Saturday, March 30, 2013

New Orleans and the War

We have just had the pleasure of enjoying a protracted conversation with a highly intelligent gentleman, long a resident of that city, who left New Orleans for the North about ten days ago.  Without further particulars as to our informant himself, it is enough to say that he is eminently reliable, a gentleman of mature judgment and excellent sense, and thus worth of the utmost confidence in his statements. – We shall do injustice to his lucid and graphic statements of the condition of affairs in the Metropolis of the Southwest, trusting only to memory to siege the details, but some points will interest our readers, even thus imperfectly presented.

Louisiana was a strong Union State, and the influence of New Orleans eminently so, long after the secession of other states.  The “Co-operationists” represented the intermediate state of public sentiment from loyalty to disloyalty, but leaned most strongly in favor of adherence to the Constitution and the Union. – They took their name and shaped their policy on the scheme of a co-operaiton of the Southern States in order to secure additional pledges from the General Government, and they carried the State to this measure, but the ground taken was not enough and secession came next, and became dominant, overpowering everything.

What of the Union element in New Orleans to-day?  The question might as well be asked in mid winter of a snow covered field, as to what is seeded down, and what it will bear.  Just now secession holds sway and Unionism is crushed out.  Only one sentiment is expressed because but one is safe, and martyrdom would be sure to follow the other.  Let this terrorism be removed, and there would come the time for judging as the share of this and other Southern communities who would welcome the restoration of the Federal power and unite with it in utterly sweeping away the reckless demagogues who have betrayed and outraged the South.  Our informant speaks hopefully with reference to the men who are thus “biding their time.”

In New Orleans, under the all overpowering influence of secession, there is but one opinion expressed in public.  The city is quiet and orderly, for its lower order of white society have gone to the wars.  There are no riots, nor disturbances.  The city is dull in commercial respects.  Whatever products belong to their market are plenty and without sale whatever they have been accustomed to seek form abroad are proportionately high.  Thus sugar is 1½ to 2 cents per lb., and mess pork is $50 per barrel.  All fabrics are high, and stocks are very light.  Owing to the scarcity of meats, the planters are feeding their slaves on mush and molasses, the latter staple being cheap.  The scarcity of ardent compounds being also great, large quantities of molasses are being manufactured into New England rum, which the whisky loving must need use in place of the coveted but scarcer article.

In monetary matters, the change is a striking one.  All specie has disappeared from circulation.  It has gone into private hoards, and bills of the sound banks of Louisiana (and there are not better in the United States) are also being stored away by holders, who see no advantage in presenting them for redemption in Confederate Notes.  Said a bank officer of the State Bank of Louisiana to our informant, “Out of $250,000 in currency received in making our Exchanges with other banks, only twenty five dollars of our own issues were received.”  For an institution with a circulation of one and a half million, this is a significant statement.

Another proof of the distrust of the people in the notes of the C. S. A. is seen in the fact of greatly stimulated prices of New Orleans real estate.  Secessionists who do not look beneath the surface wax vastly jubilant over the aspect. – “There, sir, look at it – see what the war, and this cutting loose from the North has done for us.  Real estate in New Orleans has gone up one half.  Glorious!! Sir, don’t you see it?  The cause of exultation diminishes rapidly when it is understood that all this is but the natural cause of holders of property who say to their possessions, in view of the everywhere present Confederate notes – “take any shape but that.”  No wonder they prefer real estate at exorbitant prices, and pass the shinplasters out of their fingers as fast as possible.  This is the sole secret of the flush times in New Orleans real estate.

The money in circulation from hand to hand is “everybody’s checks,” and omnibus tickets for small charge, and the most mongrel brood of wild cats and kittens that ever distressed a business community.  We saw in the hand of our informant, a bank note for five cents, issued by the Bank of Nashville!  Besides small issues of shinplasters, notes in circulation are divided, A desiring to pay B two dollars and a half, cuts a five dollar note in two, and the dissevered portion goes floating about distressedly looking up its better half, (or otherwise) according to which end bears the bank signatures.

As to the feeling of the community regarding the war, the outspoken sentiment is one of intense hatred to the North, or “the United States,” as they express it.  They affect to believe that spoliation, rapine and outrage of every dye would follow the invasion of Northern troops.  Their own troops are only indifferently provided with outfit, and camp comforts are scarce.  A very significant statement was recently made in the St. Charles Hotel, in the hearing of our informant, which we deem to give as nearly in his own words as possible.  A gentleman had gone up to the camps at Nashville, having in charge donations from the citizens of New Orleans.  On his return his unofficial statements were about as follows: “I tell you, you have no idea of the suffering there among our troops.  It would make your heart bleed to see them lying there sick and dying without nurses and medicine.  New Orleans has done a great deal, but she must do more.”

A Bystander – “But why don’t people up that way do something?”

“Well, I’ll tell you.  The fact is, about one half of them say they never wanted the troops to come there at all, and don’t care how soon they are removed.  The other half are doing all they can, but cannot do all.”

“Why don’t they set their niggers to tending the sick?”

“Well, that’s the squalliest point on the whole.  The niggers say that if they were Lincoln soldiers they would attend them.”

A Bystander (hotly) – “Why don’t they shoot the ______ treacherous sons of ______.”

“Well (meaningly) they don’t think it’s quite safe up there to begin that sort of thing.

A pretty significant confession, one would think to be made publicly in the rotunda of the St. Charles.  And this brings us to speak of the position of the blacks.  What do they think of the War?  The gentleman we quote says “the blacks have been educated fast within the past six months.  They are a different race from what they were.  Their docility is a thing of the past, and their masters stand appalled at the transformation.”  In several of the parishes about New Orleans, what were believed to be the germs of dangerous insurrections have been several times discovered within the past few months.  In St. Mary’s thirteen slaves were shot at one time.  The South have thought it would aid their plans by telling the slaves that the enemy of the Union was the “army of freedom,” and the blacks believe it.  Certainly no Abolition sheet of the North is responsible for the circulation of such a statement.

An instance was told us of a man sent to the North from New Orleans, with the purpose of looking about him a little [bare] and gaining an idea of matters.  He accomplished his mission after diverse adventures, and came back to the Crescent City.  Wherever his formal report was made, it certainly was pretty much summed up in a statement he made openly in a secession coterie at the St. Charles.  Said he, “I went to New York, business is going on there about as ever – never saw things more busy there – should not judge any body had gone to the war didn’t actually hear much about the South.  Then I went to where they were turning out the things for war, and saw how they were doing it, and, and then was when I began to smell h-ll.

We are exceeding the limits we had proposed for our statement, but let us add a few brief facts.  As to the defences of New Orleans.  There are two forts on the river below the city, which once passed, New Orleans would be in Federal hands in twenty four hours, for it has no defences in itself.  Earthworks were thrown up south of the city, but no guns have been mounted.  The secessionists feel the danger of their position, and are loud in censures of their Confederate government for its dilatoriness.  The foreign population of New Orleans are alarmed at the aspect of affairs.  A large meeting of French citizens has been held, and a delegation waited on the French Consul to ask him to present their petition to the French Emperor to send a national vessel to take them from the city.

It is upon a community thus constituted and filled with these real sources of alarm that the news of Zollicoffer’s defeat must fall.  It will be spread like wildfire all throughout the South.  If Confederate notes were a drug before, and only taken under protest and unwillingly, what will happen when notes “redeemable on the establishment of the Southern Confederacy” are made even more shaky as a currency by the imminent danger of the government.  The beginning of the end is at hand, and thus at no distant day. – {Chicago Tribune.

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, February 1, 1862, p. 1

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