Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"Cherished in the Heart of Hearts"


I recently discovered new information on the Major General C. F. Smith's death. The following editorial appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday, May 2, 1862.
 
Major General Charles Ferguson Smith
[Editorial]
 Honor to the Memory of General C. F. Smith.
A telegraphic dispatch from Larz Anderson, Esq., of Cincinnati to William L. Mactier of the city announces the arrival in the former place of the remains of the lamented Major General Charles F. Smith, on their way to Philadelphia for internment. It is expected that the body will reach our city by Sunday next.
There can be no more fitting occasion for public action than this, for the memory of the real hero of Fort Donelson - gallant gentleman and model soldier as he was  - is cherished in the heart of hearts of every loyal resident of his native city. 
Arrival of the Body of General Smith. 
The body of General Charles F. Smith is expected to arrive in this city on Sunday next. It was yesterday at Cincinnati. The following dispatch was received by William L. Mactier, Esq.:
Cincinnati, April 30, 1862. -
To William L. Mactier, Esq., Philadelphia: General Smith's body has just arrived. Its detention here being unexpected, there could be no public reception. It rests at my house, subject to further directions.
Larz Anderson. 
The wife of General Smith, immediately upon the announcement of his serious illness at the seat of war in the West, started from New York for Tennessee. Before she reached Cincinnati, however, General Robert Anderson telegraphed to Mr. Larz Anderson to stop her at the last-named city, and suggest her return to the East, her husband having expired. She acted accordingly, and is now in Philadelphia in company with two sisters of the late General Smith, viz: Mrs. Swan, wife of the navy agent at Newport, R.I., and Mrs. Jeffers. The widow and relatives await the arrival of the corpse at the house of Mr. Mactier.
 The remains will probably lay in state in Independence Hall on Monday next should Councils so direct.
The officers of Laurel Hill Cemetery contemplate offering a lot of ground either to the city or to the family.[1]
 General Smith's funeral was held on May 7, 1862 with military honors.  
LOCAL INTELLIGENCE.

THE FUNERAL obsequies OF GEN. 

CHARLES F. SMITH.CHARLES F. SMITH.
The obsequies of General SMITH took place yesterday afternoon, and were of an imposing character. Early in the day there were signs of bad weather, and many an anxious eye was cast upward. About the time for the commencement of the ceremonies, the clouds broke and gave token of a "blue and golden" day. A slight rain occurred during the progress of the procession, but not of sufficient consequence to mar the proceedings. The number of people lining the sidewalks and streets throughout the route of the procession was immense.
At precisely half-past two o’clock, the military having previously formed on Broad street, arrived at the south gate of Independence Square on Walnut street, the head of the column halting at Fifth street. The artillery was drawn up on Walnut street, between Fourth and Fifth. Immediately after the arrival of the military, the coffin was conveyed from the Hall to the south gate of the Square, followed by officers and other invited guests in the following order: -
Captain CHAPMAN BIDDLE’S Company A of artillery, the body-guard, was drawn up in a line in the centre of the Square, facing west. The body then emerged from the Hall, borne on the shoulders of eight policemen, attended on either side by the pall-bearers, among whom and in addition to the published list, were Gen. ROBERT ANDERSON, Dr. FINLEY, Col RUFF and Gen. PATTERSON, who followed directly in the rear of the coffin.
After the Pall-bearers came the Clergy, officers of the First Division P. V., officers of the Blue Reserves, officers of the Grey Reserve, officers of Volunteer Regiments, and officers of the Army and Navy. During the passage of this cortege through the Square, the Brigade Band, stationed on Walnut street opposite the gate of the Square, and under direction of Band Master A. BIRGFELD), played an impressive death march. The Body Guard, drawn up in the Square, presented sabres while the coffin and followers were passing, and then took position, marching by sections at the head of the line. In this order the procession marched through the gate, turning down Walnut street and halting at the right of the military column, which was at present arms. The arrangements in Independence Hall, and until the body was placed in the hearse, were under the direction of Col. P. C. ELLMAKER, of the First Regiment Grey Reserves; after the coffin had been placed in the hearse, the military were formed in column , left in front, and the procession proceeded the route previously agreed upon, in the following order: -
Body of Police, mounted and on foot, under the direction of Chief RUGGLES. 

General PLEASANTON and Staff.
Band.
Company A of the Cadets or SAUNDERS' Institute,
West Philadelphia.
Battalion American and German Rifles, Major GRAEF
commanding.
Band, led by Band master A. BIRGFELD.
Drum Corps.
Second Regiment Philadelphia Guard, Col. DARE,
Band.
Detachment from First Regiment Phila. Home
Guard, Lieutenant-Colonel SNOWDEN.
Keystone Artillery, Captain M. HASTINGS, with six
pieces artillery (Parrott guns).
Washington artillery, two companies, Captains
HALL and BAVINGTON.
Body Guard.
Carriages containing the Reverend Clergy and Pall
Bearers.
Undertaker - Mr. JOHN GOOD - and Assistants.
Hearse containing body, drawn by six black horses, led by grooms, with white plumes; top of hears ornamented with black and white feathers; coffin covered with American flag, and containing chapeau, epaulettes and sword of deceased. A body of police guarded the hearse.
The General’s horse, with accoutrements, led by a groom.
Officers of the Army and Navy.
Blue Reserves, Grey Reserves, Home Guard, Volunteers in service, etc.
Carriages containing relatives of deceased, Mayor of the city, Heads of Departments, Judges of the different Courts, Members of the Bar, Members of the Press, and citizens generally.

The cortege moved out Walnut to Twelfth, thence to Spring Garden, thence to Broad, thence to Girard avenue, thence to Ridge avenue, where the head of the procession halted. The Infantry were here drawn up on the south side of the street, and presented arms; the remainder of the procession proceeded out Ridge avenue to Laurel Hill Cemetery.

On arriving at the Cemetery the coffin was taken from the hearse, placed on a bier and conveyed within the gates, preceded by the body guard, with reversed arms, and the reverend clergy, aid fol. lowed by relatives, invited guests, &c. 
During the progress of the body to the grave, the band stationed in the Cemetery played a piece of music. The Rifle Battalion, which constituted, In connection with Capt. HASTINGS' company of Keystone Artillery, the firing party, were stationed near the grave, having arrived at the Cemetery before the rest of the procession. The Rifles were drawn up facing the east, and the Keystone Artillery, with four pieces planted in position, facing the north, and near the grave. The religious services were then pronounced by the Rev. Dr. DUCACHET. The ground was then cleared before the military, and the ceremonies were ended by the usual military salute being fired, consisting of three volleys of infantry and two rounds from four pieces of artillery, being the salute a Major-General is entitled to. During the march of the procession along Broad street, a salute of 100 guns was fired by the Mechanic Engine Company, In token of their respect for the deceased.
Minute guns were fired by the howitzer battery, Captain E. SPENCER MILLER, in number corresponding to the years of deceased from the lot adjoining the Academy of Music, Broad street.
The flags on all the public buildings and hotels, and on numerous private houses, were displayed at half-mast during the day.[2]
Grave Site in Laurel Hill Cemetery
General and Mrs. Smith are buried here
In June, the Special Committee asked for additional funds for the obsequies.
OBSEQUIES OF GENERAL SMITH.
The Special Committee upon the obsequies of Major-General CHARLES F. SMITH, reported that the actual expenses of the Committee amounted to $824.57. The expenses of the military, $445.16, it was thought, belonged to the Home Guards, and were passed to the Committee on Defence. As the Controller had refused to countersign one of the warrants, the Committee state [sic] that it became necessary to ask for a further appropriation of $269.73. An ordinance making such an appropriation was submitted and passed. [3]
General Smith's widow, Fanny Mactier Smith, died four years after her husband. The Philadelphia Inquirer published a notice on Monday, May 28, 1866.
Smith. - On Saturday, May 26, Fanny Mactier, widow of the late Major-General Charles F. Smith, United States Army.
The friends of the family are invited to attend her funeral, at St. Stephen's Church, this (Monday), at 5 o'clock P.M. [Baltimore and Washington papers will please copy.][4]
Rest in Peace "gallant gentleman and model soldier"


[1] "Honor to the Memory of General C. F. Smith," The Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday, May 2, 1862.
[2] "The Funeral Obsequies of Gen. Charles F. Smith," The Philadelphia Inquirer on Wednesday, May 7, 1862.
[3] "Obsequies of General Smith," The Philadelphia Inquirer on Friday, June 6, 1862.
[4] "Smith," The Philadelphia Inquirer on Monday, May 28, 1866.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Return of the Know Nothings


The Know-Nothings was the name of an American political party that came to prominence in the mid-1850s. Their formal title was The Native American Party, which they renamed the American Party in 1855. 

 A strident Anti-Catholic cartoon depicting members of the Know-Nothing
Party opposing the Pope as he arrives in America. (Library of  Congress)
The movement began in response to an influx of migrants and promised to "purify" American politics by limiting or ending the influence of Irish Catholics and other immigrants. The Know Nothing Party grew from fears that German and Irish Catholic immigrants were overwhelming the country. They considered the Catholics to be under the political control of the Pope and hostile to Republican values. 

Origins 

Anti-immigrant cartoon showing two men labeled "Irish Whiskey"
and "Lager Bier," carrying a ballot box. 
(Everett Collection Historical / Alamy Stock Photo)
The immigration of Irish and German Catholics in the 1840s instigated an increase in anti-Catholicism in American society and politics. Although anti-Catholic sentiments were present in colonial America, the wave of immigrants re-energized public sentiment. The Irish and German emigrants competed with native-born citizens for jobs and housing. This competition fostered the nativism movement. This political philosophy advocated favoring the native majority of a nation while targeting and threatening newcomers or immigrants. Political rhetoric fueled the fears of laborers, skilled workers, and small businessmen. 

The religious differences between Catholics and Protestants also became a political issue. Protestants accused the Pope of being opposed to liberty, democracy, and Republicanism. A Boston minister claimed that Catholicism was "the ally of tyranny, the opponent of material prosperity, the foe of thrift, the enemy of the railroad, the caucus, and the school." These charges led to the fear that the Pope wanted to subjugate the United States through a continuing influx of Catholics controlled by Irish bishops under the command of the Pope. 

The movement appeared in New York State as the American Republican Party in June 1843. It was a response to the increasing political power of immigrant voters and officeholders. In 1844, the party won municipal elections in New York City and Philadelphia. These victories helped the party grow and the leaders organized a national convention in July 1845. Attendees changed the name to the Native American Party and proposed tougher immigration laws including a legislative program requiring a twenty-one-year period before immigrants could become citizens. However, the party was unable to force the United States Congress to pass more stringent immigration standards. Congress focused on the annexation of Texas, a potential war with Mexico, and the expansion of slavery. The inability to pass legislation caused the party to lose popularity. 

Secret Organizations 

As the national party declined, a number of "secret organizations" formed in the early 1850s. The "Order of United Americans" and the "Order of the Star Spangled Banner" were the most important. The two groups merged and the party rapidly spread across the North. Their message found an audience among lower middle class, non-Catholics. 

The name Know-Nothing came from the organization's secret response to questions about the group. When someone asked a member about the group's activities, he replied, "I know nothing." Outsiders called them "Know-Nothings," and the response became the unofficial party name.
In 1849, Charles B. Allen established the Order of the Star Spangled Banner in New York City. The society drew members from non-Catholic Democrats dissatisfied because of the increase of Irish Catholic members and leaders in the party. The disenchanted Democrats formed secret groups, coordinated their votes, and supported candidates sympathetic to their cause. 

Other issues contributed to the growth of anti-immigrant attitudes. According to James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom:

Immigration during the first five years of the 1850s reached a level five times greater than a decade earlier. Most of the new arrivals were poor Catholic peasants or laborers from Ireland and Germany who crowded into the tenements of large cities. Crime and welfare costs soared. Cincinnati's crime rate, for example, tripled between 1846 and 1853 and its murder rate increased sevenfold. Boston's expenditures for poor relief rose threefold during the same period. 

The Rise to National Prominence 

Platform of the American Party (Seth Kaller, Inc.)
In the 1854 elections, the Know-Nothing candidates were victorious in Boston, Salem, and other New England cities. The Whig candidate for mayor of Philadelphia won by promising to reduce crime, close saloons on Sundays, and to appoint only native-born Americans to office. The Know Nothing candidate defeated the incumbent mayor in Washington, DC. In Massachusetts, the new party controlled all but three of the 400 seats, and only 35 had any previous legislative experience. The Know-Nothings founded a chapter in San Francisco in 1854 to oppose Chinese immigration. A judge on the state Supreme Court, who was a member, ruled that no Chinese person could testify as a witness against a white man in court. 

The results of the 1854 elections energized the individual Know-Nothing organization, and they formed an official political party called the American Party. The party attracted many members from the Whig and Democratic parties and prohibitionists. Membership in the American Party increased from 50,000 to over one million in a matter of months during 1854.

In the spring of 1855, the Know Nothing candidate was elected mayor of Chicago. He barred all immigrants from city jobs. In Alabama, Know Nothings were a mix of former Whigs, malcontented Democrats, and other political outsiders who favored state aid to build more railroads. The Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia won the election by convincing voters that Know Nothings were allied with Northern abolitionists. After Democratic victory, the movement began to collapse in the South. 

Membership 

The new party's voters were concentrated in the rapidly growing industrial towns, where workers faced direct competition with new Irish immigrants. Know Nothing membership was highest in the poor districts. They opposed the upper-class closed political leadership class, especially the lawyers and merchants. In their place, they elected working class men, farmers, and a large number of teachers and ministers. Men who seldom owned $10,000 in property replaced the wealthy politicians. 

Other Issues 

The American Party was more than just a nativist movement. In Massachusetts, the 1855 Know Nothing controlled legislature passed a series of reforms that "burst the dam against change erected by party politics, and released a flood of reforms." The party also opposed slavery, supported an expansion of the rights of women, favored industry regulation, and championed measures to improve the status of working people. It passed legislation to regulate railroads, insurance companies, and public utilities. It funded free textbooks for the public schools, and raised the appropriations for local libraries and for the school for the blind. The legislature established the state's first reform school for juvenile delinquents. It gave wives more property rights and more rights in divorce courts. It passed harsh penalties on speakeasies, gambling houses, and bordellos. It passed tough prohibition legislation. However, many of the reforms were quite expensive. State spending rose 45% and taxes on cities and towns increased 50%. This spending angered the taxpayers, and few Know Nothings were re-elected. 

National Impact 

The Know-Nothing movement reached its zenith in the mid-1850s when the American Party won fifty-two seats in the US House of Representatives in 1854 and captured five seats in the US Senate in 1856. The party ran Millard Fillmore and Andrew J. Donelson in the presidential election in 1856. 

After the Supreme Court's ruling in the Dred Scott case, most of the anti-slavery members of the American Party joined the Republican Party. The pro-slavery wing of the American Party remained strong on the local and state levels in a few southern states, but by the 1860 election, they were no longer a serious national political movement. Most of their remaining members supported the Constitutional Union Party in 1860.

Political movements, such as the American Protective Association in the 1890s and the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, revived the nativism philosophy. In the 1892 election in Illinois, a Democratic candidate denounced the Republicans:

The spirit which enacted the Alien and Sedition laws, the spirit which actuated the "Know-nothing" party, the spirit which is forever carping about the foreign-born citizen and trying to abridge his privileges, is too deeply seated in the party. The aristocratic and know-nothing principle has been circulating in its system so long that it will require more than one somersault to shake the poison out of its bones. 

Comparison with Current Republican Initiatives 

During the 2016 presidential election, the media compared the Republican candidate with the nativism of the Know Nothings. These criticisms posed the question of whether "the poison" was out of the Republican Party's "bones." 

Targets

Know-Nothings: Irish Catholics, German Catholics, and Chinese
Republicans: Hispanics and Muslims 

Reasons

Know-Nothings: Growing political power, rising crime and violence, increasing welfare costs, competition for jobs, threat to status of native Americans, fear of Pope's political influence 
Republicans: Growing political power, rising crime and violence, increasing welfare costs, competition for jobs, Threat to status of native Americans, fear of "Muslim terrorists" 

Responses

Know-Nothings: Tougher immigration laws, jury and testimony restrictions, prohibition from holding public office
Republicans: Tougher enforcement of immigration laws,deportation of illegal, especially criminal, immigrants,travel restrictions on selected countries, wall along Texas-Mexico border, taxes on Mexican imports 

Impact on Political Parties

Know-Nothings: Parties out of touch with public, demise of Whig Party, division of Democratic Party based on support for slavery, failure of Democrats to support workers
Republicans: Parties out of touch with public, public anger with Congressional ineffectiveness, loss of traditional labor support by Democrats, conservative battles within Republican Party

Social Impacts

Know-Nothings: Nativism, Violence against Catholics, Anti-immigrant 
Republicans: Nativism, rise of white supremacy movement, violence against Muslims, threats against religious groups, anti-immigrant attitudes, desecration of religious sites

Sources


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Reconstruction and The Rise of the Klu Klux Klan


Senator Ted Cruz's Comments 

Texas Senator Ted Cruz
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)claimed, "The Democrats are the party of the Ku Klux Klan." Speaking on Fox News, Cruz blasted the party for its opposition to Jeff Sessions,who was later confirmed as attorney general. 
Critics had accused Sessions of racial bias, among other things, but Cruz attempted to turn it around on the Democrats.

"When the left doesn’t have any other arguments, they go and just accuse everyone of being a racist. It’s an ugly, ugly part of the modern Democratic Party,” he said on "America’s Newsroom." 

"You look at the most racist, you look at the Dixiecrats, they were Democrats who imposed segregation, imposed Jim Crow laws, who founded the Klan,"Cruz said. "The Klan was founded by a great many Democrats." 

However, historians say the KKK and its founding had nothing to do with what Cruz called the "modern Democratic Party." 

PolitiFact looked into the accusation when it came up in 2013 and called it false.

The KKK was indeed made up largely of Democrats in the South after the Civil War, as most whites in the South were Democrats, but it was not started by the party. In addition, the modern Democratic and Republican parties are not what they were in the 19th century.

The Klan is Established

A group of southerners including many Confederate veterans founded the first branch of the Ku Klux Klan in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1866. The organization was originally established as a social club. The first two words of the organization’s name supposedly derived from the Greek word "kyklos," meaning circle. In the summer of 1867, local branches of the Klan met in a general organizing convention and established what they called an "Invisible Empire of the South." Attendees elected Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest as the first leader or "grand wizard" of the Klan.

Radical Republican Reconstruction Policies Energize the Klan

In keeping with President Lincoln's policy toward the former Confederate states, President Andrew Johnson’s relatively lenient Reconstruction policies were in place from 1865 to 1866. The nature of the Klan changed significantly with the beginning of the second phase of post-Civil War Reconstruction, which the more radical members of the Republican Party in Congress put into place. Congress passed the Reconstruction Act over the President Johnson's veto. The provisions of the act divided the South was into five military districts. The act also required each state to approve the 14th Amendment, which granted "equal protection" of the Constitution to former slaves and enacted universal male suffrage.
Freemen Voting in New Orleans in 1867
This act set resulted in a violent eruption by Southerners who was still reeling from their defeat in the Civil War. The life that they knew was gone and the new social and political status of blacks and Republicans destroyed the last semblance of the plantation life.  The Klan quickly evolved into a military organization to resist the Reconstruction Act. White Southerners from all classes of society joined the Klan. The first step was to attack and destroy the "Republican influence in the South by terrorizing and murdering its party leaders and all those who voted for it."  Then the Klan punished newly freed blacks for a variety of reasons, including behaving in an "impudent" manner toward whites. They whipped the teachers of freedmen's schools and burnt their schoolhouses.
An October 24th, 1874 Harper's Magazine
editorial cartoon by Thomas Nast
denouncing KKK and White League
 murders of innocent blacks
The isolated incidents against blacks and Republicans grew into riots. In 1866, a quarrel between whites and black veterans erupted into a full-fledged riot in Memphis, Tennessee. White police officers assisted the mobs in their violent rampage through the black sections of town. By the time the violence ended, the mob killed forty-six people, wounded seventy, and burned numerous churches and schools. Two months later, on July 30, a similar violent outbreak erupted in New Orleans. A white mob attacked the attendees of a black suffrage convention and killed thirty-seven blacks and three white supporters.
The violence in the South threatened to catapult the nation into a second civil war. Numerous organizations defied the Republican-led federal government and violently intimidated blacks and Republicans who tried to win political power. 

Grant's Presidency  

President Ulysses S. Grant
The Klan's activities increased in speed and brutality prior to the 1868 presidential election. In the crucial contest, Republican Ulysses S. Grant opposed Democrat Horatio Seymour. To the Klan, a Republican victory meant that the federal government would continue programs that "prevented Southern whites from gaining political control in their states." Klan members knew the blacks in their communities would vote Republican. Across the South, the Klan and other groups used brutal violence to intimidate Republican voters. In Kansas, over 2,000 murders were committed in connection with the election. In Georgia, the number of threats and beatings was even higher. In Louisiana, the Klan and other organizations killed 1,000 blacks before the election. In those three states, Democrats won decisive victories at the polls.
The Klan's violent actions actually backfired. Northerners believed the violence and coercions indicated that the South had not learned its lesson in the recent war. Federal government officials  realized that the South required harsher laws to stop the violence and protect Southern blacks.
Republican Ulysses S. Grant won the 1868 presidential election with the slogan, "Let Us Have Peace." Republicans also won a majority in Congress. Many Northerners, disgusted by Klan violence, supported the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave the vote to black men in every state, and the First Reconstruction Act of 1867, which placed harsher restrictions on the South and closely regulated the formation of their new post-Civil War governments. 

Enforcement and Klu Klux Klan Acts

Between 1870 and 1871, Congress passed the Enforcement Acts, which made it a crime to interfere with registration, voting, office holding, or jury service of blacks. Courts indicted more than 5,000 people under these laws, but only convicted slightly more than 1,000.
In 1871, Congress also passed the Ku Klux Klan Act, which allowed the government to act against terrorist organizations. Grant did not rigorously enforce these laws, although he did order the arrest of hundreds of Klan members. However, the overwhelming support of the Klan in the South made convictions difficult to obtain, and the financial panic of 1873 distracted the North from the problems of Southern racism. 
From the early 1870s onward, white supremacy gradually reasserted its hold on the South as federal support for Reconstruction waned. By the end of 1876, the Democratic Party again controlled the entire South. In 1882, the United States Supreme Court declared Ku Klux Klan Act unconstitutional.

Hayes Ends Reconstruction

President Rutherford
 B. Hayes
On January 29, 1877, President Grant signed the Electoral Commission Act, which set up a fifteen-member commission to settle the disputed 1876 election of eight Republicans and seven Democrats. The Electoral Commission awarded Rutherford B. Hayes the electoral votes he needed and Congress certified that he won by one electoral vote. Southern Democrats agreed not to block Hayes' inauguration based on a "back room" deal. Key to this deal was the understanding that federal troops would no longer interfere in southern politics despite substantial election-associated violence against blacks. The Southern states said they would protect the lives of blacks. Hayes' friends spread rumors that he would promote Federal aid for internal improvements and name a Southerner to his cabinet. With the end to the political role of Northern troops, the President had no method to enforce Reconstruction, thus this "back room" deal signaled the end of American Reconstruction.   

Rebuttal of Senator Cruz's Statements

Based on the historical record, Senator Cruz's assertion is wrong. The Klan drew their membership from "small farmers and laborers to planters, lawyers, merchants, physicians and ministers."  In areas of high Klan activity, local law enforcement officials either belonged to the Klan or refused to take action against it.  Even officials who arrested accused Klansmen found it difficult to find witnesses willing to testify against them. Other leading white citizens in the South declined to speak out against the group’s actions and gave them tacit approval. The Klan members were probably Southern Democrats. Attributing the rise of the Klan to all Democrats ignores the Northern Democrats who rejected the Klan's actions.
Senator Cruz also ignores the role that radical Republicans played in fostering the growth of the Klan. Klan activities were in direct response to legislation passed by Republican legislators. Efforts to elect Republicans to local, state, and national posts were met with violence.  At least ten percent of the black legislators elected during the 1867-1868 constitutional conventions were victims of violence including seven who were murdered. The more the Republican-controlled federal government tried to enforce legislation against the Klan, the more the Klan resisted attempts to change the social and political environment in the South. Then, federal Republican authorities led by President Rutherford B. Hayes compounded the issue by refusing to enforce the very laws they enacted.

Sources

Sen. Ted Cruz Calls Democrats "The Party of the KKK"
PBS - Rise of the Klu Klux Klan
History - Klu Klux Klan
New Georgia Encyclopedia - Klu Klux Klan in the Reconstruction Era
North Carolina Digital History - The Compromise of 1877
Wikipedia - Reconstruction Era
Wikipedia - Klu Klux Klan

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Lighthouse Board


Lighthouses transferred to the Federal Government (1789-1820)

During the colonial period, the government of each colony built and managed lighthouses in their colony. Twelve existing lighthouses and newly constructed facilities were under the control of the individual states throughout the period of confederation. On August 7, 1789, President George Washington signed the ninth act of the United States Congress, which required states to turn over their existing, proposed, under construction, and proposed, to the federal government. The act created the US Lighthouse Establishment in the Department of Treasury. 

Initially, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton reviewed contracts and the appointment of keepers before sending these documents to President Washington for his signature. In 1792, Hamilton turned over the administration of aids to navigation to the Commissioner of Revenue until Albert Gallatin became Secretary of the Treasury. Gallatin managed lighthouses for nearly all of his two terms in office when this responsibility went back to the Commissioner of Revenue. The commissioner retained this duty until the government abolished the office in 1820. At that time, the Secretary of the Treasury assigned the lighthouse responsibilities to Stephen Pleasonton, Fifth Auditor of the Treasury. The collector of customs administered lighthouses on the local level.

Lighthouses under the Fifth Auditor of the Treasury (1820-1852)

Stephen Pleasonton
Pleasonton administered the US Lighthouse Establishment for thirty-two years. During this time, the number of lighthouses and lightships grew dramatically. In 1822, there were seventy lighthouses in the country. By 1842, the number had increased to 256 lighthouses and 30 light vessels. Ten years later that number had increased to 331 lighthouses and 42 lightships. However, there was little technical progress during his administration. Once Pleasonton had adopted a way of operation or a technical development, he resisted changes or innovations. For example, when he assumed his new responsibilities, the Argand lamp and parabolic reflector system lit lighthouses. When French scientist Augustin Fresnel invented a lens in 1822, which produced a light infinitely superior to the system used in American lighthouses, Pleasonton resisted testing the new lens until forced to do so by Congress in the 1840s. When After the highly successful test, Pleasonton refused to adopt the lens. This rejection resulted in the responsibility for aids to navigation to be assigned to the US Light-House Board. 

During Pleasonton's administration, shippers, navigators, chambers of commerce, and navigation experts attacked bible complained of the poor quality of America's lighthouses, especially the lights.

In 1837, Congress questioned the need for funding a large number of new lighthouses and appointed a board of navy commissioners to examine the necessity of proposed lighthouses. After careful study, the commissioners recommended dropping thirty-one of the proposed lighthouses.

In the following year, Congress divided the country into eight districts and assigned a naval officer to each district to examine the condition of current lighthouses and sites selected for new ones. The officers found that the condition of lighthouses ranged from good to terrible. They reported faulty construction, inadequate lighting system, and poor placement. In 1838, Congress increased the role of the Army Corps of Engineers in selecting the sites, constructing, and lighting lighthouses.

In 1851, after increasing complaints about the country's system of navigation aids, Congress ordered an extensive investigation of the navigation system and appointed a panel of distinguished military officers and civilian scientists to study the situation.

The Congressional investigation took more than four years to effect a change in the administration of navigation aids along the American coasts. During that time, congressional appointee, Lt. Jenkins of the US Coast Survey conducted interviews with pilots and mariners, researched domestic and foreign studies, and participated in hearings on existing navigational aids administration. On March 3, 1851, Congress passed "An Act Making Appropriations for Light House, Light Boats, Buoys, &c." Section 8 of the act stated:
The Secretary of the Treasury is authorized and required to cause a board to be convened at as early a day as may be practical after the passage of that act to be comprised of two officers of the Navy of high rank, two officers of Engineers of the Army, and such civil officers of scientific attainments as may be under the orders or at the disposition of the Treasury Department, and a junior officer of the Navy to act as Secretary to said board, whose duty it shall be under instructions from the Treasury Department to inquire into the condition of the Lighthouse Establishment of the United States, and make a general detailed report and programme to guide legislation in extending and improving our present system of construction, illumination, inspection, and superintendence.

The Lighthouse Board resulted from this mandate, and its original members consisted of William B. Shubrick, and Samuel F. Du Pont, U.S. Navy; James Kearney, U.S. Topographical Engineers; civilian academics Alexander Dallas Bache, Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey and Joseph Henry, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution; and Lt. Thornton Jenkins, US Navy, who acted as Secretary.

The US Lighthouse Board (1852-1910)


US Light House Service Seal
The appointment of these experienced, knowledgeable men to the Board attracted others of similar quality to lighthouse duty, both on the board and in district offices. Congress organized the country into twelve lighthouse districts. Each district had an inspector (a naval officer) responsible for building the lighthouses and seeing that they remained in good operating condition. After a few years, the inspectors became overloaded with work and an engineer (an army officer) was appointed to each district to direct construction and maintenance of lighthouses. 

The Lighthouse Board quickly applied new technology, particularly in purchasing and installing new Fresnel lenses and constructing screw pile foundation lighthouses. The Board managed construction of the first lighthouses on the west coast. It was a difficult period for the Lighthouse Board, but it methodically went about getting its program started and underway. By the time of the Civil War, all lighthouses had Fresnel lenses. 

In the 1850s, the Board prescribed color schemes for the buoys, as well as range lights and day markers; and the buoy system was standardized. Classification systems were also developed to mark the nation's waterways. The board introduced iron buoys to replace the more expensive copper-clad wooden buoys. The Lighthouse Board also began printing changes made in aids to navigation as a Notice to Mariners.

Beavertail Whitehouse
Several advances in the technology of fog signals were made during the 1850s. In 1851, the Board installed an experimental air fog whistle and reed horn at Beavertail Lighthouse at the entrance to Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. A horse-operated treadmill and later by an internal combustion steam engine powered this sound signal. Around 1851, the Board introduced mechanically rung fog bells. The strokes of the fog signals were timed deliberately to afford each signal a unique sound characteristic. The bell signal was gradually replaced by three variations of that instrument. The first was an ordinary locomotive whistle, enlarged and modified and blown by steam from a high-pressured tubular boiler.

Famous members of the US Corps of Engineers helped build lighthouses including

  • Richard Delafield (class of 1818, brigadier general and chief of engineers US Army)
  • Hartman Bache (class of 1818, colonel Corps of Engineers US Army)
  • Andrew A. Humphreys (class of 1831, major general US Volunteers)
  • George W. Cullum (class of 1833, brigadier general US Volunteers)
  • George G. Meade (class of 1835, major general US Army)
  • Henry Benham (class of 1837, brigadier general US Volunteers)
  • Jeremy Gilmer (class of 1839, major general Confederate States Army)
  • Horatio Wright (class of 1841, major general US Volunteers)
  • Amiel Whipple (class of 1841, major general US Volunteers)
  • John Newton (class of 1842, brigadier general US Volunteers)
  • John Pope (class of 1842, major general US Volunteers)  
  • William Franklin (class of 1843, major general US Volunteers)
  • William F. Smith (class of 1845, major general US Volunteers)  
  • Alfred Gibbs (class of 1846, brigadier general US Volunteers)  
  • James St. C. Morton (class of 1851, brigadier general US Volunteers)
  • Orlando Poe (class of 1856, brigadier general US Volunteers)    


Sources: United States Lighthouse Board <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Lighthouse_Board>,
Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy <http://www.michiganlights.com/lighthouseservice.htm>, United States Lighthouse Society <http://uslhs.org/> ,and Cullum Register