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Setting the Table for Civil War
Transcript of Setting the Table for Civil War
Setting the Table for
Robert E. Lee
George B. McClellan
"Previous to the formation of colored troops, I had a strong inclination to prepare myself for the ministry; but when the country called for all persons, I could best serve my God serving my country and my oppressed brothers. The sequel in short - I enlisted for the war.”
William Carney was an African American whose father escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad and worked hard to buy the freedom of the rest of the family. Having learned to read and write under the secret guidance of a local minister, Carney made efforts to attempt to enter the occupation. However, when Abraham Lincoln signed a bill in 1862 that authorized the recruitment of African American troops, he decided he wanted to join the Union Army. In January of 1863, Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts was authorized to raise a regiment of African Americans; at the age of 23, Carney joined the Morgan Guards (which became Company C of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry). During the Battle of Fort Wagner, Carney demonstrated incredible patriotism and dedication: when the colored sergeant who was holding the flag was shot down, Carney grabbed the flag, headed to parapet to plant it, ran into a group of Confederate soldiers, and ran to protect the flag. Throughout this whole process, he sustained 4 shots and a grazing bullet but ignored the pain to protect the flag. William Carney was awarded the medal of honor on May 23, 1900, almost 40 years after he served in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. He was the first black soldier to receive this award. Carney deserves a spot at the table because he conveys the importance of African American troops to the Union Army (especially in terms of manpower), the willingness of African Americans to fight bravely when given the chance, and the commitment of African American soldiers to the Union cause, especially because they had a choice). Also, Carney demonstrates the significance of the Underground Railroad in orchestrating freedom as well as personal fervor for the preservation and promotion of the Union and its cause.
Sgt. William H. Carney is placed across from John Parker because both men are African Americans who fought during the Civil War. These men would be able to relate to each other over their experiences as both combatants and African Americans, even though Sgt. Carney undeniably received better treatment than Parker. Carney is also sitting next to George B. McClellan because McClellan was a Union General; as a general for the Union, McClellan is more likely to accept Sgt. Carney’s presence and appreciate his actions, support for the Union cause, and assistance during the Civil War. It is possible that the two men would also feel some camaraderie.
“Our masters tried all they could to make us fight. They promised to give us our freedom and money besides, but none of us believed them; we only fought because we had to.”
John Parker, a slave in Virginia, was ordered by his master to fight for the Confederacy. His master ordered him to fight, along with other slaves, at the onset of hostilities. He was sent to build batteries and breastworks in Winchester, Fredericksburg, and Richmond (after it became the Confederate capital). His first fight was the first Battle at Bull Run, July 21, 1861. Parker and other slaves remained near Manassas Junction for two weeks after the battle, stripping Union soldiers of their arms and other valuables and burying the soldiers of both armies. After the early struggles, Parker was allowed to return to his master’s plantation and his wife and children. Later, because his master and the master’s two sons went away to the war and the overseer that was left in charge also left, Parker (and the other slaves) experienced the disintegration of authority on plantations as the war continued. Eventually, Parker’s mistress and her daughters left as well; Parker and the other slaves were ordered to stay and shoot any Yankees that came to the plantation. Parker’s aspiration during the war was not to aid the Confederacy, but to find a way to escape. In fact, Parker and his family made plans to escape, but when his wife did not arrive on time, he headed north alone, hoping to meet his wife and two daughters and continue to Canada. His son remained in captivity, having been shipped south to Louisiana. Upon arriving at New York City, the city he believed his family would be, Parker admitted that he desired to never see another battle and to settle down with his family, living in freedom as a carpenter. Specifically, Parker deserves a spot at the table because he illustrates how slaves were forced to fight for the Confederate forces, how slaves provided necessary manpower, and the overall experience of most slaves in the Confederacy. His experiences demonstrate how slaves were used in the South as valuable free labor, how slaves were not regarded as humans/having valuable lives, and how hostilities transformed lives and strategies.
John Parker is sitting across from William H. Carney because Carney, as a fellow African American, would be able to sympathize with Parker even though Carney held a much higher rank. He is sitting next to Robert E. Lee because he fought as a soldier for the Confederacy; since Lee was a Confederate General, Parker would likely be acclimated to being in the presence of Confederate generals and would appropriately/accommodatingly in his presence, even though Parker would rather be supporting the Union. This arrangement would likely bode well for maintaining peace during the dinner.
“The Union, which can alone insure internal peace, and external security to each State, Must and Shall be Preserved, cost what it may in time, treasure, and blood.”
Prior to the war, McClellan served with distinction under Winfield Scott in the Mexican War. From 1848 to 1851, he taught military engineering at West Point. Resigning from the service in 1857, he became the head of engineering for the Illinois Central Railroad, an organization represented by Abraham Lincoln (only an attorney at this point). After the outbreak of hostilities in 1861, McClellan reentered the service and was given command of federal forces in Western Virginia. He was successful in defeating Confederate forces in a number of minor battles, becoming known as the “Young Napoleon” because of his military successes and his imperious manner of dealing with people. Following the First Battle of Bull Run, McClellan was given command of the eastern federal forces, which would become the Army of the Potomac. His task was to protect the Union’s capital from Confederate attack and to destroy the opposing forces in northern Virginia. He transformed the army, restoring discipline and morale; however, he failed to engage the enemy, preferring to be granted more soldiers, time and supplies. In the spring of 1862, McClellan finally launched the Peninsular Campaign. McClellan’s forces won more battles than they lost but were forced to retreat after the Seven Days’ Battles; the objectives of the campaign not being obtained. After the Second Battle of Bull Run, McClellan was given command of Union forces protecting Washington. He, once again, got the soldiers into fighting shape and stopped Lee’s army during the Battle of Antietam. Yet, McClellan failed to take the initiative and pursue Lee’s forces. because Lincoln was upset at this and prior delays, he removed McClellan from command in November 1862. While waiting for another appointment (that never came), he emerged as a political figure. He sympathized with the states’ rights positions of the Democrats but was dedicated fully to preservation of the Union. In 1864, he received the party's nomination and, initially, appeared to be likely to defeat Lincoln in the 1864 election. Improving reports from the warfront aided Lincoln, leading to his re-election. Even though George B. McClellan’s lack of battlefield initiative, which was partially influenced by politics (as a Democratic presidential hopeful, he wanted to defeat the forces of disunion, not crush the South), caused him to be a less aggressive general and miss opportunities to end the war sooner, he deserves a spot at the table because he was a brilliant military engineer and a superb superior administrator.
George B. McClellan is seated between Abraham Lincoln and Sgt. William H. Carney because all men supported (and in the case of Carney and McClellan, fought for) the cause of the Union. Though Lincoln did not agree with the caution McClellan exercised, the two men would still likely get along because McClellan did achieve multiple victories, even if they weren’t as complete/large as Lincoln would have preferred. Also, their relationship is already well-established and familiar. Likewise, McClellan is next to Carney because both men possessed a passion for morale and were in command of other soldiers, even though McClellan had a higher rank. McClellan is sitting across from Robert E. Lee because both men were generals. Also, both men had opposing perspectives on the best war strategy: McClellan believed that caution and preparation were the best methods while Lee preferred using knowledge of previous battles and aggressive tactics.
"I would rather die a thousand deaths than surrender."
After earning the nickname “Marble Statue” for his near perfect records, rankings, and merits at West Point, in 1861, Robert E. Lee was made commander-in-chief of the Virginia forces. He was in charge of the defenses at Richmond, and he defeated Federal forces in the Seven Days' Battles (1862). His strategy in opposing General Pope (Second Bull Run), his invasion of Maryland and Pennsylvania, and other achievements are central to the history of the war. Lee and his army achieved great success during the Peninsula Campaign and at Second Bull Run (Manassas) and Fredericksburg, with his greatest victory coming in the Battle of Chancellorsville. In the spring of 1863, Lee invaded the North, but was defeated at the Battle of Gettysburg. Though Confederate defeat seemed inevitable, Lee battled General Grant in Virginia throughout 1864-1865 before finally surrendering what was left of his army in April 1865 at Appomattox Court House, effectively ending the war. Lee especially deserves a spot at this table because he was one of the most significant and strategic generals of the Confederacy (possibly even out of both armies), exuded tactical brilliance, held nearly perfect military record and ranking, and is still a revered figure in the American South.
Gen. Robert E. Lee is placed in between Jefferson Davis and John Parker because all three men fought for the Confederacy, whether emotionally or physically. More significantly, Davis and Lee were emotionally committed to the cause of the South and would likely have an established relationship due to Davis’s role as president and Lee’s as a general. Because of these reasons, Davis and Lee would form more similar opinions and constitute a more agreeable pair than other sitting positions would. Moreover, because of Parker’s position as a soldier and a slave, it would be more natural for Parker to be in the presence of a Confederate general. In addition, Lee's support of the work by his wife and her mother to free slaves and fund their move to Liberia, the success of his wife and daughter in setting up an illegal school for slaves on the Arlington plantation, the freeing of Custis' slaves in 1862, and (as the Confederacy became desperate), his petitioning slaveholders in 1864–1865 to allow slaves to volunteer for the Army with manumission offered as a reward for outstanding service demonstrate that he might have held some opposition to slavery; Parker would have appreciated this perspective, would have felt more support, and possibly would have able to agree with Lee on certain stances. He is seated across from General George B. McClellan because both men were generals and practiced opposing battle strategies.
“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.”
After serving in the Black Hawk War, Abraham Lincoln studied law and campaigned for a seat on the Illinois State Legislature. Though he wasn’t elected in his first attempt, he won the position in 1834 (serving as a Whig). He joined the new Republican party and the enduring argument over sectionalism in 1856. He became a prominent figure in national politics during the debates of the Senate Race of 1858 with Stephen A. Douglas over slavery and its place in the United States. His anti-slavery platform made him largely unpopular with the South; his nomination for President in 1860 enraged Southerners. Winning the presidential election without the support of a single Southern state fostered stronger discussion of the topic of secession. Lincoln’s decision to fight rather than to let the Southern states secede was based on his feelings regarding his duty as President to preserve the Union at all costs and not his feelings. In addition, as commander-in-chief, he legally held the highest rank in the United States armed forces, and expertly exercised this authority through strategic planning, weapons testing, and promoting and demoting generals (McDowell, Fremont, McClellan, Pope, Buell, Burnside, Rosecrans) that achieved the amount of aggressiveness and quick action he perceived as being necessary for the ending of the war. Lincoln strategically waited to issue the Emancipation Proclamation until January 1, 1863, after the Union victory at the Battle of Antietam.This maneuver changed the goal of the war, making it, from the Union perspective, a war to preserve the Union and to end slavery. In 1864, he ran for re-election, fearing that he wouldn’t win because of years of war. Thanks to a string of strengthening victories by U.S. Grant, carried Lincoln's ticket and greatly contributed to his winning the re-election. Lincoln deserves a spot at the table because he was very successful in strategically holding together the remainder of the Union, attempting to persuade the Southern states to not secede, working towards the preservation of the Union (even when it meant forsaking his personal views on slavery), and maneuvering the Union Army during the war.
Abraham Lincoln is sitting next to George B. McClellan because they had an established commander-in-chief and general relationship and McClellan, though too cautious for Lincoln’s taste, did give Lincoln multiple victories. Lincoln is seated across from Jefferson Davis because both men experienced presidential roles during a time of a war, acquired experience of war in the Black Hawk War, had political careers for decades prior to the outbreak of war, and, though they were on opposing sides of issue, they would likely be able to behave civilly around each other for the sake of diplomacy and respect for and relatability to each other.
"[Our situation] illustrates the American idea that governments rest on the consent of the governed, and that it is the right of the people to alter or abolish them whenever they become destructive of the ends for which they were established."
Jefferson Davis was a Mexican War hero, U.S. senator from Mississippi, U.S. Secretary of War, and the only president of the Confederate States of America. After Jefferson graduated from West Point and served in the army, he received a plantation and the slaves to farm it from his brother, who managed it in the 1840s so that Jefferson could go into politics. Consequently, Davis became a staunch states’ rights Democrat and supporter of unrestricted expansion of slavery into the territories. He was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1845 and was appointed to the Senate after he became a hero while serving in the army during the Mexican War. In the Senate, he opposed the Compromise of 1850 (specifically the admission of California as a free state), resigning in 1851 to run unsuccessfully for the Mississippi governorship. In 1853, President Franklin Pierce appointed Davis Secretary of War. He reentered the Senate in 1857 and continued to advocate the spread of slavery into the territories. Before the war, Davis had argued against secession, but when Mississippi seceded, he once again resigned from the U.S. Senate. In February 1861, he was elected president of the Confederacy (via acclamation) and continuously struggled to manage the Southern war effort, maintain control of the Confederate economy, and keep the CSA united. Additionally, Davis’s was less successful as a president than Lincoln because of the way his controversial personality fostered conflicts with other politicians as well as his own military officers, the way he also protected incompetents (in the case of Braxton Bragg) and didn’t make use of talented men he disliked (in the case of Joseph E. Johnston), and the way he had limited electoral experience because he was appointed (not elected) to many of the offices he held in his antebellum career. In May 1865, several weeks after the Confederates surrender, Davis was captured, imprisoned and charged (without trial) with treason. Regardless, though Davis’s neglect of domestic politics, inability to manage congressional opposition and to inspire the southern public as successfully as Lincoln did in the North, and poor judgement of people hurt him in the long run, he deserves his spot at this table because he worked very diligently at his presidential duties, focusing on military strategy, and attempting to manage a “nation” that granted most power to the states. He also managed to employ enough strategy and tactics that kept the CSA afloat for several years, especially since the Confederacy was practically under war for its entire existence.
Jefferson Davis is seated next to Robert E. Lee because both men supported the cause of the Confederacy; they would likely have a familiar relationship and agree on topics because of their commander-in-chief and army general connection and support for the Confederacy. Also, both seemed to have concerns over the secession of the South. On another note, Davis is sitting across from Abraham Lincoln because both men held presidential roles during the Civil War, and, though they supported opposing sides, would probably relate to each other in aspects of nation-managing, war strategies, and other presidential duties. They also both fought in the Black Hawk War. However, they are separated by the table because they would certainly disagree on the topic of slavery.
On the agenda:
Duty of African Americans
Goals of the War
: On the topic of secession, I motion to make a movement. Secession shall be declared an illegal and insurrectionist act against the Union and its perpetuity.
: I reject that motion. The states, even those created under the Union (such as in the case of Mississippi), are sovereign and therefore may leave the Union anytime they wish.
: The Union has been established since 1776, long before the creation of states like Mississippi. Consequently, allegiance to the Union is due from all states; leaving the Union is an act of rebellion.
: On the contrary, leaving the Union is a right of the states. States’ rights deserve to be maintained. White southerners are only fighting for the sacred right of self-government. Leave the Confederacy alone and allow us to practice slavery as we wish.
: Have I not explicitly declared that slavery shall not be removed the Union? It may persist where it is already in existence; the states have a right, under our Constitution, to continue that practice. As president, I do not hold the constitutional authority to deny them the institution.
: That is what you have said, but it is well-known that members of your party and its platform do not favor slavery; if Southerners shall wish for the expansion of slavery, they shall have it according to the rights due them. The destruction of slavery would mean the degradation of the white man.
: The issue of slavery is not significant in the perspective of preserving the Union. As men, especially men in positions such as ourselves, should care more for the solidifying of our nation than the expansion or extinction of the institution of slavery.
: Men in positions such as ourselves should obey the desires of the people and act in their best interests. The people of these seceding states demand the protection of slavery and states’ rights through self-government, and it seems best that they shall have it.
: Our nation’s division over the issue of slavery will not be helped by the separation of our states. Rather, a secession will augment the disagreement. We shall not simply let secession happen; in the interest of Union, I intend to maintain possession of any federal property in any area of secession.
: Nevertheless, this is the South’s decision, a war we shall fight on our own if need be. I maintain that secession is undeniably justified on the basis of states’ rights, sovereignty, and self-government.
Notes on Today's Meeting:
-Duty of African Americans:
: While a disagreement may be healthy every once a while, perhaps now would be a good time to discuss a broader topic: the role and purpose of the African American in the war.
: In my opinion, we African Americans should not be forced to fight for a cause that we do not support. It is not just nor appropriate.
: I agree. I will never approve of the oppression of my brothers; however, we should fight for the cause we advocate.
What, then, should one do in an instance when they are caused to join in battle against their will? As men of a currently inferior position, do we not deserve to choose whether or not to fight?
: I full-heartedly believe that we shall not be held in inferior positions and that there should not be a utilization of force when it comes to shouldering our nation. Nevertheless, there should not be a need for force because men should valiantly strive to defend their nation and serve God.
: Would it not be better to save oneself from viewing the destruction and carnage? As men, should we not look out for our families and our well-being?
: Bravery requires us to bear the burden of destruction and persevere through it in order to bring peace and honor to God, our nation, and ourselves. We will defend the honor of our families and our nation by rising up over our enemies and injustice and achieving our dreams.
: I only dream of living in freedom and peace. War is terrible. Though this war may be arguably for the African American's freedom as much as it is for the salvation of the Union, I merely wish to be allowed to live my life as I please in safety.
: We cannot call ourselves servants of men; we must be servants of God and justice, pursuing what we know is right and risking our lives for it as necessary.
: I suppose, Sergeant Carney, that I can agree with and respect that, but I will be glad when the African American may decide his own fate with ease.
: Seeing as that shall never be agreed upon, I wish to vote for the most effective war strategies.
: Excellent point. I would like to nominate the strategy of cautious preparation and extensive training prior to an attack.
: Based on our experiences together, I understand that you believe those methods are the only and best options; however, I have had excellent success in pursuing strategies that champion the concepts of assertiveness and vigorous force.
: If you always attack with an offensive strategy, how can you be sure that you are prepared to face your enemy? Preparedness is essential for victory.
: Employing an offensive tactic is oftentimes the smartest decision. A victory on your opponent's soil is the surest way to victory.
: If you utilize an offensive strategy, what will you do if your enemy outnumbers you?
: In that instance, you continue fighting the battle. You do not surrender so long as you can help it.
: You would rather surrender and risk your troops and morale in order to attempt to win a battle?
: It is of more consequence to fight for what you believe in.
: I believe it is more important to fight with the aide of caution than with the aid of blind aggression.
-Preserving the Union and Other Goals of the War
: While on the topic of achieving goals and dreams, let us discuss the potential ends of this war. It is my hope that the Union shall be restored and reunified. If possible, I shall like to see the emancipation of the slaves as well.
: Well, I cannot agree more. I would rejoice if slavery were to be abolished. And, as you well know, I am devoted to the Union, but I must demonstrate my dedication and support for my home state. Just as you will not turn against the hope of preserving the perpetual Union, I cannot turn against my home, my family, and my native state.
: How can you manage to support the cause of those who hope to continue the institution of slavery and attempt to destroy the permanent Union?
: In the way that I see it, neither side of this war will achieve its goals without lengthy battle. Each side underestimates the strengths and weaknesses of the other. The Southerners are very determined, and I am duty-bound to aid my Virginia.
: I suppose I can sympathize with your declaration. Likewise, I consider that I must first put efforts towards the reunification of the states of Union, disregarding the status of slavery and my hope to see an end to the institution so long as the perpetual Union is made whole once more.
: As you shall aim to bring the Union back together once more even if slavery an intact institution, so shall I purpose to grant my commitment and energy into the cause of Virginia and her seceding sisters amid my longing to see these nation whole once more.
: I shall respect that. I had hoped that you would be a general for the Union Army, but I do understand your desire to perform your duty to your homeland.
: Thank you. You should know, I look upon your commitment to rescuing the Union form its current state with admiration. I know that I plan on demonstrating a corresponding dedication within my battles.
: I do not doubt that you will, especially in light of your love for war.
: While I do delight in the aggressive offensive, I would delight much more in the restoration of the seceding states to the Union as well as to grant of freedom to the slaves.