Friday, March 31, 2017

Colonel William McRee and the West Point Library


As I was doing research on my book, Preparing for Disunion, I learned about Lieutenant Colonel William McRee.

Mission to Europe

According to Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh in his book West Pointers and the Civil War:

In the spring of 1815, Chief Engineer Joseph G. Swift ordered two West Point graduates, Capt. Sylvanus Thayer and Lt. Col. William McRee, to travel to Europe for the purpose of "an examination of the military establishments,' 'Fortifications,' 'Schools,' 'Work-shops,' and Libraries in France, Germany & England - particularly the first and last named nations, - to collect Books, Maps and Instruments."  
Sylvanus Thayer
Swift intended to add the acquired books and military material to the West Point Library. McRee demonstrated a clear understanding of literature when he reported, "among the military books there must inevitably be found a considerable amount of trash." He used the reputation of the book's author as the "rule by which we could regulate our choice."

McRee aimed to collect military writings "upon these subjects that had formerly excited great interest and continued to divide opinions" in order "to have all the evidence upon questions that concern us, and that we shall have to decide on in our turn."

McRee summed up his mission with Thayer when he remarked "upon the whole, we are too little pleased with our work to ask for it, entire approbation - But, we have one consolation in common with all that have no excuse ... We might have done worse."[1]



[1] Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh, West Pointers and the Civil War (Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina, 2009 ), 19-21.


West Point Library (1842-1861)

Military and Civilian History

McRee graduated from West Point in 1805 and the Army commissioned him as a second lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers. He served as an assistant engineering in "surveying sites of fortifications on the Southern Coast"... "and in the construction of the defenses of Charleston   Harbor." 

He served as Chief of Artillery in the War of 1812 and fought in the capture of Fort Erie, Battle of Chippewa, Battle of Niagara, and the defense of Fort Erie.

Following the war, he was on the mission described above in Europe from 1815-1816. He was a member of the Board of Engineers for designing a system of Atlantic Coast Defenses from November 1816 to March 1819.

In bitter protest to the appointment of the foreign officer General Simon Bernard as the assistant to the chief of engineers, McRee resigned his officer's commission and was discharged from the military on March 31, 1819.
From February 1825 until July 1832, McRee served as Surveyor General of the United States for the territories of Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas.

McRee died on 15 May 1833 in St. Louis, Missouri.

Fort McRee

Fort McRee was one of three major installations constructed by the United States to strengthen defenses at Pensacola Bay following the War of 1812. Its construction lasted from 1834 and 1839; the facility was a three-tiered fort and a detached water battery close to sea level. It was located on the eastern tip of Perdido Key on a stretch of beach known as Foster's Bank. It had a highly unusual shape because of its position on a small, narrow barrier island.
Although the fort was completed in 1839, its 122 guns were not installed until sometime between 1843 and 1845. It is likely that many of these guns were not in place for some time due to several issues, the most important of which was a problem with rot beginning in the second tier wooden decking.
Fort McRee was named in April 1840 for Army engineer Colonel William McRee.
After the Mexican-American War, the Army built  barracks near Fort Barrancas on the mainland. Once these were completed, Fort McRee was manned only during drills, maneuvers and target practice. 
Map Showing Fort McRee
Troops Drilling Outside of Fort

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