Sherman and Grant's war

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I've always found it fascinating that the Confederate armies didn't just melt away in 1864, and that there wasn't a coup in Richmond. A critical mass of people hung on long after hope should have been lost.
I am of the same mind. The Army of Tennessee had company sized units crossing the line at designated points in the line. Brag shot a surprising number of officers who encouraged their men to desert. After Helena AK fell, officers woke up to empty camps. Entire regiments went home in the night. An AG described Hood’s men who had managed to flee across the Tennessee as nothing but an artillery marked mob. What kept the token remnant in the ranks is a mystery. Of course, Many of them had their lives wasted just for the pointless pride of Bragg & Joe Johnston as the reward for their loyalty.
 

LetUsHavePeace

Volunteer
Joined
Dec 1, 2018
I don’t understand what you mean by the value of the slaves was unknowable. It was the sale of “extras” that provided the cash flow that kept border state plantations solvent. It was that trade that made Nathan Bedford Forrest a wealthy man.

Monthly market reports were subscribed to that listed the value of slaves beginning with children 4’ tall. There were farms that blatantly advertised that they raised human being for sale. Whether they acknowledged it or not, it was the raiding & selling of humans that the Virginia that Lee was so loyal to that was their major cash crop.

Isack Franklin & John Armfield were the ones who mastered the transport of “extras” from Maryland, Delaware & Virginia to Mississippi for resale. You can easily Google them for the details. Fair warning, their records are on the National Archive & the details would gag a buzzard.

Adelisha Atkins, Franklin’s widow’s married name, was the richest woman in the US after the Civil War. During the CW she managed to get cotton from what had been Franklin’s Deep South plantations to London. Baron Rothschild held her profit in gold until the end of hostilities.

Her summer mansion, Belmont, is at the southern end of Nashville’s famous Music Row. It is fully restored & should be on anybody’s list of must see’s. Google her for a good read.

The members of the Reverse Underground Rail Road knew exactly what slaves were worth. Right up until the final emancipation, organized gangs kidnapped black & only vaguely black individuals from free states & smuggled them southward for sale. Goggle Revers Underground RR for a sobering look at an often unknown aspect of the slave economy.

A great deal of money was made renting out slaves. Contracts ran from January to January when the corn crop was put away. Slave families dreaded January because that was when loved ones were packed off for labor in unknown parts. The civil suits resulting from the mistreatment of rented slaves is a stark dollars & cents example of what slaves were worth. Court records from Tennessee & other states are online.

Of course, probate is where the dollar value of slaves is set down in legal documents. The notion that the exact value of slaves of all ages was not knowable is in no way supported by the vast documentation to the contrary.
One factual quibble: Franklin got out of the slave trading business in 1841. Mrs. Franklin's wealth came entirely from the plantations, not any remnant of the slave business.
I apologize for the confusion. Clearly, slaves had value and had valuations. The question not asked often enough is how much money was to be made from the buying and selling of slaves. Was the business of slavery actually profitable?
The general assumption on this List and in the academic literature is that slave owners had lost their "wealth" because they had lost title to their human property; my argument is that the South became almost permanently poor because it lost something far more valuable - a system of local banking and credit.
If, there was an equilibrium between free and slave labor in operating costs, how would emancipation suddenly destroy the South's "wealth". There is very little evidence that the costs of share cropping and free labor greatly exceeded the costs of maintaining slave property. Foner's research supports the opposite conclusion. If it had, then why would there be carpet baggers coming to the South to buy plantations for cash knowing they would have to be operated by free labor? Both the slave owners and the abolitionists claimed that slaves were a special kind of financial property, that plantation owners were especially wealthy (they were not) and that the use of slave labor was a guarantee of extraordinary wealth. If they were, there would have been an active financial business built around them just as there were active lending and securitization businesses dealing with commodities and land. That never happened. There is no John Jacob Astor of the slave trade. There would have been if the trading of slaves had ever been as profitable as the commerce in animal skins.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
One factual quibble: Franklin got out of the slave trading business in 1841. Mrs. Franklin's wealth came entirely from the plantations, not any remnant of the slave business.
I apologize for the confusion. Clearly, slaves had value and had valuations. The question not asked often enough is how much money was to be made from the buying and selling of slaves. Was the business of slavery actually profitable?
The general assumption on this List and in the academic literature is that slave owners had lost their "wealth" because they had lost title to their human property; my argument is that the South became almost permanently poor because it lost something far more valuable - a system of local banking and credit.
If, there was an equilibrium between free and slave labor in operating costs, how would emancipation suddenly destroy the South's "wealth". There is very little evidence that the costs of share cropping and free labor greatly exceeded the costs of maintaining slave property. Foner's research supports the opposite conclusion. If it had, then why would there be carpet baggers coming to the South to buy plantations for cash knowing they would have to be operated by free labor? Both the slave owners and the abolitionists claimed that slaves were a special kind of financial property, that plantation owners were especially wealthy (they were not) and that the use of slave labor was a guarantee of extraordinary wealth. If they were, there would have been an active financial business built around them just as there were active lending and securitization businesses dealing with commodities and land. That never happened. There is no John Jacob Astor of the slave trade. There would have been if the trading of slaves had ever been as profitable as the commerce in animal skins.
What do you think paid for all those plantations? Who do you think were planting & harvesting all that cotton? The history of Franklin & Adalisha is well known in Middle Tennessee. You might want to actually study what Franklin’s ground breaking operations were & what they led to for men like Forrest before tossing out a date without context.

I didn’t just come to this yesterday. The issues you are raising have little or nothing to do with how the slaveholding economy operated. Fair warning, the more you learn about how slaveholding actually worked the worse it is.

The Nashville Scene has a terrific feature article about Franklin & Adalisha. It would be an eye opening place to start.
 

1SGDan

Captain
Joined
Dec 13, 2009
Location
New Hampshire
Am I confusing slave value with war? Why? The title of the thread was Sherman and Grant's War, and it certainly was. They executed, along with Sheridan, a policy that allowed them to become what all wars are seeking .....VICTORY. So yes it was their war to win.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Am I confusing slave value with war? Why? The title of the thread was Sherman and Grant's War, and it certainly was. They executed, along with Sheridan, a policy that allowed them to become what all wars are seeking .....VICTORY. So yes it was their war to win.
I agree, the fact of the matter is that the theme of this thread is settled history. There aren’t any scholastic concerns worth talking about. In the absence of substance, threads tend to wander off topic.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
One factual quibble: Franklin got out of the slave trading business in 1841. Mrs. Franklin's wealth came entirely from the plantations, not any remnant of the slave business.
I apologize for the confusion. Clearly, slaves had value and had valuations. The question not asked often enough is how much money was to be made from the buying and selling of slaves. Was the business of slavery actually profitable?
The general assumption on this List and in the academic literature is that slave owners had lost their "wealth" because they had lost title to their human property; my argument is that the South became almost permanently poor because it lost something far more valuable - a system of local banking and credit.
If, there was an equilibrium between free and slave labor in operating costs, how would emancipation suddenly destroy the South's "wealth". There is very little evidence that the costs of share cropping and free labor greatly exceeded the costs of maintaining slave property. Foner's research supports the opposite conclusion. If it had, then why would there be carpet baggers coming to the South to buy plantations for cash knowing they would have to be operated by free labor? Both the slave owners and the abolitionists claimed that slaves were a special kind of financial property, that plantation owners were especially wealthy (they were not) and that the use of slave labor was a guarantee of extraordinary wealth. If they were, there would have been an active financial business built around them just as there were active lending and securitization businesses dealing with commodities and land. That never happened. There is no John Jacob Astor of the slave trade. There would have been if the trading of slaves had ever been as profitable as the commerce in animal skins.
It was a weird asset, because it could not be traded in the main financial centers, New York and Boston. The banks were starting to get conservative about accepting the slaves as loan collateral and by December 1860 I believe there was 1/4 point risk surcharge added to loans. I think the March 1859 Butler slave auction in Savannah soured the northern banks on the whole process. Butler didn't sell the slaves himself, the banks had to get a receivership. As @archieclement has noted, a lot of these slaves were not really for sale at any price. They were workers, and had no substantial rights, but they were also considered permanent parts of the household. And in many places in the 8 middle states, slave traders were very unpopular. Not everyone who "owned" a few slaves was willing to take part in selling someone they had known for many years.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The price trend noted in Mr. Calhoun's Table 1,
1627944663364.png

p.62 https://krex.k-state.edu/dspace/bit...ckyDaleCalhoun2012.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Could not continue for very low. '57 and '58 were great years, but by 1860 the price of cotton had fallen by 20%.
There was a tremendous demand for slave labor in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. There was new land to be opened up, but death rates for both in whites and blacks were high in those areas.
The Civil War hid that without the blockade limiting cotton exports, the price was likely to fall another 10%.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
It helps to recall what Grant's specific orders were: "You will, no doubt, clean the country where you go of railroad tracks and supplies. I would also move every wagon, horse, mule, and hoof of stock, as well as the negroes.”
The valuations placed on slaves as chattel property are not to be trusted. There was regular trading in the sugar and cotton that slaves produced, with futures contracts and debt securitizations that reached across the Atlantic. The shares and bonds of Southern railroads traded in New York, Philadelphia and London. Southern plantation land could be mortgaged and sold. But, for the asset that was supposedly worth more than everything else in the United States of America, there were no futures contracts, no debt securitizations and no central financial markets here or abroad.
The premise that the slaves by themselves were an immense store of wealth is based largely on the records generated from the buyout by Parliament of the English owners of slaves throughout the empire in 1837. In the U.S. a quarter century later we have only the records of a few local slave brokerages; for Britain we have the full accounts of 40,000 claims and the price paid for each. The total payments were 40% of the Empire's official budget for that year.
https://archive.org/details/ukslaveownercompensation/page/n1/mode/2up
What slaves produced was worth a great deal of money and that gave real value to plantation real estate. What slaves themselves were worth as chattel property, independent of the plantations that they worked on, was a question no serious speculator wanted to bet on.
The conduct of the slave owners themselves is the tell. The promising cotton and sugar lands opened up in the 1820s and 1830s by the removal of the Cherokees and others were not settled by producers who bought the land and then imported slaves; they were pioneered by growers who moved their entire operations, including their slave families with them.
The threat of ending slavery in the territories was a real economic threat precisely because new lands gained their value from settlement by slave owners. The slaves alone could not be sold at any profit. The lands, once established as plantations, would have immense value that could be mortgaged and sold.
But Sherman was not in a position to comply with those orders with respect to slaves, until he was close to Savannah and especially until he had captured Fort McAllister. After that he became much more interested in the labor of the freedmen, who could help in a wide variety of non combat roles.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Sherman wrote a wartime letter where he predicted that the longer the war went on, the more destructive that war-making methods would be to southern civilians. And that fits with other wars. Wars become increasingly more brutal to civilians as the war drags on.
Wars escalate. Carl von Clausewitz had already written that. There many German intellectuals in Sherman's army, and Francis Lieber had written the US war code.
 

CowCavalry

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 17, 2017
Sweet potatoes were a staple of plantation diets. What modern folk often find surprising is that sweet potatoes were smoked to preserve them. Tons of them had to be dug, cleaned, smoked & stored properly. Even without slave labor, that was a major time sensitive process. The Shakers at Pleasant Hill KY documented the thousands of pounds they prepared for shipment southward at their landing.
Most of the sweet potatoes you buy in the grocery store today have been kiln dried.
 

jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
Sherman wrote a wartime letter where he predicted that the longer the war went on, the more destructive that war-making methods would be to southern civilians. And that fits with other wars. Wars become increasingly more brutal to civilians as the war drags on.
Sherman is vilified in the south because of that accurate observation and the fact that he put it into practice, most famously during the March through the Carolinas. But ironically, Sherman was probably the highest ranking Union officer who was most closely allied and accommodating to southern interests. Sherman made a clear distinction between using an iron fist in wartime in contrast to extending assistance and friendship to the civilian population once peace was at hand. To that end, Sherman's negotiation with Joe Johnston at Durham, NC offered the south extremely generous terms that acknowledged the legitimacy and allowed southern governments to resume functioning, protected many prior rights, and allowed Confederate soldiers to carry home their arms to state arsenals. To say nothing of Sherman's refusal to enlist Black soldiers in the western armies, and his rejection of the concept of freed persons suffrage.​
 

LetUsHavePeace

Volunteer
Joined
Dec 1, 2018
I don’t understand what you mean by the value of the slaves was unknowable. It was the sale of “extras” that provided the cash flow that kept border state plantations solvent. It was that trade that made Nathan Bedford Forrest a wealthy man.

Monthly market reports were subscribed to that listed the value of slaves beginning with children 4’ tall. There were farms that blatantly advertised that they raised human being for sale. Whether they acknowledged it or not, it was the raiding & selling of humans that the Virginia that Lee was so loyal to that was their major cash crop.

Isack Franklin & John Armfield were the ones who mastered the transport of “extras” from Maryland, Delaware & Virginia to Mississippi for resale. You can easily Google them for the details. Fair warning, their records are on the National Archive & the details would gag a buzzard.

Adelisha Atkins, Franklin’s widow’s married name, was the richest woman in the US after the Civil War. During the CW she managed to get cotton from what had been Franklin’s Deep South plantations to London. Baron Rothschild held her profit in gold until the end of hostilities.

Her summer mansion, Belmont, is at the southern end of Nashville’s famous Music Row. It is fully restored & should be on anybody’s list of must see’s. Google her for a good read.

The members of the Reverse Underground Rail Road knew exactly what slaves were worth. Right up until the final emancipation, organized gangs kidnapped black & only vaguely black individuals from free states & smuggled them southward for sale. Goggle Revers Underground RR for a sobering look at an often unknown aspect of the slave economy.

A great deal of money was made renting out slaves. Contracts ran from January to January when the corn crop was put away. Slave families dreaded January because that was when loved ones were packed off for labor in unknown parts. The civil suits resulting from the mistreatment of rented slaves is a stark dollars & cents example of what slaves were worth. Court records from Tennessee & other states are online.

Of course, probate is where the dollar value of slaves is set down in legal documents. The notion that the exact value of slaves of all ages was not knowable is in no way supported by the vast documentation to the contrary.
I apologize for the tardiness of my reply. I didn't write that the prices of slaves were "unknowable"; what I did write was that the valuations are not to be trusted. They are constructs just like the prices put on intermediate stage investments in venture capital companies; you can't verify them until the company actually goes public. What I was trying to point out was the huge discrepancy between the public trading in all the other assets of the country - crops, land, bonds, company shares - and the incredibly scanty records for the transactions in slaves. The absence of securitization seems to me a tell. In our nation of promoters and gamblers and speculators, if there had been any opportunities to trade options and futures on slaves, people would have made public markets in them; and we would have the records for that trading. I am an unaware of any that exist. I would be happy to be corrected if you could send me links.
That slaves were important is unarguable. That they were, in themselves, a commodity that could be financed in the capital markets seems to me an assumption that is made without ever being verified. Probate records and lawsuits are not the equivalent of open exchange transactions; they tell us that the property existed, but they don't tell us what investors were regularly willing to pay for making bets on the future of the slave capital market.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
I apologize for the tardiness of my reply. I didn't write that the prices of slaves were "unknowable"; what I did write was that the valuations are not to be trusted. They are constructs just like the prices put on intermediate stage investments in venture capital companies; you can't verify them until the company actually goes public. What I was trying to point out was the huge discrepancy between the public trading in all the other assets of the country - crops, land, bonds, company shares - and the incredibly scanty records for the transactions in slaves. The absence of securitization seems to me a tell. In our nation of promoters and gamblers and speculators, if there had been any opportunities to trade options and futures on slaves, people would have made public markets in them; and we would have the records for that trading. I am an unaware of any that exist. I would be happy to be corrected if you could send me links.
That slaves were important is unarguable. That they were, in themselves, a commodity that could be financed in the capital markets seems to me an assumption that is made without ever being verified. Probate records and lawsuits are not the equivalent of open exchange transactions; they tell us that the property existed, but they don't tell us what investors were regularly willing to pay for making bets on the future of the slave capital market.
It also unknowable how many of the slaves were considered saleable assets, and how many were considered servants and low status extensions of the family. The price of slaves in the major markets like those in New Orleans was high when there reluctance to sell southward, especially after Uncle Tom's Cabin. A major decline in the political power of the advocates of slavery was going to impact the price, by itself. Those that wanted to sell would be in a hurry, while buyers were going to doubtful about the future of the institution, and the availability of credit.
The price of slaves was high based on the boom years of 57-59, and the high mortality in what was then the new southwest. Projecting those prices into the future is probably not accurate.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I apologize for the tardiness of my reply. I didn't write that the prices of slaves were "unknowable"; what I did write was that the valuations are not to be trusted. They are constructs just like the prices put on intermediate stage investments in venture capital companies; you can't verify them until the company actually goes public. What I was trying to point out was the huge discrepancy between the public trading in all the other assets of the country - crops, land, bonds, company shares - and the incredibly scanty records for the transactions in slaves. The absence of securitization seems to me a tell. In our nation of promoters and gamblers and speculators, if there had been any opportunities to trade options and futures on slaves, people would have made public markets in them; and we would have the records for that trading. I am an unaware of any that exist. I would be happy to be corrected if you could send me links.
That slaves were important is unarguable. That they were, in themselves, a commodity that could be financed in the capital markets seems to me an assumption that is made without ever being verified. Probate records and lawsuits are not the equivalent of open exchange transactions; they tell us that the property existed, but they don't tell us what investors were regularly willing to pay for making bets on the future of the slave capital market.
All I have to go on are the weekly market reports published in slave trading centers that traders subscribed to. If they did not accurately reflect the going prices there is no doubt that they would go out of business. Your construct does not reflect any slave market activity I have ever heard of.

They also published farm commodity prices as well. Everybody depended on accurate market data just like we do today. At noon the going price & futures for barrows & guilts will be read out on radio stations all over farm country. Slave market data was just as important back then.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
All I have to go on are the weekly market reports published in slave trading centers. If they did not accurately reflect the going prices there is no doubt that they would go out of business. Your construct does not reflect any slave market activity I have ever heard of.

They also published farm commodity prices as well. Everybody depended on accurate market data just like we do today. At noon the going price & futures for barrows & guilts will be read out on radio stations all over farm country. Slave market data was just as important back then.
That would take some evidence. Because the slaves had virtually no value in Chicago, New York or London. They were only considered an asset in the southern US. And they were a difficult asset to liquidate, because they were mobile and could be hidden, and a large slave auction was already a dicey PR matter for the entire institution.
 

LetUsHavePeace

Volunteer
Joined
Dec 1, 2018
All I have to go on are the weekly market reports published in slave trading centers that traders subscribed to. If they did not accurately reflect the going prices there is no doubt that they would go out of business. Your construct does not reflect any slave market activity I have ever heard of.

They also published farm commodity prices as well. Everybody depended on accurate market data just like we do today. At noon the going price & futures for barrows & guilts will be read out on radio stations all over farm country. Slave market data was just as important back then.
Thank you. I do have to ask how you can suggest that slave market data was just as important as the current quotes for hogs when there were no futures or options markets for chattels. That is the point that I keep trying to make: slavery was absolutely essential, like the air people breathed; but our assumptions about how financial markets valued them seems to be much more a matter of faith than one of evidence. The difference matters because one has to question whether or not "the South was the wealthiest part of the country" - as is usually alleged - when the largest part of that wealth could not, in fact, be turned into money in any wholesale markets. American farmers could forward sell their entire crops into the financial markets; I have yet to find any evidence that plantation owners could mortgage their work force.
Perhaps we can end this dialog in your favor by reviewing together those weekly market reports. Could you send a reply with the links that are available? I may be badly misunderstanding how much financial liquidity there was in the slave trade. It will hardly be the first or the last mistake I will make in struggling to understand the economics and finance of the Civil War period.
 
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