Pre-War
 

Georgia Cherokees and the Rest of the Story

                                                                           by Robert Jenkins

                                                     

 

            My two children, Robby and Katie Beth Jenkins, have had to endure growing up in a home where their parents treasure history, geography and culture among other interests, so much so, that when we go out of town, it always takes on more of a field trip than a vacation.  But when Katie Beth (16), and Robby (14), discovered that their mother, Kathy, is half Cherokee Indian, and that their mother’s ancestors owned the land on which gold was found in north Georgia over 180 years ago, they wanted to learn more.

 

            As it turns out, their sixth Great Grandfather, Chu-nau-wee Briant, or “Bryant,” was an Indian warrior who knew and fought with the famous Davy Crockett.  Chu-nau-wee Bryant, took on the white name Bryant as the north Georgia Cherokees were fast learning the ways of the white settlers who were coming into the Southern Appalachians during the first two decades of the 1800's.  He, along with the Cherokees, banded with the white settlers during this time to repel attacks from foraging Creek Indians, who raided them from central and southern Alabama. 

 

            The Creeks, who were also sometimes called Red Sticks, had joined forces with Tecumseh, a Shawnee Chief from Ohio.  The Creek Indians were concerned with the expansion of white settlers into the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, and they determined to fight back.  By 1814, however, white and Cherokee volunteers who served under General Andrew Jackson had chased down the raiding Creek Indians and trapped them in a bend of the Tallapoosa River.  On the morning of March 27th, in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, killed a number of Creek Indians and stopped them from ever raiding into north Georgia again.  However, Chu-nau-wee Bryant was one of the few Cherokees killed on the winning side of the battle.  Bryant left a widow, “Lucy” Au-noo-yo-hee Bryant, and eight children, including Robby and Katie Beth’s fifth Great Grandfather, John Bryant, Sr.

 

            Soon after the Creek War, the War of 1812, and the other Southern Indian Wars that brought Andrew Jackson and Davy Crockett national fame and prominence, a treaty, known as the Turkey Town Treaty, was entered into between the Cherokees and the United States Government in 1817.  In it, the Cherokees ceded about one third of their total land holdings, mostly in Tennessee and the Carolinas to the United States.  In exchange, the Cherokees were given the option of owning land in a newly created Indian Territory in Arkansas, or they could remain east of the Mississippi River and be given a 640 acre tract to each family in north Georgia.  In addition, Georgia agreed to drop any further claim to lands in Alabama and Mississippi during this time, which paved the way to statehood for the Yellowhammer State and the Magnolia State and their inclusion into the Union.

 

            Lucy Bryant, as the widowed head of her household, elected to take the 640 acre tract in north Georgia.  That tract was located in the Nacoochee Valley near Duke’s Creek Falls and is part of today’s Smithgall Woods Conservation Park, one of the State of Georgia’s Parks and Recreation Centers.  Lucy and her family called the place “Chu-nan-nee” which is near the town of Helen.  In 1826, after gold was discovered along Dukes Creek on her property, her home was taken from her by the State of Georgia and the United States who entered a controversial, and illegal, new treaty with some people who claimed to be representing the interest of the Cherokees in exchange for money and land grants.  This led to the famous and tragic Trail of Tears in which the remaining Cherokees east of the Mississippi were forced to move to Oklahoma.

 

            Because of her family’s connections to Davy Crockett, who had become a United States’ Congressman, and her connection to other white families, Lucy Bryant’s family migrated to western Tennessee where they settled in a community called Skullbone, near Milan, Gibson County, Tennessee.  There, many of her descendants settled and farmed for many generations.  Her Great Grandson, John Boyd Belew, Robby and Katie Beth’s third Great Grandfather, was born in 1829 in Milan, and was 31 years old when the Civil War broke out. 

 

            For Belew, as well as for all Cherokees, choosing whether to fight in the War or which side to fight for was a difficult decision.  As white settlement into the Southern Appalachians had begun and rapidly expanded during the late 1700's and early 1800's, the Cherokees had welcomed the whites, farmed with them, fought common foes with them, and took to their ways, including creating a Cherokee alphabet, welcoming missionaries and schools to teach religion and academics to their children, and some had even acquired slaves.  When the Cherokees were subsequently betrayed under the direction of President Andrew Jackson, they did not know who or where to turn.

 

            For many Cherokees who had adopted the ways of their Southern white neighbors, and who began to intermarry with whites, they looked at the Federal Government as the evil that changed Andrew Jackson into the man who had turned his back on the Cherokee Nation.  Thus, a number of Cherokees, including some in Arkansas under the direction of Stand Watie, who was the last Confederate General to surrender at the conclusion of the War, followed the Stars and Bars of the Confederacy.  Other Cherokees, however, chose to fight for the Union.

 

            John Boyd Belew also chose to fight for the South and served with a Tennessee Cavalry Regiment in western Tennessee for the last two years of the War.  His reasons were also personal.  After two years of staying out of the war, he and his family were tired of Federal occupation of Western Tennessee and the hardships brought upon them by it.

 

            Another Cherokee leader, William H. Thomas, led a Confederate Cavalry Legion outside Knoxville, Tennessee. Their primary duty was to protect the Alum Cave, and harass Union troops that invaded Tennessee. While briefly working around Chattanooga, Tennessee in June 1862, Thomas personally captured a Union Soldier, after which each of his men vowed to capture at least one "Yankee" before the war was over. 

 

            To this day, many Cherokees when given a twenty dollar bill as change, will refuse it and ask for two ten dollar bills instead, as they do not wish to carry the painful memory of the past when looking at the face of Andrew Jackson who appears on the twenty dollar bill. 

 

And now you know, in the words of the famous columnist Paul Harvey, the rest of the story!


The Trail of Tears

 

THE DALTON ACADEMY 

by Marvin Sowder

Dalton 150th Civil War Commission

The earliest educational facility built in the Dalton area was a log schoolhouse constructed in 1843 when the village was still known as Cross Plains. A few years later, the history of the Dalton Academy began.  On March 5, 1849, Edward White of Dalton deeded the southeast corner lot at Thornton Avenue and Waugh Street to John Hamilton, Ainsworth E. Blunt and J. S. Waugh as Trustees to erect a common school.

Not long thereafter, during 1851-1852, an impressive two story red brick school house was constructed on this lot and chartered as the Dalton Academy.  The Baptist congregation of Dalton had just completed a large two story sanctuary on the lot adjoining the Academy.  It faced south fronting the new courthouse which was then under construction.  In the newly created county of Whitfield (organized in 1852),  Dalton was given the distinction of becoming the new county seat of government. The future looked very bright for the young city and a first rate academy was ready to educate the young men of Dalton.

During the 1850's the Reverend A. J. Johnson, Mrs. Armstrong, Mrs. Banner, Mr. Nelson and several others taught various classes at the Academy. On April 25, 1857, Rufus K. and Timothy Ford brought a suit for $415.00 against the Trustees of the Academy to recover funds due them for work done during its construction.  Sheriff Moses G. Collins seized the Academy property and sold it at public auction to a consortium of local businessmen for $555.00 to settle the debt.  A new Board of Trustees was then appointed.

In 1860, Lewis D. Palmer, a teacher from Richmond County, Georgia, and a family friend of Judge E. J. Tarver, was invited to come to Dalton and take charge of the Dalton Academy.  He accepted the invitation and ran a very prosperous school for a little over a year.  By 1861, a lot of changes were taking place.  Georgia seceded from the Union and preparations got underway to raise an army for the defense of the newly established Confederate States of America.  The old Dalton Guards were being reorganized and many of the older boys who attended the Academy dropped out in order to join the Guards.  The military spirit and excitement became so intense that Mr. Palmer simply closed the Academy.  The Dalton Guards quickly left Dalton and became a part of Phillips Legion.

 By February 8, 1862, however, another school was being advertised to open for classes in the Dalton Academy building under the care of the Reverend Dr. Adolphus Spalding Worrell.  Other schools were opening as well.  Miss. Amanda A.M. Ford opened a select female school in the Methodist Episcopal Church, also known as the Thornton Avenue Methodist Church.  The classes being taught that spring of 1862 were cut short when the Dalton Academy, the Methodist Episcopal Church, and a host of other buildings were confiscated by the government and converted into hospitals for the Confederate Medical Service.

There were a number of teachers who served at the Dalton Academy during her first two decades, but the war and closing of the school displaced them.  The teachers of the Academy included:

  Lewis D. Palmer was born in Richmond County, Georgia on July 27, 1834.  He graduated from Emory College, at Oxford, Georgia, and began his teaching career at Green Cut, Burke County, Georgia. He married Mary Barton Sims in 1856 before moving to Dalton in 1860. He left Dalton during the war returning shortly thereafter.  No record of military service by him is known to exist.  The North Georgia Agricultural and Mechanical Association was organized in Dalton and had its first Fair in 1868.  Mr. Palmer was one of the organizing directors.  In 1870, he was bookkeeping for a manufacturing firm here.  On July 22, 1872, sadness beset the family with the loss of their eleven month old daughter, May.  She was buried in West Hill Cemetery.  In 1876, Palmer and his family moved to Wilmington, California, but returned east to work in the Methodist Publishing House in Nashville, Tennessee by 1880.  He became business manager for the Nashville "Christian Advocate."  After retirement, Palmer became a rear estate agent in Nashville.  His wife, Mary, passed away on May 1, 1888 and was buried beside her daughter in Dalton.  Mr. Palmer married again in 1891 to Kate C. Cooper in Nashville.  On March 22, 1911, at the age of 76, Palmer passed away and was brought back to Dalton and laid to rest beside his first wife and daughter.

Adolphus Spalding Worrell was born in Newton County, Georgia, on March 3, 1831.  In 1844, he was converted to Christianity, and in 1850, he felt the call to preach.  In 1855, after receiving an A.B. degree with honors from Mercer University, then located in Penfield, Georgia, Worrell journeyed to Clinton, Mississippi, and taught Latin and Greek at Mississippi College.  In 1856-1857, he taught Greek and Hebrew at Union University at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, before returning to Mercer University, where he graduated in 1858 with an A.M. degree.  In late 1862, he came to Dalton to teach in the Academy but after it closed in the spring of 1862, he took a position as acting Chaplain with the 34th Georgia Volunteer Infantry and served without pay or commission through December of 1862.  After severing his ties with the 34th, he moved to Atlanta and began publishing and distributing of "The Soldier’s Friend," a religious publication which he printed at his own expense.  He lost most of his personal property in Nashville when it was overrun by Union Forces.  Becoming financially strapped, he petitioned the Secretary of War J. A. Seddon for a Commission to serve as Chaplain of the hospitals in Atlanta.  He received a commission as Captain on January 26,1863, and performed his duties tirelessly until tendering his resignation May 1,1864 citing matters of conscience. Later that year, he married Mary L. Sheed in Sweetwater, Tennessee.  He was a man who held strong opinions on right and wrong, who believed in divine healing and who traveled widely for several years preaching constantly before settling in Louisville, Kentucky.  In 1904, he published "The New Testament Revised and Translated" from the original Greek language.  The latest edition of the A. S. Worrell Bible was reprinted in 1957 and is still available for purchase.  On July 31, 1908, he passed away and is buried in Louisville with a beautiful monumental headstone marking his grave.

  Amanda Ann Martha Ford was born in Alabama on November 7, 1838.  She was the daughter of Martha and Rufus K. Ford who settled in Dalton in the 1840’s.  In the early 1860's, she was teaching school in the Methodist Episcopal Church, sometimes referred to as the Thornton Avenue Methodist Church or the Methodist Congregational Church which was located on the southeast corner of Thornton Avenue and West Morris Street. She apparently moved her classes to the Dalton Academy after it was vacated by Mr. Palmer and Reverend Worrell.  To further validate this assumption, on November 3, 1863, she received payment of $175.00 from Major W.F. Ayer, Post Quartermaster of Dalton for rent of the Academy for use as a hospital from July 15 to October 31, 1862.  In March 1862, Post Surgeon F. H. Evans reported he was still renting the Academy at the same rates. The Methodist Episcopal Church where she had been teaching before was also converted into a hospital and was rented at the rate of $15.00 per month.  On February 15, 1866, she married William R. Guthrie, a veteran of the war.  In 1870, they were living in the Tunnel Hill District and by 1880, made their home on a sizable farm in East Armurchee, Walker County, Georgia.

  In late spring of 1862, the Academy, the Baptist Church and the Courthouse were rented by the Medical Department and became the Oliver Hospital complex, the first of its kind in Dalton.  In the spring of 1863, two new hospital buildings were erected on property belonging to Mrs. Rachael Hamilton located just north of the Dalton city limits. The Oliver Hospital and the Cannon Hospital that had been occupying the W. & A. Hotel were moved into these new facilities.

In May of 1863, the Stout Hospital was established in the Academy.  Surgeon Evans reported it had a patient capacity of 120 that was to be increased to 370 by setting up tents in the chestnut grove between the Academy and the Courthouse.  At least thirteen buildings in Dalton and about half that many in Tunnel Hill were rented for hospital purposes.  All but one were removed from Dalton and Tunnel Hill prior to the Battle of Chickamauga.

During the Union occupation of Dalton, the chestnut grove became a camping ground for the soldiers in blue. No doubt they occupied the Academy, as well.

After the War in October 1866, the Academy property passed into private hands when it was purchased by John H. King who in turn sold it to Doctor Benjamin Hamilton on August 8, 1867.  His son, Civil War Veteran, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph H. Hamilton formerly of Phillips Legion, conducted school there through 1868.  In the first week of January, 1869, Hamilton sold the Academy property to Mr. James R. Glenn who had advertised to reopen the Academy with first classes beginning on January 11, 1869.  In 1875, Joseph H. Hamilton and his family moved to Southern California where he passed away on July 12, 1907.

Mr. Glenn was looking forward to reopening the Dalton Academy, but it was not to be! On Christmas night 1868, the young folks of Dalton gave a Christmas Party in the Academy and a truly joyous evening was had by all.  After they had all returned home at about 4:00 A.M. an alarm was sounded when the Academy was discovered to be on fire. There being no fire engine available, the fire defied all efforts to extinguish it.  The building and all contents were totally destroyed. 
From the log cabin school of 1843 to the burning of the Dalton Academy in 1868, the first twenty five years of education in Dalton, like the smoke, passed into history.


Year 1860, Place:
Dalton, Georgia

                                                                              by Marvin Sowder

 

            Sunrise, January 1, 1860 was a cold blustery Sunday morning. The church bells rang in the New Year beckoning their members to worship. The pews were filled and many New Year resolutions were made. It was a time for thankful hearts to rejoice. Edward White's dream of Dalton's greatness seemed to be headed to reality!

 

            On January 7th a new mayor and city council were elected. Later, Rev. George G. Weather spoon of Tunnel Hill was approved to take a new census and Fred Cox was paid to lay down new carpet in the Court House. In twelve short years Dalton saw remarkable growth. There were four churches in the city: the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and Catholic. Each had their own beautiful edifice.

 

            Two railroads served the new town: the Western & Atlantic and the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia. Hogs, cattle and other livestock were shipped from Dalton. The firm of Blunt & King bought and shipped train loads of wheat from Whitfield and Murray County farms. At times the grain was piled to the ceiling in the depot and all the platforms were filled. Business was good.

 

            There were three commodious hotels serving the traveling public. Their hospitality and the excellence of their cuisine were well known up and down the line. The "Chester House" operated by Judge Wm. P. and Mrs. Chester joined depot square. Judge Chester also served as Postmaster. You picked up your mail at the hotel. James Morris constructed a second three story hotel of red brick covering half a city block that also joined depot square. By 1860 it was known as the "Western & Atlantic Hotel.” The third hotel was the "Henderson House" located on the corner of Gordon and Hamilton Street. Young Thomas R. Henderson was proprietor.

 

            There were two banks in operation with substantial capital investment here. They were "The Cherokee Bank & Insurance Co." and " The Bank of Whitfield.” Dalton had a new court house and jail completed by 1853. Education was not neglected. Many of Dalton's children were taught the 3R's and other areas of higher learning at the "Dalton Academy.”

 

            Dalton had a good business section and many beautiful homes, a few of which remain today. Refined and cultured people lived here, whose descendants have a right to be proud. There were 317 family households listed in the 1860 census.

 

            Dalton had a well drilled and finely equipped military organization known as "The Dalton Guards.” It was under the command of Capt. R.T. Cook and numbered about one hundred and ten men.

 

            In the fall of 1860 the talk of secession was on the minds of most everyone. Three delegates were chosen to represent Dalton and Whitfield County in a secession convention scheduled to take place next year. The majority were against secession and were for cooperation to maintain the Union.

 

            As 1860 came to a close, momentous decisions were being considered that would change the face of Dalton forever.

 

1860's Banking in Dalton

by Marvin Sowder

 

     In the early 1860's there were two banks in Dalton, Georgia and two other banks that were trying to join them in doing business here. The Cherokee Insurance and Banking Company was incorporated by the General Assembly of the State of Georgia on February 8,1850 and by 1861 had been around for eleven years.

     

     Its board of commissioners included William Hammonds, Harrison Rogers, Augustus Seaborn, Jones, Duff Green, Gustavus Heerlein, T. N. Cate, Henry Jargen, J. A. W. Johnson and Benjamin Loughridge. It was further enacted that the capital stock should consist of five thousand shares of one hundred and fifty dollars each and it could commence business in Dalton when twenty five percent of the capital stock shall have been paid in specie. The bank opened at #15 Crawford Street in a new brick banking house. In 1860 Mr. D. P. Wright a, local wheelwright, built a new door for the bank and in April of 1862 the bank was issuing one, two and five dollar bills as well as fifty cent and seventy cent fractional bills. Colonel James H. Bard was president and W. L. M. Wright was cashier. The Cherokee Insurance and Banking Company survived the Civil War but folded during the tough years following reconstruction and by 1873 was being referred to as the former Cherokee Insurance and Banking Company.

      On December 13,1859, the Planters and Mechanics Bank of Dalton that had been in business since February of 1854 reorganized and changed its name to the Bank of Whitfield and was the other banking house in Dalton during the Civil War.  Between 1860 and 1862 the bank issued one, two and five dollar bills as well as twenty five cent, fifty cent and seventy five cent fractional bills for circulation. Between 1860 and 1862 the presidents who served the bank were James Morris, Larkin Fullilove and Merritt Burnes. The cashiers who served were Merritt Russell, George Wentworth and Thomas B. White. In April of 1861 Georgia Governor Joseph Brown asked for the Bank of Whitfield to assume a portion of the state loan to support the war effort but president Larkin Fullilove declined citing a heavy debt load. He further stated that he had offered in the market some of the best papers that could be made without being able to profit on it unless at unusually heavy rates. However on June 2,1862 the bank moved from #3 Crawford Street to Captain James Morris' new brick banking house on Hotel Square, Hamilton Street.

     Meanwhile, banking in the North was facing a crisis as a result of a gold shortage. A bill was drafted making paper currency, payable by the U.S. Treasury but unbacked by gold or silver, legal tender for all debts public and private with a few exceptions. President Lincoln signed the "Legal Tender Act" into law in February of 1862 and "Greenbacks" became the currency of the North.

      On December 1,1863, after hearing the sounds of battle to the north, the Bank of Whitfield moved its operation further south to Atlanta. The best records indicate it was eventually merged into the Lowery National Bank of Atlanta with Atlanta financier Robert F. Lowery as president. There are no records reflecting that it ever returned to Dalton.

     Another bank that organized during the Civil War received its charter on December 5,1862 and was known as the Planters Insurance, Trust and Loan Company with an office in Dalton and General Duff Green officiating as president. Its board of commissioners included William Manghus, Augustus Seaborn Jones, William V. Johnson and John T. Jones. On March 2,1863, ten cent and fifty cent fractional bills were issued and signed by Ben Green, son of General Duff Green.  General Duff Green’s chief aim was to attract investors from England, France and other European countries to enable the company to expand in the railroad systems through out the South.  As late as April of 1864, efforts were still going forward but Green’s efforts to attract European capital to his cause never materialized. There are no records that the Planters Insurance, Trust and Loan Company ever opened for business.

     Another bank believed to have tried to organize in Dalton or Spring Place, Georgia was the Saving Bank of Cohutah. The name is pronounced the same as the present day spelling of the name, Cohutta. Two dollar bills and seventy five cent fractional bills were printed bearing the date January 1,1863, but were unsigned. No other records about the operations of the Saving Bank of Cohutah have been found to date.

      There was talk of a Bank Revival in the November 25,1869, issue of North Georgia Citizen but the next bank of any consequence to open in Dalton was in 1873. Frank Hardwick, John Hardwick and their father opened a new bank under the name of C.L. Hardwick and Company. It opened in the old National Hotel building on Hamilton Street with a capital stock of fifteen thousand dollars and later became known as the Hardwick Bank and Trust Company, now the BB&T Bank.

     Today Dalton is served by several banks and all are strong financial institutions serving the area well.

Planter's & Mechanics Bank Note

 

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN OF 1860

THE DEMOCRATS

by:  Jim Burran 

 

 

            The presidential campaign of 1860 was like no other in American History.  This campaign produced 4 candidates, none of whom enjoyed a truly national following.  As a result, the contest developed into a peculiar configuration featuring 2 Southern candidates with no appeal in the North, and 2 Northern candidates with no appeal in the South.

            How did this happen?  The division between North and South grew out of a number of factors, but the primary cause involved the question of expanding slavery into the western territories of the United States.  This issue first appeared on the national scene in 1819, but by 1860 it had become the single most important political issue in American life.  The presidential campaign that unfolded during the summer and fall of that pivotal year foretold the secession crisis that erupted just a few months later.

            As the 1860 calendar year opened, President James Buchanan was in the final year of his administration.  A Democrat from Pennsylvania, Buchanan proved weak and indecisive during this critical period.

            The Democratic Party was anxious to replace the discredited Buchanan with a stronger individual, but by 1860 the sectional issue had taken its toll on the oldest of the 3 political parties then in existence.  Also in the hunt was the fledgling Republican Party, established in 1854 on a platform dedicated to preventing the expansion of slavery.  In addition, a Constitutional Union Party had recently been organized as a haven for former Whigs and various splinter groups. 

            On April 23 the Democrats convened in Charleston, South Carolina, where the atmosphere was heavy with apprehension.  U. S. Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois quickly emerged as the leading candidate.  Douglas, known as the “Little Giant,” was a moderate whose position on the expansion of slavery was to let the western territories settle the issue by popular vote.  Southern Democrats, however, insisted that the Democratic platform contain a provision asserting the right of slaveowners to take their slaves into any of the territories without jeopardizing their property.  With neither side willing to budge, and with Douglas unable to secure the necessary two-thirds majority, the convention adjourned after 10 days of tortured proceedings. 

            Following a 6-week recess, the Democrats reconvened on June 18 in Baltimore.  When Douglas again appeared as the front-runner, delegates from several southern states marched out of the convention hall with plans to nominate their own candidate, thus splitting the Democratic Party in two.  Douglas was then named the Democratic presidential nominee.  Herschel Johnson of Georgia was selected as his running mate in an effort to retain southern support.  But more trouble was brewing. 

 

Source:  David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (1976)

Stephen Douglas

______________________________________________________________________________________________

 

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN OF 1860

THE SOUTHERN DEMOCRATS

by:  Jim Burran 

 

 

            When the Democratic Party met in April 1860 at Charleston to nominate candidates for the presidency and vice-presidency, disaster struck.  As the only political party then in existence with a national voter base, it quickly became evident that the delegates were hopelessly divided over the issue of western expansion of slavery.  Adjourning without a slate of candidates, the Democrats reconvened at Baltimore in mid-June to try again.  Here they eventually nominated U. S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois for president. Although the Democrats selected Herschel Johnson of Georgia for the vice-president’s position alongside Douglas, delegates from more than half of the slave states marched out of the convention before the final vote was taken.

            On June 26, delegates from most of the 15 slaveholding states, plus California and Oregon, gathered in Baltimore to nominate candidates for the Southern Democratic ticket.  From among several noteworthy Southern political leaders, the delegates chose John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky.  His running mate was U. S. Senator Joseph Lane of Oregon.  The Breckinridge Democrats ran on a platform that sought to protect slavery in the South and allow for its expansion into the West.

            Breckinridge was a natural choice for the Southern Democrats because he was currently serving as Vice-President of the United States.   Breckinridge came from a distinguished Kentucky family and had developed a solid record of public service.  Born near Lexington in 1821, he served in the state legislature before being elected to the U. S. House of Representatives in 1850.  Chosen as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee in 1856, in part to balance James Buchanan of Pennsylvania with a Southerner, Breckinridge seems not to have been severely damaged by his association with the Buchanan administration.  By 1860 he was well-known throughout the country.

            Thus by mid-1860 the Democratic Party had, for all practical purposes, become 2 parties: The Northern Democrats, with Douglas as their candidate, and the Southern Democrats, with Breckinridge as their standard-bearer.  Some historians have suggested that the leadership of the Southern Democrats, many of whom were secessionist “fire-eaters,” deliberately provoked this split in order to assure a Republican victory in November, thereby providing a more legitimate reason for leading their states out of the Union.  Whether this maneuver was deliberate or not, the outcome was the same.

 

Sources:  David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (1976); William C. Davis, John C. Breckinridge:  Statesman, Soldier, Symbol (1974)

John Breckinridge

 

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN OF 1860

THE CONSTITUTIONAL UNIONISTS

by:  Jim Burran 

 

 

            While the Democratic Party self-destructed in the presence of a national audience, 2 other political parties were holding nominating conventions of their own.  One of these was the recently-organized Constitutional Union Party, comprised mainly of former Southern Whigs and other splinter groups.

            During the 1830s and 1840s, as a rival party to the Democrats, the Whig Party enjoyed a national following and in fact elected 2 presidents, William Henry Harrison in 1840 and Zachary Taylor in 1850.  Whigs disdained the “common man” reputation of the Democrats and were usually persons of financial substance.  But by 1852 the Whig Party had become a victim of the growing sectional dispute between North and South.  Meanwhile, a fringe party rose and fell during the 1840s.  This was the American Party, an anti-immigrant organization primarily attracting urban Protestants who were afraid of the Roman Catholic Irish and German immigrants flooding into the country at that time.  The American Party, like the Whigs, disintegrated in the early 1850s, but between them they left a significant population with no political home.

            Into the breach stepped the Constitutional Union Party.  Tracing its origins from 1858, it attracted former Southern Whigs and American Party members, among others.  The Constitutional Union Party’s political strength lay in the Upper South, but pockets of support could be found elsewhere.  This brand-new political organization met on May 9, 1860 at Baltimore to select its first and only presidential slate.  Rather than fashioning a campaign platform, the convention simply adopted a statement pledging loyalty to the Constitution and preservation of the Union, thereby avoiding direct contact with the slavery issue.

            As its presidential nominee, the convention selected the colorless and relatively unknown John Bell of Tennessee.  A native of the Nashville area, Bell had served briefly in the state senate before being elected to the U. S. House of Representatives as a Jacksonian Democrat.  Switching to the Whig Party, Bell served in the U. S. Senate during the 1840s.  When the Whigs collapsed as a national political organization, Bell then became a Constitutional Unionist.  His 1860 vice-presidential running mate was also a former Whig, the famous orator and former U. S. Senator Edward Everett of Massachusetts.

            The Constitutional Union ticket did not attract much national attention during the 1860 campaign and in the November election carried only 3 states.  But the Republican Party’s slate of candidates turned out to be a different matter altogether.

 

Sources:  David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (1976); Joseph H. Parks, John Bell of Tennessee (1950)

John Bell

 

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN OF 1860

THE REPUBLICANS 

by:  Jim Burran 

            When the Republican Party opened its nominating convention in Chicago on May 16, party leaders could scarcely contain themselves.  The once-powerful Democratic Party was in the process of splitting into Northern and Southern factions, thereby diluting the chances that either Democratic nominee could win in November.  On top of that, the Constitutional Union Party had arisen as an Upper South fringe group, thus weakening Democratic power even further.  Republicans sniffed an opportunity if only they could find the right candidate.

            Established in 1854 with the primary aim of preventing the westward expansion of slavery, the Republicans had virtually no following below the Mason-Dixon Line.  Yet their first presidential campaign in 1856 had achieved significant success in the non-slave states, thanks in part to their famous candidate John C. Fremont, “The Pathfinder.”  Four years later, party officials understood that to win the presidency they must find a candidate who would be acceptable to abolitionists as well as those who simply wanted to prevent the expansion of slavery into the West.

            Going into the convention, the Republican front-runner was U. S. Senator William H. Seward of New York, an abolitionist.  But neither Seward nor the other leading candidates could marshal enough delegates to secure the nomination.  While floor leaders jockeyed various delegate combinations, a dark-horse emerged in the person of Abraham Lincoln of Illinois.  On the 3rd ballot the delegates lined up behind Lincoln and chose U. S. Senator Hannibal Hamlin of Maine as his running mate.  Lincoln was thus a compromise candidate.          

            Lincoln’s was an unlikely story.  Born in 1809 to a backwoods Kentucky family, he was largely self-educated.  Relocating to Illinois as a boy, Lincoln grew up at manual labor and small business enterprises until 1836, when he became a lawyer.  After serving several terms in the Illinois state house as a Whig, in 1846 Lincoln was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives.  This single term in Congress represented the only time he was elected to national office prior to 1860.  In the meantime, he ran for the U. S. Senate twice and was defeated both times.  During his 1858 senatorial campaign, Lincoln attracted national attention through a series of debates with his Democratic opponent, Stephen A. Douglas.  Western expansion of slavery was the primary topic of those debates.

            Now, on May 18, 1860, Lincoln became one of 4 candidates for president against a divided opposition.  If the Republicans could win the majority of the non-slave states, Lincoln would win the election.  But then what?

 

Sources:  David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (1976); David H. Donald, Lincoln (1995)


Abraham Lincoln.

 

The Election of 1860

by Dr. John Fowler


            The tumultuous events of the 1850s triggered what became arguably the most important election in American history–that of 1860.  The heart of the debate stemmed from the expansion of slavery into the western territories won from Mexico in 1848.  For the majority of white Americans, this signified not a moral issue over the owning of human beings but a political and economic struggle over which section of the United States would control the nation’s destiny.  The North envisioned the territories as a place where “free white men” could thrive and improve their economic station.  This “free-labor ideology” promised rewards for hard work if the land in the territories opened to free whites at low prices. White Southerners, however, coveted the territories as land where white men could work hard, save money, and eventually purchase slaves to build a better life for their families.  To these men, slavery was a cornerstone of white economic liberty.  This “slave-labor ideology” promised rewards if the territories were open to Southern whites and their property (including slaves).

            By 1860, extremists in the North and South had driven the nation to the brink of dissolution.  Only one chance for political action to solve the growing rift remained. The last truly national party was the Democratic Party.  When it met in Charleston in April of 1860, however, it split along sectional lines and could not reach a consensus on the issue of slavery’s expansion. When the delegates supported the notion of popular sovereignty instead of protection of slavery in all the territories, many representatives stormed out of the convention.  The remaining Democrats met in Baltimore and nominated Stephen Douglas for president.  Southern Democrats instead nominated John C. Breckenridge and approved a platform more supportive of slavery.  Many moderate Southerners refused to join the Southern Democrats and opted for a more moderate stance.  Refusing to focus on the slavery question, the new Constitutional Union Party supported the notion of national unity and adherence to Constitutional principles.  In the North, a mixture of old anti-immigrant parties such as the Know-Nothings, disillusioned Democrats, and former Whigs joined the new Republican Party.  Sensing victory, the party chose a moderate candidate, Abraham Lincoln, and a moderate platform.  To unify the North, the Republicans supported a more active role for the government in economic affairs such as a protective tariff, sale of cheap western lands to homesteaders, and a transcontinental railroad.  While the Republicans were committed to ending the spread of slavery into the territories, they sought to appease the South by confirming slavery’s safety where it already existed.

            The contest essentially resulted in two separate elections in the North and South.  In the North, Lincoln and Douglas battled it out, while in the South, Breckenridge and Bell vied for votes.  On November 6, 1860, Lincoln shocked the county by winning all of the free states except New Jersey (which he split with Douglas).  This meant that although he only garnered 39 percent of the total popular vote, he won the majority of electoral votes.  Indeed, he held 180 electoral votes while Douglas, Bell, and Breckenridge combined totaled only 123.  Lincoln, therefore, did not win because his opponents were splintered but because his votes were concentrated in the northern free states, which contained a majority of the electoral votes.  Breckenridge won the entire lower South, including Georgia, Delaware, Maryland, and North Carolina, yet could not challenge Lincoln.  From the southern perspective, it became clear that the North now controlled national politics.

            This reality incited the Southern states.   Most, including Georgia, had not even listed Lincoln on the presidential ballot.  Secession inevitably followed, starting with South Carolina in December 1860.  Southerners had lost faith in the political system and feared that a Republican administration would not only block the expansion of slavery but would also eventually interfere with the institution within the states themselves.  The American experiment in republican government and democracy was about to face its greatest test.



Unrecognized Guid format.

The Secession Crisis

by Jim Burran

         Election Day in 1860 fell on November 6.  Thanks to rapid communication provided by telegraph wires, most Americans knew by the next day that Abraham Lincoln had been elected president.  This news forced most white Southerners to confront questions they had failed to resolve for almost a generation, in the process creating an internal crisis across the slaveholding states and ultimately across the nation.  Could the South better defend its interests from inside or outside the Union?  Would it be better to see what the new administration had in mind before making this decision?  If secession was to be the best path, how many Southern states would attempt to leave?  And if one or more seceded, could this be achieved without armed conflict between North and South?

            In those days a president elected the first Tuesday in November was not inaugurated until March 4.  This meant a transition period of about four months, during which the incoming president had no power and the outgoing president had little influence.  Southern political leaders and newspaper editors used much of this time to influence local opinion, which ultimately boiled down to two camps:  secessionist “fire eaters” or moderates who preferred to wait and see.  Robert Barnwell Rhett, editor of the Charleston Mercury and a prominent fire eater, observed that “the election of a Black Republican President” furnished the signal “for the dissolution of the Federal Union and the establishment of a Southern Confederacy.”  Yet Alexander H. Stephens, a powerful Georgia political figure, considered “slavery much more secure in the Union than out of it,” and predicted that Lincoln would make “as good a president as Fillmore.”

            While this debate continued, tragic misunderstandings emerged between North and South.  Opinion leaders in the free states seriously underestimated the power of secession fever.  Many Northerners thought that talk of leaving the Union amounted to mere saber-rattling and doubted that any slave state would resort to such drastic action.  In the South, people of influence doubted that the secession of one or more slaveholding states would arouse much objection up north.  It was said that “a lady’s thimble will hold all the blood that will be shed.”

            In the meantime, Southern fire eaters were comparing notes across state boundaries in an effort to determine how many slaveholding states might be willing to call secession conventions based purely on Lincoln’s election.  They understood that political solidarity was essential for a successful effort of this magnitude.  Thus during the three weeks following the election, secession-minded governors and legislators across the Lower South worked to maneuver the dominoes into place. 

            To no one’s surprise, South Carolina moved first.  For many years a hotbed of state’s rights sentiment, South Carolina’s legislature had by now worked itself into a secessionist frenzy that would have gratified the ghost of John C. Calhoun.  The state lost no time in calling a special convention for December 17.  On that day David F. Jamison, an old militia officer who had been selected as convention president, called the session to order.  Among the delegates were noteworthy planters, railroad presidents, merchants, members of Congress, and five former governors.  In his opening oration Jamison set the tone: “As there is no common bond of sympathy or interest between the North and the South, all efforts to preserve this Union will be not only fruitless but fatal to the less numerous section.”  The assembly needed little encouragement, and on December 20 the delegates approved an ordinance of secession by a 169-0 margin.  Bells pealed, cannon thundered, bands played, and parades filled the streets.  Similar demonstrations erupted across the Deep South in the days that followed.

  On December 24 the South Carolina convention circulated an invitation to all of its Southern sisters, calling on them to “join us in forming a Confederacy of Slave-holding States.”  In response, Alabama called a convention for January 7, as did Mississippi.  Georgia organized its convention for January 16, and Louisiana, Florida, and Texas followed in short order.

 As a shocked nation looked on, the secession crisis burst into full bloom.


The South Carolina Secession Convention


“Sir, Tell Them We Are Rising”

by Dr. Elizabeth Hoole McArthur and Robert D. Jenkins, Sr.

On May 16, 1855, a little slave child was born in a log cabin about six miles from Dalton. If it were not for the Civil War, and the abolition of slavery that occurred in its wake, the world would never have known this amazing individual, nor would it have benefited from his incredible contributions. 

“Just think of it,” he would remark many years later, “only a year before Lee’s surrender I was placed by my master on an auction block to be sold to the highest bidder, but no one would bid high nor low for me.”  (He was a small child, and evidently deemed of little value due to his size.)  “I do not think,” he continued, “I should have been of any service had freedom not come.”

But it did, finally, and never again would his value be in question. 

Today we know Richard Robert Wright as a trailblazer in American history, a significant and influential figure in education, politics, civil rights, banking, publishing, journalism, and the military. Few life stories are as dramatic, or as improbable, as his.

Early in young Wright’s life  his father, said to be a Cherokee, was killed defending himself. His mother Harriet and her three children were then sold by their owners to another family for $300 and, toward the close of the Civil War, were moved from Dalton to Cuthbert in southwest Georgia.

Richard, the eldest, had always been an inquisitive lad, with a keen mind and a passion for learning. After the war, when Harriet was told of her freedom by her master, she immediately sought ways to provide him an education.

She had heard of a new school for black children in an abandoned railway car in Atlanta nearly two hundred miles away. She finally located a man who was traveling there by wagon, and was willing to carry her two smallest children and meager belongings, while she and Richard walked alongside. In payment, she would work for a year for board only. The weary, penniless Wright family finally arrived in Atlanta, and Richard was enrolled in the Box Car School.

In 1868 Oliver O. Howard, former Union general and then commissioner of the Freedman’s Bureau, visited the school and spoke before a packed audience of black children. Following his speech, he asked what message he should carry back to the Northern children. The slight, barefoot Wright stood up and replied, “Sir, tell them we are rising.” It was a stunning summation of the hopes and dreams of many.  It would become Wright’s lifelong motto, inspire a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier (“Howard at Atlanta”), and motivate and uplift generations to come.

In 1876 Wright was graduated valedictorian of his class at Atlanta University, ultimately earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. In the same year he was married to Lydia Elizabeth Howard, a fellow Atlanta University student whose belief in hard work and education, and whose drive to overcome adversity, matched his.

Wright then returned to Cuthbert as principal of a school named for General Howard.  Before long he bought the town’s white newspaper, making it one of the first African American-owned newspapers in Georgia.  He soon discovered something very special about his news office.  “I …went back to labor in the very same town where my mother and I had been liberated only about twelve years before,” he recalled. “Imagine my surprise when one day I discovered that my newspaper office was none other than the very dining room in which our old master had announced our freedom….  I was actually in possession of the house where I had been liberated.”

Wright went on to establish Ware High School in Augusta, the first tax-supported public high school for African Americans in Georgia. He then organized the Georgia State Industrial College for Colored Youth in Savannah (now Savannah State University), and served as its president for thirty years, from 1891 to 1921. Nationally-recognized dignitaries and leaders frequently visited the college, and U.S. Presidents William McKinley and William Howard Taft addressed the students.

During his tenure at the college Wright traveled throughout the country, conferring with major leaders such as George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington, Lucy Craft Laney, Mary McLeod Bethune, Monroe Nathan Work, and Walter Barnard Hill.  Based on his investigations, he developed a curriculum that incorporated the latest innovations and progressive trends. He also founded the Georgia State Teachers Association, published their Weekly Journal of Progress, and was instrumental in organizing the National Association of Teachers in Negro Schools.

Wright served as a major in the U.S. Army during the Spanish-American War, and was appointed army paymaster by President William McKinley.  He was the first African American to hold this position and, at the time, was the nation’s highest-ranking African American military officer. He was also active in politics, and advised several U.S. presidents on the conditions of African Americans.  He was chosen a delegate four times to the Republican National Convention, and represented Georgia in the First National Conference of Colored Men.

After a long and illustrious career in the South, Wright decided in 1921, at age 67, to embark on an entirely new venture:  banking.  Over the years he had studied at a number of institutions of higher learning, including Oxford, Harvard, and Columbia Universities, and the University of Chicago.  Now, to prepare himself for his new field, he moved to Philadelphia and enrolled in the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania. With his son Richard Jr. and daughter Lillian Wright Clayton, he founded the Citizens and Southern Bank and Trust Company. Under his judicious leadership it became the largest African American-owned and operated bank in the North, and was one of the few banks to remain open during the Great Depression. In 1927, together with seventy other African American bankers, he formed the Negro Bankers Association (now the National Bankers Association) to promote cooperation, and served as its first president.

Toward the end of his life Wright embarked on one final undertaking: the creation of a national “freedom” day to memorialize the signing by President Abraham Lincoln on February 1, 1865, of the resolution to abolish slavery.  (After ratification by the states, the resolution became law on December 6, 1865, as the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.) Wright was the moving force behind the nearly decade-long effort. On June 30, 1948, President Harry Truman signed the proclamation declaring February 1 as National Freedom Day.  Its observation continues today as the first day of Black History Month.

Wright and his wife Lydia were active members in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, in which their son, Richard Jr., became a bishop. Richard Jr. also served as president of Wilberforce University in Ohio, the nation’s oldest private historically black university.  Richard Jr. and his daughter Ruth Wright Hayre both earned their Ph.D.’s at the University of Pennsylvania, becoming the first African American father and daughter to do so. Dr. Hayre became the first full-time African American teacher in the Philadelphia public school system. She served as a senior high school principal and as the first female president of the Philadelphia Board of Education. At age 80, she established a college scholarship program for underprivileged children, naming it “Tell Them We Are Rising” in honor of her grandfather.

Richard Robert Wright’s accomplishments would be considered astonishing in any era.  But in the time in which he lived, they were nothing short of phenomenal.  The chains of slavery had been broken, but few doors were open for those of his race, and few paths were smooth. That he accomplished so much, under such difficult circumstances, attests to his tenacity, his determination, and his insatiable desire for knowledge. 

The little slave child from Dalton far surpassed even his own motto, rising from slavery to freedom, from ignorance to scholarship, and from insignificance to influence.  Small wonder he found gratification in reflecting on the long journey from his humble origins. “Since [emancipation] my old master has told me that he is proud of me,” he once remarked.  “I have several times been kindly received at the old homestead where I first saw the light, near Dalton, Ga., as a little Negro slave.” Such fulfillment must have been its own greatest reward.

Wright died in 1947, at the age of ninety-two, one of the best known and most accomplished African American leaders in the country. He was a pioneer and a visionary, with boundless aspirations for himself and for his people.  Because of his life, his work, and his dreams, the generations who came after him would find many more doors open, and many paths far smoother. Because of Richard Robert Wright, rising was becoming reality.

      


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