While the enslavement of African people was undoubtedly one of the central features of the Southern economy for nearly two centuries, it shouldn’t be forgotten that slavery thrived in all of the original colonies. Enslaved people were auctioned openly in the Market House of Philadelphia, in the shadow of Congregational churches in Rhode Island, in Boston taverns and warehouses and weekly, sometimes daily, in Merchant’s Coffee House of New York. At some point in their lives, such American “heroes” as John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln (when he was a child his family enslaved people) and William Henry Seward – Lincoln’s anti-slavery secretary of state during the Civil War – owned Black people. These are some of the features of slavery in the North you probably didn’t know.
Posts Tagged With: South
Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee wrote this week 150 years ago in the Civil War to the president of the Confederacy as his battered army continued its recovery from defeat at Gettysburg. Both North and South had experienced heavy bloodletting in the fight and were bidding to regroup after what would turn out to be the pivotal battle of the war. In a letter dated July 31, 1863, Lee told Confederate President Jefferson Davis that the adverse turn of events at Gettysburg for the South cannot be blamed on anyone but himself. “No blame can be attached to the army for its failure to accomplish what was projected by me, nor should it be censured for the unreasonable expectations of the public. I am alone to blame, in perhaps expecting too much of its prowess & valour,” Lee wrote Davis. In the same letter, Lee added: “Our loss has been heavy, that of the enemy’s proportionally so.” And he concluded that his plan could have worked if all the elements of his war strategy had come together as expected: I still think if all things could have worked together it would have been accomplished.” Many letters were going back and forth between Davis and Lee at this point in the war, with Davis at the time promising to rapidly furnish more fighters for the badly depleted Army of Northern Virginia.
A contemporary description.
In building our cabin it was set north and south; my brother used my father’s pocket-compass on the occasion, for we had no idea of living in a house that did not stand square with the earth itself. This showed our ignorance of the comforts and conveniences of a pioneer life. The position of the house, end to the hill, necessarily elevated the lower end, and the determination to have both a north and south door, added much to the airiness of the house, particularly after the green ash puncheons had shrunk so as to leave cracks in the floor and doors from one to two inches wide. At both the doors we had high, unsteady, and sometimes icy steps, made by piling up the logs cut out of the wall. We had a window, if it could be called a window, when, perhaps, it was the largest spot in the top, bottom, or sides of the cabin at which the wind could not enter. It was made by sawing out a log, and placing sticks across; and then, by pasting an old newspaper over the hole, and applying some hog’s lard, we had a kind of glazing which shed a most beautiful and mellow light across the cabin when the sun shone on it. All other light entered at the doors, cracks, and chimney.
Our cabin was twenty-four feet by eighteen. The west end was occupied by two beds, the center of each side by a door, and here our symmetry had to stop, for on the side opposite the window were our shelves, made of clapboards, supported on pins driven into the logs. Upon these shelves my sister displayed, in ample order, a host of pewter plates, basins, dishes, and spoons, scoured and bright. It was none of your new-fangled pewter made of lead, but the best of London pewter, which our father himself bought of the manufacturer. These were the plates upon which you could hold your meat so as to cut it without slipping and without dulling your knife. But, alas! the days of pewter plates and sharp dinner knives have passed away.
To return to our internal arrangements. A ladder of five rounds occupied the corner near the window. By this, when we got a floor above, we could ascend. Our chimney occupied most of the east end; there were pots and kettles opposite the window under the shelves, a gun on hooks over the north door, four split-bottom chairs, three three-legged stools, and a small eight by ten looking-glass sloped from the wall over a large towel and combcase. Our list of furniture was increased by a clumsy shovel and a pair of tongs, made with one shank straight, which was a certain source of pinches and blood blisters. We had also a spinning-wheel and such things as were necessary to work it. It was absolutely necessary to have three-legged stools, as four legs of anything could not all touch the floor at the same time.
The completion of our cabin went on slowly. The season was inclement, we were weak-handed and weak-pocketed—in fact laborers were not to be had. We got our chimney up breast high as soon as we could, and got our cabin daubed as high as the joists outside. It never was daubed on the inside, for my sister, who was very nice, could not consent to “live right next to mud.” My impression now is, that the window was not constructed till spring, for until the sticks and clay were put on the chimney we could have no need of a window; for the flood of light which always poured into the cabin from the fireplace would have extinguished our paper window, and rendered it as useless as the moon at noonday.
We got a floor laid overhead as soon as possible, perhaps in a month; but when finished, the reader will readily conceive of its imperviousness to wind or weather, when we mention that it was laid of loose clapboards split from red oak, the stump of which may be seen beyond the cabin. That tree must have grown in the night, for it was so twisting that each board lay on two diagonally opposite corners; and a cat might have shaken every board on our ceiling.
It may be well to inform the unlearned reader that “clapboards” are such lumber as pioneers split throughout; they resemble barrel-staves before they are shaved, but are split longer, wider, and thinner; of such our roof and ceiling were composed. “Puncheons” are planks made by splitting logs to about two and a half or three inches in thickness, and hewing them on one or both sides with the broadax; of such our floor, doors, tables, and stools were manufactured. The “eave-bearers” are those end logs which project over to receive the butting poles, against which the lower tier of clapboards rest to form the roof. The “trapping” is the roof timbers, composing the gable end and the ribs. The “trap logs” are those of unequal length above the eave-bearers, which form the gable ends, and upon which the ribs rest. The “weight poles” are small logs laid on the roof, which weigh down the course of clapboards on which they lie, and against which the course above is placed. The “knees” are pieces of heart timber placed above the butting poles, successively, to prevent the weight poles from rolling off.
Richard Samuel Kimberlin.
Not one liberal Northern writer has ever mentioned Kimberlin’s plight and only a very few Southern writers have ever attempted to make even a cursory notation of the atrocity visited on his family.The Kimberlin family lived in Blue Springs in 1852 having come from the small town of Texas in Washington County, Kentucky. The father’s name was Samuel Kimberlin Sr. Records indicate that a few years prior to the Civil War he moved his family to Blue Springs, Jackson County, Missouri, bringing his slaves with him. The reason he moved was because he had a contract to haul freight in 1856 from Missouri to the government posts out west. In an 1856 family letter Kimberlin said he had heard of old John Brown but “he did not then molest the freighters, for they were well armed. He sent his jayhawkers into the State of Missouri, where most of his depredations were.” There were five Kimberlin brothers: twenty-one year old Isaiah Jeremiah, eighteen-year-old William Grant, sixteen-year-old Richard Samuel Kimberlin II, fourteen-year-old Robert K, and twelve-year-old Julian N. Below is an image of four of the Kimberlin brothers, likely taken at one of the reunions they hosted. Standing in order starting from the left are Isaiah J. Kimberlin, William G. Kimberlin, Richard S. Kimberlin and Julian N. Kimberlin.
ody border conflict of the Civil War. This month the website officers are proud to present Richard Samuel Kimberlin. Not one liberal Northern writer has ever mentioned Kimberlin’s plight and only a very few Southern writers have ever attempted to make even a cursory notation of the atrocity visited on his family.The Kimberlin family lived in Blue Springs in 1852 having come from the small town of Texas in Washington County, Kentucky. The father’s name was Samuel Kimberlin Sr. Records indicate that a few years prior to the Civil War he moved his family to Blue Springs, Jackson County, Missouri, bringing his slaves with him. The reason he moved was because he had a contract to haul freight in 1856 from Missouri to the government posts out west. In an 1856 family letter Kimberlin said he had heard of old John Brown but “he did not then molest the freighters, for they were well armed. He sent his jayhawkers into the State of Missouri, where most of his depredations were.” There were five Kimberlin brothers: twenty-one year old Isaiah Jeremiah, eighteen-year-old William Grant, sixteen-year-old Richard Samuel Kimberlin II, fourteen-year-old Robert K, and twelve-year-old Julian N. Below is an image of four of the Kimberlin brothers, likely taken at one of the reunions they hosted. Standing in order starting from the left are Isaiah J. Kimberlin, William G. Kimberlin, Richard S. Kimberlin and Julian N. Kimberlin. During the fall of 1862, once the leaves had fallen denying him concealment from roving enemy patrols Quantrill took his company south into Van Buren, Arkansas. With Quantrill’s aid the Southerners along the border had just won three successive victories at the First Battle of Independence, Lone Jack and White Oak Creek besides numerous other skirmishes at Shawneetown, Kansas and Wellington, Missouri. While Quantrill’s company had attached themselves as independent cavalry to Colonel Benjamin Elliott’s Battalion in General John S. Marmaduke’s division Quantrill received leave from his brigade commander General Joseph O. Shelby to travel to Richmond, Virginia to seek a colonel’s commission of partisan rangers. He left his company in command of his adjutant, Lieutenant William Gregg. Before his return to Jackson County in early May 1863 Kansas Jayhawkers and Federal militia wreaked havoc during their barbaric raids and patrols through the Missouri countryside. Almost as soon as the Federals learned that Quantrill had gone south Union atrocities increased. Guerrilla Harrison Trow reported: “In mid-winter houses were burned by the hundreds and whole neighborhoods devastated and laid waste.” Another guerrilla, Frank Smith recalled that the winter of 1863 was very severe in Jackson County after Quantrill’s men left. “Redlegs began to dash over the border into Jackson and Cass Counties and rob. They plundered Jackson and Cass Counties, and a great deal of that was conducted by Col. William Penick’s men and the jayhawkers stationed in Independence until Penick’s men came to be known by the name “Penick’s Thieves.” Colonel William Ridgeway Penick was commander of the Fifth Missouri State Militia stationed in Independence. Penick was described as rough and uneducated. He was a radical Unionist who placed a price on the heads of the guerrillas. He stated that the guerrilla problem could be wiped out “if hemp, fire, and gunpowder were freely used.” Penick made it a standard practice to assassinate anyone who was suspected of being in sympathy with the guerrillas. Below is an image of Colonel William Ridgeway Penick. On Friday, October 4, 1862 just across the river in Lexington, Kansas Redlegs burned several houses and killed seven men after plundering what they could carry off. The next night, near Lexington, they rode up to John McPhadon’s house after dark and demanded he accompany them. McPhadon’s two daughters were in the house. Redlegs dragged McPhadon a few yards from his house and murdered him. His “crime” was that he had two sons in the Confederate army. Jayhawkers also raided the newspaper offices of the Lexington Expositor and stole its presses. Another newspaper the Lexington Express had already been closed by military order. From a neighboring county, Willard Mendenhall wrote in his diary, “The Redlegs had killed about fifty men in this neighborhood in the last few days.” Much had changed during the time the guerrillas had been out of the state. Federal authorities began to demand loyalty oaths and security bonds from Southern sympathizers to guarantee their good behavior as well as assessments from suspected Secessionists. Loyalty oaths were an important weapon against Missourians. Anyone with an important job was required to sign an oath. In effect, it demanded the signer to vow to support the Constitution and not to take up arms against the Federal government. If a person was found in arms who had previously taken the oath, he was immediately executed. Missourians were required later to post bonds in conjunction with their oaths. These bonds usually ranged from two thousand to twenty thousand dollars, depending on the property owned by the individual. Yet all it took to revoke the bond and confiscate the money was for a neighbor to accuse the oath taker of disloyalty. On April 23, 1863, the Kansas City Journal announced that the Federal provost marshal general held bonds of “traitors and secessionists” to the amazing sum of twenty million dollars. This government practice was little more than extortion, because people who did not post the requisite loyalty bond were forced from their homes or imprisoned. Once incarcerated, these people had no legal rights, since the Lincoln administration had rescinded most constitutional rights. Corruption was rife in administering the bonds, and many bond funds were seized with little provocation. The bond subterfuge was essentially an artful program of highway robbery. Union Gen. Clinton Fisk remarked on the corrupt provost marshals in his district: “I have the honor to state that it has come to my knowledge that many persons have been arrested and imprisoned for a long time by some of your subordinates upon evidence insufficient to warrant the military authorities restraining citizens of their liberty. Great care should be exercised in the use of arbitrary power confided to provost marshals, and we cannot be too cautious in receiving as truth the statements of apparently good men who seek through the military power the punishment of neighbors for alleged offenses, old grudges, local animosities, and private griefs, to frequently seek adjustment through the military arm of power, much to the scandal and prejudice of honesty and loyalty.” Provisional Governor Hamilton Gamble wired President Lincoln that he had stopped assessments by state militia officers and urged that they not be made by U.S. forces as “great distress is produced.” The Missouri congressional delegation on January 6, 1863, presented the president with a memo asking that the assessments be stopped. Nevertheless, many Union commanders levied assessments because they believed they were a constraint on Southern sympathizers. One Union general who did not condone these assessments was John M. Schofield. He informed the president that in counties along the border Gen. Samuel R. Curtis had confiscated Southern property “without any form of trial known to any law, either civil or military.” Futhermore, Curtis’s General Order No. 35 ordered his provost marshals to banish people “though no specific act of disloyalty can be proven against them.” Citizens were considered disloyal simply by letting Confederate soldiers drink from their wells or giving forage to their horses. The steps the Federal government took to put down guerrilla warfare were excessive and intolerant. The list when viewed shows the absence of any kind of respect for civil rights, any compassion for innocent civilians, and a complete lack of disregard for the rules of war. Some are as follows: 1. Hang or shoot all suspected guerrillas or Southern sympathizers on the spot without benefit of trial. 2. Seize all property of guerrilla soldiers or suspected guerrilla sympathizers. 3. Burn and destroy homes, livestock, and property of all guerrillas and their sympathizers. 4. Refuse the right to vote or hold civil office for any Southern sympathizers or those who refuse to take a loyalty oath. 5. Level loyalty bonds against Southern sympathizers to guarantee their nonsupport of guerrilla activity, then find excuses to accuse them of disloyalty so their property can be seized and sold for profit. 6. Refuse the right of military pardons or paroles or exchanges of guerrilla soldiers as afforded to regular army soldiers. 7. Seize guerrillas’ relatives for imprisonment or banishment from the state. 8. Deny all guerrillas and their sympathizers Constitutional rights when captured as afforded prisoners of war. 9. Seize suspected disloyal citizens and imprison them without benefit of trial or a reading of the charges brought against them in accordance with constitutional law, thus denying the writ of habeas corpus. 10. Deny Southern sympathizers the right to freedom of religion by forcing compulsory prayers in support of the President of the United States and the Federal government. 11. Force citizens in the vicinity of guerrilla activity that results in destruction of property to pay for repairs and to contribute hard labor to repair destroyed property. 12. Use of noncombatants for human shields while on dangerous military operations not in accordance with the rules of war. A small group of Quantrill’s men remained behind during the winter in order to take care of their families who had been driven from their homes and had their lives devastated. The winter of 1862–63 was unusually cold, and snow covered the ground most of the time. It was a dangerous season for the guerrillas to try to hide. John McBride, a resident and a Union spy, informed Colonel Penick that he could lead Union soldiers to a guerrilla hideout five miles south of Independence. As a result, on February 7 a Federal patrol surrounded a camp of twelve guerrillas in Jackson County and, after a brief skirmish, captured nine of them. The orders from the Union commander were explicit in this matter, and the prisoners were immediately shot. Colonel Penick in Independence put every man he had in the saddle to try to bring Quantrill’s remaining men to bay. He murdered any Southern sympathizers he could find and burned their homes, forcing them to leave the country and drying up the guerrillas’ base of civilian support. While on patrol six miles south of Independence, Penick sought out and killed Wallace Wigginton, a brother to guerrilla George Wigginton. In the aftermath of the killing, the Federals also took the opportunity to steal all the families’ belongings. In late January 1863, Penick sent a patrol from Independence to burn down thirteen houses of Southern sympathizers along with the Baptist church in Oak Grove.Lieutenant Coleman Younger who had remained behind to take care of his mother and younger siblings saw his mother’s home burned down in the middle of winter. The day after the burning of the Younger home the same band of Federals torched the home of Cole Younger’s maternal grandmother, Mary L. “Polly” Fristoe, and that of her neighbor, Mrs. Rucker, both of Brooking Township. In Pleasant Hill Dr. Pleasant Lea, father of guerrilla Joseph and Frank Lea had been arrested, tied to a tree and bayoneted to death. Federals also arrested Moses Kerr, father of guerrilla Nathan Kerr. He was taken to Independence, sent back to his home, but before he could get there, he was tied to a tree and shot to pieces. Three of guerrilla Jim Cummins’ family was killed as well as the eleven-year-old son of Henry Morris. Eighty-year-old Howell Lewis was killed along with David Gregg an uncle of Lieutenant William Gregg shot by Jennison himself. Below is an image of Lieutenant William Gregg. Two other elderly farmers from Blue Springs had been murdered during Quantrill’s absence, seventy-year old Jeptha Crawford and seventy-three year old John Saunders. Both had been arrested and taken from their homes on orders from Colonel Penick. Saunders was taken to Independence and shot in front of the house of the Federal commander. Penick’s men then rode to Saunders home and burned it to the ground. Crawford was arrested away from his home then taken back on horseback. He was told to dismount then shot down in cold blood in front of his wife and small children. The Federals then forced Mrs. Crawford and her children from their home and set it ablaze. On November 8, 1862 one of Quantrill’s closest friends, fifty-one year old Samuel Kimberlin Sr. was arrested by Federals from Independence, taken to his barn and hung then the barn burned down around him. Kimberlin had a wife and six children. He had taken no side in rebellion and there were no specific charges against him. Guerrilla Harrison Trow who was with Quantrill at the time described the circumstances surrounding the murder. “Colonel Pennick’s men came from Independence down to Blue Springs and burned houses, killed old men too old to be in the service. On the road from Blue Springs to Independence they killed John Saunders and a man named Kimberlin, both old men, and left them lying in the roadway. If neighbors had not offered their services the hogs would have eaten their bodies. They burned from two to twelve houses and left the families homeless. The murder of peaceful citizens deeply troubled Quantrill. Frank Smith claimed that after these killings the old men of the region were afraid to be seen out in the daylight and young boys also went into hiding. Probably many other Jackson County boys joined the guerrillas out of desperation and self-preservation and because they had little other alternatives.” When Quantrill returned to Jackson County in the spring the five Kimberlin brothers, joined Quantrill. Official records indicate that William G. Kimberlin joined Quantrill’s Brigade as a sergeant in Shank’s Regiment riding in Captain Tuck Hill’s company. Isaiah J. Kimberlin also served in Company D, Shank’s Regiment as a private. At one time he was a Southern spy based in Arkansas. He was captured near Sedalia, Missouri but managed to dig himself out of prison the night before he was to be shot. After Richard Samuel Kimberlin joined Quantrill he joined General Sterling Price as a captain in Company D of the 2nd Missouri Cavalry Regiment in Shelby’s Brigade. He transferred to Stonewall Jackson’s command and remained with him until Jackson’s death. Kimberlin was at Appomattox. Julian N. Kimberlin joined Quantrill in the fall of 1862 and served in Company D, 2nd Missouri Cavalry; in General Shelby’s Brigade and remained with him until the end of the war. Julian said that the family lived about three miles from the Morgan Walker farm where Quantrill first gained notoriety. After the foiled Jayhawker attack on Walker Julian said that he assisted in burying the dead attackers. Julian goes on to say that “My father and four brothers went out early in the defense of the South. I was too young at that time, but remained at the home and did all that I was able to for Quantrill. Father was severely wounded.” He goes on to tell about how his father came home to heal. During the autumn of 1862 his father was tricked by a neighbor named Massey, sent by a Colonel “Pennock” to come to town and sign a paper saying he would not take up arms against the Union. When he did, he was arrested, taken to his own barn and was hanged in front of his wife and the younger children. The home was stripped, as was the barn, then the home, barn and rail fencing was all burned to the ground. Richard Samuel Kimberlin and his brothers decided to remain in Texas after the war and organize Confederate Veteran Camps in the Panhandle of Texas. He also organized three Quantrill men reunions. They were held in Sherman and Clarendon, Texas and Chickasaw, Oklahoma. Kimberlin said that “We ask no praise or credit for doing our duty. We owed it to our homes and to our country, and we are satisfied that no man can truthfully say that we did not `fight a good fight,’ always keeping the faith that we were right. I entertain a sacred respect for those who were honest in their convictions, but we still hold and will die with a death grip of hatred for the men who shed innocent blood and destroyed the home of my sainted father.” Richard Samuel Kimberlin died the first week in December 1932 in Santa Ana, California at the age of 89. Below is an image of of Richard Samuel Kimberlin.Article submitted by Paul R. Petersen– 2009 quantrillguerrillas.com”Permission should be requested and agreed to before using this or copyrighted essay and/or image.” References: Quantrill of Missouri and Quantrill in Texas by Paul R. Petersen.Frank Smith Manuscript in collection of Paul R. Petersen.A True Story of Charles W. Quantrell by Harrison Trow.Jacob Hall Family Papers, Jackson County Historical Society.Reminiscences of the Women of Missouri During the Sixties by the UDC.Confederate Veteran magazine, Vol 20.Kansas City Star Aug, 29, 1920 .
The K. G. C.—A Few Remarks Thereon.
A society of the K. G. C., or Knights of the Golden Circle, will be formed in this city at an early day. The originators of this mystic order were certain military characters who resided in Lexington, Kentucky—the spring of 1854 being the date of its organization. The first object of the organization was to cultivate a martial spirit among the people of the South. The second object was to have a military organization in the South fully capable of defending our social and political rights from all assaults from our enemies at home and abroad. The past history and present aspects of our political affairs seemed to demand that an organization such as the K. G. C., fully armed and equipped and officered, was absolutely necessary. The order has steadily grown until now it numbers nearly forty thousand members, who are scattered over the Southern States of the Union, and the Northern States of Mexico. No society of the kind has in this country combined such an amount of talent, resources or numbers as has this. If we understand correctly, the present object of the K. G. C., is the invasion of Mexico. It is well known, that in this distracted country a cruel war has raged with scarce an intermission, for the past ten years. The country has been weakened by these intestine feuds; agriculture, commerce and manufacture have languished and the Mexican people have groaned under the oppression and tyranny of rival chieftains. At the present time there are two parties in Mexico, contending for the supremacy of the government. On the one hand stands the church party, with Miramon as their leader. On the other hand stands the liberal party, with Juarez as their leader. Our Minister to Mexico, Mr. McLane, has recently made a treaty with Juarez, which will be one of vast benefit to our government. Our government has already recognized the Liberal party as being the government of Mexico. The K. G. C.’s have already espoused the cause of the Liberals, and we are informed that it is their fixed determination to place it at the head of the Mexican Government, and thus aid them in restoring peace and harmony to a distracted country and an oppressed people. Our citizens will be addressed shortly on the subject of armed intervention in the affairs of Mexico, by one of the most distinguished of the “Knights of the Golden Circle,” when we hope to see a large turn out. We speak what we know, or, as Hamlet would say, “by the Card,” on this subject. The statements we have made in this connection have been derived from parties who are perfectly reliable and who are entitled to respectful consideration. Long live the K. G. C.’s—Vicksburg Sun.
Secret organizations seem to be the order of the times:
The K. G. C.
We observe a call for the K. G. C.’s to meet at the hall over the Carrollton R. R. Depot, on this evening, at 7 o’clock. In conjunction with this call we observe that many of the leading members of this organization are now in our city. Gen. Bickley, the Commander-in-Chief, Col. Temple and Surgeon Semple, are at the St. Louis Hotel; Gen. Greer, who is well-known as one of our bravest Volunteer Colonels from Mississippi during the recent war, and who now commands a division of the K. G. C., together with Major Richardson, one of his staff-officers, and Col. H. C. Young, of Memphis, who commands the First Tennessee Regiment are at the City Hotel; while others, as Captain Scott and Lieutenant Breese, are at the Merchants’; Captain Gay, the wagon-master, is at the “Texas Home;” and still many others of note and character are at the St. Charles, or quartered with private friends in the city. Besides, there are hundreds of our own citizens in hourly contact with these gentlemen, so that one cannot but inquire, “What’s in the wind?”
As our readers must feel some interest in whatever is likely to create excitement we feel ourselves justified in making the following statement respecting this powerful organization, from sources of information, which, from the character of the parties from whom we have derived it, we deem worthy of respectful consideration. The K. G. C., or “Knights of the Golden Circle,” was organized in 1854, more to cultivate the martial spirit of our people, than anything else; since then it has steadily grown, until now it numbers over 30,000 members, who are scattered over the Southern States, and holding within its charmed circle many of our most influential men and best soldiers. No organization of the kind has in this country ever combined so much talent with such immense financial resources, and under the present aspect of political affairs, we do not deem it too much to say that the whole nation may soon become deeply interested in the ultimate labors of the K. G. C.
It is generally understood that the K. G. C. are preparing to operate in the broad field which civil war has opened in Mexico to American enterprise and industry, and the first thought of the great public is that it is to be a grand “filibuster” operation, destined to meet the same reverses which have befallen all similar expeditions. But, for our part, if our information in the main be correct, the gentlemen who stand at the head of the movement are of an entirely different intellectual calibre from those whom we have heretofore seen directing these military operations. If we were allowed to guess, we should say that these gentlemen are about embarking in a scheme not unlike that in which Lafayette, Kosciusco, DeKalb, and their compatriots so generously engaged in when we were striving to shake off the shackles of British despotism; and we are assured that it is their steady determination to place the “Liberal” or Juarez party in the full and peaceful occupation of the City of Mexico, and thus prove to the world that Americans will never refuse to other struggling peoples the aid so opportunely rendered us by the French in 1777. This noble work is one that we have frequently advocated, and the necessity of which is truly felt by the masses in this country, as well as of the Republic of Mexico. We say God speed to the K. G. C.! Should they fail, they will have fallen in a noble cause.
Robert E. May’s The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire, 1854-1861 recounts the story of the South’s vision of Manifest Destiny in the 1850s.
In the 1840s, the United States under President John Tyler and James K. Polk annexed Texas, went to war with Mexico, acquired California and the American Southwest, and settled the Oregon Question with Great Britain.
From 1848 to 1851, the North and South fought over the spoils of Western expansion in Congress – a polarizing contest over the admission of California as a free state ended with the Compromise of 1850 and nearly brought about disunion.
For half a century, the North and South had expanded west across the North American continent as equal partners in the Union. The slave states had expanded along with the free states under the terms of the Missouri Compromise.
The admission of California upset the sectional balance of power by admitting a free state south of the parallel 36°30 north. The polarizing debates over the Wilmot Proviso also put the South on notice that elements in the North sought to reserve all future territory to the free states.
In the 1850s, Robert E. May argues that Manifest Destiny became sectionalized over “the extension of slavery”: Northerners attempted to block the addition of new slave states in the West while the South began to nurture its own dream of empire in the Caribbean.
“The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire” intensified after the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the rise of the Republican Party in 1854 with its core Wilmot Proviso doctrine of the non-extension of slavery.
Southerners placed great hopes in three unfulfilled Caribbean acquisitions in the 1850s:
No acquisition was more ardently desired in the South or better illustrates the Caribbean Dream than the long sought acquisition of Cuba which had been expected ever since Thomas Jefferson’s time:
“Occassionally southerners got so carried away by their own rhetoric about Cuba that their prose became erotic: “[Cuba] admires Uncle Sam, and he loves her. Who shall forbid the bans? Matches are made made in heaven, and why not this? Who can object if he throws his arms around the Queen of the Antilles, as she sits, like Cleopatra’s burning throne, upon the silver wares, breathing her spicy, tropics breath, and pouring her rosy, sugared lips? Who can object? She is of age – take her, Uncle Sam!”
Three attempts were made by Southern-controlled presidents to purchase Cuba from Spain: James K. Polk in 1848, Franklin Pierce in 1854, and James Buchanan in 1859.
The 1854 attempt produced the Ostend Manifesto which strongly implied the Pierce administration was willing to go to war with Spain to prevent British-inspired abolition and the Africanization of Cuba.
In 1848 and 1854, the Spanish government refused to sell Cuba. By 1859, Republicans in Congress were strong enough to block the acquisition of Cuba through purchase or war, and Spain was still unwilling to sell anyway.
The Venezuelan filibuster Narciso López cooperated with Southern expansionists in a failed attempt to conquer Cuba for Dixie in 1851. John Quitman, “father of secession,” close ally of Robert Barnwell Rhett, and governor of Mississippi, was even prosecuted in federal court for his involvement in an armed conspiracy to invade Cuba.
Virtually every major political figure in the Lower South in the 1850s – Rhett, Yancey, Davis, Toombs, Stephens, Benjamin and others – supported Cuban annexation which was something of a litmus test issue at the time.
Even Northerners like Stephen Douglas loudly championed Cuban annexation. The 1856 Democratic platform called for American ascendancy in the Gulf of Mexico.
Within Cuba, some planters correctly feared that British pressure upon the Spanish government would bring about the abolition of slavery and the demise of white supremacy, and some of them supported annexation for that reason.
If the sectional controversy over slavery had not put the brakes on American expansion in the 1850s, Cuba would have likely shared the fate of Texas and Florida.
Mexico continued to be a fertile target for Southern expansion well after the Mexican War.
In 1848, President James K. Polk attempted to annex the Republic of Yucatán. The bill passed the House of Representatives only to be defeated in the Senate.
The Gadsden Purchase of 1853 resulted in the acquisition of southern Arizona and southern New Mexico. The original plan would have acquired a huge section of Northern Mexico including Baja California, Baja California Sur, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Sonora, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas.
In 1858, President James Buchanan attempted to purchase Lower California, Sonora, and Chihuahua and establish a protectorate over Northern Mexico – his plan was blocked by Republicans in Congress.
During the War Between the States, Santiago Vidaurri, the governor of Nuevo León and Coahuila petitioned Jefferson Davis for annexation to the Confederacy. This was highly impractical though due to wartime considerations.
In the 1850s, countless private filibusters attempted to conquer parts of Northern Mexico. One such expedition was led by William Walker who invaded Baja California and attempted to annex Sonora before he was repulsed.
The Knights of the Golden Circle, the most colorful of all the antebellum Southern Rights organizations, was a predominantly Texas-based organization that regarded the conquest of Mexico as its primary field of operations.
When Louisiana seceded from the Union in 1861, its commissioners argued that Texas should secede for both states could cooperate in the Southern Confederacy to complete the conquest of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Confederate secret service would attempt to engineer the secession of Veracruz from Mexico a few months later.
Aside from Cuba and Mexico, Nicaragua proved to be the last major target for Southern expansion in the Caribbean in the 1850s.
In this case, Southerners pinned their hopes on William Walker – the “grey eyed man of destiny,” and the most successful filibuster in American history – who conquered Nicaragua in 1855 and restored slavery there in a bid for Southern support for his legitimacy in 1856
Although the U.S. opposed filibustering, arrested Walker, and never seriously considered annexing his shortlived regime, William Walker became a hero in the Lower South and was one of the most well known men of his times.
Walker was a romantic figure who attracted support from Northerners and Southerners alike before he played the slavery card in an attempt to save his regime.
“Thus even his individualism is a mere denial of anything higher, and not an affirming of his own soul. The extraordinary man is the one who puts something else before his own life and security. Even as he faced the firing squad, William Walker could have saved his life by merely renouncing his claim to President of Nicaragua. To the common man, this is insane.”
In 1860, William Walker was executed by a firing squad in Honduras at the age of 36 during his final bid to reconquer Nicaragua. Francis Parker Yockey exalts him above as the embodiment of Faustian man in Imperium although the circumstances of his death were due to more to British resentment of his actions on Ruatan and the Mosquito Coast.
A Dream Deferred
The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire was blocked by Northern Republicans, internal division within the South, resistance from Spain and Mexico, and the outbreak of the War Between the States.
After leaving the Union, Southerners temporarily disavowed their imperial ambitions in a bid for European recognition and support, and to keep Mexico neutral and a useful partner in circumventing the Yankee blockade of the Southern coast.