October, 1863–Lincoln Pleads for Volunteers; Vermont Sends Blacks Back to Africa

By Gary Far­row, Danville His­tor­i­cal Society

Danville’s son, rad­i­cal abo­li­tion­ist con­gress­man Thad­deus Stevens, con­tin­ued his litany of fiery rhetoric exco­ri­at­ing the South and the exas­per­ated Union­ist paper responded.

Octo­ber 3, 1863 Danville North Star

Thad­deus Stevens, of Penn­syl­va­nia, recently made a speech which is reported in the Philadel­phia Press, in which he says, “we must con­quer the South and hold them as con­quered provinces…The Union as it was, and the Con­sti­tu­tion as it is – God for­bid it.

Octo­ber 24, 1863 Danville North Star

Call of the Pres­i­dent for Volunteers

It will be seen that the Pres­i­dent has made another appeal to the coun­try for vol­un­teers, call­ing for an addi­tional force of three hun­dred thou­sand to be enlisted by the 5th of Jan­u­ary; and what­ever vol­un­teers are not obtained by that time, the defi­ciency to be made up by draft­ing. This call for vol­un­teers, says that able Demo­c­ra­tic jour­nal, the Boston Post, “addresses itself to the patri­o­tism and intel­li­gence of the people.”

***

Ear­lier in the year, the Pres­i­dent had called for the draft of thou­sands of sol­diers to replen­ish the Union Army how­ever the ini­tia­tive had spotty results in Ver­mont and many other loyal states. So the call went out in Octo­ber for more vol­un­teers. It’s also impor­tant to note the con­tri­bu­tion black troops made to the over­all war effort.

A recruiting poster for the USCT (United States Colored Troops).

A recruit­ing poster for the USCT (United States Col­ored Troops).

Back in May, Con­gress autho­rized the cre­ation of the “Bureau of Col­ored Troops” enable the recruit­ment of African-American sol­diers for the Union cause. They became known as the United States Col­ored Troops who fought as seg­re­gated units led by white offi­cers. Faced with North­ern racism in its most pejo­ra­tive and con­de­scend­ing form, while con­sid­ered mere live­stock in the South, 178,000 free blacks and ex-slaves would serve in the armed forces over the last two years of the war. They laid their lives on the line by serv­ing in com­bat units to earn their free­dom. By the end of the war, every tenth man was a USCT soldier.

Ver­mont Col­o­niza­tion Society

The American Colonization Society membership certificate.

The Amer­i­can Col­o­niza­tion Soci­ety mem­ber­ship certificate.

 

The Forty-Fourth Anniver­sary of the Soci­ety was held at Brick Church, Mont­pe­lier, Thurs­day evening, Oct 15th , the Pres­i­dent Hon. Daniel Bald­win, in the chair.

Scrip­tures were read and prayers offered by Rev. Piny H. White of Coventry….

Pres­i­dent Larabee of Mid­dle­bury Col­lege then intro­duced Prof. Free­man, of Liberia Col­lege, giv­ing a suc­cinct state­ment of his life in the Col­lege of Mid­dle­bury and labors since…..

THE ADDRESS

We shall not attempt to give our read­ers even a syn­op­sis of the excel­lent address which Prof. Free­man then deliv­ered …partly because one must hear him in order to best appre­ci­ate him.

His sub­ject was, sub­stan­tially, “The best way to ele­vate the African race.”…

His premises were all facts, plain and prin­ci­pled and his con­clu­sions sound and valu­able. In the ques­tion, “What shall be done with the negro?” is involved the wel­fare of two races, our own as well as his. He advo­cated col­o­niza­tion even as the best things for both races. His address, so earnest, sin­cere, pro­found and schol­arly, was lis­tened to with marked atten­tion by the large audience.

Dr. Larabee moved that a con­tri­bu­tion be taken up to aid Prof. Free­man in estab­lish­ing and main­tain­ing his fam­ily in his far off home…

A col­lec­tion was taken up, which yielded the sum of one hun­dred and eight dol­lars and seventy-eight cents, besides some jew­els that were cast into the box … [The Soci­ety] passed a res­o­lu­tion and chose a com­mit­tee under it to peti­tion the Leg­is­la­ture to donate to Liberia Col­lege the Statutes of Ver­mont and var­i­ous annual reports of state offi­cers and of the Supreme Court.

They returned a vote of thanks to Prof. Free­man for his able, inter­est­ing and forcible address. The con­gre­ga­tion was dis­missed with a bene­dic­tion by Dr Larabee.

***

The Ver­mont Col­o­niza­tion Soci­ety was an affil­i­ate of the Amer­i­can Col­o­niza­tion Soci­ety (ACS) that favored free­ing slaves and reset­tling them in Africa under demo­c­ra­tic rule. Mem­bers of the Soci­ety also saw them­selves as mis­sion­ar­ies of sorts, who would spread civ­i­liza­tion, “sound morals” and “true reli­gion” through­out the “dark con­ti­nent.” The goal of the Col­o­niza­tion Soci­ety was also to put a stop to the slave trade and bring about its extinc­tion. In addi­tion, the group worked with slave own­ers to pro­vide an asy­lum to har­bor slaves after they had been released from bondage.

Rev­erend Robert Fin­ley of New Jer­sey con­ceived of the national orga­ni­za­tion in 1816 and, with the help of New Eng­land ship­ping mag­nate and social activist Paul Cuf­fee, an early pro­po­nent of reset­tling freed blacks in Africa, got the orga­ni­za­tion off the ground. The moti­va­tion for its estab­lish­ment was one-part abhor­rence of slavery’s deprav­ity and one-part racism. This man­i­fested itself in the belief that blacks were truly infe­rior to whites, and the sen­ti­ments of many ACS mem­bers who found the prospect of being around Negroes dis­taste­ful. In fact, part of the moti­va­tion for found­ing the ACS was white alarm over the increas­ing num­ber of free blacks in the North as well as Vir­ginia. Prior to the Civil War, some blacks were granted their free­dom by law and oth­ers by “man­u­mis­sion” (blacks released from bondage by their slave owners).

Blacks were per­ceived by mem­bers as: morally lax, who could cor­rupt vul­ner­a­ble whites; prone to crim­i­nal­ity; men­tally infe­rior, which made them unsuited to the respon­si­bil­i­ties of cit­i­zen­ship and inca­pable of self improve­ment; a threat to the jobs of work­ing class whites in the North; and who could erupt into slave rebel­lion in the South.

The peo­ple hold­ing these sen­ti­ments of con­cern and dis­gust were mostly abo­li­tion­ists and Quak­ers, who saw them­selves as benign by help­ing to “repa­tri­ate” blacks back to Africa where they would be able to ful­fill what­ever god-given gifts that they may have. In some cases, attempts to pro­vide African Amer­i­cans safe haven in Liberia were met with armed resis­tance by natives on the coast.

By 1822, the Amer­i­can Col­o­niza­tion Soci­ety founded a colony on the west coast of Africa. This colony even­tu­ally became the nation of Liberia in 1847. As of 1858, a total of 11,172 had been given trans­port back to Africa. This reli­gious based orga­ni­za­tion also sent mis­sion­ar­ies to con­vert the natives. The Ver­mont Col­o­niza­tion Society’s 1858 Annual Report proudly trum­pets that “the tone of morals is believed to be higher and the Sab­bath there bet­ter observed than in Ver­mont.” Church-based col­o­niza­tion groups pro­lif­er­ated all over the state. In sum, the Ver­mont Col­o­niza­tion Soci­ety had three objec­tives: remove all negroes, free and enslaved, from the United States to Liberia; bring civ­i­liza­tion to Africa; and put an end to the slave trade. In addi­tion to the Con­gre­ga­tional Soci­ety in Mont­pe­lier, East Bethel and Pitts­ford also had their own soci­eties, Bap­tist and Methodist respectively.

Col­o­niza­tion Soci­eties are not to be con­fused with the Anti-Slavery Soci­eties that shared the polit­i­cal stage dur­ing the same period. They had an entirely dif­fer­ent and con­flict­ing agenda. For exam­ple, anti-slavery pro­po­nents wanted grad­ual or imme­di­ate eman­ci­pa­tion of slaves while advo­cates of col­o­niza­tion sought to remove blacks from Amer­ica and have them emi­grate to Africa. Both saw them­selves as com­ing to the aid of an abused and infe­rior race.

As for Col­o­niza­tion Soci­eties them­selves, the pre­em­i­nent black leader of his time, Fred­er­ick Dou­glass, was not amused. “That Soci­ety is an old enemy of col­ored peo­ple in this coun­try. Almost every respectable man belongs to it, either by direct mem­ber­ship or by affinity…It is because the Amer­i­can Col­o­niza­tion Soci­ety cher­ishes and fos­ters this hatred towards the black man that I am opposed to it. [The Soci­ety] goes about …solic­it­ing funds for an expa­tri­a­tion from this coun­try. .. Is this not mean and impu­dent in the extreme, for one class of Amer­i­cans to ask for the removal of another class? …I have as much right in this coun­try as any other man.”

Through­out his Pres­i­dency, Lin­coln also flirted with the idea of col­o­niza­tion and his admin­is­tra­tion tried to ini­ti­ate colonies for blacks in South Amer­ica. Ulti­mately, Lincoln’s fan­cies died under their own weight, unlike the efforts of the Amer­i­can Col­o­niza­tion Soci­ety that remained active until 1919.

Octo­ber 31, 1863 Danville North Star

Gen Meade’s Retreat

General George G. Meade

Gen­eral George G. Meade

It is appar­ent …that Lee accom­plished in advanc­ing upon our army but too well, which was to drive it back and destroy the roads so it could not fol­low Lee in his ret­ro­grade move­ments for many weeks, and thus secure his army and Rich­mond from men­ace until next Spring. …

How­ever it is pos­si­ble Meade may find a way to dis­turb him, if the sea­son proves favor­able, before Lee eats his Christ­mas din­ner, and the pris­on­ers in Libby prison [in Rich­mond] hear shouts which will open the doors of their dun­geons. Now is the moment for home aid at any rate. The posi­tions of our armies in the South and West are advan­ta­geous, though some­what crit­i­cal yet, if promptly rein­forced splen­did vic­to­ries are within their grasp.

***

Gen­eral Meade is most renowned for lead­ing his Army of the Potomac to a vic­tory at Get­tys­burg and, to the President’s great dis­may, squan­der­ing an oppor­tu­nity to pur­sue and destroy Gen­eral Robert E Lee’s troops as they retreated to Vir­ginia. The bat­tle of Get­tys­burg took place in early July over three days under a tor­tu­ously hot sun with heavy casu­al­ties sus­tained. These facts need to be taken into account when deter­min­ing whether or not Union troops actu­ally had the capac­ity to follow-up and pur­sue Lee into Vir­ginia. As the Octo­ber account in the North Star sug­gests, Meade finally did catch up with Lee and threaten Rich­mond; how­ever, like other Army of the Potomac com­man­ders before him, the Union efforts were totally ineffectual.

Although a devout Chris­t­ian, Meade had a quick-trigger tem­per that could some­times turn vio­lent. One object of his scorn was the press who hated him right back. A cabal of writ­ers actu­ally froze the Gen­eral out of the news, break­ing their rule only when the oppor­tu­nity to speak ill of him pre­sented itself. The gid­di­ness about future oppor­tu­ni­ties to press Lee and Rich­mond is prob­a­bly more a com­bi­na­tion of strate­gic Union vic­to­ries at Get­tys­burg and Vicks­burg back in July and cur­rent reports that the Fed­er­als were tak­ing the fight to the rebels in East Ten­nessee and North­ern Geor­gia than it was a reflec­tion of the fourth estate’s high regard for the Gen­eral who orches­trated that vic­tory over Lee in the hot days of early July. Meade’s motto was “More deeds than words.” It doesn’t sound like this Union offi­cer was a very good interview.

 

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