What is the name of the war from 1861-1865?

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This past week during our “Shelbyville In The Middle” (see previous post), some were asking, “Why is the war in the United States from the period of  1861-1865 called The Civil War, The War Between The States, or any other name”? I decided to search the web for some thoughts and insights from those more knowledgeable. This is my modest attempt to present some of those opinions, but first let us define a civil war, since the majority of people call it “The Civil War”.

Political scientists use two criteria to define a civil war:

  1. The warring groups must be from the same country and fighting for control of the political center, control over a separatist state or to force a major change in policy.
  2. At least 1,000 people must have been killed in total, with at least 100 from each side.

A pamphlet was put together by Edmond S. Meany of the University of Washington for the purposes of clarifying the official name of the war. Meany had heard Senator Benjamin Tillman present a speech in which he described the war as “The War Between the States” as the official name adopted by the federal government. Meany contacted Tillman and asked for documents related to the Senate debate and discovered that in fact the name adopted was “Civil War.” Here is an excerpt from that Senate debate for your consideration. The debate took place on January 11, 1907 and can be found in the Congressional Record of that date, pages 929 to 933. (Note: I attempted to locate this record to verify, but was unable)

Mr. Teller (Colorado): “So it can be said to have been a war between the states.

Then, in addition to that, those warring States, if they were warring States, entered into a confederacy and established a new government. It may possibly be stated that it was a war of the Confederacy against the United States.

Mr. President, it is not very material whether you use the term “rebellion” or whether you do not. I insist that the term “rebellion” is a proper term. It describes the condition which existed from 1861 to 1865. It may be an offensive term; and yet it was a rebellion against the Government of the United States. We have called it a civil war. At first there was a disposition to feel that those people were not entitled to be treated as warriors under the rules of national war. But it was found to be so great a war that they must be so treated. They were so treated by foreign governments, as well as by our own.

When the war closed there was no treaty between the States and the General Government. There was no recognition of State lines at all. In every respect the war was treated as a war of citizens of the United States against the General Government. It will go down in history of the world as a rebellion of States, in the first instance, because the States did act. Then it became in the highest sense of the term, a civil war, a conflict between individual citizens of the United States, and upon that theory when the war was over the Republican party declared that each of those States had practically abandoned its organization.

Upon that question I do not care to take much time. I was disposed myself, although an ardent supporter of the war, to believe that we ought to have recognized the existence of the States, upon the theory that the States had not gone out of the Union at all, and that the difficulty had arisen by the action of the individual citizenship of the States and not be the States.

However, the party in power at that time did not so recognize the condition and the States were finally brought back into the Union, as it was said, which, according to my theory, they had never been out of.

I do not think it very important whether we call it the war of the rebellion or the civil war. I do not believe that now or at any other time will we be inclined, or the people of the United States will be inclined, to change the character of the war by declaring it to have been a war between the States. It was a war against the general Government by citizens of the United States who were in rebellion against the authority of the General Government at that time.”

Mr. Money (Mississippi): I do not consider, having been a rebel from start to finish, that there is any particular odium in that phrase. George Washington was a rebel.

Mr. Teller: Certainly

Mr. Money: And so were all the heroes and patriots who established this Government. Some of them were slaveholders, including George Washington. There is nothing oprobrious in the term “war of the rebellion.” If it suits the fancy of Senators to call it by that name, it does not hurt me. I am quite accustomed to it, and I do not mind. But I was simply suggesting phraseology to meet the history of the case better. If Senators want to call it the civil war, they can do so. We contend it was not a civil war. It is quite true that men in Tennessee to the number of 32,000 went into the Federal Army, and I believe every single Southern State, except the State of Mississippi, furnished a regiment to the Federal Army. Mississippi furnished one, which was called the “Tigers” It was not composed of Mississippians, but of the fragments of regiments–the sick and wounded Federal soldiers at Vicksburg. But Mississippi was a wholly rebel, to use a common phrase, as any State could possibly be.

Kentucky and Maryland and Missouri sent the very flower of the Confederate army into the field. The best fighting men I ever saw came from those States, for the reason that they were not compelled to go to the front by local opinion, but went to the front contrary to that opinion, as many of them had to run the lines to get there, and they made all kinds of sacrifices.

I admit that if I had been in Massachusets I would have been in the Federal Army, and I guess if the Senator from Colorado [Mr. Teller] had been living in my town he would have been a member of my company; and I am not at all blaming anybody for the attitude he took at that time.

Mr. President, I do not want to take up time, but I happened to be at the door of the lobby of the Senate one day not long ago. It was the last session, near the close. There was ex-Senator Blair, of New Hampshire, as gallant a soldier as ever went to the field, now on crutches as the result of wounds inflicted by Confederate soldiers. He was shot three or four times. He called to me. I did not recognize him on account of my bad sight. We shook hands. I said: “What are you doing on these sticks, Blair?” He said: “You fellows hit me pretty hard three or four times, and it is beginning to tell on me since I have been getting old.” He said: “Did we get you?” I said: “Once; not much.” He said: “Are you not glad you got it?” I said: “I do not know. I have not regretted it.” He said: “I am glad I was hit.” We shook hands. He said: “Any man who was worth being hit ought to have been there either on one side or the other. If you had been in New Hampshire you would probably have been in my regiment.” I agreed that it was a great deal a matter of environment.

from  Civil War or War Between the States?”  by Kevin Levin

 

So What’s in a Name?

For well over a century individuals and organizations with strongly held convictions have rejected use of the term “Civil War” to designate the American conflict of 1861-1865. Most commonly offered as an alternative has been “War Between the States.” Lesser support has been voiced for the “Confederate War,” the “War for Southern Independence,” and the “War of the Rebellion.” Usually put forward by southerners with tongue in cheek have been the “War of [or Against] Northern Aggression” and “The Late Unpleasantness.”

During the course of the conflict no consensus developed around terminology. Yet, evidence can be found, even before Fort Sumter, for the use of the term “civil war.” Staunton, Virginia, newspapers in 1860 warned that the prevailing crisis “would lead directly and inevitably to disunion and civil war.” Raphael Semmes tendered his resignation from the U.S. Navy with the caution that “civil war is a terrible crucible.” Jefferson Davis, soon to be Confederate president, resigned his post in the U.S. Senate, warning that Abraham Lincoln’s policies would “inaugurate a civil war.” (After the war Davis did endorse use of “War Between the States.”)

Gen. Robert E. Lee in a January 1861 letter home wrote, “I see no cause of disunion, strife & civil war & I pray it may be averted.” Two years later, on the death of his daughter Annie, General Lee wrote, “I have always counted, if God should spare me a few days after this Civil War was ended, that I should have her with me.” Examples can be offered for use of the term during the war by other Confederate officers, among them P. G. T. Beauregard and Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Notwithstanding the fact that Lincoln at Gettysburg intoned, “Now we are engaged in a great civil war,” the term favored by many in the North during and for decades after the conflict was the “War of the Rebellion” or simply “The Rebellion.” Publication of the multivolume series of war documents under the title The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies conferred federal sanction on the usage. Among the first to use “War Between the States” (a term virtually unknown during the conflict) was Confederate vice-president Alexander H. Stephens, whose book by that title appeared in 1866. For the remainder of the nineteenth century, veterans of the conflict divided over usage. Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston used “War Between the States” in the title of his 1874 memoir. Zebulon B. Vance, North Carolina’s wartime governor and champion, in public addresses in 1886 and 1889 referred to the “late civil war.”

The United Daughters of the Confederacy moved the argument to center stage at the close of the nineteenth century. Rejecting “Civil War Between the States,” a term favored by the United Confederate Veterans, the women of the UDC moved foursquare behind “War Between the States” and enacted a public campaign for its wide adoption. Mrs. L. E. Williams in 1917 succinctly expressed the rationale, writing that use of “Civil War” constituted a “complete surrender of the basic principle upon which the war was waged, the right of self-government.” The UDC membership was zealous in protecting southerners against what they viewed as northern propaganda, targeting particularly schoolrooms and textbooks.

Objection to the use of “Civil War” peaked in the second decade of the twentieth century. In 1913, at the behest of the UDC, a Georgia congressman introduced a resolution officially renaming the conflict the “War Between the States.” Referred to a committee, it never made it to the House floor. In 1914, proponents placed on the ballot in North Carolina a constitutional amendment to strike references to “insurrection or rebellion” in the 1868 constitution and substitute “War Between the States.” The proposal failed by a vote of 61,031 to 57,816.

The appeal for southern orthodoxy encouraged by the UDC had results, though sometimes unintended. Sympathetic southern newspaper editors, eager to be compliant and to avoid a letter-writing campaign, instructed staff to alter wire service copy. The New Orleans Times-Picayune identified an aviator who flew against Franco as having participated in the Spanish War Between the States!

By 1961, and the observance of the war’s centennial, as Louisiana State University historian Gaines Foster has observed, “the memory of the conflict no longer touched southern lives in the way it once had.” Still, many former Confederate states chose to use “War Between the States” in naming their commemorative boards. In North Carolina, officials avoided that appellation by creating the Confederate Centennial Commission.

With the passage of time, the debate over terminology, once freighted with enormous ideological implications, has subsided and today Southerners generally accept the use of the term “Civil War.” Among modern-day professional historians there is no debate over whether to use the phrase. John M. Coski of the Museum of the Confederacy examined the history of the “war between the names” in the January 2006 issue of North & South, writing that “students of the war also need a name that they can use not to provoke discussion, but merely to designate the subject of their study—a name that is a common currency.” He concluded, “That common currency is Civil War.”

from the 2013 North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources

This site will use the U.S. “Civil War” or the “War Between The States”, interchangeably.

War Crimes Against Southern Civilians (Part 2)

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Down in Franklin County (TN) sometime in late December 1864, a Unionist named Moses Pittman handed Major General Milroy a list of “disloyal” men and women, all apparently personal enemies of Pittman. Beside each name was a “narration of their crimes.” Milroy went down the list, marking with his own hand “what punishment they shall suffer.” By the names of Joel Cunningham and Green Denison he wrote “KILL.” Next to the name of Curtis McCullum was the order “HANG AND BURN.” Charlotte, the sister of Curtis, had “BURN EVERYTHING” written by her name. “SHOOT IF YOU CAN MAKE IT LOOK LIKE AN ACCIDENT,” the general wrote next to the name of Cynthia, Curtis’s wife. There were fifty-three other names on the list. Orders to carry out the murders & other depredations were given to Capt. William H. Lewis on January 7, 1865, with detailed supplemental instructions on destroying and plundering the property of the victims.

Milroy added the names of four other civilians in neighboring Coffee County whom he also wanted executed. Captain Lewis later apprehended three of this group, unarmed, at one of their homes. Leroy Moore and Thomas Saunders were both old men. William Saunders was only fourteen. Each had his hands bound behind his back, was forced to wade into the pond at Huffers Mill, then was shot. Only after three days did soldiers allow families to retrieve the bloated bodies from the water for burial.

On February 7, 1865, Milroy issued more orders, specifying eighteen individuals who were to have their homes and property burned.  Included were the names of thirty-four he wanted shot. Four other names were listed, these to be “hung to the first tree in front of their door and be allowed to hang there for an indefinite period.” The final sentence of Milroy’s order read: “If Willis Taylor is caught he will be turned over to Moses Pittman and he will be allowed to kill him.”                                                                             From War Crimes Against Southern Civilians by Walter Brian Cisco

Major General Robert Huston Milroy served in the eastern front in Virginia against the Confederate corps of Lt. General Richard S. Ewell during the Gettysburg campaign and is most known for his defeat at the Second Battle of Winchester in 1863. He was VIII Corps 2nd division commander under Union General Robert C. Schenck. General Milroy’s harsh mistreatment of Winchester (VA) citizens had been such that even many pro-Unionists had changed their sympathies. This served to further isolate Milroy’s ability to gather intelligence around him. He failed miserably against General Ewell, was relieved of his command, and was called before a court of inquiry to answer for his actions, but after ten months the charges were dropped.

Later General Milroy was transferred to the Western Theatre, “recruiting” for Maj. Gen. George Henry Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland in Nashville in the spring of 1864. He also was in command the defenses of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad in the Department of the Cumberland until the end of the war.

Major General Milroy USA

Major General Milroy USA

War Crimes Against Southern Civilians (Part 1)

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“Of all the enormities committed by Americans in the nineteenth century-including slavery and the Indian wars-the worst was the invasion of the South, which destroyed some twenty billion dollars of private and public property and resulted in the deaths of some two million people, most of whom were civilians-both black and white” –David Aiken, editor of A City Laid Waste: The Capture, Sack, and Destruction of the City of Columbia

Let us look at the state of Tennessee starting in 1862: former U.S. Senator Andrew Johnson was appointed the military governor of Tennessee on March 2, 1862, by President Lincoln.

The clergy in Nashville were among the first to feel Johnson’s wrath. A group that included Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Christian Church ministers and educators was ushered into the governor’s office, where he demanded they declare allegiance to the country at war with their own. When they refused, the pastors were jailed. “They are the enemies of our government,” Johnson explained to the provost marshal, “and should receive such consideration only as attaches to a person guilty of so infamous a crime.” Episcopal rector George Harris was arrested by military authorities and told he must “pray for the President of the United States or be hung.” Harris was able to escape into exile. His church, Holy Trinity on Sixth Avenue South, was seized by the U.S. Army and used for the storage of munitions. The Methodist publishing house was commandeered for the printing of government documents. First Baptist Church was converted into a hospital before being destroyed.

Holy Trinity Church Nashville Tennessee

Holy Trinity Church Nashville Tennessee

One fall day in 1862, Dr. William Bass was leaving the Nashville home of William Harding when passing Union soldiers demanded he halt. When the doctor kept walking, they shot him. The controlled press concocted a story about his death being the result of a guerrilla raid, but it soon retracted that tale when confronted with the facts. “The brutality exhibited by the Federal soldiers in this affair awakens the intensest indignation,” wrote another physician. “I never witnessed its like.” He went on to express surprise that military authorities did not interfere with the victim’s funeral.

From War Crimes Against Southern Civilians by Walter Brian Cisco

Sumner A Cunningham

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Sumner A. Cunningham, founder of the "Confederate Veteran"

Sumner A. Cunningham – The founder of the “Confederate Veteran” magazine. Our Shelbyville, TN. Camp #1620 was named in his honor.

Sumner Archibald Cunningham was born in Bedford County, Tennessee on July 21, 1843. When the war erupted he enlisted in the 41st Tennessee Infantry Regiment. As Fort Donelson fell in 1862, Cunningham was captured and later sent to Camp Morton as a prisoner-of-war. He was exchanged at Vicksburg and returned to his command where he served until the end of the war. After the war he engaged in several businesses including the ownership of the Chattanooga Times, which he edited for two years. In 1883 he edited a magazine in New York entitled Our Day; however, his fame was secured in January, 1893 when the first issue of the Confederate Veteran appeared. In the next forty years, the Veteran became the voice of the South and officially represented the United Confederate Veterans, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the Sons of the Confederate Veterans. This article & picture were reprinted from the 1984 Confederate Veteran, written by Ronald T. Clemons, Editor-In-Chief.

In the words of General Patrick Cleburne…

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“Every man should endeavor to understand the meaning of subjugation before it is too late… It means the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern schoolteachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be impressed by the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit objects for derision… It is said slavery is all we are fighting for, and if we give it up we give up all. Even if this were true, which we deny, slavery is not all that our enemies are fighting for. It is merely the pretense to establish sectional superiority and a more centralized form of government, and to deprive us of our rights and liberties.” – General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne C.S.A., 2 Jan 1864.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”-Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás

As I contemplate the thoughts of General Cleburne, I find myself thinking also of George Santayana’s words. I wonder if the last three and one-half years our country has been suffering a modern ‘Socialist Reconstruction’, quite similar to the one the South suffered approximately 145 years ago.

Willow Mount Walking Tour of 30 April

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On 30 Apr 2011 SCV Camp#1620 conducted a historical walking tour in the Willow Mount cemetery.  Dressed mostly in War Between the States (Civil War) period costumes of military and civilians, our camp re-enactors and historians represented a variety persons buried in Willow Mount.

Willow Mount 30 Apr 20111 walking tour

Willow Mount Walking Tour

This tour is planned as a twice a year fund raiser for our camp,  and a fall  tour is expected sometime in late late Sept-early Nov.

Polk Arnold

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Who was Polk Arnold?  Les Marsh, our camp Commander has been researching Polk Arnold for some time.  After some controversy has surfaced recently about Polk Arnold, Les has decided to publish his research.  Click on Polk Arnold if you want to know something about a Black Confederate from Shelbyville, Tennessee in Bedford County.  Added note:  Polk Arnold applied for and received a Confederate Pension in 1921.

He who does garrison duty is as much a soldier as he that is in the fighting line” ~Seneca, Roman Philosopher (4 BC – 65 AD)

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