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MR. LINCOLN'S VIEWS ON EMANCIPATION.
DEPARTMENT OF THE SOUTH: PROCEEDINGS OF CONGRESS.
Hunter in command of the department of tho South —Smallness of his force — His proclamation — Excitement produced — Perplexities of the question — President Lincoln's views — Repudiation of Hunter's proclamation— Treatment of the blacks — Robert Small's exploit—Subject of arming the negroes — Diversity of opinion and action — Military operations attempted against Charleston — Some fighting, but with no sue cess to the Union cause — More troops wanted — Mitchel succeeds Hunter — His zeal in his work — Several expeditions projected — Sickness in the army — Death of Gen. Mitchel —Closing proceedings of Congress— Act authorizing additional issue of treasury notes — Three important bills acted upon, tho Homestead, the Pacific Railroad, and the one condemning and punishing polygamy in Utah — Navy arrangements as to the grades of officers, etc . — Confiscation act — Its significance — Congress adjourns.
Gen. Hunter, on the 31st of March, took command of the department of the South, comprising the states of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. His force was insufficient for any aggressive measures against the rebels, and he was principally occupied in watching their movements. This officer, being considerably in advance of public sentiment on the perplexing question of slavery and what to do with the negroes in the insurrectionary states, issued an order from Hilton Head, in which he said, "slavery and martial law in a free country are 1869 ^together incompatible. The persons in these three states, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, heretofore held as slaves, are therefore declared forever free'''
Public attention was at once aroused. Hunter's course was applauded by some, and denounced by others. Some rejoiced at the prospect of the speedy extinction of slavery; others, secession sympathizers at the North especially,
were enraged at this bold interference with the rights of property, especially property in slaves.
As for the government, its position was by no means an easy one. The president and his cabinet were distressed and even anxious on this subject. The pressure upon Mr. Lincoln from almost every quarter was exceedingly severe and constant. He did not know what to do or say, so as to satisfy his own conscience and deal justly with the several panties concerned. Sincerely desirous to do what was right, the president for a long time urged the gradual emancipation of the slaves, the compensating the owners for making them free, and also the sending them away out of the country, to South America or elsewhere. But the necessity of some definite line of policy was pressing heavily upon the government; the question could not much longer be delayed, in the midst of our mighty struggle for the supremacy of law and order. Loyal men differed widely on the subject. Some urged the president to take decisive steps at once; while others opposed and denounced any such course in strong, even fierce language. Mr. Lincoln had repudiated Fremont's attempt in 1861 (see p. 87), to emancipate slaves in Missouri. The president dared not, as yet, to go to the length which Fremont and Hunter had gone. It may be doubted, indeed, whether or no the country would have sustained him just then. At all events, whatever the future might develop, he felt called on to issue a proclamation, under date of May 19th, in which he expressly disclaimed the action of Hunter, and refused to pronounce any decision upon the vexed question of freeing the slaves in the rebel states, at the present.*
Although the president had seen fit thus to decide upon Gen. Hunter's order in regard to the slaves in the department of the South, he did not interfere with various efforts which were being made to improve the condition of the negro, and render him available for service to the cause of the Union against
* Mr. Lincoln pleaded earnestly, in this same proclamation, for the policy of emancipation. "You cannot, if you would," he said, addressing tho peoplo of the border states, " be blind to the signs of the times. I beg of you a calm and enlarged consideration of them, ranging, if it may be, far above partisan and personal politics." On the 12th of July, he held a conference with the members of Congress from Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky and Missouri, and begged of them to press the subject upon the attention of their constituents. The measure recommended by the president in such earnest terms was discussed in the states j ust named, but not adopted by any one. We may mention in the present connection, that at a later date, September 22d, Mr. Lincoln issued a proclamation, in which was plainly foreshadowed the conclusion at which the government arrived, at the close of the year 1862, upon the subject of emancipation. See McPherson's "History of the BcbeUion," pp. 227-228.
the rebellion. Huntei was sertain that the blacks would make good soldiers, if properly instructed, and he bestowed much attention upon giving them the opportunity of fitting themselves for the work sooner or later before them.
On the 13th of May, a slave, named Robert Small, who had been acting as pilot for some time on board the steam tug Planter, in the harbor of Charleston, succeeded in bringing the vessel out from under the batteries of the forts, and delivering to the Union blockading squadron a rebel gun boat which was employed in military service in the bay. The Planter was a high-pressure side-wheel steamer, armed with two guns, and had on board four large guns under way for Fort Ripley, in the harbor. Small, who had the entire management of the matter in his hands, embraced the favorable moment "when the officers had gone on shore, and taking with him 8 men, 5 women and 3 children, all negroes, he passed Fort Sumter very early in the morning, giving the proper signal, and steaming rapidly out of range of the guns. The rebel colors were hauled down, a white flag was raised, and Small and his company were soon under the protection of the stars and stripes. In accordance with the recommendation of Commodore Dupont, Congress passed an act, giving Small and his companions the benefit of their bavins' transferred the rebel steamer to the Union authorities. One half of the value of the Planter and the property on board of her, as per appraisement, was apportioned among them, they, for the present, receiving the interest, until such Ch. XVIII.]
OPERATIONS AGAINST CHARLESTON.
time as it might be expedient to pay the principal sum.
The subject of arming the negroes excited no little attention among the people generally, as well as in Congress. Hunter, in reply to a resolution of inquiry, said that this arming of the blacks was " a complete and even marvellous success." The loyal portion of the community were evidently tending to the view which finally prevailed, viz., that the necessities of war required the employment of the negro in helpj ing to put down the great rebellion. Various precedents were, on search, found for such employment; in the revolution, in the war of 1812, in Jackson's New Orleans' campaign, etc. The governors of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, on the new call for 300,000 raei., caused the blacks to be enrolled in these states. The governor of Ohio, however, refused to accept their servij ces; and in the army generally, there was a dislike to the bringing in the blacks and placing them by the side of white soldiers. In fact, the question was beset with peculiar difficulties, and it required not only a modification of popular feeling but especially time to bring it to anything like a settlement.
As we have before stated, Hunter's
force was too limited in number for any
military movement of importance. An
attempt was made, however, in June, in
the direction of Charleston. Gradual
approaches in this quarter along the
coast had been made by vari1869. , J ,
ous naval reconnaissances, and
by the occupation of Edisto Islandunder
for an attack upon Charleston. The information brought by the pilot Small, of the state of the fortifications, the troops, and means of defence in and around the harbor, encouraged the attempt, and an approach to the city seemed practicable from below by the Stono River. Accordingly, on the 20th of May, several gun boats were sent by Commodore Dupont to that river; occupation was taken of the inlet by the squadron, and preparations rapidly made to lodge a force on James Island, with a view of gaining possession of its batteries, and, in case these were successfully overcome, pushing to the Ashley River, where Charleston might be assailed out of reach of the powerful forts in the harbor. On the 29th of May, an unsuccessful effort was made to destroy the rebel line of communication by the Charleston and Savannah Railroad at Pocataligo. On the 2d of June, Hunter and Benham were landed on James Island, waiting the arrival of Gen. Wright with cavalry, artillery and additional infantry from Edisto Island. Severe storms, bad roads, and insufficient means of crossing the river, delayed operations materially, and gave the rebels an opportunity to obtain reinforcements. During a week or more, sharp skirmishes were frequent; and on the 16th of June, an attack was made by order of Benham, upon the entrenched works of the enemy. Our troops fought gallantly, but after a severe struggle failed of success, having lost some 700 in killed, wounded and missing. The forces on James Island soon after returned to their quarters at Hilton Head.
Hunter having been relieved, at his own request, Mitchel was sent as his successor, and arrived towards the end of September at Port Royal. Immediately on his arrival he entered with great zeal upon his duties. Although unable, from lack of reinforcements, to attempt any movements of importance, Mitchel projected a number of minor expeditions, the details of which need not here be given. The climate soon began to tell upon the health of the troops. The sick list in several of the regiments was increasing to an alarming degree. As the month wore on, cases of the yellow fever occurred at Port Royal. Several of the officers fell victims to the disease, and Mitchel, sickening, was removed to Beaufort, where, as we have before noted, he died, on the 30th of October, a noble specimen of a brave and skilful officer, as well as a true patriot and Christian.
The principal proceedings of Congress, during its present session, have been detailed on previous pages (see p. 148). We may, however, here briefly notice its further action until the adjournment. On the 11th of July an act was passed authorizing an additional issue of §150,000,000 of notes not bearing interest, similar to those 1862. before described, of which $35,000,000 might be of less denominations than five dollars, but none of the fractional part of a dollar. The legal tender clause in this, as in the former act (see p. 149), met with much opposition in the protracted discussion on the bills in Congress; but the demands of the war were urgent, and it was adopted as
the only practicable method of meeting the public necessities. Gold, as a consequence, rose in value, and the price of gold regulated the price of commodi ties in general. The facilities, however, given to trade and credit, lightened, for a time, at least, the financial difficulties produced by the war.
To provide internal revenue, to sup port the government, and to pay interest on the public debt, a voluminous tax bill was passed and approved on the 1st of July. It embraced a comprehensive system of excise duties, licenses, special tax on articles of luxury, as carriages, yachts, billiard tables, and plate; a widely extended system of stamp duties, legacy and inheritance duties, and an annual tax of three per cent, on all gains, profits or income, of every person residing within the United States, exceeding the sum of $600. Incomes exceeding $10,000, and those of citizens residing abroad, were taxed five per cent.
Besides the several acts heretofore noted, there were three bills which may be mentioned as important at this period of our national legislation. On the 20th of May, was passed " An act to secure Homesteads to actual settlers on the Public Domain." By this act any loyal person, a citizen of the United States, or one who has legally declared his intention to become such, or of the age of 21, was given the privilege of entering upon 160 acres of land, the full title to which would be secured by five years' residence and cultivation. This measure looked to a future increase of emigration, by which the wealth of the greatWest had been largely develop2a. XVIII.]
IMPORTANT ACTS OF CONGRESS.
ed, and which at the time was proving an important aid in maintaining the the war.
A second important step taken by Congress was the passing, July 1st, "An act to aid in the construction of a Railroad and Telegraph Line from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean, and to secure to the Government the use of the same for Postal, Military and other Purposes." For the details relating to this great undertaking, which is allowed until July, 1874, for its completion, we must refer the reader to the act itself.*
The third of the measures alluded to above, was in relation to a state of things which had been existing for some time to the shame and disgrace of our country, and its civilization and religion. We mean the passing, July 1st, " An act to punish and prevent the Practice of Polygamy in the Territories of the United States, and other Places, and disapproving and annulling certain acts of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah." By this act the crime of bigamy, in a territory or other place within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, was to be punished by a fine not exceeding $500, and by imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years. Certain specified ordinances and all other acts of the legislative assembly of the territory of Utah were disapproved and annulled, so far .as they establish, protect or countenance "the practice of polygamy, evasively called spiritual marriage, however disguised by legal or ecclesiastical solemnities, sacraments, cere
* See the ' National Almnnac, 'forl803, pp. 255-257
monies, consecrations, or other contrivances."
In order to put the navy on its propel- footing, especially as regarded the rank of its officers, Congress, on the l6th of July, passed " An act to establish and equalize the Grade of Line Officers of the United States Navy." This law provides that '.he active list of the officers of the United States navy shall be divided into nine grades, taking rank according to the date of their commission in each grade, as follows :—1. Rear-Admirals. 2. Commodores. 3. Captains. 4. Commanders. 5. Lieutenant-Commanders. 6. Lieutanants. 7. Masters. 8. Ensigns. 9. Midshipmen. The act further provides that the relative rank between officers of the navy and the army shall be as follows, real rank only to be consider' ed: rear-admirals to rank with majorgenerals; commodores with brigadiergenerals; captains with colonels; commanders with lieutenant-colonels; lieutenant-commanders with majors; lieutenauts with captains; masters with first lieutenants; ensigns with second lieutenants. The number of rear-admirals on the active list was limited to nine ; of commodores to 16 ; of captains to 39; of commanders to 90; of lieutenant-commanders to 144.
The act to suppress insurrection, to punish treason and rebellion, and to seize and confiscate the property of rebels, was passed on the last day of the session.* This, with other action ot Congress, showed that the people,
* For the president's message in regard to this important act, see Appleton's "American Annual Cyclopaedia for 1863," p. 374; and M'Pherson's "History of the RebeUion," p. 197.