- Effect of the Federal successes of 1863 on the Northern elections. -- estimate in the Richmond newspapers of the Democratic alliance in the North. -- losses of the Democratic party in the elections of 1863. -- President Lincoln's triumph. -- his administration strengthened. -- it ventures to New lengths. -- arrest of Mr. Vallandigham. -- protests of the Democratic party. -- their worthless and ridiculous character. -- New and vigorous measures of war at Washington. -- scarcity of men and of food, the two concerns at Richmond. -- meagre results of the conscription law. -- an alarming statement from the Confederate Secretary of war. -- diminution of subsistence in the Confederacy. -- suffering among the people and army.History of the Confederate commissariat. -- report of the meat supplies in the Confederacy in January, 1862. -- effect of the campaigns in Kentucky and Tennessee on the question of subsistence. -- proposition to get meat through the enemy's lines. -- obstinate objections of President Davis. -- his mania about cotton. -- the Confederate States drained of meat in the second year of the war. -- statement of Commissary Northrop. -- attempt to get supplies through the blockade. -- how mismanaged. -- the Crenshaw contract. -- small yield of impressments. -- the whole Confederate policy of subsistence a failure. -- an extraordinary device of Secretary Seddon. -- how it played into the hands of speculators. -- reflection upon the want of the commercial or business faculty in the Southern mind. -- a stock of childish expedients
The Federal successes of 1863 produced a well-defined effect upon political parties in the North, and the elections there of this year were in remarkable contrast to those of 1862. It is significant of the little virtue of all the political organizations of the North during the time of the war that opposition to the administration at Washington was checked at every success of its arms, and declined in exact proportion as its military power ascended. The weak instinct of politicians readily took to the stronger side; and although there was a large party in the Confederacy that looked for a certain co-operation of the Democratic party in the North, it was readily understood by the intelligent that that co-operation was only to be obtained by making the Confederate side the stronger, by increasing the prospects of its success by victories in the field — in short, that the only  hope of peace for the South was in the vigour of her resistance and the pressure of the enemy's necessities. This estimate of the Democratic alliance in the North was plainly enough stated in the Richmond journals and put in very blunt English. In anticipation of the elections of 1863, the Richmond Enquirer said: “It is nothing to us which of their factions may devour their ‘ spoils;’ just as little does it signify to us whether they recover or do not recover that constitutional liberty which they so wantonly threw away in the mad pursuit of Southern conquest and plunder. But it is of the utmost importance to us to aid in stimulating disaffection among Yankees against their own government, and in demoralizing and disintegrating society in that God-abandoned country. We can do this only in one way-namely, by thrashing their armies and carrying the war to their own firesides. Then, indeed, conscientious constitutional principles will hold sway; peace platforms will look attractive; arbitrary arrests will become odious, and habeas corpus be quoted at a premium. This is the only way we can help them. In this sense and to this extent, those Democrats are truly our allies, and we shall endeavour to do our duty by them.” The Democratic party in the North went into the fall elections of 1863 on the issue of a general opposition to the Lincoln Administration; at the same time promising a vigorous “constitutional” prosecution of the war. The result was a triumph of the Administration from Minnesota to Maine; the Democrats were everywhere defeated; and the significance of this defeat was that opposition to the authorities at Washington had been subdued either by the strong hand of lawless power or by the appliance of selfish arguments, that they had no longer anything to fear, and that the overthrow of free government in the North was complete. President Lincoln wrote that “the crisis was past.” The elections of 1863 had given him, as it were, a carte blanche for his government. Certainly no more striking illustration could be given of this fact than the arrest and exile of Mr. Vallandigham, who was probably the most talented and prominent representative of the so-called “peace party” in the North, and had stood as Democratic candidate for Governor of Ohio. This single act of the Washington Administration is sufficient illustration of the license it had now assumed in the insolent and giddy moments of military success, and the lengths to which it now dared to go in defying the Constitution, and involving the liberties of its own people with the designs of the war.1  It is true that the outrage upon Mr. Vallandigham, and, through him, upon. the whole body of American liberties, was the occasion of some forcible  expressions of public indignation. A Democratic meeting in New Jersey resolved “that in the illegal seizure and banishment of the Hon. C. L.  Vallandigham, the laws of the country have been outraged, the name of the United States disgraced, and the rights of every citizen menaced, and  that it is now the duty of a law-respecting people to demand cf the Administration that it at once and forever desist from such deeds of despotism  and crime.” To a meeting in Philadelphia, Mr. Fernando Wood wrote: “Do not let us forget that those who perpetrate such outrages as  the arrest and banishment of Mr. Vallandigham do so as necessary war measures. Let us, therefore, strike at the cause and declare for peace and  against the war.” But these protests were within narrow limits; they effected nothing; they were absolutely worthless. The savage wit of  John Mitchel in Richmond had this reply in one of its journals: “This would sound very well if the said ‘ declaring for peace ’ could have any  effect whatever in bringing about peace. If a man in falling from a tower could arrest his fall by declaring against it, then the declarations of Democrats  against the war might be of some avail. As it is, they resemble that emphatic pronouncement of Mr. Washington Hunt: ‘ Let it be proclaimed  upon the house-tops that no citizen of New York shall be arrested without process of law.’ There is no use in bawling from the house-tops what  everybody knows to be nonsense. ... Demand, quotha . The starling that Mr. Sterne saw in the cage said only ‘ I can't get out.’ It  would have been more ‘manly’ to scream-‘ I demand to get out; I proclaim on the house-tops that I will get out.’ ” While thus “the strong government” at Washington had grasped the liberties of the country, it promised a fresh infusion of vigour in the war. It increased its army; it exhibited, as its strength on the water, a navy of nearly six hundred vessels, seventy-five of which were iron-clads or armoured steamers; and it made preparations for the prosecution of hostilities which were alarming enough by the side of the now rapidly decreasing resources of the Southern Confederacy. The Congress which assembled at Richmond in the winter of 1863, was immediately and anxiously occupied with the decrease of our armies, and the yet more alarming diminution of our subsistence. These two concerns engaged all the resources and ingenuity of its legislation. It was said that the war had become a question of men and of food. The conscription law had disappointed expectation. When the first measure was passed, limited to the ages of eighteen and thirty-five, it was estimated that even, that partial call would yield eight hundred thousand men. A very simple arithmetical process will disclose this number. The free population of the several States of the Confederacy not wholly occupied by the enemy was at the time of the passage of the first act of  conscription (1862) as follows, giving only fractions of the population for those States partially overrun by the enemy:
|A fourth of Missouri,||264,588|
|Two thirds of Tennessee,||556,042|
|Half of Virginia,||552,591|
History of the Confederate commissariat.In January, 1862, a report was made to the Confederate Congress in Richmond, on the general administration of the Bureau of Subsistence, particularly with reference to certain contracts for obtaining supplies,  which had been unfavourably reported to the public and to Congress. In that report, the following occurs: “In the packing season of 1860-1861 upward of three million head of hogs were packed at the various porkeries of the United States, besides those packed by farmers at home, of which less than twenty thousand were packed at regular establishments south of the lines of our armies. Of this whole number, experts estimate that the product of about one million two hundred thousand hogs was imported in the early part of the last year from beyond our present lines into what is now the Southern Confederacy. This was accomplished, and to the extent of a bountiful supply by the action of the State authorities in some cases, by the enterprise of private parties, and by this department, through agencies of its own. Of this number it is estimated that about three hundred thousand hogs, or their bacon equivalent, have been consumed by our State and Confederate armies since the commencement of hostilities. Tennessee then became the main reliance for the future use of the army, which, together with the accessible portions of Kentucky, had been so ravaged by hog cholera and injured by short corn crops for three years preceding the year just closed, that the number slaughtered at the porkeries within her limits had deviated from two hundred thousand head to less than twenty thousand. It was into this field, just recovering from these disasters, and almost the sole resource of the army, and the planters and inhabitants of cities, that this department had to enter as a purchaser, dubious of a sufficiency, but assured of a heavy and active competition.” Shortly after the date of this report, the successive captures of Forts Henry and Donelson caused the loss of a considerable portion of the supplies referred to. The subsequent campaign lost us Kentucky and much of Tennessee, and left the Confederacy comparatively bare of meat. In this early prospect of distress a number of propositions were made to the Confederate Government by responsible and energetic parties, to exchange through the enemy's lines meat for cotton. But to this favourable exchange President Davis was opposed; he was actually weak enough to suppose that if a little cotton was kept from the enemy, the North would be unable to pay the January interest of 1863; and he was among those stupid financiers who were for confining cotton, as if there were magical salvation in it, and hoarding this inert wealth of the South. In the fall of 1862, a party properly vouched for proposed, for an equivalent in cotton, to deliver thirty thousand hogsheads of bacon through the lines. It was alleged that there was enough cotton to feed and clothe our army, in a section tributary to Memphis, which city was then, and had been for some time previous, in the secure possession of the enemy; that such cotton must otherwise probably be destroyed to prevent its falling into the hands of the enemy; but that the owners, as a general rule,  though willing to let the government have their crops, were averse, if not stubbornly opposed to having them destroyed. This proposition was submitted to President Davis. It was endorsed in the bureau of subsistence: “The alternative is thus presented of violating our policy of withholding cotton from the enemy or risking the starvation of our armies;” and it was suggested that the Commissary General be authorized to contract for bacon and salt, limiting the amount of purchase to what was absolutely necessary to feed the army and supply it with blankets and shoes, showing that no law forbade this traffic; that the precedents of other wars justified it; and advising that the Commissary Genera] should, under such circumstances, upon his own statement of the necessity, be allowed to make the contract, which, this officer added, nothing less than the danger of sacrificing our armies would induce “him to acquiesce in.” Upon that letter the President endorsed as follows:
President Davis was assured that the consequences of the refusal of this policy of exchange would be most serious. Col. Northrop, the Commissary General, informed him that present efforts, even if successful, would not produce cured bacon for the next year. The departments of the east had been exhausted, while the increasing number of refugees, driven from their homes by the enemy's arms, added to the consumers. The results hoped for from Tennessee were not probably equal to the demands of the troops on the west of the mountains and in Tennessee. A statement was made in the bureau of subsistence, that the supply of hogs for 1862 would be about one hundred thousand short of the supply for the preceding year, and that the supply of beef was well nigh exhausted. This statement was communicated to President Davis, with the following endorsement by Mr. Randolph, then Secretary of War: “Unless the deficiency be made up by purchases beyond the limits of the Confederacy, I apprehend serious consequences.” President Davis refused to see the necessity so plainly indicated to him. He still lingered in the conceit of an early termination of the war, and in spite of the plainest figures he persisted in the belief that the requisite amount of supplies for the army might still be procured from sources within the Confederate States. How far he was mistaken in this, will be  shown by the following reply to one of his calls for information about the close of the year 1862:
No official reply was ever received to this communication. Indeed about this time President Davis left Richmond on a visit to Mississippi, and in a speech before the Legislature of that State pronounced the solemn opinion that the war would soon come to an end. For this reason and “on political principles” the policy of using cotton to get supplies through the lines, and taking advantage of the wide-spread venality of the enemy was negatived. The arguments against this trade were specious and trifling. It was said that the Federal finances were in such a condition  that if they could not obtain cotton, upon which to draw bills wherewith to pay their then accruing January interest, their credit would explode, and the war would speedily cease from the bankrupting of our assailants. Hence they wanted cotton. It was also asserted that they did not want cotton, but only sought, under cover of a contract for supply, to find out the channels of navigable streams, to ascertain the location and condition of certain defences, and otherwise to spy out the land. A third argument was that the trade on the part of the government would demoralize the people among whom it might be conducted; and the newspapers added that to trade through New Orleans and let cotton clear from that port “would make Europe think we had caved, who thereupon would decline to recognize us or to intervene.” Such were the fancies and punctilios which persuaded the Confederate Government to persist in a line of policy, the steady and inevitable tendency of which was to bring its armies to the verge of starvation. The project of getting supplies through the enemy's lines thus discouraged, it was necessary for the Commissary General to cast about for a new resource; and in 1863 the experiment was first attempted of obtaining supplies, especially meat and coffee, from foreign ports through the blockade. A scheme of contract was prepared on the basis of an association of individual enterprise with government capital, which, it was thought, if properly arranged, would combine the power and money of the one with the energy and skill of the other. Especially in a business as hazardous as blockade running would such an association, it was thought, be an advantage as securing to the individuals the insurance of many ventures, and to the government the vigilance and intelligence of private parties. It was contemplated that the private parties should sell the cotton and purchase the return cargo, charging two and a half per cent. commission on each transaction; and that the government should purchase the cotton on this side at a commission of two and a half per cent., with a reserved right to the government to all the private freight room, when claimed at an agreed rate per ton; which was two-thirds less than had been previously demanded by other blockade runners, and paid by the government. Here again was the story of gross mismanagement and slip-shod administration on the part of the Confederate authorities. Great quantities of meat were left to rot at Nassau and Bermuda; payments were not promptly made; and the new resource that had promised such grand results dwindled into insignificant numbers. Contracts for supplies, payable in cotton, in our Atlantic ports, were made with several parties; but in no instance with success. Either the amount involved was too small to tempt the venality of those who could control or purchase an evasion of the blockade, or the engagement to deliver meat alone was found to be too small an inducement to those engaged in blockade running.  In consequence of these failures, and of the refusal to be allowed to purchase on the Mississippi, the army, especially in Virginia, was put upon short rations. First, they were reduced to one half pound of meat per day --which, if it could have been kept up at that, would have been sufficient --then to one-third of a pound-though this allowance was not agreed to or adhered to by several of the Generals commanding-and then to one quarter of a pound. Upon this last allowance the Army of Northern Virginia wintered. The policy of running the blockade, so far as the government was interested in it for subsistence, was the occasion of odious monopolies, violations of contract, misunderstandings, &c., and proved of little advantage to the government, and of questionable profit to private parties. What was known as the Crenshaw or Collie line of steamers did not start until the spring of 1864, and then under unfavourable auspices. One steamer was lost on the coast of Ireland, in coming out; another upon her second trip; but two others, both very superiour steamers, were put upon the line, one or both of which had been paid for by large advances made by Crenshaw & Co., and were running successfully. Under their contract the government was obliged to furnish the whole cargo of cotton for each vessel, but, having failed to do so, and the private parties having been required, against the terms of the contract, to supply their own cotton to the vessel at market rates — a demand which was acceded to rather than raise the issue — it was determined to take other parties into the contract. This was rendered necessary by the inability of the government to transport the cotton, and by the inability of the private parties to supplement the government deficiencies in that particular. The government was accordingly induced by the private parties to sell one-fourth of its three-fourths interest in the steamers to the Supply Importing Company, composed of various railroad companies and others interested in railroads in the South. This-though the terms of the contract were changed, and the parties became, as was contended by the government, mere carriers, whereby the subsistence department lost the benefit of the arrangement it had proposed --at once obviated the difficulties about transporting cotton; and, as this new contract provided for twelve steamers, it was hoped that some good results might be at last reached. But just as this business had got well under way, the government decided upon taking the Atalanta, the best of the steamers referred to above, for a cruiser. It was urged, in opposition to this, that the tested speed and capacity of this vessel had induced the private parties interested to enter into large contracts for vessels in England, and to assume heavy obligations to pay for the government interest in them; that there were large quantities of subsistence stores at the Islands, purchased by Crenshaw & Co. for the commissariat, which were much needed by the army, and might spoil if permitted to remain. But  the government insisted upon taking the ship. Other vessels were built, and paid for by the credit of the private parties, and by receipts of cotton from those successively put on the line; and the enterprise went on, but with results far below the necessities of the country. During the whole period of the efforts to put the question of meat supply from abroad upon what the bureau of subsistence deemed a proper footing, the meat in the limits of the Confederacy was being constantly reduced in amount, though under constantly increasing efforts to get it for the army. The well-known effects of a depreciating currency in causing supplies to be hoarded, rendered it necessary to impress them. This mode was legalized by acts of Congress, which failed, however, to enforce it by any penalty, and rendered it nugatory in many instances by requiring that in all cases the impressment should be accompanied by a proffer of the money. In some States the feeling against it had rendered it almost inoperative, and the judiciary, gubernatorial or legislative action of several had practically nullified the law. As a substitute, to last until the currency could have been amended, it might have answered; but experience showed that, as a permanent system, it would be resisted and evaded to such an extent as to render it of little avail in drawing out a sufficiency, when to furnish it even for the army was to produce privation at home. Under the rapid depreciation of our currency, which was now thought by many to have reached a point of hopeless bankruptcy, and when the prices under the schedule fixed by the Commissioners of Appraisement in the various States were merely nominal, it was regarded by the people as an unjust and tyrannical tax, to be resisted to the point of compelling its abandonment as a mode of supply. It will thus be seen, on a general survey of the whole subsistence policy of the Confederate government-its practical rejection of trade with the enemy, its feeble and mismanaged efforts in running the blockade, and the small yield of impressments — that there could be but one result and that a constant diminution of supplies to the point of starvation. It was a policy of blunders; it lacked some steady and deliberate system; and it finally, as we shall see, in the close of the year 1864, got to that point where the whole system of Confederate defence was bound to break down by the want of subsistence, even without a catastrophe of arms! It is astonishing what silly devices were hit upon in Richmond to meet the coming necessity, and how the empirical remedies of shallow brains aggravated the disorder. One of these so-called remedies proved one of the vilest curses that was ever fastened upon the Confederacy. On the 6th November, 1863, an order was issued by the Secretary of War, that no supplies held by a party for his own consumption, or that of his employees or slaves, should be impressed, and that “no officer should at any  time, unless specially ordered so to do by a general Commanding, in a case of exigency, impress supplies which were on their way to market for sale on arrival.” The construction given to that order filled the land with purchasers-private individuals, railroad companies, manufacturers of all kinds, corporations of every class, relief associations of cities, towns and counties, were personally or by their agents in the market buying a year's supply, unlimited as to price, and protected from impressment. Speculators, whose purchases were generally in transitu, found themselves protected, and the government playing into their hands. The sudden influx of purchasers into the market stimulated the cupidity of producers and holders of the necessaries of life, and induced them to withhold their supplies, under the expectation of higher prices, and actually raised the prices of all the prime articles fully one hundred per cent. within a single month. The purchasing officers of the government could not buy; nor was it reasonable to expect parties to sell to the government at schedule price, when double that price was offered at their doors by others. They could not impress, for holders had, with great promptness, contracted for all their supplies to parties who paid them higher prices, and thus it naturally and surely happened that the regular supplies of the government were cut off. The whole land was infected by speculators pampered by Mr. Seddon, the Secretary of War; and the soldier, who was without shelter fighting our battles, found himself discriminated against in favour of the private citizen-who, with a roof above him, could better stand a short allowance of food,--and put at the mercy of the most heartless and hateful speculators, who had no conception of the war beyond that of dollars and cents. It has been remarked that the shiftlessness of the people of the South, their want of commercial tact or of business knowledge, so to speak, however it might have been doubted before, was fully proved in the war, and that this cause, as much as anything else, contributed to the ruin and prostration of the Confederacy. The unbusiness-like mind of the South was well illustrated in its commissariat; and the mismanagement of this bureau confirms the truth of the general observation. It is curious, indeed, how this observation extends to all the affairs of the Confederacy. There was a stock of childish expedients in times of grave distress in the Confederacy, at which the world was rather disposed to laugh, despite the necessities they indicated. When iron became scarce, and association of ladies was formed to advertise an appeal all through the Confederacy for broken pots and pans with which to build an armoured steamer. When the Confederate finances declined, it was proposed by a foolish woman of Mobile, who had probably never heard of the law of supply and demand, that all of her sex in the Confederacy should be shorn, and each head of hair bringing a certain price in the European markets, to realize thus many millions  of dollars; and the proposition was seriously entertained in the newspapers. But what shall be said of the government that actually and officially, in the course of a system of finance to meet necessities counted by thousands of millions of dollars, made appeals to the people to donate silver plate and jewelry, and published monthly lists of contributions of rings, sugar-pots and spoons! These curious lists may still be found in the files of the Richmond newspapers. Such vagaries are subjects of grave consideration by the historian. They illustrate the general character of make-shifts in the war. He who seeks to solve the problem of the downfall of the Southern Confederacy, must take largely into consideration the absence of any intelligent and steady system in the conduct of public affairs; the little circles that bounded the Richmond Administration; the deplorable want of the commercial or business faculty in the Southern mind.