Friday, January 04, 2013

Ramifications From the Death of a Republican President

James L. Swanson. Bloody Crimes: The Funeral of Abraham Lincoln and the Chase for Jefferson Davis. New York: Harper Perrenniel. 2010.

During Lincoln’s second inaugural address, he foresaw more bloodshed over the slavery issue. His own blood was shed when he was assassinated. There were numerous Northerners who believed that Confederate President Jefferson Davis and others of the Confederacy had committed various “blood crimes”, including conspiring in the Lincoln assassination.

The Confederate capital of Richmond, Va., less than 100 miles form Washington, D.C., was one of the last Confederate cities to fall. General Robert E. Lee warned the Confederate leaders that Union troops were approaching Richmond, that he would not be able to stop them, and he advised the Confederate government leaders to flee Richmond. Davis told his Cabinet that fleeing Richmond did not mean surrender.

There was much Union debate over what to do with the defeated Confederates. Lincoln stated he wanted the Confederate soldiers to return to their homes and work. While he did not say so directly, Lincoln indicated he wanted Davis to flee the country. Others were revenge and wanted Davis hung. Lincoln seemed more concerned on working towards reconciliation.

Lee was perturbed when Davis telegraphed that Davis was concerned about losing valuables. Lee’s men were fighting to protect Richmond as best they could. Lee felt he had given sufficient warning to evacuate while the Confederate leader seemed more concerned about his possessions.

Thieves reigned over Richmond in the hours between the Confederate fleeing and Union troops arrival. African Americans gleefully heralded the Union troops as they entered.

The Confederates burned supplies to keep them out of Union hands. After they fled, the fires spread out of control.

Davis and his Cabinet fled on a train. The Confederate rail system had deteriorated so badly it took 18 hours for the train to reach Danville, 140 miles away.

Davis had bee a war wounded Colonel during the Mexican War who served in Congress. He had refused to leave military service after being wounded. He served as President Franklin Pierce’s Secretary of War, when he argued for the U.S. conquering  the continent. He was then elected to the Senate. Davis believed in white racial supremacy. Throughout the 1850s he opposed the South succeeding from the Union David stayed in the Senate until his state of Alabama voted to succeed His farewell speech was notable and helped the Confederacy decide to elect Davis as President by acclamation.

On April 4, 1865, Lincoln advised that the Union “let ‘em up easy” in dealing with Southerners. Davis called for “a fresh defiance.”

Lincoln used the Confederate White House that Davis just fled to negotiate peace with Richmond residents.

Lee had only a few thousand soldiers remaining, was outnumbered 5 to 1, and faced dwindling supplies. His troops were surrounded. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses Grant. Grant allowed Lee’s soldiers to return home with their horses. None were taken prisoner nor charged with treason.

Learning of the surrender of Lee, Davis fled Danville. Davis declined to take advice that he flee the nation. He continued seeking a means to continue fighting. He moved to Greensboro and then fled there. He did so unaware the Lincoln had been assassinated Davis did not know of the plot even though many theorized he was behind the murder.

A 1,600 mile train route of carrying Lincoln’s body in an open coffin was planned.

Davis arrived in Charlotte and met with with little enthusiasm. North Carolina had sent the second largest number of soldiers behind Virginia to the Confederate cause. Many had died Only one person allowed Davis to go inside her house. Davis learned of Lincoln’s death. It was feared this would intensity Northern hostilities towards the Confederacy. It was also believed Lincoln would have treated Southern states better than would President Andrew Johnson.

Lincoln’s funeral train was met along the route with many spontaneous public displays of grief. Former Rep. Job Stevenson gave a memorial address in Columbus where he called for vengeance against the South.

Anti-Confederacy sentiment rose among many Northerners. Hundreds of people were beaten or killed for making anti-Lincoln or pro-Confederate statements. Hundreds were arrested for many types of suspicion of being involved in Lincoln;s death, including the owners of the Ford Theatre where Lincoln was shot. The Lincoln Funeral Train was met, though,with a majority speaking of reconciliation.

President Johnson announced a reward for the arrests of Confederate leaders. The reward for arresting Davis was $100,000.

Lincoln had considered capturing Davis to be of little significance. The capturing of Davis became important and a large hunt for Davis begun. After an initial hunt for assassin John Wilkes Booth ended with Booth’s death, attention was focused on finding Davis Davis was captured in Irwinsville, Ga.

War Secretary Edward Stanton refused to allow the clothing that Davis wore when captured be put on display. Stanton wanted to not dispel a popular rumor that Davis was trying to escape dressed as a woman.

Davis was shackled in prison, a process he resisted. News of this leaked to the press. Stanton ordered the shackles removed.

National sympathy was against mistreating Davis in prison. There were fears executing Davis would turn him into a martyr. Davis was released on $100,000 bail, with much of it paid for by abolitionists and Union supporters.

Davis refused to reenter politics, for to do so would require his signing a loyalty oath and make an admission his cause had been wrong. He became President of the Carolina Life Insurance Company at $12,000 annual pay, half what he earned as Confederate President. Davis wrote defensively of the Confederate cause in articles and a two volume book. He died in 1893. A funeral train took his body from New Orleans to Richmond. Sympathizers gathered along the train’s route.


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