Monday, July 22, 2013

Occupied Memphis Benefits the Confederacy

In a report to Lincoln's Secretary of War Stanton in late January 1863, Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana wrote: "The mania for sudden fortunes made in cotton, raging is a vast population of Jews and Yankees scattered throughout this whole country, and in this town [Memphis], almost exceeding the . . . regular residents, has to an alarming extent corrupted and demoralized the army. Every colonel, captain or quartermaster is in secret partnership with some operator in cotton; every soldier dreams of adding a bale to his monthly pay. I had no conception of the extent of this evil until I came and saw for myself." 
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"
Occupied Memphis Benefits the Confederacy:
"Memphis has been of more value to the Southern Confederacy since it fell into Federal hands than Nassau," declared General Cadwallader C. Washburn on May 10, 1864.  This statement is so paradoxical as to surprise the general reader of Civil War history, and the conditions which prompted it are worthy of more detailed study.
At the beginning of the war the Union government, in deference to the position in which the States of the upper Mississippi Valley found themselves, took no steps to interrupt trade with the Confederacy.  Immediate severance of ante-bellum trade connections between that section and the Lower South, it was feared, might result in the secession of the border States.
The Confederacy, likewise, was cognizant of the importance of the commercial ties with the upper valley, and sought to safeguard and strengthen them by exempting from duty practically everything produced in that section.
The great demand for cotton in the North and the liberal trade policy of the Confederacy resulted in large shipments of the staple up the Mississippi and thence to eastern manufacturing centers.   While that specie and military supplies which could be secured in exchange were badly needed in the South, Confederate leaders soon realized that to permit cotton to fall into the hands of the Union was to furnish the very means for waging successful war on the South.
At the beginning of the war, Memphis was one of the most important trade centers of the Confederacy.  [The] Confederate defeat at Shiloh on April 7, 1862 left west Tennessee open to attack . . . Memphis fell into Federal hands on June 6, 1862 [and] from that date until the close of the war the city was under military rule.  In expectation of an early capture of the city, "a fleet of [Northern] trading boats were anchored behind the ironclad flotilla weeks before the fall of Memphis."
Down the river from Cincinnati and other Midwestern cities came flour, coffee, meat, and salt in large quantities. The loyalty of the newcomers was a foregone conclusion, and old merchants who desired to reopen their stores might take the oath or buy one from corrupt Treasury officials at prices ranging from $500 downward.  Many undoubtedly took the oath with the sole purpose of violating it by becoming mediums through which essential supplies could be transferred to the Confederate forces.
Sherman took command of the city on July 21, 1862. [Though travel was] limited to five designated roads and to daylight hours . . . A well-placed bribe could cause almost any [Northern] guard to be unsuspecting when carts loaded with contraband rumbled past the point of inspection. "Both civilians and a few military officers were equally devoted to patriotism and commerce."
Obliging speculators poured [gold] specie into the city in large amounts and equally obliging "go-betweens" passed it on into the hands of the Confederates who used it for the purchase of war supplies in northern cities and abroad. A Negro woman was caught with a five-gallon demijohn of brandy beneath a loose-fitting calico dress and suspected from a girdle at the waist.  On at least one occasion the hearse of a funeral procession bore a coffin filled with medicine for General Earl Van Dorn's army.
Bribery and negligence explained why the large body of [Northern] troops stationed in Memphis were unable [to] effectively . . . patrol the roads leading out of the city.  [After the] fall of Vicksburg and Port Hudson early in July, 1863 . . . A flood of goods immediately began to pour into Memphis and just as promptly large quantities poured out of the city into the waiting arms of Confederates and guerrillas."  
(A Confederate Trade Center Under Federal Occupation: Memphis, 1862 to 1865, Joseph H. Parks, Journal of Southern History, Volume VII, Number 3, August, 1941, pp. 289-295; 299; 303)