Letter #14 – AUGUST 20, 1863
In page 6 and page 1 of this letter , TJ refers to the riots in New York when a mob of many thousand attacked the blacks out of fear that they would take the jobs of the poor working classes in New York.
This well recorded event clearly make TJ aware that many Northerners were not really inclined to fight for abolition and that abolitionists like him were often unpopular and very much in the minority. There was even a suggestion that New York City should also succeed from the union!
Library of Congress http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2013648221
The war has now arrived on Thomas Jackson's doorstep.
In this detailed 14-page letter he talks of the preparations both military and personal to survive the expected onslaught of the Confederate army not 70 miles away
He is frustrated that the Union side will not arm the "negroes in large numbers and allow them to fight . . . Arming the negroes in large numbers on the side of union, and showing them that we are now earnest and sincere in our intention to abolish slavery, would seal the fate of the confederacy."
He had great difficulty persuading other towns people that there was an imminent danger and so TJ got up a meeting "requesting the county commissioners to appropriate 75 thousand dollars, out of the county treasury, to enroll a regiment of one thousand men and give each man a bounty of 30 dollars and provide for the married men's families while away."
He is particularly angry, not just at the rebels from the south but also with "secret traitors in the North - copperheads" or "knights of the golden circle"
Amusing stories of southern sympathizers in the North who learnt secret signs thinking that displaying those coded gestures would protect them from the rebels when they were attacked. However, in the event, these signs gave them absolutely no protection.
TJ went to Harrisburg "to see for myself what means were being taken to prevent their crossing the Susquehannah river". He reports in great depth upon the numbers of soldiers on both sides, the munitions and their uniforms and the looting and plundering that the invading forces were carrying out. More importantly he assesses the strength of the union army and fears they will not be able to withhold the southern invaders and stop Lee's advance towards Reading. He was clearly expecting the rebels to overrun Reading so he and his sons feverishly used up all their raw materials to make ropes and then packed them into railroad cars and sent them north for safety. He had already saved enough money to start all over again if need be and, in the event that that was necessary, he had plans to go due east to cousin John Watson in New Jersey.
He himself was afraid he would be turned in and killed for being a supporter of abolishing slavery.
If envelope leaving Reading Aug 25 1863 goes with this letter, (as seems likely) it was directed to cousin William Slater (Caleb's son)
10) Aug. 20, 1863 (14 pages + Env) Preparations for expected arrival of confederate army
Post-marked: Reading PA 25 Aug and Nottingham Sp 6, 63
Mr William Slater
Reading Pa August 20. 1863
I told you in my last letter that arming the negroes in large numbers on the side of union, and showing them that we are now earnest and sincere in our intention to abolish slavery, would seal the fate of the confederacy. Still, four thousand millions of dollars (a sum greater than the British national debt) invested in one great interest is a vast amount to lose. The 4 millions of slaves in the United States were estimated to be worth 4 thousand millions of dollars before the rebellion. And now that it seems certain that the rebellion will fail & be crushed out, the most desperate expedients will be resorted to in the hope of saving the guilty institution, for the sake of the "property" it represents, from the doom it so richly deserves, & which the mad folly of its friends, rather than the love of liberty, as a heaven born principle by its present foes in the free states, has brought upon it.
So the secret traitors north, & the open rebels south, plotted the invasion of Penna in the hope of being able to wipe out the beaten &, as they thought, demoralized Union army of the Potomac, & then put Baltimore, Philadelphia & New York city, by the help of Democratic proslavery mobs, under the sway of Jeff Davis, and force us into a most disgraceful and humiliating peace. Their plans were well laid.
The rebel army stole a long march on the dull general of the Union army & their advance guard were actually in Penna before a federal soldier stirr'd a foot from the Banks of the Rappahannock river. The rebel cavelry crossed our western state line about the 15th June about 80 miles west of Harrisburg, or about 130 miles west of here.
On the 19th I went to Harrisburg to see for myself what means were being taken there to prevent their crossing the Susquehannah river, which is there a mile wide, but fordable in very low water. I found there about five thousand raw militia men, without arms, uniforms, discipline or subordination. And about three thousand uniformed, well equipped & well armed volunteers, with 51 pieces of artillery. One a 20 pound Parrott gun. The rest about half brass 12 pounders & about half 3 inch bore rifled, wraught iron guns. The rebels were then about 30 or 40 miles from Harrisburg, said to be 25 to 30 thousand strong there. They were busily engaged in plundering the western counties and carrying off to Virginia, all the property of every kind they could steal & get away . Their first object was kidnaping all the colored people, their stealing [sic - inserted later via caret and intended as "stealing their"] wagons, horses hogs, horned cattle, (including all the milch cows) and hay, grain & provisions. Then Clothing, beding, blankets, boots & shoes, watches, money & all household valuables. They stopped people in the streets and on the high roads, & robbed them of every thing they had on. Hat, coat vest, pataloons, boots and pocket handkercheifs & watches & money too when they had any. I saw that there was not then sofficient force of union men at Harrisburg, & along the river, to keep the theiving scoundrels from crossing over & devastating the counties on the west East side of the river too. So I left word with my brother, who
For a full week after I returned from Harrisburg, Berks county was as quiet as if the rebels were a thousand miles off instead of only seventy. Many men swore it was all a dam black republican lie and there was not a rebel in the state. By hard drumming we got together a meeting of some of the people on the thursday afternoon in the courthouse. and passed resolutions requesting the county commissioners to appropriate 75 thousand dollars, out of the county treasury, to enroll a rigement of one thousand men and give each man a bounty of 30 dollars and provide for the married men's families while away. Now the property at stake in our county is estimated at 23 millions of dollars, of which 75 thousand dollars is less than 1/3 of one per cent. But the commissioners refused to appropriate any thing.
Now I must digress a little to explain to you the reason for this apathy. when the rebellion first broke out the northern people were united in the determination to support the national government and put it down, and for a time, party lines seemed to be entirely forgotten. Old life long democrats would shake hands with me in 1861 and say "Jackson we are all on one side now. The question of tariffs and banks and currency dont matter now. we must put down these rascally rebels, we must be all union men now, all one party now". I never shook hands with men so heartily and so cordially in my life as I did then with those I had differed with in politics for nearly 30 years. It was the aim of the national administeration, and of all good men to organize the whole of the free states into one great national union party, and the whole north become a harmonious unit in fighting for national existence and free institutions against the rascally slave holders, who for 30 years had been plotting treason against liberty and now brought forth this infernal rebellion. and now, knowing so well as I do, all the motives and all the means that have been used to bring this enormous insurrection upon us, your noble men may get up in your house of lords, and your Roebucks may rise in your house of commons, and prate about the south "fighting bravely for independence and showing a courage & skill and energy the world must admire". and all that sort of trash and clap trap, but I tell you that it is the Dick Turpin courage and skill of highway robbers, who would steal the liberty of this great continent, and blast forever the hopes and happiness of over thirty
I think there must be many well informed men in England as well aware of this fact as I am. But sometime I will tell you all the truth I know about it, and then I think you will come to the same sweeping conclusion. Well, as I have said, all good men wished the north united in one great harmonious Union party, and so it was for awhile. Abm Lincoln put what he thought the best men into office, civil and military, without distinction of party. Old line Whigs, republicans and democrats, but not outspoken abolitionists. Simon Cameron his first secretary of war was a life long democrat. Stanton the present secretary of war is also a democrat. Many of the generals and hundreds of the high officers in the army and navy are democrats who bitterly opposed us in Abm Lincolns election.
But after awhile, the vilest demogogues of the democratic party; who had been left out of office because of their well known want of honest principle of any kind, and their previous contemptably mean subserviency to southern dictation; began to talk about "maintaining the organozation of the great democratic party". At first they sung[?] small. But as the war went on they began to find fault, first with one thing then another. and when the president opened his first proclamation against slavery in September 1862 they kicked up a great noise about "niggers coming north and cutting down the poor mans wages". and they fiddled so well on that string, and mislead the ignorant and contemptably mean so much, that they managed to win many of last fall elections. among the rest they elected the traitorous miscreant who seymour governor of New York, who in his speaches to the rioters, claims murderers and thieves as "my friends and immediate constitutents" in his speach to the rioters.
These vile demogogues, in conjunction with some of the southern rebels, formed a secret society called "The knights of the golden circle" to oppose the government, and the war for the Union, by any means and all the means in their power. When the Presidents proclamation of Jany. 1 was issued they raised the old mad dog cry of "abolitionists" against the union men, and I am sorry to say that this added many thousands to their party. They induced many thousands to be sworn into their secret society. gave them the secret signs and motions they were to make to recognise each other as "Knights of the golden circle" North & South. It was proved under oath that in this democratic county of "Old Berks" they held their secret meetings at middnight in lonely barns and out of the way places during last winter and spring, and swore in the valiant "Knights" by hundreds. and these simpletons paid a dollar a head initiation fee and believed that all the rebel army were brother knights, and that when the invaders came, they had only to make the motions, and then their property and themselves would not be molested but carefully guarded. while the loyal union men
This state of affairs fully accounted for the strange apathy in Penna when a hundred thousand of the rebels were actually ravaging five large counties west of the susquehanna river. But the beauty of the story was that the rebels did not recognize our brave northern "Knights" of the golden "circle". They robbed and plundered all alike, making a clean sweep of every thing worth carrying away, especially cattle horses and clothing. There is a very poisonous snake very numerous in america, called the "copperhead", because the back top of its head is a bright copper color. It is a very dangerous snake because it is secret, still and bites without giving any warning. These "knights of the golden circle" are nicknamed "Copperheads" by the loyal men. They hate it so much that the mayor of Reading, himself a copperhead, issued a proclamation, ordering the arrest of any one using insulting language, or calling by political nicknames. Well the people of Penna are largely copperhead, and in this county they are about 2/3 copperheads.
A copperhead drover from Reading was near Chambersburg, Penna with about a hundred head of fine fat cattle bringing them on East when a troop of rebel cavelry overtook him. The captain rode up to him. "How are you stranger you have a fine lot of fat cattle here" "Yes sir" and copperhead began making all his mysterious motions. But the rebels rode a head of the cattle and began driving them back. "Hiloo, hiloo there" says copperhead, "I made you all the signs dont you understand." "Oh! dam your signs we want your cattle, and you ought to be glad we dont want you too" says the rebel captain, and copperhead felt a little foolish, no doubt, when he witnessed his drove going west again under such an escort.
Another copperhead had to stand and see them clearing his farm of grain, cattle, horses and every thing. He jumped onto his best and favorite horse and thought to save that one by riding off. "Hollo there I want that horse" shouted a rebel. "and I want him too" was the reply as he rode away. But rebel raised his rifle and copperhead fell from the horse a dead man. still while this kind of work was going on a hundred miles west of Reading, the Berks county copperheads, in their stupid ignorance and stupid treachery, felt quite secure. There seemed to be no moving them to self defence. It really looked as if 2/3 of the people were very willing that the rebels should walk in and be welcome to be our rulers, if they only respected copperhead private property, and injured only union and antislavery men.
When I saw this, and the county authorities refuse to give a cent to be used against the rebels, I thought it time to look out for myself and my family. Our ropewalk, you know is close to the steam forge, a large wooden concern that had been at work for the government near two years making armor plates for iron clad gunboats. If the rebels came to Reading (and I saw no move making to prevent them) I knew that work would be burnt and mine would go with it. When I came to Reading I happened to locate too near the Schuylkill river. On the 7th Jany 1841 my rope-walk was washed away by a flood. I then built
I felt too Old to struggle up from the bare ground again a third time. So on the Thursday evening I told my two sons we must save all we could. There was a rumour that the Union army was hurrying up from Falmouth in Virginia, and in full march to help us in Penna But it had been beaten at chancellorville shortly before, and I had not much confidence in its courage now. It also at starting had 250 miles to march before it could reach a position in Penna to enable it too save us. and
The whole rebel army 100 thousand strong was by this time within less than 70 miles of my home and all I had in the world. On the Friday morning early we went to work at the walk, making up yarn into rope, forming off Packing and puting our stock into saleable shape before we moved it. We worked hard all day untill late on friday and saturday night, and at it again with the steam engine running, all day on sunday. On the saturday afternoon I had got some rail road house cars pushed over to our coal house close to the walk, and on sunday evening all hands went to work loading up. It was moon light and we worked untill 10 oclock.
At work again 4 oclock monday morning, and by nine oclock we had very nearly all our stock of hemp, rope, packing yarn, twine &cr. snugly in the cars and the engine hauled it out and off it went to Scranton, 140 miles north, on the otherside the mountains; where I knew I could save it. Because from Scranton I could very soon run it all the way to Canada and place it under "the flag that braved a thousand years the battle and the breeze". where it would have been surely safe.
I had turned most of my ready cash into drafts on New York. Collected what bills owing me I could and turned that money into green backs. I have two good mules & two good horses, and two good covered wagons on springs able to carry 30 hundred each. We had them and harness all in order, to load up our clothing, carpets blankets, beding and a few household valuables, as soon as we knew that the rebels had crossed the Susquehanna.
I knew that I should be a marked man. The copperheads would point me out as an "abolitionist". and every thing of mine would be destroyed that they could find, and myself badly abused, perhaps hanged or shot, if they caught me. A very consoling reflection truly. That I might be murdered by the miscreants which your London times eulogizes as such heroes, merely because I loved freedom better than slavery, after living 34 years in a land that boasts so loudly of its consecration to liberty. But I had made all my arrangements to save enough to start again with, and to escape with it to some place where I could have peace and security. and I think I should have succeeded. and if the rebels came and destroyed what I left behind me, I had made up my mind never to
We had agreed that Aron, our colored man should take his wife and child (the rebels would kidnap them and send them south into slavery if they caught them) and clothing, and drive one wagon, I was to take my wife with me and drive the other, and start due east for cousin John Watsons in Jersey. My two sons were to stay with the men & take all our new spinning and hemp preparing machinery to pieces and hide it away, scattered in pieces, in the mens houses entirely away from the walk. They were to take every thing like tools out that they could and put them away in pieces, any where away from my property, and where, if found, they would be not know whose or what they were.
The copperhead demogogue leaders of the democratic party were all this time telling the people that there was no invasion. That it was all "a dam'd abolition lie", and secretly assuring the brave "Knights of the golden circle" that they would be safe any how. Only the "cursed Lincolnites and dam'd abolitionists and the niggers would have to suffer". Good peace democrats had nothing to fear. I heard many of them then swear that there was not a dam'd rebel in the state. "Oh! dam the niggers, who cares a curse for the niggers. They are the dam'd sons of b-ches that caused the war any how", was the common cry of the rabble, and I am sorry to say the cry of many thousands of men who ought to have known, and did know better.
Oh! if there ever were mortals on this earth who deserve to put on immortality, and then be driven with flaming pitch forks into a seventy and seven times heated hell, they are these infernal proslavery american demogogues in the free states. You can form no idea of their base falsehood and develish villiany, unless you were here on the spot to see and understand it. Still the New York riots may give you some faint notion of their reality.
Only think. While these superlative scoundrels were using every means to excite the ire of the ignorant multitude, and hounding the rabble on to hunt down and murder the poor persecuted negroes, it was by the forced slave labour of these poor creatures in the south, that the rebellion lived and moved and had its being. It was by the lashed labour of native born American slaves that Lee was then enabled to invade and devastate Pennsylvania, making war for slavery where we had thought freedom was safe for ever. And yet your emigrated Irish, just escaped from under the heel of aristocratic oppression at home, could be hiss'd on, by native american demogogues to murder native americans in the most cruel manner; who were strangers to them, who never wronged or injured them in the least possible way; merely because they "were guilty of a skin not colored like their own".
Oh! how I did wish for an emperor Nicholas or Napoleon here, with force enough to mow down those miscreant mobs by the acre and rid this earth for ever of the whole race of such wretches.
But to return to my story. On Saturday the people of this county began
A Strong column of rebels was at wrightsville only about 40 miles from Reading. The rebel General Jenkins had pressed some of the "copperhead Knights" into his ranks where they openly declared their friendship for the southern cause. This was a part of the play they did not expect to become actors it in. It was not what they had bargained for. They had become "Knights" to avoid fighting, even in self defence of house and home.
The courthouse bell rung at 11 oclock at night. I hurried up, but it was nearly full of shouting and excited men when I got there. A meeting was organized with our copperhead mayor for president. Six or eight places in the city were appointed for enrolling volunteers. Our copperhead county commissioners consented to give 15 dollars a man bounty, 6 dollars a month to single men & 12 dollars a month to the married men; extra pay over and above the government pay of 15 dollars per month & rations & clothing; to all who enlisted for 3 months or the emergency.
In addition to which, meetings were held on Sunday morning & it was determined to close all the shops, stop all the iron works and manufactories and suspend all business generally. Most of the collieries stopped too, and nearly all employers agreed to pay their men their usual wages while away in addition to all the other pay they got, if they would enlist to aid in driving the invaders out of the state. These were the arrangements generally made all over Penna. yet even then, in that eleventh hour preparation, demogogues tried their poison on the public mind by raising an outcry that all the wealthy, and all those who owned property should turn out to fight. They said the poor man had nothing much to lose at stake and but very little to lose, why should he risk his life to defend other peoples property?
Now the real truth is that the poor man of america has far more at stake in this war than the rich man. The rebels are fighting to establish institutions by which the governing power shall be entirely in the hands of an aristocracy of rich men who own their working men same as they own their horses & mules, and by which even the poor white man would be robbed of every right and all the precious privileges he now enjoys, and his posterity might be down trodden & politically enslaved for ages, while the rich man could take his place in that man owning aristocracy and become one of them if he chose. However the rich men turned out and went into the ranks too.
You may ask if I or my sons turned out to defend our property then?. I tell you no, and why. A few days before 200 fine stout hardy and brave black men went from Philadelphia to Harrisburg and offered their services for state defence. Many of the colored men of Reading and other parts of Penna offered also. But our Republican governor refused them all. This he did to conciliate the copperheads, and pamper the prejudice of the proslavery democracy and the rebels who were coming upon us. He refused the negroes a chance to fight the invaders fairly although it was well known that they were kidnapping all the negroes they could catch,men, women and children, tying them in pairs each side along a rope with
This I knew, because the Federal cavelry had recaptured some of these "coffles" of kidnapped negeroes and escorted them back to safe places and many of the poor fugitives, thus ruthlessly dragged from their homes and resaved had managed to make their way to Reading. But because they were "niggers" they were not allowed to aid in driving out the enemy & recovering possession of the homes which many of them owned as freeholders.
If I ever do lose my life in war let it be given to the cause of true freedom, of unalloyed liberty, and not for such questionable principles as now prevail here, north and south. We are loud in praise of popular soverignty. But the fact is we have been collectively a nation of 26 millions of soverigns with less than 5 millions of down trodden subjects. More than 5 soverigns to 1 subjects. I do not call that popular soverignty. It is petty soverignty. It is splitting prerogatives with a vengence.
But to return to my story. That sunday we were all hands hard at work all day untill 10 Oclock P.M. preparing for moving stock next morning. There was not many at church that day. Drums and fifes had been going since day light. Companies of men drilling. Marching and countermarching in the streets and square all day. Stacks of muskets in the market houses. Men on horse back riding around to form cavelry companies. when I went into town a time or two to get the latest news, it looked like war in earnest. But I knew that if Lee was coming on us with a hundred thousand well drilled rascals, and if nothing else stopped him, the forces we were then raising could not hinder his passing through Berks county.
That night we learned that the enemy were trying hard to cross the Susquehanna at Columbia, 40 miles from Reading. But the burning of the long wooden bridge there stopped them. That day another division of them were fighting our men within three miles of Harrisburg. A friend of mine came down on Monday morning who had heard the firing all afternoon.
Monday morning there was very great anxiety and excitement. Most of the store keepers were busy packing up and hurrying off their goods to the rail road frieght station. The same scenes were enacting in many other towns & cities. In Phila it was on a much larger scale. Many millions of dollars worth of property and valuables were sent to New York. and Much of it remained there when the riots broke out, and the owners heartily wished it home again.
For about a week we fully expected a rebel cavelry raid to destroy our rail road and canal which were taking down 100 thousand tons of coal per week, and the Lehigh valley rail road & Canal, 35 miles east of here, which was taking down 75 thousand tons of coal a week. All the men enlisting in the coal region & in the towns around here for 50 or 60 miles, were sent here, organized into regiments and sent to Harrisburg as fast as possible. About 40 thousand men reached Harrisburg in about a week.
There had been much grumbling about the draft. The democrats had made loud and angry threats to resist the draft by force of arms. They said that it was unconstitutional and tyranical to conscript men by force, or to arm "niggers" on any terms. They knew that volunteering was nearly, or quite stopped. Their leaders had discouraged that all they could. And yet they professed to be union men. They wanted the union saved, but said it could never be saved by war. It could only be saved by conciliation, negotiation & compromise.
The power and resources of the loyal states are today full as great as those of France were when Napoleon started on his career of victory which subjugated nearly all Europe. what are the resources of our rebels compared with the powers with which Napoleon contended? Almost nothing if we had faught them wisely. Two years ago they were six millions of free white & three millions of slaves. - Suppose they had a million of white fighting men at the start. Full three hundred thousand of them are killed, crippled and dead from disease and hardships. Full three hundred thousand more cannot be conscripted. Cannot be forced to fight at all. They are sick of the war. That leaves but four hundred thousand fighting men in the confederate armies every where, and over eighty thousand of those are now prisoners of war, or under parole & not exchanged.
Then of the three millions of slaves. There are at least five hundred thousand very hardy, able bodied and brave men among them who will fight like tigers for their freedom, if we receive and handle them right. The National government has fully adopted that policy now. Frederick Douglas the great negroe, abolition orator is appointed to an officer in the Federal army and gone down South to aid in enlisting and organizing the union negro armies. A nation composed of but six millions of free people and three millions of down trodden slaves chattel slaves cannot possibly become powerful after 1860. It has been nothing but democracy, ignorant brutalizing democracy, New York Irish democracy and northern proslavery conservatism (negrophobia) that enabled this rebellion to live a year, (even with all the help that England gave it.)
The best way to cure us of all that, was to let the war come in upon us. To let us have the champions of chattel slavery in close contact with us, face to face. I have seen thousands of them after they were taken prisoners. I saw some hundreds of Lee's invaders at Harrisburg who were taken in western Penna. and such a set of dirty, ragged lousey looking set of beings I never saw before. You might collect a thousand of your most villianous looking vagrants and then take a score of the filthyest rascals of them all, and they would be fully as respectable in appearance as any fair sample of the scoundrels I saw as rebel prisoners from Lees army.
They were dressed in all manner and kinds of dirty stinking old clothes. No two of them any thing like uniforms except in filthyness. Coats, or upper garments, of all manner of material, styles & cuts, from the bobtail jacket all sleeves to the long lappell with no sleeves at all and the tight frock with the skirt off at the waist on one side & the sleeve gone above the elbow on the other. As to vests, there was not a patch of a waistcoat in the whole party. As to pantaloons (trowsers you call them). Some had the knee sticking through on one side & the whole leg & half the thigh out on the other. Some of the poor pantaloons had suffered amputations of one leg & some of both, and become knee breeches with the little ornaments of buttons at the knees wanting. They looked as if they had been hung up and bit off by jumping rats, for the pressed by hunger, to get the grease in them
As to shoes. There was not half a shoe a piece in whole companies of them, and even those were almost as sole less (soul less) as the cause & the consciences of the hard looking wearers. Oh! if your cotton lords and kidd gloved nice nosed aristocracy could have come in close contact with these heroic defenders of slavery and the right to oppress as many as they can own of men, immortal as themselves.
I would give a hundred dollars not to see your Palmaston take one of those pets of his party by the palm and cordially shake hands with him. Extremes would meet then I fancy, for the first and last time with that party. But the sympathy and material aid which your honorable gentlemen have given to these southern scoundrels has done us a real good. But for the aid of British gold and British guns, & the British government giving them belligerant rights as soon as the rebellion broke out, these rebels would have been crushed in less than a year & slavery remained as it was & faster on us than before. But now, nothing can save it.
Copperhead democracy must consent to its abolition and this nation being entirely free. We have then but one other evil to fear. Prostitution of the sufferage. But of that I will write another time. In view of the threatened resistance to the draft, I think the government intended to let Lee lead his army as far East as he could or dare lead them, untill the accumulated force of multidues of foes harressed and stopped him, and then the union army following him, would stop all returning. Penna New Jersey, New York and the states east of them have a population of 15 millions. It is only western Penna that is largely copperhead. and there the "Knights of the golden circle" being more than twice as numerous as the loyal men, the rebels coming here principally for plunder, had to rob all alike or they would not have got half enough.
A hundred thousand thieves with full lisense to carry of all they can, will steal a vast deal when they can also steal plenty of teams to take it off with. I fully believe the rebel army would have been surrounded by more than a million of the best men in America if they had gone to Phila or through Penna to New Jersey.
The week the rebels were nearest to Reading will be long remembered. All the stores were closed (shops shut is the English phrase) All the manufactories, and all businesses of every kind, except preparing for fight, were entirely stopped. Long rail rail road trains of rail road cars crowded with men were constantly arriving, from the north & east, and departing west to meet the enemy. Other long trains carried horses, cannon & amunition and artillery men. They came, and away they went at a speed of 30 miles an hour. Rail roads carry munitions and move masses of men quickly. War can be made in a hurry with the iron horse to carry the combatents.
New Jersey sent many men. New York state promised one hundred thousand. All the Eastern states, even Maine the extreme East, were preparing and hurrying on all the men they could. A camp of twenty thousand men was forming here and the green slopes at the foot of Neversink, and Penn Mountains were quickly covered with rows of white tents, and union flags were flying every where. The fife and drum & full bands of music and the loud cheers of many men were heard all the time. Rumours came of the Union army having reached Penna and crossed the state line much further South then where the rebels came in. That the enemy would cross the susquehanna at Harrisburg & come down the broad turnpike road from there through Reading for Phila. You know this turnpike road runs
Now just imagine, if you can, what would have been the fate of our beautiful little city and all its surroundings. A hundred thousand armed men, with two hundred cannon occupying the city to desperately attack and force a passage through just past it, which would have been as desperately defended by at least another hundred thousand men. The fight might have gone on for a week, and then another hundred thousand union army come on them and attack the attacking rebels, and then right here would have been the bloodiest battle of the whole war. It is a poor cock that wont fight on his own dunghill.
Much as I have been disgusted with northern proslaveryism I began to feel savage. when I walked went out in the cool evenings and looked at the handsomely finished well furnished houses, and the many merry nicely dressed children playing on the pavements, happy in their ignorance of danger; and the elegantly apparelled ladies taking their accustomed cool walks, with a shade of anxiety, some of grief on their fair faces for friends and dear ones gone to meet the foe, perhaps never to return alive. (I had seen many tearful partings.)
And then I looked back through the long years I have lived here and seen Reading grow from a small town of a thousand or two of inhabitants to a well built city of thirty thousand people, with its many fine structures and splendid works; and when I saw the beautiful country around, with its grand wooded hills, its green vallies and broad fields of grain just getting ripe; and thought of my own and my childrens comfortable homes, of our property, of our 450 yards of well roofed snug sided rope walk with its ample & convenient buildings, new three story ginny house and valuable steam engine, tools and machinery that had cost us many years of hard labour to complete and pay for; when I reflected that all these beautiful scenes of nature, of art, of industry, and of happiness might soon be laid waste, desolated and entirely destroyed by the demons of wicked & causeless rebellion; The bleeding bodies of friends and foes might soon be strewed about or piled in heaps here and glared upon by the light of blazing buildings fired by the fiends who provoked this fratricidal strife,
Our wide streets and shady side walks showing long rows of scorched trees and smutty ruins where these happy homes had been, and our whole city a sickening sight of smoking ashes, desolation and death. And such it would have been had Lees army been stopped and routed here, and all this calamity might have come upon us because we had elected a president the man stealer does not like, and refuse to put out necks beneath the heel of the hidious devel of slavery any more. - Although I had sworn never to pull a trigger in this war because it has been proslavery on both sides, yet when all these thoughts were crowding on my brain, the old British bulldog began to growl in my bosom and my fingers felt like grasping a musket.
But again, why should I risk my life and the lives of my sons to retrieve the egregious blundors and contemptable folly of these proslavery people and pamper their prejudices against the poor oppressed negro, who is not allowed to fight on fair terms against the invaders because they are also his enslavers. I confess I was much worried by a strange conflicting of doubts, ideas, and inclinations. It was proposed to mass a million of men together, armed with swords, spears, pikes, axes, hatchets, knives
The carnage would have been aweful. But had they come far enough east, or north, I have no doubt it would have been done. It would have been a battle all the time as long as an uncaptured rebel remained in a free state. It was so with the rebel forces which invaded the western free states. Nearly every man of them were killed or captured including their general, Morgan who, with scores of his offices is now in Ohio state prison, and held as hostages for union officers who are suffering in close confinement in Georgia. The western men used them up quickly and a very few of them escaped.
But Lee was too cunning to cross the susquehanna and bring his army here while a constantly increasing union army was near enough to stop his return. as soon as he found that the union army had got into Penna also, not far off him, he withdrew his advancing columns, concentrated his army and attacked the union army at Gettysburg about 60 miles from here, as quick as he possibly could, Before they could be rested after their long and werisome march in such warm weather. I believe Lee fully expected to give our army a waterloo defeat and then have it pretty much all his own way. But he was disappointed of victory, and would have been disappointed if in its results if he had gained it. New York state and the New England states would have sent on men enough to have ensured the ruin of his army if he could not escape back again to Virginia.
The three days fighting at Gettysburg was a hard battle. I know many who were in it. The Union army faught on the defensive almost entirely, and repulsed the rebels in every attack with terrible slaughter. After three days fighting Lee found his losses so great that he commenced a rapid retreat towards the Potomac, leaving all his killed and wounded laying on the field. The Union army faught well there and stood to their work well like men fighting for freedom should stand. The battle was faught on Wednesday, thursday & friday.
We knew here that it was going on and the excitement and anxiety was very great. Long trains of cars load with cannon, horses and men were hurried off to Harrisburg and from there towards the rebel army in hot haste. But they were all too late to reach the battle field and take a hand in the great game of War. They might have been in time, or we might easy have had fifty thousand freed slaves black men, "contrabands", to help the Union army, and then the ruin of the whole of Lees army would have been complete, and, with the capture of Vicsburg and Port Hudson, which were both taken about that time, the confederacy would have been crushed beyond much further fighting. But then, as many times before Either or both could have been done easy. and with common foresight fifty thousand more white men & fifty, or a hundred thousand black men also could all have been added to the union army before it reached Penna in its march after Lee.
But copperhead conspirators, north and "conservatism" and stupidity or worse in the cabinet at Washington effectually prevented us making anything like the best use of all the means at our command, even when thousands of northern homes were invaded and plundered of every thing. Had I space I could give you items, facts, and statistics to prove it beyond a doubt. and the cabinet at Washington knew it well too. Perhaps it might have been better for the cause of true freedom if the union army had been routed, for the great majority of americans
I used to wonder at Pharoahs obstinacy when I was a school boy and the bible furnished part of my lessons. But I wonder at him no more now. This war has taught me far more of human nature than I ever dreamed of before althoug I was over fifty four when it began. The rebels are right for once when they said universal sufferage puts the reigns of power at the heels of society instead of the head. Still, however ignorant the heels may be, it is now evident their heads did not know enough when they made war on "Uncle Sam", badly as he has wasted his immense power and resources. It is proved now by occular demonstration that the negroes fight the rebels far more bravely and desperately than the white unionists ever did. If fifty thousand negroes, well armed, had been set upon the flank of Lees army at gettysburg its utter route and destruction would have been certain, and they could have been had without asking for too. But with the democrats & copperheads &, I blush to say it, with too many of the loyal republicans also, they are "Dam'd niggers" yet and therefore were not even asked to help where they were so much needed and so Lees army escaped.
The first news from Gettysburg on the Saturday was that Lees army was totally routed with the loss of 118 cannon & 30, odd thousand killed & wounded and 27 thousand prisoners. It turned out afterwards that the rebels did not lose a cannon in the battle and only two on the retreat by the horses giving out. They lost but a few thousand prisoners in the battle but over ten thousand stragglers deserted in the retreat. Their loss in killed and wound did not much exceed 15 thousand. They moved off in good order, almost entirely unmolested. The union cavelry captured some 4, or 500 of the wagons they had stolen and rescued many kidnapped negroes. But Lee reached the East side of the Potomac with full 2/3 of his army. The river was high. His pontoon bridges were gone. But he was seemed to be well fortified when the slow moving union army, with forty thousand reinforcements came up. But the owner of two stripped farms near there assured me that much of the fortifications was a sham. It was wheat harvest. They made long rows of wheat sheaves proped against each other and pretended to have earth banks behind them, but not a spade had been stuck in the ground where the wheat sheaves did duty as breast works. However they answered the purpose very well.
Over a hundred thousand union soldiers looked at them a whole week; while Lee passed the balance of his plunder, all his guns, and amunition and bagge trains, and all his remaining men but about a thousand pickets, safe over the Potomac into Virginia; and made not the slightest attempt to attack untill it was entirely too late. All manner of reasons were given, and all kinds of excuses made for the cowardice of our commanders, but as far as I can understand it, the union generals must have wished the rebels would go quietly across the river and were very glad when they did go & got there.
and so the war drags on awhile longer. But the final result never was at all doubtful from the first. Slavery has to go to the lakes and the canada line, or Freedom will go to Florida. Now which is the most likely? Your London shylocks & long purse money lenders never thought of that or they might have saved some of their sovereigns and a little of British character for consistency. But they have done us no real injury. I begin now to think this great bubble of rebellion may burst too soon yet. I sometimes talk
when the whole of Lees army had got into Penna I asked a copper head what he thought of it. It "looks alarmin, so it does" says he, adding "I'm afraid we must abolish slavery and free all the naygurs so we must". "well what harm" says I. "and what harm do ye ask? sure the black divils will all come north and put down the poor mans wages so they will". and who was this that was afraid we must abolish slavery?. why a whiskey sucking dirty shirt dollar a day Irish labourer, not worth a cent if a tenth of his debts were paid, who could not write his own name, to save his soul, and would not have a chaff bag to lay on if it were not for the homestead law or the humanity of his creditors. and yet this fellow could influence ten votes for slavery when I could not win one against it. And native american demogogues had made him firmly believe that if slavery were abolished "all the naygurs" would come to the cold north with its long winters of frost and snow and ice, leaving the warm sunny south with its genial climate and rich soil, far more like their native Africa then the northern states are.
But to show you some of the contradictions of democracy. Some few years ago the democrats in Texas passed a state law expelling all free negroes. It went into operation and was strictly enforced about January. or February, immediately after its passage. And hundreds of poor negroes, to avoid being enslaved went up into the western states in the middle of winter, and suffered dreadfully from the snow and cold, they had never seen and felt in their lives before. Thus, prolonging the war and invading the north will be for the best in the end. It will show that "we must abolish slavery".
The enemy did a great deal of damage. But it will soon be repaired. In their cavelry raid last September they burnt the railway station and repair shops at Chambersburg. They were all soon rebuilt fire proof of brick and iron. They could not burn them again, so they got long chains round the iron pillars. Hitched on a heavy locomotive, jerked them out and let the roof fall. They tore down much of the walls in the same way. They took up eleven miles of rail road track. Made large fires with the wooden cross ties, laid the rai iron rails on, Heated them red hot in the middle and then doubled them up. where trees were near they bent the hot rails round them, untill the ends crossed each other, sometimes a dozen rails round one tree and left them to cool. They burnt the wooden bridges and blew up the stone culverts.
well our men have destroyed far more rail road in the south than that. Only our cute Yankees don't bend the rails. They heat the whole rail and have a contrivence twist it from end to end like a sugar stick.
The invasion is over and our sixty thousand "emergency" men are being "mustered" out of service, paid off and going home again. we have a great time with them. "Green backs" going in all directions. The bounty, extra pay, uncle sam's pay and employers pay, make more than a hundred dollars a piece each for many of the men, for only a months service in which they never smelt gunpowder.
Tommy Wall went as a drummer boy in the 42nd regiment.P.V.S.M. Penna volunteer state militia. He raised a six dollar drum by subscription got his uniform and twenty eight dollars. For most of these 60 thousand emergency men it has been a big frolick. a grand months spree. But some felt it was a serious duty, and it was serious enough to many.
F. S. Hunter a near neighbour of mine, worth over a hundred thousand dollars, went as a private in the ranks and returned very sick with fever & died to day, aged 40. One of our very best and most useful men. Many, many thousands of loyal men have died though this war who were never hurt in battle. Bereavement and mourning & desolation has been brought to many many happy homes. Mr Hunter had all around him to make life sweet and happy. If there be a everlasting hell of intense heat and unholy fire, the inaugeraters of this cruel war deserve eternal damnation in it.
Remember me kindly to all friends and relatives and your parents particularly.
In page 6 and page 1 of this letter , TJ refers to the riots in New York when a mob of many thousand attacked the blacks out of fear that they would take the jobs of the poor working classes in New York.
This well recorded event clearly make TJ aware that many Northerners were not really inclined to fight for abolition and that abolitionists like him were often unpopular and very much in the minority. There was even a suggestion that New York City should also succeed from the union!
Library of Congress http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2013648221
It is interesting that TJ wrote this letter to Caleb's son, William who had previously spent some time working with him in Reading during 1859 (Letter #4)
Throughout this long letter, TJ is unwaveringly focused on the abolition of slavery and offers a great many details of the politics and the various strengths of the opposing forces as the war ebbs and flows. Here he discusses a wide range of issues that he was following including estimates of the cash value of slaves to the South. He takes this as evidence that the Confederates are at war solely because they were desperately trying to protect the value of their "property" (with no consideration of the issue of states' rights).
When it appeared that Lee's armies would enter Reading, TJ vividly reports on how he and his fellow citizens responded. Surprisingly, he claims there were so many southern sympathizers ("Copper heads and Knights of the Golden Circle) in important positions in Reading that many were not greatly concerned that they might be attacked by Lee's armies. In this climate of opinion,TJ was afraid that he might be killed for his unwavering vocal views supporting the Union armies and the abolition of slavery.
In the annals of the civil war, we know of no more powerful account of the hyperactivity that was generated when a local population of a small town felt that it was on the verge of being attacked by an invading force of merciless rebels. This letter demonstrates Thomas Jackson's writing at its most dramatic. It also reflects his consistent vitriolic views against southern supporters of all kinds.
TJ's Brother who lived in Harrisburg was Henry (who also had a rope walk)
Rascals and scoundrels
It seems as if the meaning of words "rascal" scoundrels were far more bitter and despised than our use of the words today.
" I left word with my brother who lives at Harrisburg"
This was henry who had his own rope works there.
(page 2) Arthur Roebuck
was a member of the British Parliament who was conspicuous for his eloquence. When civil war raged in the United States of America he violently championed the slave-holders of the South, boasting that Lord Palmerston had cynically confessed to him that he was on the same side. TJ clearly despised him.
(page 2) "Dick Turpin courage"
Richard "Dick" Turpin was an English highwayman whose exploits were romanticized following his execution in York for horse theft. In fact, he was a ruthless gangster, a torturer of innocent victims, especially women, a horse thief and a murderer. He was born around 1705 in Essex, and lived a life of crime',
(page 3) "The knights of the golden circle" (From Wikipedia )
The Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC) was a secret society. The original objective of the KGC was to annex a golden circle of territories in Mexico (which would be divided into 25 slave states), Central America, northern South America, and Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean for inclusion in the United States as slave states. The members proposed a separate confederation of slave states, with US states south of the Mason-Dixon line to secede and to align with other slave states to be formed from the golden circle. In either case, the goal was to increase the power of the Southern slave-holding upper class to such a degree that it could never be dislodged.  During the American Civil War, some Southern sympathizers in the Northern states were accused of belonging to the Knights of the Golden Circle, and in some cases were imprisoned for their activities.
During the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign, scam artists in south-central Pennsylvania sold Pennsylvania Dutch farmers $1 paper tickets purported to be from the Knights of the Golden Circle. Along with a series of secret hand gestures, these tickets were supposed to protect the horses and other possessions of ticket holders from seizure by invading Confederate soldiers. When Jubal Early's infantry division passed through York County, Pennsylvania, they took what they needed anyway. They often paid with Confederate currency or drafts on the Confederate government.
(page 4) Copperheads
The Copperheads were a vocal group of Democrats located in the Northern United States of the Union who opposed the American Civil War, wanting an immediate peace settlement with the Confederates. Republicans started calling antiwar Democrats "Copperheads," likening them to the venomous snake. The Peace Democrats accepted the label, reinterpreting the copper "head" as the likeness of Liberty, which they cut from copper pennies and proudly wore as badges.
During the American Civil War ), the Copperheads nominally favored the Union and strongly opposed the war, for which they blamed abolitionists, and they demanded immediate peace and resisted draft laws. They wanted President Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans ousted from power, seeing the president as a tyrant destroying American republican values with despotic and arbitrary actions. Some Copperheads tried to persuade Union soldiers to desert. They talked of helping Confederate prisoners of war seize their camps and escape. They sometimes met with Confederate agents and took money. The Confederacy encouraged their activities whenever possible.
Taken together, it is easy to see why Thomas Jackson hated copperheads
(page 5) Greenbacks.
For non-US readers, greenbacks were-and are- American Federal dollar notes.
(page 6) New York Riots
The New York City draft riots (July 13-16, 1863) were violent disturbances in New York City that were the culmination of working-class discontent with new laws passed by Congress that year to draft men to fight in the ongoing American Civil War. The rioters were overwhelmingly working-class men, primarily ethnic Irish, resenting particularly that wealthier men, who could afford to pay a $300 commutation fee to hire a substitute, were spared the draft. Initially intended to express anger at the draft, the protests turned into an ugly race riot, with the white rioters, attacking blacks wherever they could be found. At least 100 black people were estimated to have been killed.
(page 6) Hissing
A term expressing disapproval or opprobrium. Of hiss, Johnson wrote, "It is remarkable, that this word cannot be pronounced without making the noise which it signifies.
(Page 12) A waterloo defeat
18 June 1815 Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and the French army was totally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo by the British under the leadership of the Duke of Wellington and other forces. Napoleon's resounding defeat at Waterloo led to his second and final fall from power, and ended more than two decades of wars across Europe that had begun with the French Revolution.
(page 13) The Pharoah's obstinacy
(from article on Google: http://www.occupationalhazard.org/article.php?IDD=234)
"When we read the narrative in the Book of Exodus(7:3) one facet of the story raises perplexing questions. Why were ten plagues, each one painful in itself, necessary for the release of the Israelites from their Egyptian bondage? Why did Pharoah and his magicians have to go through the experience of having their firstborn die before they could recognize the limits of their power and the fact that the only way to be rid of the Israelites was to let them go free?" It appears that TJ felt that the obstinacy of the South compared to that of the pharaoh, immaterial of how much they suffered.
Our Wish List for Further Information
Please will someone confirm who was "the dull general" referred to on page 1 "The rebel army stole a long march on the dull general of the Union army & their advance guard were actually in Penna before a federal soldier stirr'd a foot from the Banks of the Rappahannock river"
Was this a reference to Hooker as one of my collaborators believes?
As a side issue, one tale about Hooker is that he made sure that the comfort ladies were always available....and, apocryphally perhaps, he is the origin of the term "hooker" as used to identify a prostitute. (Is there good evidence for this?)
or this website in general.
Notes From: Irvin RathmanBoth soldiers named by Jackson joined the 42nd Regt. Emergency Militia, in service from July 6th to Aug. 11th, 1863, in case the rebels returned to Pennsylvania. Thomas Wall was the musician for Co. H. The wealthy Frederick S. Hunter did indeed go in, like Jackson said, as a private, but was immediately promoted and put his extensive business experience to work as the Quartermaster Sergeant for the regiment.
Thomas J. Wall was an English immigrant and lived with Jackson briefly after the war. Little else is known of him. He was probably a relative of Jackson's landlady's brother-in-law, printer James Wall, a native of Bristol, England.
Ironmaster Frederick S. Hunter (1822-1863) lived the next block down from Jackson, with his wife, three children, mother, and three servants. The exact address is uncertain; it was part of a group of houses owned by his family and popularly known as "Hunter's Row," from 241-247 S. 5th St. The 1860 censustaker was told he was worth $175,000.
Sources: Samuel P. Bates, History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5 (Harrisburg: 1869-1871), 5:1271-1273.
1860 census, SW Ward, p. 1225
Reading city directories.
Index of Berks County naturalizations.
Estate file for John B. Hicks, Reading, 1857. Berks County Register of Wills.
Hunter's grave can currently be found at Charles Evans Cemetery, Reading via www.findagrave.com (accessed 11/6/2014).
Tombstone of Frederick S. Hunter from
with permission of Neil D. Scheidt