1862: “The Final Result In Our Favor Is Not Doubtful”


February 22, 1862

Fellow-Citizens: On this the birthday of the man most identified with the establishment of American independence, and beneath the monument erected to commemorate his heroic virtues and those of his compatriots, we have assembled to usher into existence the Permanent Government of the Confederate States. Through this instrumentality, under the favor of Divine Providence, we hope to perpetuate the principles of our revolutionary fathers. The day, the memory, and the purpose seem fitly associated. Continue reading

1861: “States Are Sovereign”

Gazette665 Blog Series 1861: In Their WordsJanuary 21, 1861 – U.S. Senate Chamber

…Secession belongs to a different class of remedies. It is to be justified upon the basis that the States are sovereign. There was a time when none denied it. I hope the time may come again, when a better comprehension of the theory of our Government, and the inalienable rights of the people of the States, will prevent any one from denying that each State is sovereign, and thus may reclaim the grants which it has made to any agent whomsoever… Continue reading

The Supply Dilemma in the South

The Union had the Sanitary Commission and the Christian Commission doing a fabulous job of organizing the home front war effort and provided a mountain of supplies to the armies in the field. Perhaps you’ve been wondering how supplies were organized and distributed to the Confederate army? Today we’ll discuss this…

Now, before we launch into the difference of the Northern and Southern organizations, I want to note that I haven’t seen any definitive sources to prove that the Southern relief groups were at Gettysburg. If you know something specific and can share your source, please inform me in a comment! So, though this article isn’t “Gettysburg focused” necessarily, it is the other side’s companion piece to the previous articles this month.

Supplying vs. States Right was just one of the challenges the Confederacy encountered because of their government ideas.

Supplying vs. States Right was just one of the challenges the Confederacy encountered because of their government ideas.

The State’s Rights Principle At Work

The Southern states seceded because they didn’t want the Federal government bossing them. Strict Constitutionalists, the Southerners believed strongly in the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution which states “Powers delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” They also believed the states had voluntarily joined the union and could leave if they chose.

(You can debate the legality and morality of this all day and night…but I’m just telling you what they thought.)

Now, the idea of state’s rights prompted secession and the formation of the Confederate government. (Confederacy is actually a governing form where states get to tell the central government what to do – in theory, anyway.) However, that very principle which formed the Confederate States of America became its Achilles Heel.

Jeff Davis and his government wanted the states to work together and issued orders. The states snubbed their noses at him and waved their banner of state’s rights.

Now, on to a more concrete example. Remember how the Sanitary Commission and Christian Commission organized supply efforts all across the North? Well, a centralized organization would’ve gone against that principle…so…

It Was All State Controlled

Each state in the Confederacy was in charge of relief efforts for its own soldiers. Thus, Virginian civilians were supposed to provide for Virginia soldiers and not worry about supplies for the guys from Alabama because the Alabama folks would take care of their own.

Sound impractical? It was.

But that’s the way it was. Each state provided for its own soldiers. (In theory.)

Southern photos are scarce and this picture is actually of a Union relief agency in the field, but it gives an idea of the field work done by GRHA.

Southern photos are scarce and this picture is actually of a Union relief agency in the field, but it gives an idea of the field work done by GRHA.

An Example From Georgia

One of the best organized Confederate state relief agencies was Georgia Relief and Hospital Association (GRHA). Georgia was one state that her act together and did a fabulous job setting and meeting goals. The organization was started in December 1861 with state appropriated funds, and they were audited every year to make sure the money was used appropriately.

Women on the home front were instructed by newspaper articles what items to collect or prepare and their local ladies’ groups got busy. The finished supplies were sent to the association.

Then, qualified agents took charge of the supplies, transported them to army locations or the warehouses in Richmond. (Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy.) Georgia regiments and medical units could write to the warehouses and order the supplies they needed.

Georgia Relief and Hospital Association operated four hospitals in Richmond and many smaller wayside hospitals throughout the South. They had doctors and nurses who specifically worked in their hospitals. And GRHA had a goal to have supplies, an agent, and a “relief team” within a 20 mile radius of every battlefield where a Georgia soldier fought. (Thus, there’s a big question regarding Gettysburg…)

Georgia’s organization was very successful and is a model of what each Southern state should’ve been trying to achieve, but even their system of supply broke down as the transportation became limited and the state was invaded.

It should also be noted that not all state’s groups were as ambitious or as successful as Georgia…but they tried.


The Confederacy lacked the invincible power of a centralized supply organization, but with their views of government they could not have adopted that system. The state controlled relief system was not as effective, but it was state and local controlled. Considering the supply difficulties, transportation trials, and general break-down of society in the last years of the war, it is still amazing what these state organizations were able to accomplish.

Perhaps they weren’t as powerful, but their desire to provide supplies for “the boys in the field” was the same as the Northern organizations. And their dedication and selflessness cannot be denied. Rather, we must commend them for striving so hard…for so long.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Which supply system (Northern or Southern) do you had the best underlying principle?




Power of the Pen (Civilians and War, Part 4)

Handwritten letters were the primary source of communication during the American Civil War

Handwritten letters were the primary source of communication during the American Civil War

I still like to write and receive hand-written letters. I know, it’s very old-fashion, but emails, texting, and private messaging (despite their convenience) just don’t compare to words shaped by friend’s hand. However, I have a rule – I do not write letters when I am upset. (No, Pen-Pals, I haven’t been upset – just up to my eyeballs in work…sorry!) Why? Because my attitude will come through my writing.

Are we talking about letter writing on the last Friday of “The Forgotten: Civilians In War”? No. But letters play a key role in what we are discussing – the effects of civilian attitude on military morale. Again, there are so many positive and negative examples from history, but we’re going to use the American Civil War as our era of study today.

Looking South

The North (Union) had its fair share of wives and mothers begging their soldiers to come home, but it appears that their appeals are mostly to get their loved ones out of harm’s way. An understandable motive, but not one that can be particularly effective for studying civilian morale…unless all the underlying themes are considered and we are not doing that today.

Instead, we will take the more obvious example and look South, to the Confederacy.

An Very Generalized Overview of the Southern Homefront

The Civil War started in April 1861. Though Southern states had been seceding throughout the previous winter and there were plenty of mixed feelings about that, by the time the military conflict began, the civilians generally supported the troops. The women sewed uniforms and flags, and though there were the sad good-bye scenes, on the whole a feeling of excitement prevailed outwardly.

A first victory pleased the fledging Southern nation, until the casualty lists appeared. The next months passed rather quietly, but with military defeats in the winter. However, the rest of 1862 had quite a few Confederate victories and civilian morale rose again.

In 1863, things started getting rough on the home front. Supplies were starting to run scarce, inflation began, the farm work was getting harder. And military defeats and longer casualty lists weren’t helping matters either. The draft was also extreme unpopular.

1864 and 1865 were the lowest points for Confederate morale. Everything seems dark and defeated. In some areas, there was barely enough food for the civilians to survive.

Three_Confederate soldiersThe Connection

There is a very obvious link between letters from home and desertion rate in the Confederate armies.

Having made that bold statement, let me now explain something. We are talking in board terms; certainly not every Southern family wrote letters begging for their loved ones to come home.

There is another thing we must take into consideration. Argue as much as you, the rank and file soldiers in the Confederate Armies felt they were defending their families and homeland from invasion. These men went to war because 1) they had to because of the draft or 2) they wanted to defend what they valued. (No, I am not talking about slavery – most Southern soldiers didn’t own slaves.)

…put us to jail in place of giveing us aney thing [anything]  to eat and I had to come home without anything [anything]…I have 6 little children and my husband in the armey and what am I to do. . . . if you don’t take these yankys [Yankees] a way from greenesborough we wemen [women] will write for our husbands to come . . . home and help us. . . . (Nancy Mangum’s final plea to the North Carolina state governor before writing the decisive letter to her husband, April 1863 – emphasis added by Miss Sarah)


Thus, when a soldier received a letter from his wife saying his children were starving, she did have the strength to harvest the fields, and had no idea how they were going to survive, that letter had a big impact. Was it better to keep fighting (or keep losing, depending on the period of the war) and return home to no family or leave the army and care for his loved ones?

Confederate_prisoners_FairfaxIt is not in the power of Yankee armies to cause us to wish ourselves at home—we can face them, and can hear their shot and shell without being moved; but, Sir, we cannot hear the cries of our little ones, and stand. We must say something, must make an effort to relieve them, and would do it through you, believing it to be the best way. . . . But it is not of ourselves that we would complain, it is of our wives and little ones at home… Do something for them and there will be less desertion, and men will go into battle with heartier good will. But it is impossible for us to bear up under our many troubles, the greatest of which is, the suffering of our wives and little ones at home. (Soldiers from North Carolina petition their state governor, January 1865 – emphasis added by Miss Sarah)


Many soldiers chose to desert because the letters they received from home begged them to back and take care of their families. This is an example of the power civilian influence.

Things to Consider

We could fault the Southern Soldier. Was it wrong for him to desert? I say yes. But can you fault him for wanting to save his children from hungry and extreme hardship? That is something to consider.

(Let me be clear – the men who deserted and went bounty hunting or became thieves or general “bad guys” are not the soldiers were talking about.)

We could fault the Southern Civilian. I’m not sure is very fair either. When a woman had worked the fields for months or years and could not get a good crop and her children were crying for their father…or the basic physical need of food, I can understand her plea for his return.


When civilian morale breaks and when they stop supporting the military, the battlefield soldier finds himself with two enemies: the one in front and the one at home. Of course the opposite is also true, when supported he is encouraged by the thought of his loved ones waiting and home and doing what they can to ensure his safety and comfort. (And, let’s be fair, there was plenty of the in the Confederacy too.)

This wasn’t a “pick on Confederate soldiers and civilians” day. But it is a vivid illustration of the importance the civilian spirit can have on the front line soldiers…for better or for worse.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Is this topic still of importance today with a professional military? Or has it become irrelevant with the passing of the volunteer armies? Your thoughts?


The Last Salute To The Army of Northern Virginia

General Lee signed the surrender document for the Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865. (You can find that story here). However, on April 12, 1865, the Confederate soldiers formally laid down their weapons under the watchful eyes of victorious Union soldiers.

It was a tense moment. It was awkward for the Union soldiers to watch; in their hearts, many of them had come to respect their enemies’ courage. It was heartbreaking moment for the Confederates; some units simply disbanded and did not appear at the ceremony, but most came. In some units, there were less than a hundred soldiers when years before there had been thousands. It was a moment when both sides felt the loss of war.

The Union general presiding over the surrender was General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. The event made a solemn impression on him and wrote several accounts of the day in later years. He gave an order during the ceremony which set the tone for reconciliation.

Rather than write a long article, I thought I’d share a piece of poetry I drafted about six years ago about the surrender ceremony. (Poetry by Sarah Kay Bierle, 2009, All Rights Reserved.)

The Last Salute

The field is silent and still,

The days of war are past;

The Confederates break camp on the hill,

The day of surrender is here at last.


Silently the victors wait,

Waiting for the formalities of the day.

No longer is there any hate,

No longer do any want to slay.

The gray column moves out,

Toward the open field,

Slowly they come, though they would rather turn about,

Instead of their weapons and flags to yield.

General Gordon rides along,

His head bent down.

The words he hears are like a joyful song;

“Salute them!” is the order which sounds.


Salute them as brothers,

Salute them as brave men;

Salute those slain 258,000 others,

Salute them for more than can be told with pen.


They expect humiliation and receive honor instead,

And Gordon returns the salute.

Not another word is said;

They lay down their guns, never again to shoot.


The flags they gently fold,

Never more shall they wave in the sky.

The sorrow of some is hard to be told.

Never more shall they the Union defy.


Salute them as long lost brothers,

Salute them as new friends!

Salute them and forget the bitterness of others.

Salute them; this is the war’s long-awaited end!

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. General Chamberlain received some slight criticism for his order to have Union troops salute the surrendering Confederates. Do you think his order was beneficial? If so, why? If not, what should he have done and why?