Judah p. benjamin

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redfish

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Feb 20, 2005
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would anyone care to offer an opinion on judah p. benjamin's appointment as secretary of war by jefferson davis?
 

hoosier

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Benjamin was a brilliant man, considered by many to have been the most intelligent person to serve in the Confederate cabinet.

He first served as attorney general, then as secretary of war, finally as secretary of state.

He had no military background to speak of, so perhaps the decision to choose him to serve as secretary of war is open to question.

It is an undeniable fact that he didn't serve as secretary of war for very long. He took the position in September, 1861, and resigned it in early 1862, after the fall of Roanoke Island and in the wake of severe criticism directed at Benjamin, who took responsibility for allowing the Union to take Roanoke.

However, it seems only fair to point out that, while Benjamin may have advised in favor of the action, the final decision on the matter rested with Jefferson Davis.

And it may have been the right decision. The account I read indicated that Davis, aware even at that early stage of the war that the Union had great advantages in men and materiel, chose to let the Union take Roanoke without putting up a defense, in fear that if the South had tried to put up a defense, it would have revealed to the Union just how weak the South was.

The fact that Davis appointed Benjamin secretary of state immediately after his tenure as secretary of war ended shows that Davis continued to value Benjamin's counsel very highly.
 

ewc

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Benjamin was essentially a stopgap to perform a specific function in the office of War. He took over for Pope Walker in September '61. Walker had several and severe problems in the War Ministry; he was not a particularly adept administrator and organizer, (his match was Union War Minister Simon Cameron,) and he found himself without self, in other words, the amanuensis, or rubber stamp, to Davis, the president. He and all agreed it would be best if he withdrew from the cabinet. President Davis rewarded his fidelity with a brigadier generalship. Loyalty is an anthem to Davis; it is almost a defining characteristic- all who were faithful to him, he repaid in kind, (re: RE Lee and Braxton Bragg,) those who opposed him became enemies for life- re: Beauregard, Joe Johnston, Alec Stephens. It is perhaps Davis's most (maybe only) endearing quality.
Judah Benjamin was one who was an ever faithful servant to his president, so Davis would never turn his back on one so. In Benjamin's case, a very fortunate occurrence for Davis and the Confederacy. In this cabinet shake-up, Davis moved Benjamin from the Attorney-General's office, where his role was almost entirely councillar, to the war office where in addition to his council, his adroit administration could be brought to bear on the great disorder Walker had not successfully reined in. This office as all in the Confederacy had been built up from scratch and the rapid build up of the armies, the massive escalation of the war effort, and the South's many deficiencies to that effort had brought the office to the brink of ruin. In steps Benjamin to establish order to the chaos; his administrating genius to the fore- a task desperately needing addressed at the time. (His match being Union War Secretary Edwin Stanton.)Benjamin's lack of military knowledge was not a particular impediment as order was paramount and the knowledgable and hands on management of Davis were at close call. With order restored, the valuable councillor Benjamin was moved to the more compatible office of State in March, and the able General George Wythe Randolph appointed to War. Randolph, like all the War Secretaries, soon tired of being little more than a clerk and resigned in November to continue the procession through that office. Benjamin too was a clerk as War Minister, but one who understood his role and his duties and served his president well.
 
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