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.

 

Share
This entry was posted in Historical events, Historical people, Historical sites, NSM articles. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.