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The most dangerous madmen are those created by religion, and … people whose aim is to disrupt society always know how to make good use of them on occasion… Diderot


Three-quarter length portrait of Brown accompanies text describing the insurrection at Harper’s Ferry. Caption under Brown’s picture: John Brown, now under sentence of death for treason and murder, at Charlestown, Va. From a photograph taken one year ago by Martin M. Lawrence, 381 Broadway, N.Y.

The secret six : the true tale of the men who conspired with John Brown Edward J. Renehan, Jr. Columbia : University of South Carolina, 1996 Softcover. Clean, tight and strong binding. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG

They are almost without exception dilettantes – one carries the soubriquet Chevalier for his attraction to romantic causes – who could not gain public office even with all their wealth [one was the largest landowner in the United States]. Neither their wealth nor the positions as doctors, teachers and preachers made them immune from the false logic of American messianic thought that derived from transcendentalism and they suffered in equal parts from the mad visions of John Brown and their cynical desire to use his madness to press their own goals – so long as they did not have to share the traitor’s scaffold with him. Their sort has contaminated this country since its founding and continues to contaminate it during its current confounding and the only shortcoming in Renehan’s work is that he does not bring them to history’s scaffold!


Photograph shows a head and shoulders portrait of Higginson in civilian clothing. He was an Abolitionist in Worcester, Mass., working as an Underground Railroad operator.


Historic American Buildings Survey COPY OF EXTERIOR PHOTO PUBLISHED IN HIGGINSON, MARY THATCHER, THOMAS WENTWORTH HIGGINSON, THE STORY OF HIS LIFE (BOSTON AND NEW YORK, 1914), OPP. p. 30. Gift of Cambridge Historical Commission – Stephen Higginson Jr. House, 7 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, Middlesex County, MA


Theodore Parker, 1810-1860, half-length portrait, standing behind pulpit, lecturing in New York, facing right. Wood engraving in the Illustrated London News, September 27, 1856, p. 314.







Issued in the North during the Civil War, the melodramatic portrayal of an apocryphal incident from the life of John Brown must have had unmistakable propagandistic overtones. In actuality a violent antislavery fanatic, Brown was convicted in 1859 of treason, inciting slave rebellion, and murder in his abortive attempt to seize the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry and ignite an armed slave insurrection in the South. Yet through his trial and execution at Charles Town, Virginia, in December 1859, Brown became for many Northerners a martyr of the abolitionist cause. Here the artist shows Brown calmly descending the steps of the Charles Town jail, hands tied behind his back. “Regarding with a look of compassion a Slave-mother and Child who obstructed the passage on his way to the Scaffold. –Capt. Brown stooped and kissed the Child–then met his fate.” The strikingly madonna-like slave woman is seated on a stone railing, holding an equally Christ-like infant. One of Brown’s guards reaches forward, about to push her away. In the foreground a mustachioed and elegantly uniformed soldier waits impatiently, hand on his sword hilt. Behind Brown a figure from the American Revolution, wearing a tricornered hat emblazoned “76,” watches with concern. The flag of the state of Virginia with the motto “Sic semper tyrannis” flies prominently above Brown’s head. A statue of Justice, with its arms and scales broken, stands forgotten behind the railing at left.

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The Southerners were fighting with the energy of despair… at all events, they were determined to command the enemy’s respect for their courage and ability, and I don’t think any brave sailor or soldier ever withheld it… Admiral David Dixon Porter [USN]

Admiral David Dixon Porter : the Civil War years Chester G. Hearn Annapolis, MD : Naval Institute Press, c 1996 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xx, 376 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 355-376) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG 


The U.S. Commissioners for the 1st Japanese embassy to the U.S., May – July 1860. Commander Sidney Smith Lee, Captain Samuel F. DuPont, Lieut. David Dixon Porter


David Dixon Porter, three-quarter length portrait, seated, facing left.



The Naval attack on Forts Jackson and St. Philip, New Orleans. Night scene illuminated by gun flashes from Federal gunboats on Mississippi River. Apr. 1862.



Print shows the Union vessels under the command of Admiral David D. Porter at the mouth of the Yazoo River, Mississippi, December 1862.



Prints show Union troops marching through the countryside from Bruinsburg to Port Gibson, and Union vessels, under the command of Admiral David D. Porter, engaged in naval bombardment of Confederate guns at Grand Gulf, Mississippi, April 29, 1863.



Print shows a dam constructed by Union troops to raise the water level to a depth that would enable Union ironclads to continue on the Red River at Alexandria, Louisiana.



Woman symbolizing Liberty(?) standing between portraits of William T. Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant, Philip Sheridan, David Dixon Porter, David Glasglow Farragut, and John Adolphus Bernard Dahlgren, surrounded by scenes of episodes of the Civil War.

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We have found one another again as brothers and comrades in arms, enemies no longer, generous friends rather, our battles long past, the quarrel forgotten—except that we shall not forget the splendid valor… Woodrow Wilson


The Gettysburg campaign – and it is most properly considered a campaign rather than a battle or a series of battles – ended on July 4 as did the battle of Vicksburg. Almost mythically the victories are linked to the date as though it had some amuletic effect. Never mind that the side that was fighting for the principles enshrined in the Declaration and Constitution lost both battles the victors have written their history and claimed their glory and that is where the cultural understanding lies.


By 1913 the business of reconciliation was by no means complete however the guns had been silent for half a century. Woodrow Wilson – the first president born in Virginia since John Tyler and the first Southern president since Zachary Taylor – had become president by adding the “solid” South to the Democratic column for the first time in fifty years. Although today’s politically correct histories want to remember him for being an anglophile and an internationalist in 1912 he was a product of the Democratic machine that would help dismantle the civil service of the Republicans that, through patronage, had bought black votes since 1865.


The reconciliation presided over by Wilson on his first Independence Day in office was the fifty year reunion at Gettysburg of the men of the Grand Army of the Republic and the Confederate States of America. There is nothing to be said that can detract from their achievements, their bravery and the jobs they had done after the War in rebuilding the South and bringing the nation to its prominence that would enable it to save Europe. What can be said is that the campaign was in many ways the passing of the old order and Coddington’s study gives the most comprehensive picture we have of one of the last battles before the advent of truly modern warfare where Sherman and Grant would introduce the tactics that would end at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


There are thousands of images available of the campaign and of the battlefield in its current repose as a park but even though the battle has seen its sesquicentenary we have chosen to illustrate this post with the pictures of the men who came together one last time in 1913 to celebrate the triumphs of their youth in the companionship of age before they faded away. The politician may give the occasion its voice but it is the veteran who gives it poignancy.


The Gettysburg campaign : a study in command Edwin B. Coddington New York : Scribner, 1984 Softcover. xiv, 866 p., [44] p. of plates : ill. ; 21 cm. Bibliography: p. 823-839. Includes index. Clean, tight and strong binding. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG


The Battle of Gettysburg remains one of the most controversial military actions in America’s history, and one of the most studied. Professor Coddington’s is an analysis not only of the battle proper, but of the actions of both Union and Confederate armies for the six months prior to the battle and of the factors affecting General Meade’s decision not to pursue the retreating Confederate forces. This book contends that Gettysburg was a crucial Union victory, primarily because of the effective leadership of Union forces — not, as has often been said, only because the North was the beneficiary of Lee’s mistakes. Scrupulously documented and rich in fascinating detail, The Gettysburg Campaign stands as one of the landmark works in the history of the Civil War.


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The Constitution provides for every accidental contingency in the executive – except a vacancy in the mind of the president… Senator John Sherman (1823-1900)

Klemment001An unusual, three-part wood engraving attributing John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of Abraham Lincoln to the influence of the proslavery secret society, the Knights of the Golden Circle. Lincoln was shot by Booth on April 14, 1865, while attending Ford’s Theatre in Washington. In the first panel (left) is a three-quarter length portrait of George W. L. Bickley, the “Head of the Knights of the Golden Circle.” Above him is the word “Theory.” The central panel–“Practice”–shows John Wilkes Booth in profile holding a dagger behind his back. The “Effect” is the death of President Lincoln, whose profile portrait at right is framed by swags of black drapery. Beneath the portrait are Lincoln’s initials and olive branches.

Almost every president since Washington has tried to equate disagreement with them with treason. Prior to the advent of the 20th century none was more strident in their efforts than Lincoln. Suspending habeas corpus and ignoring the courts on a daily basis there was even a warrant issued for the congressman who was the Democrats candidate for a cabinet post in 1864 [at the time the presidential ticket included not only the presidential and vice presidential nominees but also appointees for essential cabinet posts]. Prior to the Woodrow Wilson / Mitchell Palmer tag team assault on constitutional rights Lincoln’s was the most complete suppression of dissent in American history so it is little wonder that that his historians should have portrayed his detractors in the most venomous terms possible. Klement has performed a valuable service in helping to set the record straight and we have chosen to illustrate this entry starting with a caricature that shows the problem and a few that dared speak the truth about a man that Harper’s Magazine characterized as a filthy storyteller, despot, liar, thief, braggart, buffoon, usurper, monster, ignoramus Abe, old scoundrel, perjurer, swindler, tyrant, field butcher, land pirate – [but still the greatest president Illinois has produced].

Klemment002An impassioned attack on Abraham Lincoln and the human toll of the Union war effort. Columbia, wearing a liberty cap and a skirt made of an American flag, demands, “Mr. Lincoln, give me back my 500,000 sons!!!” At the right, Lincoln, unfazed, sits at a writing desk, his leg thrown over the chair back. A proclamation calling for “500 Thous. More Troops,” signed by him, lies at his feet. He replies, “Well the fact is–by the way that reminds me of a Story!!!” The artist refers to the false report published by the “New York World” that Lincoln joked on the battlefield of Antietam.

Dark lanterns : secret political societies, conspiracies, and treason trials in the Civil War Frank L. Klement Baton Rouge : Louisiana State University Press, c 1984 Softcover. xiii, 263 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. Bibliography: p. 245-253. Includes index. Clean, tight and strong binding. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG

Klemment003Lincoln’s support of abolition is portrayed here as a liability in his race to the White House against Democratic candidate George B. McClellan. At top a smoothly run train “Union” heads straight for the White House. The engine is labeled “Democracy” and the first car, in which McClellan stands in the role of engineer, flies a flag “Constitution.” The other cars are labeled “Union” and are occupied by happy, cheering Democrats. McClellan taunts, “Wouldn’t you like to swap horses now? Lincoln?” (probably a reference to Lincoln’s replacement of him as commander of the Army of the Potomac). Several of his passengers comment on the wreck of the Republican train below: “H-ll, H ll, I’m used to Railroad accidents but that beats Vibbards all to smash.” New York governor Horatio Seymour: “I thought little Mac could take the train through better than I could.” “It’s no use talking Ben [Union general Benjamin F. Butler]! I told you I was on the right train . . . thunder there’s John McKeon [prominent Democrat and New York lawyer ] with us.” “Little Mac is the boy to smash up all the Misceganationists.” “Politics does make strange bed fellows . . . the d . . . l if there aint Fernandy!” “Fernandy” is Fernando Wood, prominent Peace Democrat and mayor of New York. “Good-bye Horace [Horace Greeley]! Nigger on the brain flummoxed you.” “Thus ends the Abolition Party!” “Be the powers the gintleman with his pantaloons in his bootleg is having a high time of it.” “Good-bye old Greenbacks!” to Salmon P. Chase, who leaves with a satchel at right. Chase, who resigned his post as secretary of the treasury on June 29, says, “Thank God, I got off that train in the nick of time.” In contrast, Lincoln’s train, below, is far behind after having crashed on rocks “Confiscation,” “Emancipation,” “$400,000,000,000 Public Debt,” “To Whom It May Concern,” and “Abolitionism.” Lincoln himself is hurled into the air, and says, “Dont mention it Mac, this reminds me of a . . .” This reference is to Lincoln’s rumored penchant for telling humorous stories at inappropriate moments. (See “The Commander-in-Chief Conciliating the Soldier’s Votes,” no. 1864-30.) “Tribune” publisher and abolitionist Horace Greeley, also in the air, says, “I told you Abe that ‘To whom it may concern’ would be the death of us.” (See “The Sportsman Upset by the Recoil of His Own Gun,” no. 1864-31.) A black man crushed in the wreck accuses Lincoln, “Wars de rest ob dis ole darkey? Dis wot yer call ‘mancipation’?” Another black man hurtles through the air, retorting, “Lor Amighty Massa Linkum, is dis wot yer call ‘Elewating de Nigger’?” Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, hanging out of the train, moans, “Oh! dear! If I could telegraph this to Dix I’d make it out a Victory.” Preacher and abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher holds a black child to his breast and prays, “Oh! my brethering! Plymouth Church will try to save the Platform.” The notorious Union general Ben Butler exclaims, “H–ll! I’ve Preyed $2,000,000 already!” The four clean-shaven men in the train are identifiable as Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner, New York journalist and state political leader Thurlow Weed, Secretary of State William Seward, and John McKeon. Sumner: “Say Seward will praying save us?” Seward: “Oh! I’m a goner! Ask Thurlow, he’s my spiritual Adviser.” Weed: “Pray! yes, pray Brother, Butler will lead.” At left Maximilian, puppet emperor of Mexico, confers with John Bull and Napoleon III of France, saying, “Oh Main Got’vi I vas send over to dis land of Greasers to pe chawed up py de Yankees.” John Bull’s opinion is “. . . This will never do. The Monroe doctrine must be put down.” Napoleon III says, “. . . by Gar, if dat train gets to de White House, its all up with my Mexico.” During the Civil War, Napoleon III tried to establish a puppet state in Mexico under Emperor Maximilian. At bottom left are prices and ordering instructions for obtaining copies of the print.

During the agonizing days of the Civil War four secret political societies, often known as dark lantern societies, became household words throughout the North. Three of these groups – the Knights of the Golden Circle, the Order of American Knights, and the Sons of Liberty – supposedly were umbrellas for antiwar Democrats and were reportedly involved in treasonable activities. The Union League, on the other hand, was a patriotic political organization intent upon buttressing northern morale and giving support to the war program of the Lincoln administration.


Klemment004A bitterly anti-Lincoln cartoon, based on newspaper reports of the President’s callous disregard of the misery of Union troops at the front. The story that Lincoln had joked on the field at Antietam appeared in the “New York World.” Holding a plaid Scotch cap Lincoln stands on the battlefield at Antietam, which is littered with Union dead and wounded. He instructs his friend Marshal Lamon, who stands with his back toward the viewer and his hand over his face, to “sing us P̀icayune Butler,’ or something else that’s funny.”

The accusations and counter accusations that passed between these opposing forces helped spread fantastic rumors about their power and influence. Treason trials held in Cincinnati and Indianapolis based convictions on hearsay, while the leaders of the Order of American Knights and the Knights of the Golden Circle spent much of the war in prison without benefit of trial. Today reputable reference sources still matter-of-factly credit these societies with large memberships and evil motives.

Klemment005Another attack on the Lincoln administration by the artist of “The Commander-in-Chief Conciliating the Soldier’s Votes, no. 1864-31,” and “The Sportsman Upset by the Recoil of His Own Gun,” (no. 1864-32). Here Lincoln and his cabinet are shown in a disorderly backstage set, preparing for a production of Shakespeare’s “Othello.” Lincoln (center) in blackface plays the title role. He recites, “O, that the slave had forty thousand lives! I am not valiant neither:–But why should honour outlive honesty? Let it go all.” Behind Lincoln two men, one with his leg over a chair, comment on Lincoln’s reading. “Not quite appropriately costumed, is he?” comments the first. The second replies, “Costumed, my dear Sir? Never was such enthusiasm for art:–Blacked himself all over to play the part, Sir!” These may be Republicans Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens. Before them is a wastebasket of discarded documents, including the Constitution, Crittenden Compromise, Monroe Doctrine, “Webster’s Speeches,” “Decisions of Supreme Court,” and “Douglass.” At left five ballerinas stand beneath a playbill advertising “Treasury Department, A New Way to Pay Old Debts . . . Raising the Wind . . . Ballet Divertissement.” Near their feet is a pile of silver and plate, “Properties of the White House.” They listen to a fiddler who, with his back turned to the viewer, stands lecturing before them. At right Secretary of War Edwin Mcm.asters Stanton instructs a small troop of Union soldiers waiting in the wings to “. . . remember, you’re to go on in the procession in the first Act and afterwards in the Farce of the Election.” One soldier protests, “Now, see here, Boss that isn’t fair. We were engaged to do the leading business.” Nearby an obviously inebriated Secretary of State William Seward sits at a table with a bottle, muttering, “Sh–shomethin’s matt’r er my little bell: The darned thing won’t ring anyway c̀onfixit’.” Seward reportedly once boasted that he could have any individual arrested merely by ringing a bell. He was widely criticized for his arbitrary imprisonment of numerous civilians during the war. On the floor near Seward sits Lincoln’s running mate Andrew Johnson, a straw dummy, with a label around his ankle, “To be left till called for.” At far right Navy Secretary Gideon Welles slumbers, holding a paper marked “Naval Engagement, Sleeping Beauty, All’s Well That Ends Well.” In the background abolitionist editor Horace Greeley bumbles about moving scenery and complaining, “O bother! I can’t manage these cussed things.” Union general Benjamin F. Butler (directly behind Lincoln), dressed as Falstaff, recites, “We that take purses, go by the moon and seven stars; and not by Phoebus! I would to God, thou and I knew where a commodity of good names were to be bought!” He holds a sign “Benefit . . . Falstaff . . . Beauty and the Beast.” By this time Butler had achieved notoriety as a dissolute plunderer. To Butler’s right a man (who might be the stage manager) orders the crew, “Get ready to shift there ‘ere Flats for the Temple of Liberty.” The artist of this and nos. 1864-30 and -31 was an exceptionally able draftsman. Judging from the acidity of these satires, he may have been a Southerner, perhaps a Baltimorean.

In Dark Lanterns Klement refutes past historical theories and shows quite clearly that these societies were never much more than paper-based organizations with vague goals and little ability to carry them out. Recounting the actual histories of these organizations, he shows how they were senationalised, even fictionalized, in both Republican and Democratic newspaper and magazine exposés. He also probes the trials arising from the supposed conspiracy to establish a separate confederacy in the Midwest and the so-called Camp Douglas conspiracy, which was intended to release the Confederate prisoners housed there.

Klemment006Lincoln is portrayed as meek and ineffectual in his prosecution of the war. In a wooded scene Lincoln, here in the character of an Irish sportsman in knee-breeches, discharges his blunderbuss at a small bird “C.S.A.” (Confederate States of America). The bird, perched in a tree at left, is unhurt, but Lincoln falls backward vowing, “Begorra, if ye wor at this end o’ th’ gun, ye wouldn’t flap yer wings that way, ye vill’in!” At right Secretary of War Stanton, who has the body of a dog, barks, “Bow-wow.” Lincoln’s rifle is labeled “To Whom It May Concern.” These were the opening words of an announcement written by Lincoln in the summer of 1864. Journalist Horace Greeley had discovered that two emissaries of president of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis were in Canada, and urged Lincoln to make an offer of peace. Lincoln sent Greeley to Canada, where he found that the diplomats had neither credentials nor authority. Lincoln afterward announced that “Any proposition which embraces the restoration of peace, the integrity of the whole Union, and the abandonment of slavery . . . will be received and considered by the Executive government of the United States.”

Despite the furor they generated, Klement concludes that these dark lantern societies were essentially engaged in nothing more than a war of words and that their alleged power was greatly exaggerated by political propaganda. Meticulously researched and lucidly argued, Dark Lanterns explores a controversial and puzzling aspect of the Civil war. It will be hard to dispute Klements’ finding that generations of historians have swallowed whole a tale that was largely the product of myth and legend.

Klemment007The artist portrays a President tormented by nightmares of defeat in the election of 1864. The print probably appeared late in the campaign. (The Library’s copy was deposited for copyright on September 22.) Lincoln was said to have believed in the prophetic importance of dreams. The President lies on a bed under a sheet embroidered with stars. In his dream Columbia or Liberty, wielding the severed head of a black man, stands at the door of the White House. She sends a frightened Lincoln away with a kick. Lincoln, wearing a Scotsman’s plaid cap and a cape and carrying a valise, flees to the left, saying, “This don’t remind me of any joke!!” The cap and cloak allude to an incident in 1861 before Lincoln’s first inauguration. On being informed that an attempt would be made to assassinate him on his way to Washington, Lincoln took a night train and disguised himself in a large overcoat and Kossuth hat. The press made the most of Lincoln’s timidity, and it was widely reported that Lincoln was seen wearing a Scotch plaid cap and a very long military cloak. Lincoln also carries a rolled piece of paper “To whom it may concern.” For this famous announcement, see “The Sportsman Upset by the Recoil of His Own Gun,” no. 1864-32. At right General McClellan, in uniform, ascends the steps to the White House, carrying a valise with his initials on it.

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I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say; I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger… Harriet Tubman


Bound for Canaan : the underground railroad and the war for the soul of America  Fergus M. Bordewich  New York : Amistad, c 2005  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xv, 540 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [508]-519). Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG


The civil war brought to a climax the country’s bitter division. But the beginnings of slavery’s denouement can be traced to a courageous band of ordinary Americans, black and white, slave and free, who joined forces to create what would come to be known as the Underground Railroad, a movement that occupies as romantic a place in the nation’s imagination as the Lewis and Clark expedition. The true story of the Underground Railroad is much more morally complex and politically divisive than even the myths suggest. Against a backdrop of the country’s westward expansion arose a fierce clash of values that was nothing less than a war for the country’s soul. Not since the American Revolution had the country engaged in an act of such vast and profound civil disobedience that not only challenged prevailing mores but also subverted federal law.


Bound for Canaan tells the stories of men and women like David Ruggles, who invented the black underground in New York City; bold Quakers like Isaac Hopper and Levi Coffin, who risked their lives to build the Underground Railroad; and the inimitable Harriet Tubman. Interweaving thrilling personal stories with the politics of slavery and abolition, Bound for Canaan shows how the Underground Railroad gave birth to this country’s first racially integrated, religiously inspired movement for social change.


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I trust that I have the courage to lead a forlorn hope… John C. Breckinridge

meteors008A crude nonpartisan satire, parodying all four candidates in the 1860 presidential election. A map of the United States hung on a wall is being torn apart by three of the candidates. Lincoln (far left) and Douglas tear at the western part of the country, as Breckinridge (center) attacks the South. The fourth, John Bell (right), stands on a stool trying to repair the northeastern section with a jar of “Spaldings,” a widely marketed glue of the period. Several boxes of this adhesive appear, prominently labeled, at right.

Read almost any current American history textbook and you will come away with the impression that the presidential election of 1860 was between the clear victor – Abraham Lincoln of Illinois – and the sour grapes loser of the first series of presidential debates, ala Kennedy/Nixon style, Stephen A. Douglas. Political correctness will reinforce your understanding that although Lincoln was nominally a republican he was first, foremost and always the heir to Jefferson’s promise that all men are created equal. You will not be told that Douglas was a Democrat, had always been a democrat, had won the debates – which actually occurred in 1858 and won him the Democratic senate seat from Illinois in a contest with Abraham Lincoln.

meteors005A pro-Breckinridge satire on the 1860 presidential contest. Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln (right) and Democrat Stephen A. Douglas (left) appear as boxers squaring off in a ring before a small crowd of onlookers. Douglas is seconded by an Irishman (left), presumably representing Douglas’s Democratic constituency. Lincoln is coached by a black man, who kneels at right, armed with a basket of liquor bottles, and signifies Lincoln’s antislavery leanings. In the background a third candidate, John C. Breckinridge, thumbs his nose and points toward the White House. He is encouraged on his way by a number of men who cheer and doff their hats to him.

The reality of the election was that Lincoln was the candidate of the north who managed to incorporate a large number of tactics – membership in clubs, arm bands, marching societies – that have been used by other successful politicians since. Douglas, who came in second in the popular vote but last in the electoral vote, was something like a current establishment Republican in that he controlled a machine that could deliver a nomination but not an election. John C. Breckinidge was Lincoln’s true rival winning 11 states – all Southern – with John Bell taking the “border states” of Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. All told the three challengers for the White House would amass 60.3% of the popular vote and still be unable to deny Lincoln the presidency in the first modern failure of the Electoral College system. It should really come as no surprise that the election resulted in secession and it was only the post electoral manipulation by Lincoln’s adherents that managed to turn it into the catastrophe of the civil war.

meteors002Rival presidential nominees Lincoln and Douglas are matched in a footrace, in which Lincoln’s long stride is a clear advantage. Both sprint down a path toward the U.S. Capitol, which appears in the background right. They are separated from it by a rail fence, a reference to Lincoln’s popular image as a rail-splitter. Douglas, whose characteristic shortness is here exaggerated to dwarfish dimensions, wonders aloud, “How can I get over this Rail Fence.” Over his shoulder he carries a cane on which hangs a jug marked “M.C.,” which probably refers to the Missouri Compromise, repealed in 1854 largely through Douglas’s efforts. As he runs, playing cards spill from his pockets (suggesting perhaps a penchant for gambling). Lincoln, whose height is equally exaggerated, runs along beside him waving his hat and carrying a rail-splitter’s maul over his shoulder. He says confidently, “It [i.e., the rail fence] can’t sto\p me for I built it.” From the fence on the far right a black youth taunts Douglas, “You can find me in dis yer Fence Massa Duglis.” The last is evidently a reference to the slavery question central to the election campaign.

Year of meteors : Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the election that brought on the Civil War Douglas R. Egerton New York : Bloomsbury Press, 2010 Hardcover. 399 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

meteors011Prominent candidates for the Democratic nomination at Charleston, S.C. [Composite of bust portraits of Stephens, Alexander Hamilton, 1812-1883; Davis, Jefferson, 1808-1889; Slidell, John, 1793-1871 [diplomat and politician]; Lane, Joseph, 1801-1881 [U.S. Sen Dem.]; Breckinridge, John Cabell, 1821-1875; Douglas, Stephen Arnold, 1813-1861; Orr, James Lawrence, 1822-1873 [U.S. Cong Dem S.C.]; Guthrie, James, 1792-1869 [lawyer; Sec. of the Treasury]; Pierce; Houston, Samuel, 1793-1863

In early 1860, pundits across America confidently predicted the election of Illinois senator Stephen A. Douglas in the coming presidential race. Douglas, after all, led the only party that bridged North and South. But the Democrats would split over the issue of slavery, leading Southerners in the party to run their own presidential slate. This opened the door for the upstart Republicans, exclusively Northern, to steal the Oval Office. Dark horse Abraham Lincoln, not the first choice even of his own party, won the presidency with a record-low 39.8 percent of the popular vote.

meteors009 An illustrated sheet music cover for campaign music honoring Constitutional Union party candidates John Bell and Edward Everett. The candidates’ bust portraits are framed in floral and acanthus tracery. In the upper right a streamer with stars and stripes hangs on the twigs which sprout from the rusticated wooden letters of Everett’s name. Below is an arrangement of motifs, including an eagle with shield, a cannon, flags, and a fasces. In the distance (left) is a harbor with several ships.

Egerton chronicles the contest with a political reporter’s eye for detail. Vividly, Egerton re-creates the cascade of unforeseen events that confounded political bosses, set North and South on the road to disunion, and put not Stephen Douglas, but his greatest rival, in the White House.

meteors006Print shows a large campaign banner for Constitutional Union party presidential candidate John Bell and running mate Edward Everett. The banner consists of a printed, thirty-three star American flag pattern with an oval bust portrait of Bell encircled by stars on a blue field.

We see Lincoln and his team outmaneuvering more prominent Republicans, like New York’s grandiose William Seward, while Democratic conventions collapse in confusion. And we see the gifted, flawed Douglas marking his finest hour in defeat, as he strives, and fails, to save the Union. Year of Meteors delivers a teeming cast of characters, minor and major, and a breakneck narrative of this most momentous year in American history.

meteors001 A caricature of Abraham Lincoln, probably appearing soon after his nomination as Republican presidential candidate. The artist contrasts Lincoln’s modest posture at the Illinois Republican state convention in Springfield in 1858 with his confident appearance at the 1860 Illinois Republican ratifying convention, also held in Springfield. The two Lincolns are shown joined at the back and seated on a stump. The 1858 Lincoln (facing left) addresses a small audience of men, including a young black man. He denies any presidential ambitions, his words appearing in a cabbage-shaped balloon: “Nobody ever expected me to be President. In my poor, lean, lank face, nobody has ever seen that any Cabbages were sprouting out.” In contrast, the 1860 Lincoln (facing right) states, “I come to see, and be seen.” There may be, as Wilson maintains, an implied criticism here of Lincoln’s reticence about his political views during the 1860 campaign, when from May to November Lincoln made no speeches except for a brief address at the meeting in Springfield. This may explain the less-than-enthusiastic, puzzled look of several of his listeners here.

meteors007A membership certificate for the Wide-Awake Club, a Republican marching club formed in February or March 1860 and active throughout the North during the election campaign. The club was dedicated to the preservation of the Union and the non-extension of slavery. The certificate has a central vignette showing crowds and troops before the U. S. Capitol. Some of the troops march in long parade lines, others fire cannons into the air toward the Capitol. Crowds line the Capitol steps, flanking a lone figure (Lincoln?) who ascends toward the building’s entrance. The certificate is framed by an American flag draped over a rail fence, with olive branches at the top. In the upper corners are oval medallions of Abraham Lincoln (left) and running mate Hannibal Hamlin (right). The rail-splitter’s mallets also appear in the corners. A vigilant eye peers from a halo of clouds at the center. On either side stand uniformed members of the society, wearing their characteristic short capes and visored caps. One holds a staff and a lantern (left), and the other holds a burning torch. Below, an eagle on a shield holds a streamer “E Pluribus Unum,” arrows, and olive branch. Broken shackles lie before him. In the left distance, the sun rises over a mountainous landscape and a locomotive chugs across the plains. On the right is a more industrial scene: an Eastern city with its harbor full of boats. In the foreground a man hammers a wedge into a wooden rail.

Grand procession of Wide-Awakes at New York on the evening of October 3, 1860. Republican Wide Awakes in N.Y. – Lincoln-Hamlin Campaign [Printing-House Square (Park Row and Nassau St.)

meteors013During the 1860 election campaign the “Wide Awakes,” a marching club composed of young Republican men, appeared in cities throughout the North. (See no. 1860-14.) They often wore uniforms consisting of visored caps and short capes, and carried lanterns. Here Republican presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln (left) is dressed as a “Wide-Awake,” and carries a lantern and a spear-like wooden rail. He rounds the corner of the White House foiling the attempts of three other candidates to enter surreptitiously. At far right incumbent James Buchanan tries to haul John C. Breckinridge in through the window. Buchanan complains, “I’ll do what I can to help you Breck, but my strength is failing and I’m afraid you’ll pull me out before I can pull you in.” Breckinridge despairs, “. . . I’m too weak to get up–and we shall be compelled to dissolve the Union.'” His words reflect his and Buchanan’s supposed alliance with secessionist interests of the South. In the center Democrat Stephen A. Douglas tries to unlock the White House door, as Constitutional Union party candidate John Bell frets, “Hurry up Douglas! and get the door open, so that I can get in, for the watchman [i.e., Lincoln] is coming.” Douglas complains that none of the three keys he holds (labeled “Regular Nomination,” “Non Intervention,” and “Nebraska Bill”) will open the door, “. . . so I’d better be off, for old Abe is after me with a sharp stick.”


meteors010The antislavery plank was a controversial feature of the 1860 Republican platform. Here Republican nominee Abraham Lincoln is shown uncomfortably straddling a rail–a dual allusion to the platform and to Lincoln’s backwoods origins–carried by a black man and abolitionist editor of the New York “Tribune” Horace Greeley (right). Lincoln says, “It is true I have split Rails, but I begin to feel as if “this” rail would split me, it’s the hardest stick I ever straddled.” The black man complains, “Dis Nigger strong and willin’ but its awful hard work to carry Old Massa Abe on nothing but dis ere rail!!” One of Lincoln’s foremost supporters in the Northeast, Greeley here assures him, “We can prove that you have split rails & that will ensure your election to the Presidency.”

meteors014A pro-Lincoln satire, deposited for copyright weeks before the 1860 presidential election. The contest is portrayed as a baseball game in which Lincoln has defeated (left to right) John Bell, Stephen A. Douglas, and John C. Breckinridge. Lincoln (right) stands with his foot on “Home Base,” advising the others, “Gentlemen, if any of you should ever take a hand in another match at this game, remember that you must have a good bat’ and strike a fair ball’ to make a clean score’ & a home run.'” His “good bat” is actually a wooden rail labeled “Equal Rights and Free Territory.” Lincoln wears a belt inscribed “Wide Awake Club.” (See no. 1860-14 on the Wide-Awakes.) A skunk stands near the other candidates, signifying that they have been “skunk’d.” Breckinridge (center), a Southern Democrat, holds his nose, saying, “I guess I’d better leave for Kentucky, for I smell something strong around here, and begin to think, that we are completely skunk’d.'” His bat is labeled “Slavery Extension” and his belt “Disunion Club.” At far left John Bell of the Constitutional Union party observes, “It appears to me very singular that we three should strike foul’ and be put out’ while old Abe made such a good lick.’ Bell’s belt says “Union Club,” and his bat “Fusion.” Regular Democratic nominee Douglas replies, “That’s because he had that confounded rail, to strike with, I thought our fusion would be a short stop’ to his career.” He grasps a bat labeled “Non Intervention.”


meteors012Probably issued late in the campaign, the print seems to express the growing confidence among Republicans in the election of their candidate Abraham Lincoln. It may also be that like “The National Game” (no. 1860-42) the print was published after the election. As in “Stephen Finding His Mother” (no. 1860-35), Uncle Sam (center) is here shown as an elderly man in knee-breeches. He stands before the White House, about to take down a notice that reads: “Wanted. An honest upright and capable man to take charge of this house for four years. Undoubted testimonials will be required. Apply to Uncle Sam on the Premises.” At the same time he hands Abraham Lincoln a notice that “I have hired [him] for four years from March 1st 1861.” Lincoln is in shirtsleeves and rustic boots, and carries an axe and valise. Uncle Sam announces to the other presidential applicants (left to right) Bell, Breckinridge, and Douglas, “You’re too late gentlemen! I’ve concluded to take down the Notice and let Abraham Lincoln have the Place. I find his record all right, and can safely trust him with the management of my affairs.” Lincoln thanks him, saying, ” . . . I will endeavor to do my duty.” The losers plead their cases. Bell, holding a cane and satchel, says, “I’m an old gentleman sir, but I have a good many friends, to help me take care of your matters, if you’ll let me have the place.” Breckinridge, the southern Democratic nominee, claims, “This little man in front of me Sir [i.e., Douglas], is an imposter, it is “I” that have the genuine Certificates, and besides I can refer to the last incumbent.” Breckinridge served as vice president under discredited incumbent James Buchanan, who can be seen at right through an open White House window, stuffing “dirty linen” into his valise. Buchanan complains, “It is too bad! here [Uncle Sam's] given me Notice to pack up and quit, without a character, and I’ll never be able to get another place.”Northern Democrat Douglas asks, “Please Sir, I’ve been trying a long time to get a recommendation for the place, and here it is at last, you’ll find me a young man of regular habits.” Breckinridge and Douglas carry valises similar to Lincoln’s, and all three candidates hold pieces of paper with their party affiliations.


meteors003 A view of the public meeting in Johnson Square, Savannah, prompted by news of Lincoln’s election, where a resolution was adopted for a state secession convention. In the nocturnal scene, the square is crowded with animated spectators surrounding an obelisk, where a banner emblazoned with the image of a coiled rattlesnake and the words “Our Motto Southern Rights, Equality of the States, Don’t Tread on Me” is displayed. The scene is lit by fireworks and a bonfire. The old City Exchange building is visible beyond the monument.


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The past rises before me like a dream. Again we are in the great struggle for national life.We hear the sounds of preparation–the music of boisterous drums–the silver voices of heroic bugles. We see the pale cheeks of women and the flushed faces of men; and in those assemblages we see all the dead whose dust we have covered with flowers…

Voices in the storm : Confederate rhetoric, 1861-1865 Karen E. Fritz Denton, Tex. : University of North Texas Press, 1999 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xv, 173 p. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 139-164) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG


Voices in the Storm examines the significance of oratory in the Confederacy and also explores the nuances and subtle messages within Confederate speeches. Examining metaphor, argument, and figures of speech, Fritz finds some surprising shifts within the Civil War South. Her research indicates that four years of bloody conflict caused southerners to reconsider beliefs about their natural environment, their honor, their slaves, and their northern opponents.


Between 1861 and 1865 southerners experienced shattering calamities as they waged their unsuccessful struggle for independence. Confederate orators began the war by outlining a detailed and idealized portrait of their nation and its people. During the conflict, they gradually altered the depiction, increasingly adding references to the grotesque and discordant, as all around them southerners were losing homes and family members in the maelstrom that consumed their cities and fields, polluted their rivers, and destroyed their social order.


Oratory played a fundamental role in the southern nation, whose citizens encountered it almost daily at military functions, before battle, in church, and even while lying in hospital beds or strolling on city streets. Because Confederate citizens frequently commented on oratory or spoke out during speeches, Fritz also considers audience behavior and response.


By the end of the war, speakers described their nation in savage terms, applying to it expressions and characteristics once reserved only for the North. This analysis thus indicated that southerners listened as orators gradually shaped them and their nation into rhetorical facsimiles of their enemy, suggesting that separation at some level effected reunion.


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