Friday, June 21, 2013

Senator Grimes’ Speech

Our limited space forbids the publication of the whole of Senator Grimes’ recent speech on the surrender of slaves by the army, but we give a lengthy extract containing the gist of it.  How marked the contrast in the course pursued by Gens. Hunter and Hooker in regard to fugitive slaves!  The former, with the independence of a man, declares that every slave who touches his lines becomes a freeman.  In the words of Plunkett, he stands “redeemed, regenerated, and disenthralled by the irresistible genius of universal emancipation.”  Gen. Hunter goes forth with the sword in one hand, and liberty in the other.  He slays the traitor, and frees the oppressed.  Not so with Gen. Hooker.  In one hand he holds slavery, and in the other a – scabbard.  The traitorous emissary crosses his lines in search of his property – not his horse, but his negro – spies out his enemy’s strength, and returns to report at headquarters. – When will our Generals learn wisdom?  Learn that such things cannot be practiced with any hope of a speedy conclusion to the war?  But to the extract:

There seems to be a purpose in some quarters to do by indirection what cannot be done directly.  The object being to serve slave holders, whether loyal or rebel, (and they are generally rebels,) there seems to be a disposition to the part of some officers to travel around a law which they dare not break through.  Unable any longer to compel the soldiers to engage in the search, capture, and rendition of slaves, they now authorize slave-hunters, armed with pistols and military orders, to traverse their camps in search of their prey, and, by threat of military punishment, attempt to compel the soldiers to remain quiescent witnesses of the atrocities that may be committed.  There is no controversy about the fact, the evidence is overwhelming and is to be found on every hand.  Only last week, General Joseph Hooker, a native of Massachusetts, in command of a division of our army, issued an order, of which the following is a copy.

LOWER POTOMAC, March 26, 1862.

To Brigade and Regimental Commanders of this Division:

Messrs. Nally, Gray, Dummington, Dent, Adams, Speake, Price, Posey and Cobey, citizens of Maryland; have negroes supposed to be with some of the regiments of this division; the Brigadier General commanding, directs that they be permitted to visit all the camps of his command, in search of their property, and if found, that they be allowed to take possession of the same, without any interference whatever.  Should any obstacle be thrown in their way by any officer or soldier in the division, they will be at once reported by the regimental commanders to these headquarters.

Asst. Adjutant Gen.

It will be observed that this order authorizes nine person, citizens of Maryland, to visit the camps of Hooker’s division, without any judicial or other process other than this military order, and there search for slaves “without any interference whatever,” and “should any obstacle be thrown in their way, by any officer or soldier in the division,” they are threatened with an instant report to headquarters and a consequent court martial and punishment.  The appearance and conduct of this band of marauders produced precisely the result that might have been anticipated.  In describing it, I use the language of the officer in command of one of the regimental camps which they visited and attempted to search:


Lieutenant:  In compliance with verbal directions form Brigadier General D. E. Sickles, to report as to the occurrence at this camp on the afternoon of the 26th instant, I beg leave to submit the following:

At about 3:30 o’clock p. m., March 26, 1862, admission within our lines was demanded by a body of horsemen (civilians) numbering perhaps, fifteen.  They presented the lieutenant commanding the guard with an order of entrance from Brigadier General Joseph Hooker, commanding division (copy appended), the order stating that nine men should be admitted.  I ordered that the balance of the party should remain without the lines, which was done.  Upon the appearance of the others, there was visible dissatisfaction and considerable murmuring among the soldiers, to so great an extent that I almost feared for the safety of the slave owners.  At this time Gen. Sickles opportunely arrived, and instructed me to order them outside the camp, which I did, amid the loud cheers of our soldiers.  It is proper to add, that before entering our lines, and within about seventy-five or a hundred yards of our camp, one of their number discharged two pistol shots at a negro who was running past them, with an evident intention of taking his life.  This justly enraged our men.

All of which is respectfully submitted.

Your obedient servant,

Maj. Comdg. 2d Regt., E. B.

Mr. President:  Are such scenes as were witnessed in this camp calculated to promote discipline, and to inspire respect for the officers in command, or affection for the Government that tolerates them?  Doubtless such officers will find methods to gratify their tastes in this direction, but I trust that they will not long be permitted to torment better men than themselves, who happen to be their inferiors in rank.  Is it unreasonable to ask the Government to see to it, that the spirit of the law of Congress shall not be evaded by indirection; and that examples of passion and violence and murder shall not be exhibited in our camps with the connivance or under the authority of our military officers?

The Senator from Ohio made to us, a few days ago, a most extraordinary statement of the condition of affairs at the capital of his own State.  In one of the military camps in the city of Columbus are several hundred rebel prisoners of war.  Some of them are attended by colored servants, claimed as slaves.  These servants have been transported at Government expense, fed, clothed, and doctored by the Government; and while the rebel officers are allowed the freedom of the city upon parole the servants are strictly guarded and confined in camp by our own soldiers.  The free State of Ohio is virtually converted, by the order or by the assent of a military commander, and against the wishes of the people, into a slave State; and that order is enforced by men in our employment and under our pay.  And this state of things does not exist in Columbus alone.  Much indignation was felt and expressed in the State of Illinois, where the same practice was allowed to prevail among the prisoners captured at Fort Donelson.  The greater part, if not all, of these prisoners, who had slaves attending them at the camp near Chicago, where transferred soon after arrival there, the Government paying the cost of transporting both whites and blacks. – Whether this transfer was prompted by a knowledge of the popular indignation that had been excited, and a fear lest the tenure by which the prisoners held them as slaves was hourly becoming more and more insecure, I will not undertake to say.

How long, think you, will this method of dealing with the rebels be endured by the freemen of this country?  Are our brothers and sons to be confined within the walls of the tobacco warehouses and jails of Richmond and Charleston, obliged to perform the most menial offices, subsisted upon the most stinted diet, their lives endangered if they attempt to obtain a breath of fresh air, or a beam of God’s sunlight at a window, while the rebels captured by those very men are permitted to go at large upon parole, to be pampered with luxuries; to  be attended by slaves, and the slaves guarded from escape by our own soldiers?  Well might the General Assembly of the State of Ohio ask, in the language of a committee of their Senate: “Why were those slaves taken at all?  They were not, and had not been in arms against the Government – their presence at Fort Donelson was not even voluntary.  Why are they retained in prison?  They have done no wrong – they deserve no punishment.  Is it to furnish rebel officers with servants?  And was it for this they were transported at the expense of the Government and are now subsisted at her cost?  Is our constitutional provision thus to be made a nullity, and slavery practically established in Ohio?  And this under the protection and at the expense of the Federal Government.”

– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Thursday Morning, May 1, 1862, p. 2

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