Thursday, December 31, 2009


Well, on this last day of 2009 I have decided to talk a bit about the last day of 1862. 147 years ago today the Battle of Stones River aka Murfreesboro began with a surprise attack early in the morning, once again Alex McCook would see his men flee from the field, and once again Bragg would start a battle with everything going his way. Today very little of the site is undeveloped and as I write this more and more is being paved over, ground where Manigault's men first got their taste of a real battle, an event C.I. Walker discussed is going under the bulldozer. Sadly, over the past ten years so much of this field has disappeared with very little attention, unlike what we get from the fields to the East.
Stones River has received very little attention for a battle its size and for one that had the impact that it did with its connection to the Emancipation Proclamation. It was a savage little engagement with the loss of several promising commanders on both sides, and its one of those that I want to address today, Brigadier General James Edward Rains.

Rains commanded a brigade in John McCowan's division. Rains was born April 10, 1833 in Nashville, the son of the Rev. John Rains. Rains grew up working in his father's saddlery and by the age of Seventeen had but five months of formal education, but he was finally able to get a private tutor and then move on to attend the Washington Academy and stayed one term before obtaining $400 to enter Yale. Rains entered the Law School as a sophomore as in 1851. Rains advanced rapidly through the class and graduated second in the Class of 1854. After graduation he returned home and found employment as the headmaster of the Millwood Academy in nearby Cheatham County, a position he would hold for two years before entering the Law profession. In 1857 he entered the realm of politics, and campaigned strongly against future governor, Isham Harris. After the election became the associate editor of the Daily Republican Banner, whose editor was future Confederate General, Felix Zollicoffer. In this position he remained active in local politics and a voice of opposition to the secession movement in Tennessee.

Life was going well for young Rains, he was elected Nashville city attorney in 1858, married Ida Yeatman the same year, and then in 1860 he saw the birth of his daughter, Laura, as well as be elected the District Attorney General for Davidson, Williamson, and Sumner counties. Then the Secession crisis struck. Although strongly opposing secession, Rains supported fellow Tennessean John Bell in the election of 1860, Rains soon found himself having to make a hard decision and in the spring of 1861 he enlisted as a private in the Hermitage Guards, which soon became Company D of the 11th TN. Infantry. Rains rose quickly through the ranks and by May 10th, 1861, less than a month before Tennessee would leave the Union on its third attempt, Rains was elected Colonel of the 11th Tennessee.

Rains and the 11th were sent to volatile East Tennessee and there he would receive command of a brigade, distinguishing himself in the defense of Cumberland Gap in June of 1862, he received a promotion to Brigadier General on November 4th, 1862. When the Department of East Tennessee was absorbed into the Army of Tennessee in November 20th of 1862, Rains found himself part of General John McCowan's Division in Hardee's Corps.

On December 31st, 1862 Rains would lead his brigade into its first pitched battle, and as the Rain's Confederates pressed the Union forces back, capturing artillery, but as they pressed the Union forces back, resistance stiffened and at this time Rains rode out to encourage his men, shouting, "Forward my brave boys, forward!" Rains then fell from his horse, shot through the heart, killed instantly.

After the Battle, Rains' father would bring James' 3 year old daughter with him to meet with Rosecrans and obtained permission to have the Generals body disinterred from its battlefield grave and moved to the Nashville City Cemetery, where his former boss, Felix Zollicoffer was buried after his death at Mill Springs. In 1888, Rains would be removed to Mount Olivet and buried near the Confederate Section, facing the Confederate Monument.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Compromise II

Alright, you knew that throwing out the H. Clay comment would bring me on board here. Obviously this student, like many of mine this semester, is not well versed in writing nor would be well respected in the realm of orators like the Great Pacificator!

Unfortunately, the United States Congress can only work so long in a year (365 days). Granted, sessions were not as they are today. The first session, or long session, typically ran from early December until May or June, while the second session, the short session, typically ran from early December to March. Now, on occasion, when the rigors of legislating was needed expediently, the president could call a special session at any time during the adjournment of Congress. But let us think about the situation for a moment. The idea of secession had plagued the country pretty much from its inception. Just a few tense or semi-tense moments that come to mind is the Hartford Convention, The Missouri Crisis, The Nullification Crisis, Sumner's "Crimes Against Kansas" speech, etc.

In his speech on "The Compromise Resolutions" in the United States Senate on February 5 and 6, 1850, Henry Clay stated,"I implore, as the best blessing which Heaven can bestow upon me upon earth, that if the direful and sad event of the dissolution of the Union shall happen, I may not survive to behold the sad and heart-rending spectacle." Although the Compromise of 1850 became a reality, brought about mainly by the work of fellow U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas, Clay's wish was granted by the Almighty. He died on June 29, 1852. The Great Triumvirate of Clay, Webster, and Calhoun managed to keep the country together for almost half a century, but I am not so sure that even they could have compromised their way out of the impending Civil War. Although Calhoun threatened secession, often his cooler side prevailed and did not rent apart the Union he labored to create for so many years as a congressman, senator, and vice president. Now, the fire-eaters, abolitionists, and other up-and-coming young congressmen and senators were not as compromising as their older counterparts.

In my opinion, had Congress remained in session until they reached a compromise, the congressmen and senators would have beaten each other senseless. Think back to the Sumner caning or the Foote/Benton tussle on the floors of Congress. I suppose this student is a fellow Kentuckian and realized that long time Senator John J. Crittenden did present a compromise in the United States Senate. In December 1860, Crittenden proposed, in what became known as "The Crittenden Compromise:"

A joint resolution (S. No. 50) proposing certain amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

Whereas serious and alarming dissensions have arisen between the northern and southern states, concerning the rights and security of the rights of the slaveholding States, and especially their rights in the common territory of the United States; and whereas it is eminently desirable and proper that these dissensions, which now threaten the very existence of this Union, should be permanently quieted and settled by constitutional provisions, which shall do equal justice to all sections, and thereby restore to all the people that peace and good-will which ought to prevail between all the citizens of the United States: Therefore,

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, (two thirds of both Houses concurring,) That the following articles be, and are hereby, proposed and submitted as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of said Constitution, when ratified by conventions of three-fourths of the several States:

Article 1: In all the territory of the United States now held, or hereafter acquired, situate north of 36 degrees 30 minutes, slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, is prohibited while such territory shall remain under territorial government. In all the territory south of said line of latitude, slavery of the African race is hereby recognized as existing, and shall not be interfered with by Congress, but shall be protected as property by all the departments of the territorial government during its continuance. And when any territory, north or south of said line, within such boundaries as Congress may prescribe, shall contain the population requisite for a member of Congress according to the then Federal ratio of representation of the people of the United States, it shall, if its form of government be republican, be admitted into the Union, on an equal footing with the original States, with or without slavery, as the constitution of such new State may provide.

Article 2: Congress shall have no power to abolish slavery in places under its exclusive jurisdiction, and situate within the limits of States that permit the holding of slaves.

Article 3: Congress shall have no power to abolish slavery within the District of Columbia, so long as it exists in the adjoining States of Virginia and Maryland, or either, nor without the consent of the inhabitants, nor without just compensation first made to such owners of slaves as do not consent to such abolishment. Nor shall Congress at any time prohibit officers of the Federal Government, or members of Congress, whose duties require them to be in said District, from bringing with them their slaves, and holding them as such during the time their duties may require them to remain there, and afterwards taking them from the District.

Article 4: Congress shall have no power to prohibit or hinder the transportation of slaves from one State to another, or to a Territory, in which slaves are by law permitted to be held, whether that transportation be by land, navigable river, or by the sea.

Article 5: That in addition to the provisions of the third paragraph of the second section of the fourth article of the Constitution of the United States, Congress shall have power to provide by law, and it shall be its duty so to provide, that the United States shall pay to the owner who shall apply for it, the full value of his fugitive slave in all cases where the marshall or other officer whose duty it was to arrest said fugitive was prevented from so doing by violence or intimidation, or when, after arrest, said fugitive was rescued by force, and the owner thereby prevented and obstructed in the pursuit of his remedy for the recovery of his fugitive slave under the said clause of the Constitution and the laws made in pursuance thereof. And in all such cases, when the United States shall pay for such fugitive, they shall have the right, in their own name, to sue the county in which said violence, intimidation, or rescue was committed, and to recover from it, with interest and damages, the amount paid by them for said fugitive slave. And the said county, after it has paid said amount to the United States, may, for its indemnity, sue and recover from the wrong-doers or rescuers by whom the owner was prevented from the recovery of his fugitive slave, in like manner as the owner himself might have sued and recovered.

Article 6: No future amendment of the Constitution shall affect the five preceding articles; nor the third paragraph of the second section of the first article of the Constitution; nor the third paragraph of the second section of the fourth article of said Constitution; and no amendment will be made to the Constitution which shall authorize or give to Congress any power to abolish or interfere with slavery in any of the States by whose laws it is, or may be, allowed or permitted.
And whereas, also, besides those causes of dissension embraced in the foregoing amendments proposed to the Constitution of the United States, there are others which come within the jurisdiction of Congress, and may be remedied by its legislative power; and whereas it is the desire of Congress, so far as its power will extend, to remove all just cause for the popular discontent and agitation which now disturb the peace of the country, and threaten the stability of its institutions; Therefore,

1. Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That the laws now in force for the recovery of fugitive slaves are in strict pursuance of the plain and mandatory provisions of the Constitution, and have been sanctioned as valid and constitutional by the judgement of the Supreme Court of the United States.; that the slaveholding States are entitled to the faithful observance and execution of those laws, and that they ought not to be repealed, or so modified or changed as to impair their efficiency; and that laws ought to be made for the punishment of those who attempt by rescue of the slave, or other illegal means, to hinder or defeat the due execution of said laws.

2. That all State laws which conflict with the fugitive slave acts of Congress, or any other constitutional acts of Congress, or which, in their operation, impede, hinder, or delay the free course and due execution of any of said acts, are null and void by the plain provisions of the Constitution of the United States; yet those State laws, void as they are, have given color to practices, and led to consequences, which have obstructed the due administration and execution of acts of Congress, and especially the acts for the delivery of fugitive slaves, and have thereby contributed much to the discord and commotion now prevailing. Congress, therefore, in the present perilous juncture, does not deem it improper, respectfully and earnestly to recommend the repeal of those laws to the several States which have enacted them, or such legislative corrections or explanations of them as may prevent their being used or perverted to such mischievous purposes.

3. That the act of the 18th of September, 1850, commonly called the fugitive slave law, ought to be so amended as to make the fee of the commissioner, mentioned in the eighth section of the act, equal in amount in the cases decided by him, whether his decision be in favor of or against the claimant. And to avoid misconstruction, the last clause of the fifth section of said act, which authorizes the person holding a warrent for the arrest or detention of a fugitive slave, to summon to his aid the posse comitatus, and which declares it to be the duty of all good citizens to assist him in its execution, ought to be so amended as to expressly limit the authority and duty to cases in which there shall be resistance or danger of resistance or rescue.

4. That the laws for the suppression of the African slave trade, and especially those prohibiting the importation of slaves in the United States, ought to be made effectual, and ought to be thoroughly executed; and all further enactments necessary to those ends ought to be promptly made.

The Senate tabled the compromise on December 31, 1860, and Congress never moved on the measure.

With all that said, I am not sure if a perpetual congressional session would have made any difference during the secession crisis.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Bit of finals week fun from the University of Kentucky that shows some ideological continuity between 1861 and 2009 in the Commonwealth. My intro to U.S. students had a short essay question as follows:

Who’s to blame for the Civil War, and how did we get there, between 1840 and 1861?

Now, this should prompt the students to air the grievances of both North and South, taking into account the litany of events that drove us toward conflict for twenty years. Historiographically speaking, I'm looking for a "blundering generation" sort of answer, which is perhaps debatable, but seems to cover the material well enough for non-majors. However, I was pleased to see this from a student still, it would seem, steeped in the anger and frustration that proslavery Unionists in Kentucky felt during the secession crisis.

The Confederates are to blame for starting the Civil War. Just because you’re not getting what [you] want doesn’t mean you need to succeed [sic] from the Union and start a war with them. They should’ve just kept calling congress into session until they reached compromise and if they didn’t get their states rights, then they could have succeeded [sic] from the Union.

Legacy of H. Clay much?