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Dicey, Edward. Six Months in the Federal States, Vol. II . London: MacMillan and Co., 1863. [format: book], [genre: travelogue]. Permission: Newberry Library
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Mass Meetings and the Levy.

As soon as the depression which followed the Peninsula defeat had passed away, an attempt was made throughout all the Northern States to rekindle popular enthusiasm. The President's call for 300,000 additional troops was greeted enthusiastically, as far as the press was concerned. The Tribune was not more ardent than its contemporaries in advocating the duty of volunteering. The following language in which this paper wrote of the call for troops may be taken as a fair specimen of the utterances of the press: —

"Patriots, Unionists, lovers of freedom, resolve now that the needed force shall be raised promptly and fully. You that are of proper age and full vigour must volunteer, while the infirm and superannuated must contribute freely of their substance to sustain the families of those who peril their lives for the country. Hours are precious; some great disaster may befal while we are getting ready to divert it. You who can possibly be spared and are able to fight,

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let not a day be lost in offering your services to your distracted, imperilled country. There have been discussions concerning the proper policy to be pursued by the Government in prosecuting the contest with the rebels, and as to who among the soldiers of the Republic are best qualified to lead her armies. We have participated in these discussions freely, earnestly, faithfully, honestly striving to serve and save our country, and to that end alone. Now, discussion must give place to action, and all must join hands in one resolute effort to right the ship of State, and warp her off the breakers that roar beneath her lee. All hands to the rescue!

To Republicans, above all, we appeal for the most devoted efforts in this crisis. They may wish, as we have done, that this or that were different; they may hope, as we do, that it soon may be so; but whether the Government take the course we think best or another, let it be seen and felt that, in this hour of trial and of darkness, we were true to our duty and our loved and honoured country. Let us show that she was never so dear to us as when aristocrats and traitors were conspiring to work her ruin, and had even raised the shout of exultation implying that their end was achieved and the Union no more."

So, too, during this month of July, the papers were filled with items of intelligence as to the progress of

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the levy, of which I have picked out one or two by hazard, from the columns of a Boston paper: —

"War Meetings and Recruits. — The town-hall of Newton was again filled with an enthusiastic audience last evening. J. W. Edwards presided over the assembly. Four recruits were obtained. Rev. Mr. Briggs offered $25 for the first recruit, another gentleman offered $25 for the second, and the president of the meeting $25 for the two next. Messrs. Pelton and Stevenson likewise offered $25 each for a recruit, when the Hon. Wm. Claflin offered $25 each for every recruit enlisting within ten days."

"An enthusiastic meeting of citizens was held in Sandwich on Tuesday evening. Dr. Jonathan Leonard presided, and speeches were made by Hon. George Marston, Judge Day, and Major Phinney, of the Barnstable Patriot. It was voted to advise the town to offer a bounty of $100 to each recruit. Judge Marston made a strong anti-slavery speech."

"Up to Wednesday afternoon, twenty recruits had enlisted in Fall River."

"Among the arrivals at the camp of the 34th Regiment at Worcester yesterday, were seventy-three from Westfield. Besides these, there were many other accessions from other localities, and more are expected to-day. There are now about 350 men at this camp."

"Recruiting is progressing quite rapidly at Cambridge-port. Nearly 100 men have been enlisted.

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The first detachment of over thirty men, who have passed a rigid examination by the medical inspector, will leave for Camp Cameron to-day; and some twenty others will follow as soon as they can be examined."

"Rev. George Bowler, of Westfield, has enlisted 200 men, in co-operation with the towns in that vicinity, since last Friday morning (just one week), and yesterday placed one full company in the 34th Regiment. Another will be filled in a day or two. After entering the full company yesterday, he was made the recipient of a beautiful five-inch revolver, from Mr. L. W. Pond, of Worcester. Mr. Bowler was formerly the pastor of the High Street Methodist Church of Charlestown."

"The second war-meeting at Wilbraham, Hampden County, was held Wednesday evening, at the Methodist vestry in the South parish. So great was the attendance, that out-of-doors accommodations were sought in front of the church. Eighteen patriotic young men enlisted in the course of the evening."

"Washington held an enthusiastic meeting Tuesday evening, voted $75 bounty for each volunteer, and nine young men agreed to enlist — two more than the town's quota. Cheshire, a stronghold of democracy, is said to have already raised her quota of troops."

Moreover, the walls of every city and hamlet in the North were placarded with appeals, setting forth the inducements to enlist. Of these appeals I preserved one addressed to the men of Boston by Brigadier

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General William Bullock, recruiting officer in chief for the State of Massachusetts. It is impossible to give the full effect of this placard without the varieties and eccentricities of sensation typography with which it was lavishly adorned. The reader must imagine that the following spasmodic sentences were contorted into every shape that compositors could imagine in their wildest dreams: —

"Men of Boston, volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! The pay will commence at once; you will be sent into camp instantly — food, clothing, and lodging at once given you —

‘Come from the farm, the ship, the workshop;
Leave the ploughshare, grasp the musket.’

The wild hunt is up — rally for the honour of the flag — rally to save the Union.

. . . Then enlist as you will, in cavalry, infantry, artillery, or sharpshooters. Infantry! The 23d Regiment, Lieut.-Colonel John Kurtz, is at Linfield, raised by General Henry Wilson; 24th, Colonel Stevenson, at Readville, has many of the old New England Guards in its ranks; the 26th is at Lowell, and is commanded by Colonel Jones, who led the old 6th through Baltimore. Cavalry! Encamped at Redville is a splendid equestrian regiment, including the National Lancers and Boston Light Dragoons. ••• Germans of Massachusetts, as you battled for

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the Fatherland, battle now for your adopted country. Remember Franz Sigel.

Irishmen of Massachusetts!
‘Acushla Machree, our hearts beat for thee;
Erin mavourneen, our hearts beat for thee.’

We have known you of old —
‘Pat is fond of fun,
And was never known to run,
From cannon, sword, or gun,
Says the Shan-Van-Vagh.’

You know that in the land of your adoption, the wanderer is welcomed with Cushla machree. Fight for the honour of Ireland. Alanna —

‘To the battle, men of Erin,
To the front of battle go;
Every breast, the shamrock wearing,
Burns to meet his country foe.
Erin, when the swords are glancing
In the dark fight, loves to see
Foremost still her plumage dancing
To the trumpet's jubilee.’

Fight for the green island Astore; for Hibernia, Aroun. You have two regiments to choose from — The 28th, raised in concert by Patrick Donahoe, Esq. editor of the Boston Pilot, and Dr. Walter M. Walsh, who gave his time and means so freely to the formation of the two Irish regiments raised heretofore in this State. Its colonel is Thomas S. Murphy,

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the gallant commander of the New York Montgomery Guards. The lieut.-colonel is the heroic Colonel Monteith, of New York.

The 29th is to be attached to the New York Irish Brigade, with which Nugent and Thomas Francis Meagher are connected. Its colonel is Matthew Murphy, of the New York famed 69th. Massachusetts provides for the wives and families of those who enlist in either of these regiments.

A Roman Catholic priest goes with each regiment, and in the hottest of the fight you shall be
‘Side by side with him still,
Soggarth Aaron!’

The chief method, however, resorted to in order to stir up the enthusiasm of the people was holding mass meetings throughout the Northern cities. I was present, amongst others, at one in New York, held a few days after the Chickahominy battles, which was intended to be the counterpart of the monster gathering that followed the news of the attack on Fort Sumter. The day was sultry beyond description: a heavy thunderstorm was gathering in the air, and burst before the close of the meeting. The thermometer stood at ninety-three degrees in the shade, and from time to time dense clouds of dust were whirled through the streets by the hot gusts of wind. Altogether, the day was a gloomy one, and the meeting was affected by the atmosphere. There was a dense

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crowd collected, but whether 20,000, or 50,000, or 100,000, neither I nor any one else could tell: it was so broken up into knots. The fact which impressed me most with the size of the crowd, was the unbroken stream of men which, for hours before the meeting, poured along the Broadway in the direction of the place of gathering in Union Square. The square itself is not well selected for a mass meeting. It is nearly as large, I should fancy, as Lincoln's Inn Fields, and at least two-thirds of its area are occupied by an oblong garden, fenced round with high iron railings, and overshadowed by closely-planted trees. No public speaker, not even Garibaldi, could make his voice heard halfway down the square; so there were some half-dozen hustings raised in different parts of the open space, round each of which crowds were collected, moving from stand to stand as impulse seized them. There was a goodly display of flags and bands of music, and processions of school children. The crowd was composed almost entirely of men. The windows of the houses, which overlooked the square, were filled with gaily-dressed ladies, and across Dr. Cheever's, which faces the garden, there was hung a linen scroll, with the text written on it, "Preach deliverance to the earth and to all the inhabitants thereof."

These were all the outward paraphernalia; of the speeches themselves you could hear but little. The buzz of the thousand voices, the cheers of the audience

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around the stands, and the constant cracking of squibs and guns, rendered any speaker inaudible more than a few yards off. And as for pushing through the crowd right up to the platforms in that stifling atmosphere, is a thing not to be thought of, even now, without horror. The densest and the most enthusiastic throng was collected round the stand of the New York Christian Young Men's Association, where General Fremont was in the chair. A spare, slight-built man, of some forty-five years of age, with bushy eyebrows, a short stubbly beard, and a slight stoop in the somewhat narrow shoulders; he looked more like a man of study than the Pathfinder. His manner was very quiet, his words, as far as I could hear them, few, and spoken with a slow half-foreign accent. The one outward symptom of the Condottiere General was to be found, if anywhere, in the keen, bright, restless eyes. Still, there was a sort of magic in his name, if not in his presence. Here, at any rate, was a man who, right or wrong, would have fought the war far otherwise than it had been fought as yet — who knew what he wanted to do, if not how to do it. It must have been some feeling of this kind which collected the largest gathering around the stand on which Fremont was seated, and raised the loudest cheers for his scanty words. Otherwise, there was as little here as elsewhere to rouse enthusiasm. The whole meeting had been arranged on what was described as "a common Union platform," on which all parties could

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agree. The consequence was, that any decided expression of conviction was impossible, either for or against Abolition, and the speeches were models of tame commonplace. The men of decided views and strong opinions were amongst the crowd, not amongst the speakers. Ward-Beecher, Greeley, Gay, Tilton, and all the Abolitionists of note, were there, but took no part in the proceedings. Their time was not yet come. The multitude was there, anxious, restless, and weary, but the prophet to lead, or else the faith to follow, was still wanting. There was a van drawn through the square, with placards pasted over it of "Hurrah for McClellan!" The crowd, however, made no response, and, with the exception of the dense multitude collected, and the cheers for Fremont, the grand Union mass meeting proved a failure.

At Boston, at the same period, there were meetings held daily on the Common, in order to stimulate volunteering. I was present at several of them, but at none which I came across was there any outburst of popular enthusiasm. A platform was raised in one corner of the Park, from which citizens of note daily addressed any hearers whom they could collect together. A brass band performed during the intervals between the speeches, and recruiting officers were in attendance to enlist any recruit whose courage was stirred up to the enlistment point. A summary I extracted from the Boston Transcript will give a fair impression of what

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all these meetings were like: —

"In accordance with the call of the Executive Committee of the City Council, and the Citizens' Committee of one hundred and fifty, five or six thousand persons assembled on the Common yesterday afternoon, at four o'clock, for the purpose of encouraging enlistments in the army. A marquee had been erected on Flagstaff Hill, as the head-quarters of the Committee; whilst from the speakers' platform, near the Charles Street Mall, the Brigade band entertained the company with their best music.

Alderman E. T. Wilson, chair of the Executive Committee of the City Council, called the meeting to order, and spoke of the needs of the country and the necessity for every citizen to make sacrifices, either in person or in wealth. He displayed a Secession flag, and asked his hearers if they were willing to neglect the best Government on earth and become the minions of that flag. (Hisses, and cries of ‘Tear it up!’) ‘Then bring your strong arms and wipe it off the face of the country.’

Mr. Greene, on taking the chair, congratulated the audience at length on the unanimity which prevailed, and which had obliterated parties from mind, and brought us to look to the honour of our country and our own safety. It was an emergency which would tax all our energies. The enemy were everywhere on the alert, making desperate efforts, and were even

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recovering Arkansas, which we had thought lost to them. Mr. Greene read General Hindman's proclamation to the people of that State, and concluded with an appeal for greater patriotism, sacrifice, and unity of action.

Mayor Whiteman spoke of his being invested with a new power, that of recruiting-officer for Boston, and he appealed to all present to make his new position a successful one, and rally in support of the Constitution, the President, and the cause of Liberty. He spoke of the pecuniary inducements, and stated that the total the volunteer would receive under the new order was equal to ten dollars and a half a week during the first year.

Honourable George V. Upton made an eloquent address in reference to the objects and purposes of the meeting, and the necessity for putting down the rebellion. The call for men came from those who were in the field, and from their wives and children left weeping at home — from the honoured dead at Massachusetts, who had fallen in the fight — all of whom called upon us to see that their sacrifices were not in vain. Let us heed their voices and rally promptly, and we should save untold misery in all the future, and avert the threatened triumph of slavery and crime.

Captain John C. Wyman, who was recruiting a company for the 33d Regiment, asked earnestly for more soldiers, without which home and country would soon be lost to us. These were days besides which the interests of the early Revolution sank into shade.

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Samuel H. Randell, Esq. President of the Mercantile Library Association, Rev. Father Taylor, and Patrick Donahoe, of the Boston Pilot, also addressed the meeting. Father Taylor (of whom, by the way, a long account is given in Mr. Dickens's American Notes) said that, though too old to march to the battle-field, he was yet willing to do all in his power to put down this rebellion. Born a Virginian, yet a residence here for the past fifty years had made him a Yankee. This war concluded, he (Father Taylor) was in favour of taking John Bull by the horns, and teaching him his duty. He had one son in the army, and if he had a thousand they should go too."

The meeting closed with reading an address from the Citizens' Committee to the people at Boston, which is too long for quotation. A few paragraphs, however, will give the reader a fair impression of its contents: —

"It is time that the armed rebels of the South should be enabled to read their inevitable doom by the light of the fires of patriotism that are kindling in the North. It is time that the suppression of the rebel lion should be felt to be the private business of every loyal citizen.

The purposes of the war are the enforcement of the laws, which have been enacted by the authority of the people, the integrity of the nation within all its limits, and the vindication of the constitution of the country.

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We know no divided allegiance — we will allow of no divided country.

Traitors in arms are setting in defiance the authority of your Government. Teach them that this is setting at defiance the power of the people.

The Freemen of the North will now put into the field an army large enough to command a peace.

Let the men of Boston do their full share in this needed work.

You have the power — wield it! You possess the resources — use them!

* * * *

Come with your arms strong and with your hearts full, with the steady tread of men who know that the cause which leads them is a holy one.

With justice, and truth, and honour, and a pure patriotism, and God the unfailing fountain of them all, on your side, you cannot fail unless you fold your hands in a listless apathy, and look with a vacant gaze upon this diabolical attempt to overthrow this fabric of self-government.

It cannot be that the flag, whose stars and stripes have been sufficient to protect us throughout the civilized world, is to be trodden on and desecrated by traitors.

It is not the question, whether the number of men needed for the complete defence of the Government, and the utter annihilation of this wicked and unprovoked

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rebellion, shall go in the battle-field with arms in their hands, and with a complete determination to uphold the Government in their hearts.

For if the stalwart young men of this community do not come forward in their strength, their fathers will in their weakness.

Fathers and mothers! Do not withhold your sons from the conflict in such a cause, though their blood may be dearer to you than your own, and though you would willingly offer to them your own hearts as shields against danger.

Their interests and their honour are alike involved. Let it never be said that the young men of the North preferred ease at home, when the Ark of their liberties was in danger, to the glory of a manly resistance against traitors for its preservation.

Send them forth, for the cause is worth any sacrifice.

If you have a dozen sons, bring them now to the service of their country.

If they return from a won battle-field, the laurels on their brows will keep their old age green, and scars will be their ornaments. And if they fall in this righteous cause, they will be buried in the hearts of their countrymen."

In the whole of this proclamation, no allusion whatever was made to the question of Slavery, and this omission was common in all the proceedings of this period.

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An immediate accession of recruits ought to have been the answer made to these appeals; but, somehow or other, the levy did not correspond to the expectations of the nation. There were many causes which were hostile to its progress. Taking in the three months' volunteers, probably near a million of men had been, at one time or other, in the service of the Federal armies since the war began. Now, as the population of the Northern States is about twenty-four millions, and the average life of a generation in America is certainly not over thirty years, there would only be about four millions of men above twenty. One in four of the military population of a country constitutes an enormous proportion. All, and more than all, the men who would have gone naturally to the war had gone already, and the vast majority of the July levy had to be drawn from classes to whom volunteering was a heavy personal sacrifice.

There was no general distress, too, to force the poorer classes into the army for subsistence. The price of living had risen since the war, but wages, owing to the scarcity of labour, had risen in a higher ratio. The call for troops was made under the most dispiriting circumstances. It came on the day after a disaster, at a time when there was little prospect of immediate action, and when the war seemed likely to be prolonged indefinitely.

The harvest was close at hand, and the sons of the

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Northern farmers and yeomen, who formed so large a part of the Federal army, could hardly enlist till the crops were got in. The Irish, too, were hanging back. Amongst them, the prejudice against the negro is stronger than amongst any other class, and they believed that the effect of emancipation would be to flood the Northern States with free negroes, and thus lower their own wages. The power of the Irish element, both in the Government and in the army of the North, has been immensely exaggerated abroad; but still it is an element of considerable importance, and, such as it is, it was undoubtedly alienated by the Abolitionist character towards which the war was obviously drifting. There was a prevalent idea, too, that conscription would be resorted to, and that, in this event, the price for substitutes would be much higher than any other bounty yet offered. All these causes were more or less local and temporary in their character; but there was one cause which retarded enlistment more widely and more seriously than all of them put together, and that was, the want of public confidence in the generalship of the Federal commanders, and still more in the administration of the war. There was a general and growing conviction, that the temporising policy of the Government had failed. Slavery, the nation was beginning to see, was a fact that must be looked boldly in the face. The time had come for the Government to declare openly what it meant to

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do, and what it meant not to do, with reference to the negro. The absence of any outspoken profession of faith on this subject paralysed the enthusiasm of the people. Could Mr. Lincoln have been induced to issue his Emancipation edict at this period, the result, I believe, might have been far different; but, while the President vacillated between conflicting counsels, the golden opportunity was allowed to pass.

Before I leave the subject of the Levy, let me mention one or two incidents out of many connected with it which came under my own notice. In the City Hall Park there were two sheds, hastily run up. One was the enlistment office, the other the temporary hospital for wounded soldiers just landed from the peninsula. Alongside of the recruiting sergeant one saw the convalescent soldiers — wounded, haggard, and maimed — tottering about beneath the trees. The arrangement, perhaps, was not a politic one. Flags and drinking — booths and bands of music might attract recruits more readily; yet, to my mind, there was an air of resolution and stern purpose, given by the contrast of the wounded veteran and the raw recruit, which was not without promise. So, again, I spoke in a former chapter, of a house I knew of, where there hung the pictures of three bright, gallant-looking lads, who had gone to the war, one of them never to return. I was there a few days after the battle of the Chickahominy; and the second of these portraits was now a remembrance of one who

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had died in battle. And yet the only change I could see in the conversation of those to whom the likenesses belonged was an increased ardour for the war, a more intense sympathy for the cause in which the dead had fallen. One more anecdote, and I have finished. In travelling up one night at this period from Baltimore, the cars were crowded with sick and wounded soldiers on their way home from the peninsula. On the bench behind me there was a woman in deep black, carrying a sick child in her arms, and beside her there was a discharged soldier, whose health had broken down in the swamps. The woman was a widow, just returned from the death-bed of her brother, who, like her husband, had been killed in the campaign. The man looked dreadfully worn and ill; he complained, and, I fear, truly, that he should never be fit for a day's work again; he had a grievance, too, of his own against the Government, who he considered had behaved shabbily about the amount of bounty paid him on his discharge. Being seated near them, I could hear the soldier and the soldier's widow telling each other of their hardships and their sorrows; and at last the man consoled the woman by saying to her, "Well, after all, it's for our country, and we're bound to do it." The woman answered him, "Yes, that's so;" and though the words might be commonplace, it seemed to me that there was about them something of true heroism.

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Dicey, Edward. Six Months in the Federal States, Vol. II . London: MacMillan and Co., 1863. [format: book], [genre: travelogue]. Permission: Newberry Library
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