Retribution for the Rebels

The victors were extreme in their desire to punish the losing side in a protracted civil war. They were determined to seize land from the losers and award it to soldiers who served in the victorious army. One moderate voice, Vincent Gookin, however, cautioned moderation. Total revenge would harm the economy. Mr. Gookin argued that allowances should be made for those who simply followed the leaders and the higher-born who helped start the civil war. No, this was not Reconstruction in the United States. It was the days and months after the end of the rebellion in Ireland that ended in 1653. The Irish Gaelic and old English forces fought for their freedom. They had been oppressed by the English for decades prior to 1641. The uprising started about the same time in several locales throughout Ireland.

There were always tension between the Irish Catholics and the Protestants. But, those tensions rose to fever pitch when the Puritans seized control of the Parliament and executed King Charles I in 1649. Vincent Gookin was a prominent Protestant in Ireland who fled to England during the long war. When the wars ended, he returned to Ireland and preached a more moderate punishment of the Irish Catholics and Old English Catholics. The Puritan radicals wanted to force all the Irish Catholics out of eastern Ireland into Connaught, the western most province. Mr. Gookin lived in Ireland. Most of the Puritans lived in England. The Puritans relied on stereotypes of the worst sort about the Catholics, convinced they were evil marauders.

The Tories

As the wars wound down in Ireland, the Tories fought effectively throughout the island. “Tory” derived from the Irish word, toraigh, meaning to hunt or pursue. Bands of former soldiers roamed the countryside making war generally on the Parliament forces and sometimes on Protestant civilians. The Tories operated in large numbers, regiments of 1500 soldiers or more. Lacking artillery or siege craft, they could not assault large garrisons or towns. But, they were exceedingly effective. The Puritan response to the Tories was often collective punishment. The commanders would order entire populations into specific corralled areas in a county. Anyone (meaning any civilian) found outside of those reservations was to be “taken, slain and destroyed.” Echoing tactics which would be used in the Boer war in the 1890’s, the Puritan commanders would make war on the Catholic civilians.

Or, the Parliament forces would fine the residents of a barony for failing to warn the Protestant commanders about a Tory raid or attack.

A Pass

The Puritan commanders imposed passage requirements. To enter or leave a town required a pass from the local Parliament force commander. During Reconstruction in the United States, Union commanders also imposed similar travel restrictions. The Puritans dictated that anyone found without a pass would be given no quarter. The wars of the 1640’s and 1650’s were vicious and brutal. Both sides committed atrocities. The rules of war were well developed by this time in the Continental wars. But, in Ireland, both sides, especially the Parliament forces disregarded the fundamental principles of a rule based war. Oliver Cromwell to this day is reviled in Ireland for massacring defenseless towns after they surrendered to him.

Drogheda

Drogheda was the first such town he massacred. Cromwell was a skilled colonel of cavalry during the English civil war. By the time he entered the Irish version of the civil war in 1649, he was the trusted, mostly unbeatable army commander of the Puritan forces. He was also a true believer. He was convinced that the Papists, as he referred to the Catholics, were the devil incarnate. In the 1650’s, in the European wars, it was accepted that if a garrison surrendered without an agreement, the defenders could be executed. The decision to execute was up to the local commander. It was also a recognized principle of war that unarmed civilians would not be killed. But, In Ireland, those rules were often ignored. Gen. Cromwell believed he was acting for God when Drogheda surrendered without an agreement. The force defending Drogheda was an Irish Catholic regiment who were fighting in the name of King Charles I. Many of the leaders of the defenders escaped from the town before the Parliament forces could enter. The entire town was not killed. But, hundreds of non-combatant Irish Catholic residents of the town were killed by Cromwell’s men. Numerous Protestant residents were also killed.

A few weeks later, Cromwell did the same thing at Wexford town, killing after the surrender, all the men, women, children of the town “to a very few.” After Drogheda and Wexford, many towns would surrender, but they would always secure an agreement first. But, Gen. Cromwell had made it clear this Irish war would end soon, and it would end bloody. The last royalist army to surrender was in October, 1652 at Limerick city. This was the last “publicly entertained” army in the field. The Tories, however, continued.

The Last Tories

The Tories operated throughout the otherwise Parliament controlled areas near Dublin. The last Tory unit of any size surrendered in October, 1653. Galway town secured an agreement for surrender. But, after the wars had ended the Parliament would disregard that agreement and seize the property held by Catholics, forcing many residents out into the country side. In 1660, when Puritans would lose their power and King Charles II would assume the throne, the English government would still seek retribution on the Tories and all soldiers who operated secretly or not “publicly entertained.”

When Oliver Cromwell left the island in late 1649, much of the hard work had been done. The ”Great Protector” had vanquished the largest armies in the field. And, the bitterness among Irish Catholics ran deep. In 1997, Bertie Ahern, the Irish prime minister, paid a call to the new British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook. But, Mr. Ahern stopped in his tracks as he entered the office. He saw a large painting of Oliver Cromwell on the wall of Mr. Cook’s office. The Irish prime minister refused to enter that office while that painting hung on the wall.

Reconstruction

That is how most civil wars end. The bitterness and anger ran deep and wide. The United States civil war was different. Yes, the Radical Republicans wanted revenge. They believed the Southern fire-eaters had started the war. As with the Irish civil war, there were Republican moderates who simply wanted to bring the country back together. Andrew Johnson was largely impeached because he advocated a moderate course for Reconstruction. The Irish soldiers on both sides, Union and Confederate, knew their history. They all recalled Oliver Cromwell and his atrocities.

To this day, Oliver Cromwell is easily the most reviled name in Irish history. We are fortunate that our civil war truly did end when the last Confederate army surrendered. Oliver died in 1658. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. Soon after his death, the Puritans lost power. Oliver’s body was dug up, tried for treason, and executed, even though he had long been dead. Even in England, many hated the man. For more about Oliver Cromwell from the Irish perspective, see this piece. To us un the U.S., this is ancient history. But, to the Irish Immigrants in the 1850’s, the story of Cromwell and the Tories was very recent history.

Source:

Michael O’Siochru, God’s Executioner (London: Bloomsbury House 2008), pp. 1, 195-200, 210-211, 240-241.

Views of Reconstruction Have Changed

Was Reconstruction good or bad? Your view on that topic will largely dictate whether you see the white Southerners of the Civil war time period in a good light or bad light. The view of Reconstruction was largely negative in white society until the 1980’s. With the publication of Eric Foner’s book, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution (Harper & Row 1988), the popular white view changed. A Colombia historian, Dr. Foner is widely respected. His tome received positive reviews. Reprinted several times, it has now become a classic history of the Reconstruction period in U.S. history.

Dr. Foner makes a valuable point throughout the book, that with the end of Reconstruction, so ended the right to vote and other civil rights for Southern African-Americans. His research is exhaustive. Yet, he does diminish what had been accepted prior to his book, the degree to which Reconstruction was abused by both Northern politicians and local African-Americans. For example, we know that many African-Americans profited handsomely from their positions of power. The perception in the time before Dr. Foner’s book was that black men had been manipulated by the white Northerners, but they may have been willing to be manipulated. For example in a book widely read in its day, Charles Nordhoff traveled the South in 1875 on a tour requested by his boss, James G. Bennett, publisher of the New York Herald. Mr. Nordhoff’s mission was to find out the “truth” of Reconstruction. The northern public was aware of charges of corruption. Mr. Nordhoff was sent to either verify those charges or discount them. His resulting book, The Cotton States in the Spring and Summer of 1875, largely verifies the charges of corruption by “carpet-baggers” and by African-American men who appeared to be under the control or instigation of white northerners now living in those Cotton states.

Mr. Nordhoff in his tour of Louisiana talks about seeing “colored” members of the Louisiana legislature – men who were slaves ten years before – now “driving magnificent carriages, seated in stylish equipages, and wearing diamond breast pins.” He discussed a box containing election returns from one of the upstate parishes being carried into New Orleans by a Conservative politician (meaning by a Republican) to a house of prostitution in New Orleans. The Conservative politician was holding it ransom for some large reward from the Conservatives in that parish.

Mr. Nordhoff reported in his book that while most murders in Louisiana since 1870, with two major exceptions – Coushatta and Colfax – were not political, few of the murderers received their just punishment. There were some 33 murders. But, pardons were frequent. Mr. Nordhoff explained that between 1865-1868, the white citizens of Louisiana did kill and oppress the freed black man. But, when Reconstruction began in 1868, the freed black man was given authority for which he was not prepared. Mr. Nordhoff saw black members of parish police juries (like the county commissioners in Texas) who could not read or write, or just barely so. Yet, those black police jury members had total control over taxes, roads and bridges. In 1868, the Louisiana legislature paid $4.2 million for 70 miles of railroad that was never completed. The railroad was sold as a connection from New Orleans to Mobile, but it never got beyond the first 70 miles. Mr. Nordhoff, a former abolitionist, recounted many such incidents of abuse.

Dr. Foner allows that black Republicans were not immune to illicit gain, but he compares it to corruption practiced by white Democrats. He suggests that corruption was common throughout the country, not just in Reconstruction cotton states. Foner, Reconstruction, at pp. 388-389.

But, Dr. Foner’s book does not appear to address the issues presented in the prior research, that the post-war economy plummeted in the South after the Civil War and after Reconstruction started. The 1874 value of real property in New Orleans had fallen to one-third the value it had in 1868, the last year prior to Reconstruction. Henry, The Story of Reconstruction (Konecky & Konecky 1999, but originally published in 1938), p. 516. The Sheriff of Orleans Parish was paid $60,000 in 1868, a time when $500-600 was the typical yearly wage for skilled labor. This was in a city that did not completely support secession.

In the 1860 election for example, John Bell, the nominee of the Constitutional Union party (composed of former Whig party members), won each Orleans Parish voting district by a 2:1 margin over Douglas and Breckinridge. The Constitutional Union party was founded on the eve of the 1860 election. Its major plank was to preserve the union. Stephen Douglas, the nominee of the Northern wing of the Democrat party ran ahead of John Breckinridge, the nominee of the Southern wing of the Democrat party. Breckinridge was the candidate favored by the rest of Louisiana and by the rest of the South. Breckinridge and Douglas essentially split the Democrat vote. Together, the Democratic vote would have amounted to some 5400 votes, compared to some 5200 received by Bell. If just one Democrat had run in 1860, Bell might well have lost. But, the results do show New Orleans was not a “fire-eater” (the term used for ardent secessionists) city. Jerry Tarver, Political Clubs of New Orleans in the Presidential Election of 1860, La. Hist. Assoc., Vol. 4, No. 2 (Spring, 1963), p. 126. The Crescent City was not a secessionist center.

Neither does Dr. Foner address another concern presented by the earlier scholarship on the subject, that many black males of the time simply voted as they were told by white Republicans. The White League, Robert Henry tells us, said the Negroes “invariably” voted like a body of soldiers obeying a command. The white Southerners accused the blacks of voting “blindly” based on how they were instructed. Henry, The Story of Reconstruction, p. 517. Even allowing for some hyperbole, that charge presents serious systemic issues with Reconstruction.

And, it was the concern with outlaw black citizens acting with impunity that was cited by the White League for its formation in New Orleans. Among the graft and corruption, there was also a problem found in newly freed blacks acting with criminal intent. Gangs of “riotous” blacks incited by three former city officials had committed unspecified “outrages” against white persons at the Third Ward Polling place on Poydras Street. Stuart O. Landry, The Battle of Liberty Place (Gretna Press 2000, but originally published in 1955), p. 69. In another incident, a white man was assaulted by a crowd of “Negroes” for carrying a concealed weapon. The Metropolitan Police, created by the carpet-bagger governor, Henry Clay Warmoth, were essentially a private army for the governor. Joe Gray Taylor, New Orleans and Reconstruction, La. Hist. Assoc. (Vol. 9, No. 3, p. 196. Gov. Warmoth did not deny his corruption. Without Negro votes, he would never have been elected. Ibid. Gov. Warmoth was replaced by William P. Kellogg, who was only more corrupt than Gov. Warmoth.

In May, 1874, a white woman was robbed in broad daylight on a major street in new Orleans. The newspaper of the day proclaimed no one was safe due to Negro outrages. Joe Gray Taylor, New Orleans and Reconstruction, p. 201. That was surely hyperbole, but this was a time when even approaching an unknown woman was socially forbidden. That one white woman would be robbed during the day was shocking. Also in May, 1874, a home was entered while the family was out and all the silver was taken. The newspaper warned New Orleans white citizens to watch out for Gov. Kellog’s men during the day. In other words, the newspaper believed the daytime burglar was a Republican. New Orleans Bulletin, May 8, 1874, p. 3. Dr. Foner’s book does not address this apparent spike in crime, or the perception that the crime was due to Republicans. In disregarding these issues, Dr. Foner’s book reveals a lack of balance, just as the earlier Reconstruction books lacked balance.

It is accurate, it seems to me, that the hysteria of the time seems racist. The Battle of Liberty Place quotes news stories of the day indicating widespread fear of “black militia” marching by and possibly storming saloons and businesses. It seems likely that white Southerners of the time felt an irrational fear of newly freed blacks. Before the Civil War, there was a constant, almost unconscious fear among whites that the blacks would rise up and kill all the whites. The City of New Orleans actually saw a large slave revolt in 1811. So, the fear had some basis. In fact, the fear of slave rebellion was so wide spread that when Gen. Ben Butler first came to New Orleans, he brought his wife. Mrs. Butler had a nightmare during one of her first nights about a slave revolt. Fears of a slave revolt were so widespread that even a visiting and protected white wife of a Northern general had some deep fears of a slave revolt – at a time when the Union army was actually freeing black slaves.

But, fear, however racist and irrational, held by a large segment of the population cannot be ignored. It is the fundamental duty of any government to allay fear. The federal government imposed a government on Louisiana. The Republicans disregarded the fear felt by the whites and it did not provide the most fundamental requirement of any government, reliable police protection.

Dr. Foner never mentions the open corruption of two successive Louisiana governors. Neither does he acknowledge that unlike corruption in other states, in the South, open corruption was essentially sanctioned by the federal government. Dr. Foner never discusses the extent to which freed blacks were allowed, and even encouraged to harass the white Southerners. His book does help remedy the lack of attention to black suffrage and civil rights in prior Reconstruction research.

But, it appears Dr. Foner remedied that imbalance in part by overlooking the lack of fundamental state police powers. If the state cannot enforce criminal laws, then the state has failed a central function. Mr. Foner misses an important point about Reconstruction. When you impose a government on a people otherwise accustomed to democracy, that government cannot simply be as good as the government found in other states. It must be better. It must be a government that the whites can at least tolerate. Reconstruction failed in that respect. For all its superb research and needed balance, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution misses that most salient need of an imposed governance, it must work and it must be relatively free of corruption.

Retribution for the Rebels

The victors were extreme in their desire to punish the losing side in a protracted civil war. They were determined to seize land from the losers and award it to soldiers who served in the victorious army. One moderate voice, Vincent Gookin, however, cautioned moderation. Total revenge would harm the economy. Mr. Gookin argued that allowances should be made for those who simply followed the leaders and the higher-born who helped start the civil war. No, this was not Reconstruction in the United States. It was the days and months after the end of the rebellion in Ireland that ended in 1653. The Irish Gaelic and old English forces fought for their freedom. They had been oppressed by the English for decades prior to 1641. The uprising started about the same time in several locales throughout Ireland.

There were always tension between the Irish Catholics and the Protestants. But, those tensions rose to fever pitch when the Puritans seized control of the Parliament and executed King Charles I in 1649. Vincent Gookin was a prominent Protestant in Ireland who fled to England during the long war. When the wars ended, he returned to Ireland and preached a more moderate punishment of the Irish Catholics and Old English Catholics. The Puritan radicals wanted to force all the Irish Catholics out of eastern Ireland into Connaught, the western most province. Mr. Gookin lived in Ireland. Most of the Puritans lived in England. The Puritans relied on stereotypes of the worst sort about the Catholics, convinced they were evil marauders.

As the wars wound down in Ireland, the Tories fought effectively throughout the island. “Tory” derived from the Irish word, toraigh, meaning to hunt or pursue. Bands of former soldiers roamed the countryside making war generally on the Parliament forces and sometimes on Protestant civilians. The Tories operated in large numbers, regiments of 1500 soldiers or more. Lacking artillery or siege craft, they could not assault large garrisons or towns. But, they were exceedingly effective. The Puritan response to the Tories was often collective punishment. The commanders would order entire populations into specific corralled areas in a county. Anyone (meaning any civilian) found outside of those reservations was to be “taken, slain and destroyed.” Echoing tactics which would be used in the Boer war in the 1890’s, the Puritan commanders would make war on the Catholic civilians.

Or, the Parliament forces would fine the residents of a barony for failing to warn the Protestant commanders about a Tory raid or attack.

The Puritan commanders imposed passage requirements. To enter or leave a town required a pass from the local Parliament force commander. During Reconstruction in the United States, Union commanders also imposed similar travel restrictions. The Puritans dictated that anyone found without a pass would be given no quarter. The wars of the 1640’s and 1650’s were vicious and brutal. Both sides committed atrocities. The rules of war were well developed by then in the Continental wars. But, in Ireland, both sides, especially the Parliament forces disregarded the fundamental principles of a rule based war. Oliver Cromwell to this day is reviled in Ireland for massacring defenseless towns after they surrendered to him.

Drogheda was the first such town he massacred. Cromwell was a skilled colonel of cavalry during the English civil war. By the time he entered the Irish version of the civil war in 1649, he was the trusted, mostly unbeatable army commander of the Puritan forces. He was also a true believer. He was convinced that the Papists, as he referred to the Catholics, were the devil incarnate. In the 1650’s, in the European wars, it was accepted that if a garrison surrendered without an agreement, the defenders could be executed. The decision to execute was up to the local commander. It was also a recognized principle of war that unarmed civilians would not be killed. But, In Ireland, those rules were often ignored. Gen. Cromwell believed he was acting for God when Drogheda surrendered without an agreement. The force defending Drogheda was an Irish Catholic regiment who were fighting in the name of King Charles I. Many of the leaders of the defenders escaped from the town before the Parliament forces could enter. The entire town was not killed. But, hundreds of non-combatant Irish Catholic residents of the town were killed by Cromwell’s men. Numerous Protestant residents were also killed.

A few weeks later, Cromwell did the same thing at Wexford town, killing after the surrender, all the men, women, children of the town “to a very few.” After Drogheda and Wexford, many towns would surrender, but they would always secure an agreement first. But, Gen. Cromwell had made it clear this Irish war would end soon, and it would end bloody. The last royalist army to surrender was in October, 1652 at Limerick city. This was the last “publicly entertained” army in the field. The Tories, however, continued.

The Tories operated throughout the otherwise Parliament controlled areas near Dublin. The last Tory unit of any size surrendered in October, 1653. Galway town secured an agreement for surrender. But, after the wars had ended the Parliament would disregard that agreement and seize the property held by Catholics, forcing many residents out into the country side. In 1660, when Puritans would lose their power and King Charles II would assume the throne, the English government would still seek retribution on the Tories and all soldiers who operated secretly or not “publicly entertained.”

When Oliver Cromwell left the island in late 1649, much of the hard work had been done. The ”Great Protector” had vanquished the largest armies in the field. And, the bitterness among Irish Catholics ran deep. In 1997, Bertie Ahern, the Irish prime minister, paid a call to the new British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook. But, Mr. Aherns stopped as soon as he entered the office. He saw a large painting of Oliver Cromwell on the wall of Mr. Cook’s office. The Irish prime minister refused to enter that office while thatpainting hung on the wall.

That is how most civil wars end. The bitterness and anger ran deep and wide. The United States civil war was different. Yes, the Radical Republicans wanted revenge. They believed the Southern fire-eaters had started the war. As with the Irish civil war, there were Republican moderates who simply wanted to bring the country back together. Andrew Johnson was largely impeached because he advocated a moderate course for Reconstruction. The Irish soldiers on both sides, Union and Confederate, knew their history. They all recalled Oliver Cromwell and his atrocities.

To this day, Oliver Cromwell is easily the most reviled name in Irish history. We are fortunate that our civil war truly did end when the last Confederate army surrendered. Oliver died in 1658. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. Soon after his death, the Puritans lost power. Oliver’s body was dug up, tried for treason, and executed, even though he had long been dead. Even in England, many hated the man. For more about Oliver Cromwell from the Irish perspective, see this piece.

Michael O’Siochru, God’s Executioner (London: Bloomsbury House 2008), pp. 1, 195-200, 210-211, 240-241.