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“Negro equality. Fudge! How long in the Government of a God great enough to make and maintain this Universe, shall there continue knaves to vend and fools to gulp, so low a piece of demagoguism as this?” Abraham Lincoln

Everyone has seen the movie GLORY and assumes that if it was made by Hollywood and starred Denzel Washington it must be a true picture of what really happened in the Civil War. Actually it is a masterpiece of inaccuracy and misdirection – in every sense of that term – and is about as useful to the understanding of the war as the novels of  Francis Van Wyck Mason. To start out with racism must be understood in two senses. There is racism that takes a criminal form. It may take any number of forms but it almost always starts from a premise of the inferiority – physical and/or mental – of the group to be subjugated or eliminated, and make no mistake the end of this form of racism is nothing less than genocide.

There is a second type of racism that we shall call cultural racism. This arises from social differences and although it may become every bit a virulent as the first form – and likely will become so over time – it does not start out that way. Both forms – and all their gradations – exist in all societies and although the rule of law tend to suppress the worst manifestations of the former it may also tend to institutionalize the latter.

Abraham Lincoln was a racist – it would have been nearly impossible for him to muster any public support if he had not been – and his apologists would have you believe that he was a victim of his time who overcame the prejudices of his century and became the great emancipator. Possibly his own words give the best example of his true feelings for what was then termed the “black” race.  “I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races. I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with White people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between white and black races which I believe will ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality….and that the effort to colonize persons of African descent with their consent of upon this continent or elsewhere, with the previously obtained consent  of the governments existing there, will be continued.”

In spite of all that he believed – and acted upon – when Lincoln launched the war of northern aggression, and when it began going very badly for him, he, like all politicians, began to cast about for whatever political expedients could rescue his position. Henry Steele Commager pointed out in The Blue and the Gray in 1950 that one of the ways he did this was by attempting to foment rebellion by the slaves in the Southern States – to start a race war. Commager quotes from the London Times of the 7th of  October  1862 at length as follows:

“It is rarely that a man can be found to balance accurately mischief to another against advantage to himself. President Lincoln is, as the world says, a good-tempered man, neither better nor worse than the mass of his kind – neither a fool nor sage, neither a villain nor a saint, but a piece of that common useful clay out of which it delights the American democracy to make great Republican personages.

Yet President Lincoln has declared that from the 1st of January next to come every State that is in rebellion shall be, in the eye of Mr. Lincoln, a Free State. After that date Mr. Lincoln proposes to enact that every slave in a rebel State shall be for ever after free, and he promises that neither he, nor his army, nor his navy will do anything to repress any efforts which the Negroes in such rebel States may make for the recovery of their freedom.

This means, of course, that Mr. Lincoln will, on the 1st of January, do his best to excite a servile war in the States which he cannot occupy with his arms. He will run up the rivers in his gunboats; he will seek out the places which are left but slightly guarded, and where the women and children have been trusted to the fidelity of coloured domestics. He will appeal to the black blood of the African, he will whisper of the pleasures of spoil and of the gratification of yet fiercer instincts; and when the blood begins to flow and shrieks come piercing through the darkness, Mr. Lincoln will wait till the rising flames tell that all is consummated, and then he will rub his hands and think that revenge is sweet. This is what Mr. Lincoln avows before the world that he is about to do.

Now, we are in Europe thoroughly convinced that the death of slavery must follow as necessarily upon the success of the Confederates in this war as the dispersion of darkness occurs upon the rising of the sun; but sudden and forcible emancipation resulting from “the efforts the Negroes may make for their actual freedom” can only be effected by massacre and utter destruction.

Mr. Lincoln avows, therefore, that he proposes to excite the Negroes of the Southern plantations to murder the families of their masters while these are engaged in the war. The conception of such a crime is horrible. The employment of Indians sinks to a level with civilized warfare in comparison with it; the most detestable doctrines of Mazzini are almost less atrocious; even Mr. Lincoln’s own recent achievements of burning by gunboats the defenceless villages on the Mississippi are dwarfed by this gigantic wickedness.

The single thing to be said for it is that it is a wickedness that holds its head high and scorns hypocrisy. It does not even pretend to attack slavery as slavery. It launches this threat of a servile rebellion as a means of war against certain States, and accompanies it with a declaration of general protection to all other slavery.

Where he has no power Mr. Lincoln will set the Negroes free; where he retains power he will consider them as slaves. “Come to me,” he cries to the insurgent planters, “and I will preserve your rights as slaveholders; but set me still at defiance, and I will wrap myself in virtue, and take the sword of freedom in my hand, and, instead of aiding you to oppress, I will champion the rights of humanity. Here are the whips for you who are loyal; go forth and flog or sell your black chattels as you please. Here are torches and knives for employment against you who are disloyal.

Little Delaware, with her 2000 slaves, shall still be protected in her loyal tyranny. Maryland, with her 90,000 slaves, shall “freely accept or freely reject” any project for either gradual or immediate abolition; but if Mississippi and South Carolina, where the slaves rather outnumber the masters, do not repent, and receive from Mr. Lincoln a licence to trade in human flesh, that human flesh shall be adopted by Mr. Lincoln as the agent of his vengeance.

Mr. Lincoln, by this proclamation, constitutes himself a sort of moral American Pope. He claims to sell indulgences to own votaries, and he offers them with full hands to all who will fall down and worship him. It is his to bind, and it is his to loose. His decree of emancipation is to go into remote States, where his temporal power cannot be made manifest, and where no stars and stripes are to be seen; and in those distant swamps he is, by sort of Yankee excommunication, to lay the hand under a slavery interdict…”

When the attempts at inciting rebellion were not sufficient he tried the expedient of enlisting black troops in the union army. The Battle of Jacksonville was their major engagement and was not the great victory Hollywood made it out to be. First we will give you a slightly more realistic account of the operation. We will follow this with the publisher’s description of Ash’s anecdotal history of the black regiment. Lincoln’s expedients came to their full bitter measure when his successors decided to add the expedient of  suffrage for the former slaves in an effort to use raw democracy to perpetuate themselves in power for the fifty years following the war.

Joseph Finegan was born on the 17th of November 1814 at Clones, County Monaghan, Ireland, came to Florida in the 1830's and was one of the most successful citizen soldiers of the Confederacy driving the union from Jacksonville in 1863 and triumphing over a much larger union force in the Battle of Olustee in 1864

for a more comprehensive view of the Battle for Jacksonville we have gone to Florida State University’s Floripedia

The Union army had occupied Jacksonville for nearly a month till the spring of 1862, and for a short while in October of the same year. In the early days of March, 1863, Colonels Higginson and Montgomery, in command of two regiments of negro troops, made their headquarters at Jacksonville. General Finegan called upon every man who could to come to assist his little army in driving out these invaders, and on March 10, with all the forces at his command, marched against them. He arranged for his troops to enter the city at different points and engage the Federals at two places at the same time.

After a few rounds the Confederates charged in double-quick. The negro troops broke and fled for safety to their gunboats and transports at the wharf. As General Finegan had no means of attacking the vessels, he withdrew his men to a camp beyond reach of the shells thrown from the boats.

On March 17 the Union artillery commenced a cross fire from their intrenchments upon a portion of Major Brevard’s battalion at the “Brick Church.” The Confederates held their position for about two hours, when the Federals appeared in force. A sharp engagement followed, and the Federals were driven back.

These engagements were followed by occasional skirmishes, the capturing of pickets, and even the throwing of shots into the Federal camp. The perseverance of the Confederates was at last rewarded, and on Sunday, March 29, the Federals left Jacksonville. Before leaving, however, some of them set fire to a number of wooden buildings, and, as a high wind was blowing, the whole city was soon in flames.  

The Confederate government had valuable salt works at St. Andrews Bay, as had also many private persons. As the works were not guarded, the Federals found it an easy matter to destroy them and burn the buildings. The property destroyed by the Federals on St. Andrews Bay was valued at about three million dollars.

Firebrand of liberty : the story of two Black regiments that changed the course of the Civil War       Stephen V. Ash United States. Army , African troops History ,19th century New York : W.W. Norton & Co., c 2008 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing.     xvi, 282 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [256]-265) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

In March 1863, nine hundred black union soldiers, led by white officers, invaded Florida and seized the town of Jacksonville. They were among the first black  troops in the Northern army, and their expedition into enemy territory was like no other in the Civil War. It was intended as an assault on slavery by which thousands would be freed.

At the center of the story is prominent abolitionist Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who led one of the regiments. After waging battle for three weeks, Higginson and his men were mysteriously ordered to withdraw, their mission a seeming failure. Yet their successes in resisting the Confederates and collaborating with white Union forces persuaded President Abraham Lincoln to begin full-scale recruitment of black troops, a momentous decision that helped turned the tide of the war.

Using long-neglected primary sources, historian Stephen V. Ash’s stirring narrative re-creates this event with insight, vivid characterizations, and a keen sense of drama.


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