Saturday, January 19, 2013

Parson Brownlow In Cincinnati

His Straight Out Union Speech

Parson Brownlow, of East Tennessee, accompanied by his son, arrived in this city yesterday, and took quarters at the Gibson House.  At 9 o’clock the Union Committee met him in the ladies’ parlor, and he was welcomed by Pollock Wilson, Esq., who alluded with emotion to the services of Brownlow in the cause of the Union, and his heroic endurance of persecution.  The Parson was much moved by the cordiality of his reception, and commenced speaking with a stammering voice, and eyes filled with tears.  He had been for Clay in 1836, for Harrison in 1840, for Webster in 1856, for Bell and Everett in 1860.  Speaking of Bell always reminded him of “pity the sorrows of a poor old man.”  He (the Parson) had never had any sympathy with secessionists.  He had been offered large bribes to sustain the rebellion; but though he was a poor man he was not for sale.  He gave an account of his correspondence with Judah P. Benjamin, all of which he had preserved and would publish in his forthcoming book.  He could not express the joy he felt in finding the old Union flag at Nashville.  When the army went to East Tennessee he wanted to go along.  It was in Fremont’s Department and he was glad of it.  Fremont was his sort of a man, and he wanted to go with him to East Tennessee.  There had been a great deal of hanging on one side, and he wished to superintend it on the other.  He could say, and without profanity, that the Federal army in East Tennessee would be hailed with a joy only equaled by the hosannahs of the angels when Christ was born.

He never had any sympathy with Disunionists, Secessionists or Abolitionists.  He was born in Virginia, and his parents before him.  He is a slaveholder, but he had no hesitancy in saying that when the question comes, as it will, “the Union and no slavery,” against “slavery and no Union,” he was for the Union and let slavery go to the dogs, or where else it may be sent.  He was for the Union above that or any other institution.

The wicked rebellion, he felt confident, was on its last legs.  It is almost played out.  When the rebel Crittenden’s army passed him, the men were literally barefooted and almost naked.

The blockade has played sad havoc with them.  They were preparing to make a desperate fight at Corinth.  If whipped there, their cause was gone.  He hoped they would be pursued through the cotton States to the peninsula, and then driven into the sea, as were the devils driven from the hogs into the sea of Galilee.

The nigger never was in this rebellion.  He was never intended to be.  Other causes had produced it, but the guilty were reaping their reward.

After the reception the Parson took an airing with some gentlemen, driving through Clifton and other attractive suburbs of the city.

He visited with the Merchant’s Exchange, where he was introduced to the merchants by President Butler, and spoke for perhaps half an hour.  He showed plainly the marks of the hard times through which he has passed.  He is very thin, and his face is haggard, bloodless and deeply marked with suffering and anxiety.  He is, however, one of that race of tall, hardy, swarthy, black haired East Tennesseans, who gave Tennessee her old time glory as the Volunteer State, and were foremost in the battles of Andrew Jackson, and with proper care he will soon recover his health.

He gave a touching narrative of his sufferings in prison, of his illness, and the care with which the guards placed over him were doubled, when he was so sick he could not turn in bed without assistance.  The jail was crowded with Union men.  Many sickened and perished miserably in it, and others were taken out and hung.  Gen. Carroll, of the Confederate army, who was at one time a great friend of his, being a Union man until a late period, visited him in Jail, and said to him: “Brownlow, you ought not to be here.”  “So I think,” the parson responded, “but here I am.”  The General said the Confederate Court was sitting within a hundred yards of the jail, and if he would take the oath of allegiance, he should be immediately liberated.  “Sir,” said the parson, looking at him steadily in the eye, “before I will take the oath of allegiance to your bogus Government, I will rot in jail or die here of old age.  I don’t acknowledge you have a Court.  I don’t acknowledge you have a Government.  It has never been acknowledged by any power on earth and never will be.  Before I would take the oath I would see the whole Southern Confederacy in the infernal regions, and you on top of it!”

The General indignantly left the jail, remarking “that is d----d plain talk.”  “Yes, sir-ee,” said the Parson, “I am a plain man, and them’s my sentiments.”  Frequently men were taken out of the jail and hung, and the secesh rabble would howl at him and tell him as he looked out from the jail windows that he was to be hung next.  He told them from those windows that he was ready to go to the gallows, and all he asked was one hour’s talk to the people before he was swung off, that he might give them his opinion of the mob called the Southern Confederacy.  The Parson said he expected to be hanged.  He had made up his mind to it.   At one time he was tried by court martial, and in the decision of his case he was within one vote of being sentenced to hang.  There was nothing between him and the gallows but the will of one man, and him a secessionist.  Great God, on what a slender thread hung everlasting things!  The jails in East Tennessee and North Alabama were overfull of Union men.  The Union men there had never flinched.  They stood firm now.  The Government, whatever else it did, should immediately relieve them from the grinding and destroying oppression of secession.

He related an instance of a young man, named John C. Hurd, and exemplary citizen and church member, with a wife and two little children, who was convicted of bridge burning.  He was notified but one hour before he was hung that he was to be executed.  He asked for a minister of the Gospel to come and sing and pray with him, but was told that praying would not do traitors to the South any good, and he was thus insultingly refused his dying request.  But the rebels Sent with him to the gallows a miserable, drunken, and demoralized Chaplain of one of their regiments, who stood on the gallows and told the crowd assembled to see the hanging, that the young man about to be executed had been led into the commission of the crimes for which he was to suffer, by designing men, and was sorry for what he had done.  The man about to be hung sprang to his feet, and called out that every word that Chaplain had uttered was false.  He was the identical man who had burned the New Creek Bridge.  He knew what he was about when he did it, and would do it again if he had a chance.  They might go on with their hanging.  He was ready for it.  And they hung him forthwith.  The Parson told of an inoffensive citizen, who was pointed out to a part of straggling soldiers, while at work in a field, as “a d--- Unionist.”  He was at once fired upon, and so mangled that he died within a few hours.

The Parson said it might astonish them, but the greatest negro thieves in the world were the Confederate soldiers.  He spoke feelingly on this subject.  They had stolen from him a likely negro boy, fourteen years old, and worth a thousand dollars.  He had never heard from the boy since he was taken away, and never expected to see him again or get a cent for him.  It was a solemn fact that the Confederate soldiers had stolen more negroes during this war, than all the Abolitionists had stolen for forty years.  These soldiers were the off-scourings of the earth.  Not one half of them had ever owned a negro, or were connected by any degree of social affinity or consanguinity, with anybody who ever did own a negro.  Not only did they steal negroes, but they entered houses and took the clothing from the beds, broke open the drawers, and took all the money and jewelry they could lay their hands upon.  They were, emphatically, thieves as well as traitors.

He had recently had a conversation with a secesh lady, who spoke as usual of one of their chivalry whipping five Yankees.  He asked her about Fort Donelson, &c.  She explained that by saying, the people of the north-west are sons of emigrants from the South.  They were Southern stock and fought like Southerners.  He inquired what of the blue-bellied Yankees, under Burnside, but she did not know how that was; in fact had heard but little about it.

The parson spoke in an animated style, and presently his voice gave signs of failing.  He has been troubled with a bronchial affection, and is still weak from the illness contracted during his imprisonment.  He remarked that he had not for some months attempted to speak at length in public, and his failing strength admonished him that he must close.

He thanked God that he could see daylight now.  The game of the rebellion was pretty near played out.  A “little more grape” and we would have them.  His motto for the war was “grape shot for the armed masses, and hemp for the leaders.” – {Commercial.

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, April 5, 1862, p. 4

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