Restricted Excerpt: Interesting Point Of View

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Sep 17, 2011
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mo
found this exerpt from a letter of Frank Blairs brother in law who was a Provost Marshall to Frank Blair as it expresses wartime views and clearly a division in the views of the Radical Republicans and the rest of the Union army.........also is interesting in it notes the common southern soldier was fighting to defend their states, not slavery.

DEAR FRANK: There is one thing that at first was inexplicable to me—it is the feeling or policy that induces U. S. officers to grant extraordinary privileges to the rebel officers who are taken as prisoners, such as releasing of a number of them in this city on parole by General Halleck, thus giving them the opportunity of going freely among our wealthy secessionists. The consequence of this was that these home rebels ran after the officers, dined and feted them, encouraged them to stand firm in their disloyalty, and so bold and defiant did they become as I am informed that General Halleck has revoked the parole, gathered up the officers and sent them to confinement at Alton.

I was surprised that so judicious a man as Halleck should have fallen into this error; but with his usual correctness he soon saw his mistake. From what I have learned of the feelings of the regular officers I am inclined to believe that Halleck fell into this error through their influence. I have heard most loyal and sensible officers of the U.S. Army say that they had no personal feeling whatever in the war nor toward the officers whom they captured. This I suppose because these officers of ours have kept aloof from political contests and do not recognize in the rebel officers the instigators and workers up of this rebellion. In our eyes Buckner, Floyd, Jo. Johnston, &c., are traitors, and none the less so because they hold in this rebellion the place of officers. If the rebellion had been less formidable and soon put down these men would not have been treated as officers but as felons if captured. There are necessary reasons why to a certain extent we have to treat them as conducting a war and therefore according to the rules of war. The only reason that I recognize for this is that we may save our own soldiers from severe treatment when captured by them. Beyond this there is no necessity for our going, and I say that it is only necessity or in other words our inability to do so that prevented us in the beginning from hanging them all as traitors. The privates and non-commissioned officers in the rebel armies are mostly ignorant men who enlisted as they believed to protect their country from an unjust aggressive war. The proper treatment for them—all I believe concur in this—treat them fairly, correct the errors they have been educated in, inform them of the truth and let them go back home when it can be safely done. But these men who under a mock government are called officers, who are but political desperadoes in military garb and disguise, must be punished; if not for their misdeeds certainly for the sake of the country. Will the privates, the masses, believe their leaders criminals or in the wrong when they see them set at large on their honor and allowed to associate with the wealthy rebels who so openly honor them?

I call your attention to this matter at this early day hoping that you will think it Worth while to bring the matter before Secretary Stanton. The officers of the Army do not feel the effects of this rebellion as the masses of the people do. To them (the officers of the U.S. Army) it is a war merely, and not a political struggle—maddened, desperate, and aimed to destroy rather than submit to a political defeat. Believing as I do that the practice I have spoken of is a serious evil and that the only way of remedying it is for the Secretary of War to make general regulations upon the subject, to be departed from by commanding officers only for pressing reasons, I therefore suggest that you call his attention to the matter. I have no fear that General Halleck will again fall into the error, but in my opinion few of our officers are equal to him in correctness of judgment.

Yours, very truly,

F. A. DICK.

 
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Lubliner

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I was surprised at this letter being dated after Stanton became Secretary of War. I know early in the war at least through 1861 there had been some leniency in Missouri, such as in May when the gathering group of militia had been captured by Lyon. I also know that soon when railroad usage was demanded and important to the Union, any 'citizenry' caught destroying this asset were punished by a death sentence, after a military court trial. The view is strictly a political statement opposing the lax feelings held by Union men in the army. These feelings would quickly turn evil. I wonder how much can be attributed to 'politics' such as the statement above, compared with the outright violence that occurred with bloodshed indiscriminately. Also when Lyon was killed in August of 1861, the idea of solicitous freedoms given to officers in the confederate command would seem unlikely.
Lubliner.
 
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Sep 17, 2011
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mo
I was surprised at this letter being dated after Stanton became Secretary of War. I know early in the war at least through 1861 there had been some leniency in Missouri, such as in May when the gathering group of militia had been captured by Lyon. I also know that soon when railroad usage was demanded and important to the Union, any 'citizenry' caught destroying this asset were punished by a death sentence, after a military court trial. The view is strictly a political statement opposing the lax feelings held by Union men in the army. These feelings would quickly turn evil. I wonder how much can be attributed to 'politics' such as the statement above, compared with the outright violence that occurred with bloodshed indiscriminately. Also when Lyon was killed in August of 1861, the idea of solicitous freedoms given to officers in the confederate command would seem unlikely.
Lubliner.
Through out the war, there was a political war here. It was as much Radical Republicans (here typified by Dick and Blair) against Democrats as it was against any actual secessionists.

The Republicans were a distinct minority who had been put in positions of power by appointment not popularity, so they always were jealously intriguing against the rest of the Unionists. Blair family was the worst......they had intrigued against most everyone.....

Their was leniency early and somewhat continual to officers of the MSG, it was recognized during the war it was a legal call up by a sitting elected US state government, so there was essentially a general pardon for them.

Also it was hardly just non Republican officers here, as Presidents Lincoln and Johnson never showed that degree of malice or hatred that some Radical Republicans showed.
 
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Confederate officers who were prisoners at Camp Chase were also allowed to freely roam Columbus, Ohio:

"Captain Lazelle blasted Colonel Moody as well: 'The commanding officer of the camp is uncertain and in constant doubt as to whom he should go to for instructions, which together with his ignorance of his duties quite overpowers him.'58

"Prisoners at Camp Chase were allowed the privilege of receiving gifts of food and money and purchasing whatever they wanted from the sutler. Upon a simple oath not to escape, Confederate officer prisoners were allowed to wander the streets of Columbus, register to stay in its hotels, and attend sessions of the state senate. At the same time, for a small admission fee, the public was allowed to tour the prison. It became one of the most popular tourist attractions around. 'It is pleasing to [Moody],' grumbled Lazelle, 'to talk and guide and explain to [the tourists] all curious points of interest.'59

"Before long, complaints over lax discipline and the camp's state administrators provoked anger, even among the Ohio residents.

"N. A. Reed, pastor of the Market Street Baptist Church in Zanesville, Ohio, griped in a letter to President Lincoln dated April 26, 1862, 'Having sons in the Third and Thirteenth Ohio Regiments, the matter has become too much ... to be endured. . . . [t]o have our sons toil in the Army and be subjected to trials and the most severe deprivations, and then to have these rebel officers actually at their ease in our streets speaking treason openly and boldly is almost too much for human endurance.'"60
Portals To Hell - Military Prisons of the Civil War, pg. 80, Lonnie R. Speer
 
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