had to return the $88,000 that they had on them. Later in life, Young became a very successful attorney in Louisville, Kentucky. His philanthropy was legendary and included the founding of an orphanage for blacks in Louisville (the first), and much help toward creating the Louisville Free Public Library. He was commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans from 1913 to 1916, then made "honorary commander-in-chief for life."