Sunday, August 28, 2022

19th Century Utopian Societies That Condemned Traditional Marriage


Francis Wright

In the early 19th century, not everyone looked at the institution of marriage with a cheerful eye.  In 1826, Frances Wright's Utopian community in Nashoba, Tennessee, rejected the concept of marriage entirely.  Wright and her followers argued that love and respect, rather than legal ties, should bind couples.  When love and respect disappeared, couples should simply separate. 

                                          The Oneida Community

In New York, the Oneida Community, founded in 1848, described marriage as, "contrary to natural liberty....a cruel and oppressive method of uniting the sexes."  This Community practiced a form of community marriage where each woman was married to every man and each man to every woman.  Most Americans rejected these views and pressured young people to marry.  A man's credit rating, for example, depended in part on whether or not he was married and had children.

Love, Sex, and Marriage in the Civil War

Love, Sex and Marriage in Victorian America

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Mississippi Secedes From the Union


Photo credit: The Library of Congress:  Sergeant A.M. Chandler of Co. F, 44th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, and Silas Chandler, family slave.

On January 9, 1861, the state of Mississippi seceded from the Union giving its reasons in a “Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union.”

“In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.”

“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.”

“That we do not overstate the dangers to our institution, a reference to a few facts will sufficiently prove.”

“The hostility to this institution commenced before the adoption of the Constitution, and was manifested in the well-known Ordinance of 1787, in regard to the Northwestern Territory.”

“The feeling increased, until, in 1819-20, it deprived the South of more than half the vast territory acquired from France.”

“The same hostility dismembered Texas and seized upon all the territory acquired from Mexico.”

“It has grown until it denies the right of property in slaves, and refuses protection to that right on the high seas, in the Territories, and wherever the government of the United States had jurisdiction.”

“It refuses the admission of new slave States into the Union and seeks to extinguish it by confining it within its present limits, denying the power of expansion.”

“It tramples the original equality of the South under foot.”

“It has nullified the Fugitive Slave Law in almost every free State in the Union and has utterly broken the compact which our fathers pledged their faith to maintain.”

“It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst.”

“It has enlisted its press, its pulpit and its schools against us, until the whole popular mind of the North is excited and inflamed with prejudice.”

“It has made combinations and formed associations to carry out its schemes of emancipation in the States and wherever else slavery exists.”

“It seeks not to elevate or to support the slave, but to destroy his present condition without providing a better.”

“It has invaded a State and invested with the honors of martyrdom the wretch whose purpose was to apply flames to our dwellings, and the weapons of destruction to our lives.”

“It has broken every compact into which it has entered for our security.”

“It has given indubitable evidence of its design to ruin our agriculture, to prostrate our industrial pursuits and to destroy our social system.”

“It knows no relenting or hesitation in its purposes; it stops not in its march of aggression and leaves us no room to hope for cessation or for pause.”

“It has recently obtained control of the Government, by the prosecution of its unhallowed schemes, and destroyed the last expectation of living together in friendship and brotherhood.”

“Utter subjugation awaits us in the Union, if we should consent longer to remain in it. It is not a matter of choice, but of necessity. We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this as well as every other species of property. For far less cause than this, our fathers separated from the Crown of England.”

“Our decision is made. We follow their footsteps. We embrace the alternative of separation; and for the reasons here stated, we resolve to maintain our rights with the full consciousness of the justice of our course, and the undoubting belief of our ability to maintain it.”

Mississippi was the second state to secede from the Union, following South Carolina which had seceded on December 20, 1860.

War and Reconstruction in Mississippi 1861-1875: A Portrait

The Great Northern Rebellion of 1860 (alternate history)

Friday, August 19, 2022

Van Dorn's Raid on Holly Springs, Ms.

 The state of Mississippi was to see a great deal of hard fighting during the war. Major engagements were fought at Corinth (1862), Port Gibson (1863), Jackson (1863), and Vicksburg (1863). Obeying General Sherman’s orders to, “destroy everything public not needed by us,” Federal troops took the occupied parts of the state literally apart, looting stores and houses, and setting fire to warehouses, factories and foundries.

 The first raid made by Federal soldiers on Holly Springs occurred in early 1862. The raiding party ransacked the home of William Manson. Furniture was smashed to pieces, music was pounded out on the piano with the ends of muskets, and rich cushions and carpets were shredded. The soldiers poked holes in family paintings with their bayonets.

 In late November, the Union army moved south from Tennessee. General Ulysses S. Grant had set in motion a plan for the speedy conquest of Vicksburg. His line of march was parallel to the Mississippi River and some sixty miles east. He planned to sweep through northern Mississippi, carefully extending and maintaining his lines of supply as he progressed, until he reached Jackson. There he would cut the railroad line between that city and Vicksburg, at which point he expected to take Vicksburg with relative ease. On November 27, 1862 an advance guard entered Holly Springs and took over the largest and most comfortable houses. The Coxe Place on Salem Avenue was, taken over for the General Army Headquarters while the private residence of General Grant, accompanied by his wife Julia, was established at the Walter Place on Chulahoma Avenue. For two weeks a Federal army of 75,000 men rested in Holly Springs, before moving south toward Vicksburg.

A Holly Springs Home

Elements of the 8th Wisconsin infantry and a portion of the2nd Illinois Cavalry, some 1,500 men under the command of Colonel Robert Murphy, remained in Holly Springs to guard the newly established supply base.

 On Saturday, December 20, 1862, Confederate Major General Earl Van Dorn raided the town. In the pale light of dawn, Van Dorn‘s men stormed into Holly Springs, surprising the Federals who emerged half asleep from their tents, firing as they came.  The Confederate 2nd Missouri dismounted and charged on foot, dispersing any infantry they encountered. The Texas brigade charged from the east, coming in from the railroad depot. Most of the Federal garrison surrendered after a token resistance. Only the 2nd Illinois Cavalry chose to fight. With sabers drawn and flashing, some three hundred and fifty horsemen charged through the attacking Confederates, suffering one hundred casualties.

Major General Earl Van Dorn

 A long train of boxcars loaded with rations and clothing was captured. The railroad depot, the Court House and many houses were filled with supplies of all kinds. The public square contained hundreds of bales of cotton. A large brick livery stable and the adjacent Masonic temple were packed with unopened cases of carbines and Colt six— shooters. From 7 A.M. to 4 P.M. Union army stores were first plundered and then burned. Van Dorn’s raid destroyed huge quantities of supplies, leaving the Union army in enemy territory without supplies. Grant was forced to return to Memphis.

Civil War Humor 1861-1865

The 1865 Fall of Richmond in Pictures

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Divorce in the American Civil War

 Authority over the family was legally vested in men, which profoundly influenced a woman's ability to control property, dissolve her marriage or insure custody of her children (there were fewer than 10,000 divorces a year in 1861).  A woman's right to own property emerged slowly.  Mississippi passed the first Married Women's Property Act in 1839.  In 1845 Massachusetts passed similar legislation, with New York following suit in 1848.  In 1855, Massachusetts far in advance of the rest of the Union, legislated to protect the wages of working married women, which were at that time, the legal property of her husband.

Laws concerning divorce varied widely among the states throughout much of American history. In New England, where the Puritans had defined marriage as a civil contract rather than a religious sacrament, secular law had provided for divorce as early as the 17th century. Like any other contract, the marriage bond could be broken when either of the contracting parties failed to meet the obligations it imposed. Adultery, impotence, desertion, or conviction for serious crimes, were all grounds for divorce. Additionally, wives could obtain a divorce on the grounds of non-support.

In most states in the early 19th century, an act of the legislature was required to end a marriage. As the century progressed divorce laws became more liberal. During the 1850s, Indiana was widely condemned for its liberal ways. A couple in Indiana could obtain a divorce on any grounds that a judge ruled “proper”. Indiana judges were far more permissive than the New York City judge who in 1861 refused to grant a divorce to a wife whose husband had beaten her unconscious in an argument over letting the family dog sleep on the bed. The judge advised the woman that “one or two acts of cruel treatment” were not proper grounds for divorce. Indiana’s liberal stance on divorce attracted a flood of applicants from other states. The influential newspaper editor and future presidential nominee, Horace Greeley denounced Indiana as “the paradise of free-lovers” whose example would soon lead to “a general profligacy and corruption such as this country has never known.”

 Among the enslaved population, divorce, like marriage, was within the master's jurisdiction.  Rules were as severe or lax as the master wished.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Civil War Bordellos


With the outbreak of war, many prostitutes, known as "Cyprians", "Fallen Angels", "Daughters of Eve" and "Daughters of Joy" followed the drum, attaching themselves to the armies as cooks and laundresses.  The mob of camp followers attached to the Army of the Potomac in 1862 was dubbed "Hooker's Army", in honor of the Commanding General Joseph Hooker.  The term "hooker" has come down to modern times as a description of a woman of easy virtue.

Washington saw an explosion of active and prosperous bawdy houses.  Before the outbreak of war Washington had some five hundred prostitutes.  As Washington became the bustling hub of the Union army in the East, ambitious girls from New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago and St. Louis converged on Washington.  There were 450 known houses in Washington in 1862, employing 5,000 women, with an additional 2,500 women employed in nearby Georgetown and Alexandria.  Bordellos occupied whole blocks along the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue.  The Army christened these establishments, the "Post Office", "Fort Sumter", the "Wolf's Den" (run by Mrs. Wolf), "the Haystack" (run by Mrs. Hay) and the "Cottage by the Sea".  In the expensive houses, there were luxurious furnishings and pretty young hostesses dressed in silk.

These establishments were not popular with the neighbors.  Tired of loud late-night parties and the general atmosphere of carousing, residents of one neighborhood threatened to make up a list of officers who frequented "notorious places of infamy", and report them to the commanding general, and to their families at home.  The press also took a hand in censuring the sinful atmosphere, condemning the "uniformed idlers who go gallanting the painted Jezebels with which the city is stocked."  

The Provost Marshal made some effort to suppress the trade.  Brothels were raided by the Provost Marshal and, after a fine, declared "broken up".  For a girl, the fine was five dollars or three months in the house of corrections.  For a Madam, the fine was $50 or six months in the house of corrections.  As a practical matter the fines were paid, no one spent any time in the house of corrections and the "sporting house" merely set up shop at a new location.  The Provost Marshal did have some successes, however.  The employment of "pretty waiter girls" in beer and concert saloons was prohibited and these well-known places of assignation were quickly cleaned up.  Although the Provost Marshal's efforts were treated as a joke by many, there was a sound military reason for cracking down on "the trade".  Union military records reveal that 82 out of every 1,000 men (some 8 % of the Army) suffered from some sort of debilitating venereal disease.

Love, Sex, and Marriage in the Civil War

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Lincoln's Wedding


      In the fall of 1839, twenty-year-old Mary Todd moved from Lexington, Kentucky, to Springfield, Illinois.  Shortly after her arrival, she met thirty-year- old Abraham Lincoln at a cotillion.  Lincoln came up and said to her, “Miss Todd, I want to dance with you in the worst way.” The next evening, Lincoln called on her again and began his courtship.  Over the next few years Mary became engaged to Lincoln, broke up with him, entered a period of separation and misunderstanding, and finally began seeing him again.

     On the morning of Thursday, November 3, 1842, Lincoln dropped by the home of Reverend Charles Dresser. The Dresser family was still at breakfast when Lincoln announced, “I want to get hitched tonight.” Reverend Dresser agreed to the arrangement.

     After leaving the Dresser home, Lincoln happened to meet Ninian Edwards in the street. He told Mr. Edwards of the plans for the marriage. Mr. Edwards replied, “No, I am Mary's guardian and if she is married at all it must be from my house.” When Elizabeth Edwards was informed of the plans, it was decided that the marriage would be delayed by one day as the Episcopal sewing society was meeting at the Edwards' home that night and dinner had already been ordered. 

     Sometime before the wedding, Lincoln visited Chatterton's jewelry shop in Springfield. He ordered a gold wedding ring and had it inscribed,  “Love is Eternal” .

     Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd were married at the Edwards' home on Friday evening, November 4, 1842. Some thirty relatives and friends attended the ceremony. Mary wore a white muslin dress. She wore neither a veil nor flowers in her hair. A week after the marriage, on November 11, 1842, Abraham wrote a letter to a friend. Most of the letter dealt with legal matters, but he closed the letter with the following sentence: “Nothing new here, except my marrying, which to me, is a matter of profound wonder.”

                                   The Civil War Wedding (e-book)

The Civil War Wedding Soft Cover

Love, Sex, and Marriage in the Civil War