No uch Consent Can Ever Be Given ~ February 1865~ 15th to 16th

No Such Consent Can Ever Be Given


The angry governor of Georgia calls on the state legislature for action as he verbally attacks the administration in Richmond and denies that the Confederacy can legally take slaves into the army. A Tennessee newspaper observes the reticence of white people to see black soldiers in the Union army. Heavy fighting continues in South Carolina. A Richmond newspaper sarcastically criticizes civilians who claim to know better than generals. A friend of Walt Whitman prepares a box to send to Whitman’s brother George in a Southern prison camp. Neither Whitman nor his friend yet know that George has been released and is arriving at Anapolis Maryland.

Federal cavalry

Federal cavalry

February 15– Wednesday– Congree Creek, South Carolina; Savannah Creek, South Carolina; Bate’s Ferry, South Carolina; Red Bank Creek, South Carolina; near Lexington, South Carolina– Heavy skirmishing fails to stop the Federal advance.

Macon, Georgia~ circa 1900

Macon, Georgia~ circa 1900

February 15– Wednesday– Macon, Georgia– “Since your adjournment in November, the army of invasion, led by a bold and skillful General, have passed through our State, laid waste our fields, burned many dwelling houses, destroyed county records, applied the torch to [cotton] gin-houses, cotton, and other property, occupied and desecrated the capitol, and now hold the city of Savannah, which gives them a water base from which they may in future operate upon the interior of the State. The army of Tennessee, which contained a large number of Georgia troops, and was relied on as the only barrier to Sherman’s advance, the removal of which left Georgia at the mercy of the enemy, was ordered off beyond the Tennessee river upon a campaign which has terminated in disaster. In the midst of these misfortunes Georgia has been taunted by some of the public journals of other States because her people did not drive back and destroy the army of the enemy. Those who do us this injustice fail to state the well known fact that of all the tens of thousands of veteran infantry, including most of the vigor and manhood of the State, which she had furnished for Confederate service, but a single regiment (the Georgia Regulars,) of about three hundred effective men, was permitted to be upon her soil during the march of General Sherman from her North-western border to the city of Savannah; and even that gallant regiment was kept upon one of our islands most of the time; and not permitted to unite with those who met the enemy. Nor were the places of our absent sons filled by troops from other States. . . . The administration, by its unfortunate policy having wasted our strength and reduced our armies, and being unable to get freemen into the field as conscripts, and unwilling to accept them in organizations with officers of their own choice, will, it is believed, soon resort to the policy of filling them up by the conscription of slaves. I am satisfied that we may profitably use slave labor, so far as it can be spared from agriculture, to do menial service in connection with the army, and thereby enable more free white men to take up arms; but I am quite sure any attempt to arm the slaves will be a great error. If we expect to continue the war successfully, we are obliged to have the labor of most of them in the production of provisions. But if this difficulty were surmounted, we can not rely upon them as soldiers. They are now quietly serving us at home, because they do not wish to go into the army, and they fear, if they leave us, the enemy will put them there. If we compel them to take up arms, their whole feeling and conduct will change, and they will leave us by thousands. A single proclamation by President Lincoln that all who will desert us after they are forced into service, and go over to him, shall have their freedom, be taken out of the army, and permitted to go into the country in his possession, and receive wages for their labor would disband them by brigades. Whatever may be our opinion of their normal condition or their true interest, we can not expect them, if they remain with us, to perform deeds of heroic valor, when they are fighting to continue the enslavement of their wives and children. It is not reasonable for us to demand it of them, and we have little cause to expect the blessings of Heaven upon our efforts if we compel them to perform such a task. If we are right, and Providence designed them for slavery, He did not intend that they should be a military people. Whenever we establish the fact that they are a military race, we destroy our whole theory that they are unfit to be free. But it is said we should give them their freedom in case of their fidelity to our cause in the field; in other words, that we should give up slavery, as well as our personal liberty and State sovereignty, for independence, and should set all our slaves free if they will aid us to achieve it. . . . When we arm the slaves, we abandon slavery. We can never again govern them as slaves, and make the institution profitable to ourselves or to them, after tens of thousands of them have been taught the use of arms . . . . It can never be admitted by the State that the Confederate Government has any power directly or indirectly to abolish slavery. The provision in the Constitution which by implication authorizes the Confederate Government to take private property for public use only, authorizes the use of the property during the existence of the emergency which justifies the taking. . . . So the Government may impress slaves to do the labor of servants, as to fortify a city, if it cannot obtain them by contract, and it is bound to pay the owner just hire for the time it uses them. But the impressment can vest no title to the slave in the Government for a longer period than the emergency requires the labor. It has not the shadow of right to impress and pay for a slave to set him free. The moment it ceases to need his labor the use reverts to the owner who has the title. If we admit the right of the Government to impress and pay for slaves to free them we concede its power to abolish slavery, and change our domestic institutions at its pleasure, and to tax us to raise the money for that purpose. I am not aware of the advocacy of such a monstrous doctrine in the old Congress by any one of the more rational class of abolitionists. It certainly never found an advocate in any Southern statesman. No slave can ever be liberated by the Confederate Government without the consent of the States. No such consent can ever be given by this State without a previous alteration of her Constitution. And no such alteration can be made without a convention of her people.” ~ Message from Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown to a special session of the Georgia legislature.

Governor Joseph E Brown

Governor Joseph E Brown

February 15– Wednesday– Knoxville, Tennessee– “Some of our most refined citizens have so great a horror for white officers who stoop to command Negro regiments or brigades, that they say they can’t treat them with respect. Let us look into this matter, and reason a little about the case. These officers are officers of the United States army, and are only doing their duty by obeying their superiors. Our Government has resolved on arming and fighting the Negroes, and in our judgment Negroes are good enough to fight rebels with. And as the fight is about the Negro, it is proper that he should take a hand. But, for years past– forty years of the time we can recollect– monied men of the South have bought up droves of Negroes, put them in irons and driven them through here to the States of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, with the lordly owners on the horses, with large stock, driving whips in hand, occasionally used upon such Negroes as would lag behind. In many instances they have traveled on with the drove in carriages, and on springs, with select mulatto girls, to take care of them during their absence from home! In many instances, when the have sold these girls for the money they have sold their own offsprings and relatives! When these traders have been successful and made fortunes, man and families have taken them into their houses, treated with great deference, and recognized them as fit associates, who now turn up their noses in derision at an officer who will consent to command Negroes ! What inconsistent creatures we are!” ~ Brownlow’s Whig and Independent Journal and Rebel Ventilator.


February 16– Thursday– New York City– “The operations against the City of Charleston itself are of a very complex character; but perfect success has crowned each of the separate movements. The rebels give us news to-day of two new operations, both of which were successes. We effected a landing on Friday last upon James Island, and the rebels say we are here within two miles of the City of Charleston, the cradle of secession, where the war was begun, and which we had given up expecting to capture till its final close. Our transports and troops have also ascended the North Edisto [River], have crossed to the main land, established themselves near by on the railroad, and can thus move upon the city’s flank, maintaining all the time communications with the seaboard, and finally cooperating with the forces on James Island. Every one knows, also, that for operations against Charleston, we have, beside the army, a very powerful fleet under Admiral Dahlgren, from whom naval officers and General Sherman himself expects much. The people of the North are not extravagant in expecting every hour to hear of the capture of the city; but it would be a victory doubly worthy of Sherman if he should capture with it the forces of the dodging [Confederate General] Hardee.” ~ New York Times.

February 16– Thursday– New York City– “On the receipt of your favor of the 26th ult., I arranged with Captain Walton for the sending of a box to our dear and brave boys at the Danville Military Prison. And to-day I am having a box put up which will start tomorrow. Captain Wright does not think the boxes will ever reach our boys– but this shall not prevent my trying to get them things to keep the breath of life in them, and to cheer them up. Of the articles you enumerate, I omitted tobacco, fearing it could perfume and render the food impalatable [sic]. I added desiccated vegetables in its stead. It is about time you heard from the first box you sent. Have you? If the accounts in the papers are correct, we ought to have the boys back again before long. I hope their turn for [prisoner] exchange will come first.” ~ Letter from Elliot F. Shepard to Walt Whitman.

George Whitman

George Whitman

February 16– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– “The Confederacy is blessed with a great number of ‘Street-Corner Generals.’ They plan a campaign with sagacity, elaborate the various combinations with care and patience, and conduct it invariably to a successful, and even brilliant, conclusion. Their extensive military information, strong reasoning faculties, and decision and energy of tone and manner, never fail to cheer us with the hope that our country has yet in reserve an amount of military genius which, in the last extremity, will prove her salvation. We never fail to derive information and advantage from the criticisms of these Generals in Reserve on the other Generals now in the field. We always like to hear men talking on any subject which their previous education has not prepared them to comprehend. It shows original genius and vigor of understanding to grasp and master in an instant sciences which other men have only been able to subjugate by long years of study. . . . We long for the time when the merits of the Street-Corner Generals will be properly appreciated by their Government, and our armies be placed under their direct supervision and control. We have had too much of West Point in this war. It is high time that the volunteer genius of the country should burst the cords that hold it to the earth, and, with three armies and a hopeful nation on its back, soar aloft.” ~ Richmond Times Dispatch

February 16– Thursday– outside Petersburg, Virginia– “We have had a lively time today, both sides doing their best to shell out the other. On the 9th Corp front, to the right of our line, the air has been full of shot and shell and the roar of canon has been heard all day. All quiet on our front however. Our Rebel neighbors are good natured.” ~ Diary of Elisha Hunt Rhodes.

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