Dateline: August 27, 2020
The American Bastile
Comments on Political Prisoners?
In the early 1970s the Alamogordo, New Mexico public library sold some old books to raise funds. I grabbed the 1875 edition of an 1869 book called, "The American Bastile," by John A. Marshall. I've finally gotten around to reading it.
This video is a Youtube animation depicting territorial changes during the American Civil War, the background event for John A. Marshall's book, "The American Bastile."
If you're wondering about that spelling of "Bastile," you're right. Marshall's spelling, with a single letter "l," is not that currently used, but is cited in the OED as a nineteenth century variant. The phrase, "American Bastile," appears in newspapers as early as 1839, and seems to have been used by Dickens in his visit to America. Ironically, it appeared in an abolitionist paper in 1860 as a metaphor for slavery. It blossomed into pro-slavery, pro-confederacy condemnations of Lincoln in about 1863, during the run up to the 1864 election. Some modern commentators call it a curious misspelling, but spelling in the nineteenth century was a free-range sport.
A quick glance told me the book was about the suspension of habeas corpus by Abraham Lincoln, and a lingering glance told me it was unsympathetic, being a compendium of case histories of people who, the book says, were arrested without cause and held without charge or recourse, during the Civil War. I planned to read it someday. It wasn't urgent.
Everyone knew about the suspension of habeas corpus. Public schools in those days taught the meaning of habeas corpus, and the fact of its suspension during the Civil War as a means of suppressing anti-war activity. Wars can't be fought with turncoats behind the lines, we learned, and, war being war, some deplorable injustices were inevitable. I always assumed the book would make that sort of argument along with detailed documentation of some of the more questionable cases.
The war-time suspension of habeas corpus has long been a subject of scholarship, often centered on the Merryman case, a review of which is a good introduction to the players and politics of the Civil War in the north. School children learn there were two sides, north and south, but there were alliances of many factions in both the north and the south, and the factions were fractious, even violent.
Lately, I've gotten around to reading the book, and making some odd discoveries. "American Bastile" is in no sense an apologia or justification for Lincoln's war-time policies. It is a polemic against Lincoln, one that on the whole resonates with the substance of John Wilkes Booth's notorious indictment, "sic semper tyrannis." I became curious about the author, John A. Marshall, and about what scholars have made of the book through the years, including what they've discovered about the people listed as political prisoners.
History, I find, is strangely understated on all these points. There were numerous John Marshalls in the nineteenth century, owing to the Chief Justice of that name, and several John A. Marshalls, but there seems to be no published and substantiated research on the man who wrote "The American Bastile." We find numerous citations of the book as historical source document, but little scholarship on the book itself, or the book's innocent prisoners.
Many authors reference the book, and recite its accusations, curiously uncurious about their authenticity. The book is cited as historical source material for condeming Lincoln's wartime policies, character and moral motivation. I find few questions about the accuracy or motivation of its claims. For example, the Maryland Historical Magazine, Winter 1970, in an article on the federal prison in Washington DC, "Old Capitol: Eminence to Infamy," by James I Robertson, Jr., footnotes Marshall's book as the source for its descriptions of the prison during the Civil War, complete down to textual use of the misspelling of "Bastile" for Bastille."
A Few Cases Histories of Lincoln's Political Prisoners, in Brief.
A shared, sometimes activist, sympathy with slavery and the Confederacy.
The book has become a little-questioned "primary" source for discovering facts about the wartime efforts of the Lincoln administration. For example the American Studies Journal, Winter 2001, offers articles on "Civil War Scholarship in the 21st Century," in which it cites Marshall's work among its "Recommended Primary Sources: For a confederate point of view…." The citation corrects Marshall's spelling of "Bastille," without comment, but incorrectly offers it as "confederate" thinking, when it was actually the work of "loyal" political partisans called Copperheads, vying for post-war power. The issue otherwise is thoroughly credible in its handling of the nuances of thought and propaganda during this horrendous period of social upheaval.
Other examples of Marshall's unchallenged historical authority include a senior thesis submitted to Georgetown University in 2017 that makes numerous references to Marshall's work, while erroneously insisting it was published in 1881, and without ever wondering if its accounts could be verified.
Another example is a thesis submitted to the University of Pittsburgh in 2009 for partial fulfillment of the Bachelor degree. It plays back Mr. Marshall's stories as "the closest thing I have to a first-hand account of the trials," while admitting nothing much is known about Mr. Marshall, except that he was terribly biased against Lincoln. Amazingly, this thesis also has Mr. Marshall's book being published in 1881, and even more amazingly, the author disclaims any awareness of the general subject, suspension of habeas corpus, prior to undertaking the thesis. The Civil War seems to have dropped out of K-12 education sometime in the last sixty years.
Revisionist historians of indignant voice seem to gravitate to this old tome to support arguments about Abe Lincoln's shortcomings and perfidy. Very seldom does anyone wonder if this John A. Marshall, of whom most have nothing to say, knew what he was talking about, or if he had motives not evident in the telling of his story. Or if he even exists.
When I first started seeking information about John A. Marshall, and found nothing credible, I began developing a theory that it was a pseudonym to protect the real author(s). In the introduction to the book is a "dialog" between "Judge H.," and "The Author." That sounds disingenuously mysterious since the author's name is on the frontispiece, but what if, I wondered, Judge H. were Judge John Marshall Harlan, and the dialog were with himself. Alas, I found that although Harlan was a southerner and had been against the emancipation proclamation, by the late 1860s he was a Republican, and he didn't become a judge until 1876.
Here's what we've been able to find. The author seems to have been a young attorney in Philadelphia, John Amos Marshall (1827-1883). He doesn't list himself as one of the state's prisoners mentioned in his book, but there is a war-time record in the OR ("The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies"), of a John A. Marshall who was detained at Old Capitol Prison, Washington DC, from January 21, 1862 to March 27, 1862 for "conveying information to insurgents." He was released on a "Parole of honor," which means he swore an oath of allegiance.
In the book the author describes himself as having been selected by an organization called "Prisoners of the State," to document some of the more egregious cases. We find from news accounts that this organization, the outgrowth of previous meetings and planning, did meet in July of 1868 at the Metropolitan Democratic Club at 32 East 14th Street in New York, chaired by Phineas C. Wright, publisher and prisoner during the war. The meeting ran concurrently with, and may have been part of, the Democratic National Convention just then in session a bit down the street on 14th.
Advertisements for the book, appearing in several newspapers, call Mr. Marshall a "prominent member of the Philadelphia Bar," and some ads mention another man as co-author, James W. Wall, who was himself one of the prisoners mentioned in the book. Wall's name disappeared from later ads.
The New York History Review's Annual Edition for 2017 includes an informative article by Lawrence S. Freund, who provides the most authoritative sounding information on Mr. Marshall and his book that I've found. Mr. Freund gives us extensive details about Marshall, his family and his life, which sound reasonable, but, unfortunately, the article cites no sources. Nevertheless, I have chosen to believe him until I find out otherwise. Freund also tells us the backstage manager of the book's collection and publication was the aforementioned Phineas C. Wright.
Freund tells us Marshall was born in Fairfield, Pennsylvania to John Marshall senior who had served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives with Thaddeus Stevens, and young John began practicing law in Philadelphia around 1854.
Freund does not tell us John A Marshall was detained during the war for spying, although war records include that name among the prisoners temporarily detained. We know there were at least two John A. Marhsalls in the Philadelphia area during the war, and that leads to confusion about which one of them did what. Freund tells us our John A. Marshall went into politics in the 1850s as a Democrat, and supporter of the Buchannan administration. Marshall, assisted by Charles Ingersoll, himself arrested for inveighing against Lincoln's war tactics, argued one of the last successful Habeas Corpus cases before the writ was suspended.
After the war Marshall involved himself with Democratic politics, endorsing the reconstruction efforts of Andrew Johnson. He continued in politics at least during the 1870s. He appears in 1872 to celebrate Independence Day by delivering an oration to the "James Page Library Company," endorsing Greeley for president. His oration seems to indicate he was among friends who supported the Democratic Party, and he was making a case for them endorsing Greeley, as an alternative to the more radical (meaning anti-slavery, and pro fomer-slave) Grant.
Marshall's book was offered by subscription only, which means it had to be purchased through sales agents. Some advertisements requested that potential agents contact the publisher, and some of them used the language "Live Democrats," in describing the kind of person they sought as agents. Most ads name the author as, "John A. Marshall, Esq., who was selected by the 'Association of State Prisoners,' to present the facts. Some ads say Marshall was an attorney in Philadelphia, some mention another author, Wall, and some imply the accounts in the book came from the people named, although none say that directly.
Praises of prominent people are included in the ads, which ran for several years. Among those endorsing it are, The newspaper, "New York World," Ex-Governor Horatio Seymor, Ex-President Fillmore (whose endorsement includes Marhsall's spelling of 'Bastile'), and Judge Black (possibly Jeremiah Sullivan Black, Pennsylvania Supreme Court and Buchannan cabinet member, or Samuel W. Black, Union Civil War General appointed U. S. Judge and Governor of Nebraska Territory by Buchannan, during which time Black vetoed the Act to Prohibit Slavery). The pattern of people proclaiming themselves fans of the book who were indifferent to slavery, or to the plight of freed slaves, is unmistakable.
Just a little more research in newspapers and other sources reveals that the organization, Prisoners of the State, was part of the Democratic Party, and of course we need to remember by the 1868 election seven of the former Confederate states had been readmitted, so we are talking about the northern and southeren democrats finding common cause.
In 1866 a delegation led by John A. Marshall of Philadelphia, visited President Andrew Johnson to commend him on his post-war policies of "restoration." Marshall is quoted as saying, "We stand by you…as conservatives rather than as partisans." Johnson replied in part, "It has been an object to find a healing plaster…[for] the body politic," by which he meant his plans to bring the southern states back into the union with little precondition. This, of course, is the policy that triggered the impeachment pursued by the "radical Republicans," meaning those that sought full citizenship for the former slaves, as a precondition of re-union.
What now comes into focus is a political publication perhaps aimed initially for the election of 1868, and subsequently used in later elections, both locally and nationally. It went through numerous reprints, right into the 1880s. "The American Bastile" is partisan advocacy designed for campaign canvassing, and disguised as history.
A few historians have shown the curiosity of deep research. One asserts Mr. Marhsall's work is largely plagiarized from an earlier polemic written by Dennis A. Mahoney, one of the prisoners Marshall memorializes, and a member of the "Prisoners' of the State" organization. Indeed Mahoney published such a book and there are word-for-word similarities in the works. In fact there were several other such publications in 1863, probably responding to the political effects of the Emancipation Proclamation.
An excellent primer on the Copperhead movement, including some information about Mahoney, is offered by David L. Lendt in a State Historical Society of Iowa publication, Fall 1970. Mr. Lendt gives us the social and economic reasons for northern opposition to abolition, tells us why Lincoln's government was concerned about a secret organization called, "The Knights of the Golden Circle," (a frequent and unexplained reference in "American Bastile"), confirms that Mahoney spent time in prison and that he published a "revenge" book, "The Prisoner of the State," which Lendt calls, "replete with historical inaccuracies, but…readable...." Lendt makes no mention of Marshall or his book.
Another article by Douglas W. Lind in "Unbound, A Review of Legal History and Rare Books," tells us about another contributor to Marshall's book named Andrew Duncan Duff, an Illinois judge who was arrested and held without formal charges. Duff, Lind tells us, was an influential thinker and doer in frontier Illinois who survived his Civil War adventures to join President Cleveland's government and spend his last days in Arizona as "Register" of the Land Office. Lind doesn't have much to add about "American Bastile," except to confirm it was "Copperhead work."
An unattributed article in a monthly publication, "Lincoln Lore," of the Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, Fort Wayne Indiana, June, 1987, is one of the few publications that asks the question, "Who wrote American Bastile?" The author doesn't give us a comprehensive answer, but does offer some information about Marshall, and points out that much of the book is nearly identical to Dennis A. Mahoney's book, The Prisoner of the State, 1863. The article is a good introduction to the historical confusions surrounding "The American Bastile."
The "Lincoln Lore" question about our book's authorship continues to intrigue. One of the prisoners cited in Marhsall's book, Frank Key Howard, grandson of Francis Scott Key, was tossed in prison for his critical editorials in a Baltimore newspaper. He published his own expose, "Fourteen Months in American Bastiles," in 1863. The "Bastile" variant makes one wonder if this is the source of Marshall's spelling, although it was not uncommon at that time.
To help extend our vision beyond modern social understandings, let's try seeing through the eyes of a Marshall contemporary, this one a misguided adventurer from England. George A. Lawrence was a gadfly former barrister with sympathies for the American South. He planned to join the Confederacy and write a book about helping to win the war.
After several blockade-running attempts he landed in jail, and was expelled across the pond. He may have been the first to invoke the French Revolution in comparing the moral cases of north and south in his 1863 book "Border and Bastille." At least he got the spelling right. You can read a short review of his book nearby. Lawrence was a defender of slavery, an admirer of the southern aristocracy, a contemptuous critic of Yankee blundering, and a thoroughly nineteenth century scribbler.
Cyphering out the nuances of politics in that age is difficult for modern minds, but a few principles can guide us. During the Civil War the north was generally united, across parties, in the goal of preserving the union. That unity of goals splintered, even in the north, over slavery. There were many in the north, mostly members of the Democratic Party, who were in favor of saving the union without tampering with slavery. Of those who didn't care for slavery, mostly Republicans, the Radical Republicans wanted outright abolition, and others called for more gradual and complicated approaches.
There was no consensus on the fate of any freed slaves. With the war over and Lincoln dead, the fault lines of politics shifted to make various accommodations, or not, with returning voters from the south. The war, and particularly the question of how to deal with the former slaves, shifted into the ballot box, and such extra-ballot measures as could be gotten away with.
We can best see John A. Marshall's book as some powerful ordnance in that new political war. Public sentiment was turning Lincoln into a legend. One way to defeat a priesthood is to discredit its patron saint.
But, what of the claims themselves? Were all those people thrown into prison without cause or recourse? Interestingly, Marshall made no such claim for himself, although someone by his name, from Philadelphia, shows up in the prison records. The records say he was arrested on suspicion of passing information to Confederate spies. That would be a good reason to arrest someone in time of war, if it's true. Marshall could have defended himself in his book, if he'd been so inclined.
The others? I'll leave to a later date, or to others, the task of an exhaustive enquiry, but we've made a start. "The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies", commonly known as the OR, is the exhaustive compilation of existing war records for north and south. It is online and searchable. It can be accessed at the link under the title block at top. We researched 14 of the 99 named prisoners in "The American Bastile," and searched the records for evidence of imprisonment. Nine of the results are discussed in popup windows above, but in summary, 4 of the 14 are listed as prisoners in the Union prison system; ten are not. The arrest of at least 2 of the 10 are mentioned in news accounts.
This is suggestive, not definitive. There were undoubtedly prisoners, and events, of the war not included in these records, and text searches can have blind spots. It does make us reticent to cite the book as an unquestioned source document. It makes us question claims, appearing in some of the more fawning secondary literature, that Marshall's book "follows along with," the records of the OR.
One notable entrant in Marshall's census is William Henry Winder, son of the General William Henry Winder whose debacle at Blandensburg led to the burning of Washington during the war of 1812. Winder the younger is prominently mentioned in the records as a serial conspirator with rebel officers, one of whom was his brother, General John Winder. Winder published his own book "Secrets of the American Bastile," 1863.
"The American Bastile" has a seductive appeal to the aspirational scholar seeking counter-culture evidence of original sin, particularly if the aspiration is little hindered by critical curiosity. But how should the rest of us approach Mr. Marshall's partisan indictment of Mr. Lincoln? Surely we admire his passionate outrage in defense of due process. Surely we admire his unflinching pursuit of liberty. Surely we are also mindful of his lamentable blind-spot at the exact place where fifteen percent of the nation's population was standing.
Who cares about political prisoners?
My copy of "American Bastile" is from the nineteenth edition, printed in 1875. I speculate it was purchased only once prior to me getting it in a library sale in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Inside the front cover is a label declaring the book the property of Clinton Wunder. On the next page is a stamped name, Boyd Wunder, and archived within the pages are flyers for the 1886 candidacy of Samuel Wunder, a local butcher running for Cincinnati city council. The three Wunders are father, son and grandson.
The flyer makes a plea for ballot splitting, calling for the election of the best man regardless of party, but newspapers of the time identify Samuel Wunder as a Democrat. That's presumably why he bought Mr. Marshall's book. Samuel's brother, Daniel, was also a local politician, office holder, also a Democrat. In one news account of the day someone suggested Daniel might run as a "Black Republican," meaning one who favored full citizenship for ex-slaves, and Daniel denied it. We can assume the Wunder boys were Copperheads.
Clinton Wunder (1893-1975) was living in Alamogordo, New Mexico when he passed away. As I remember, he donated some books to the Alamogordo Public Library, and they included this one in a fund-drive sale. I became the second person to purchase the book, just after the 100th anniversary of its original publication.
The book was in deplorable shape, and I've since reduced its antique value with some duct tape repairs, but it's all there, every inflammatory, outraged syllable. John A Marshall, or whoever it was that assembled this publication, blazes from the pages with exclamatory self-righteousness. As he demands the birthright freedoms of all Americans, we twenty-first century readers must fully agree with his theory, but ever wonder at the great blind spot in his worldview for the place where nearly 15 percent of the nation's population was standing in plain sight.
Clinton Wunder, by the way, was one of those only-in-America success stories, whose life deserves its own niche in the attic. He started in Cincinnati like his two ancestors, but went far and wide in a lively and full life. He saw overseas action in both world wars in two different branches of the military, became a religious leader with a doctorate in divinity, taught for Dale Carnegie, dabbled in politics, and helped found the Gerald Champion Memorial Hospital in Alamogrodo, NM.
We can only wonder what Clinton's grandfather, Samuel Wunder, original purchaser of this condemnation of the champion of the thirteenth amendment, would have made of his grandson's politics. Clinton Wunder was a Republican, supporting the party of Lincoln, the keeper of Marshall's Bastile.
General Henry Carrington, in a war dispatch from Indiana, on 16 August, 1864, named L. P. Milligan, Huntington, Indiana, as a member of a "secret order (Sons of Liberty), urging resistance to the Government," during a time when "rough men" were gathering for a suspected raid to "seize the arsenals here and liberate the prisoners."
General Hovey, commander of the Indiana Military district ordered the arrest, on 17 September 1864, of Milligan and several other alleged members of this organization. One escaped to Canada, some were released, but three, Milligan, who was a local attorney, Stephen Horsey, and William Bowles, were tried by a military commission for conspiring to free confederate soldiers from northern prisons and incite an armed insurrection to invade Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky. They were found guilty and sentenced to hang.
After Lincoln's assassination, the three men filed for a writ of habeas corpus, and while it was being considered President Johnson commuted their sentences to life imprisonment. The case reached the U. S. Supreme Court where the prosecuting team included General Benjamin Butler, a complicated mixture of anti-war Democrat, anti-Semite, and author of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 allowing suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in cases involving the southern terroist organization. Milligan's defense team included Games A Garfield, and Jeremiah Black, former cabinet officer of Buchanan's pre-war presidency.
The court freed Milligan who then sued for damages. The defense hired future president Benjamin Harrison, who argued Milligan was a traitor, but the Indiana jury found for Milligan, who collected five dollars plus court costs.
Mr. Marshall's story about Reverend K. J. Stewart is so compelling it gets reproduced numerous times, with appropriate outrage and accusation, and inappropriate curiosity. He was doing his duty, we are told, during the fall of 1861, conducting church services at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Alexandria, VA, when provocateurs from the Union Army dragged him out of the church, prying his fingers from the chancery, because he failed to pray for President Lincoln. It was a veritable reign of terror. Reverend Stewart, we are assured, was a loyal citizen exercising his right to freedom of religion. What an outrage. After his release, almost immediately, we learn, he became a model citizen.
Who was K. J. Stewart, and what really became of him? He was born Kensey Johns Stewart, 12 Mar 1817, on the family plantation in New Castle, Delaware, to David Stewart and Susannah Johns, named for his maternal grandfather Kensey Johns III, a revolutionary war soldier, Chief Justice of Delaware and friend of George Washington. His first name came from Elizabeth Kensey who married Richard Johns in 1710.
Reverend K. J. Stewart, born into the slave-owning aristocracy, was married to Hannah Lee, a cousin of Robert E. Lee. Shortly after the incident at St. Pauls, Reverend Stewart appeared in Canada as a Confederate agent, and in North Carolina as Confederate Chaplain to the North Carolina 6th Regiment. He authored a still available series of texts called the Palmetto series that included a famous Geography book that included an aspirational history of the Confederacy (and ignored the presidency of Abraham Lincoln). He also authored a prewar Masonic Manual for initiates.
Records of the confederacy that came to light after the war included correspondence from Reverend Stewart that marked him as a Confederate spy, operating out of Canada, and apparently involved in a lot of mischief. Some modern historians have reviewed his actions for possible complicity in the various kidnapping conspiracies that eventually enabled John Wilkes Booth.
In his post-war days Reverend Stewart embroiled himself in political battles within the church that seemed to have his financial interests at their heart. He seems to have lost an eye somewhere along the way, and that led to him retiring early with a stipend from church donors. He died with little fanfare in 1902.
With more of the story visible, much remains out of sight, we might be justified in wishing the federal government had been a little more fastidious in making a case against Mr. Stewart when he was within their grasp. He doesn't fit into a "Bastile" narrative, his case has nothing to do with habeas corpus, and, of course, at the time of the incident he was a citizen of an occupied portion of the Confederacy.
NB: There were several Kensey Johns Stewarts in the second half of the 19th century. Our K. J. Stewart's brother named his son Kensey John, and he passed the name on to his son. They all took DD degrees and became Reverend K. J. Stewart, and sometimes involved themselves in newsworthy activities. Most of these stories after the 1870s do not apply to the Confederate agent Stewart.
This is a view of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in occupied Alexandria, circa 1862.
We have three sources of contemporary information about Mrs. Mary B. Morris, plus some genealogical data. Most prominently we have the writing of John A. Marshal, countered by the equally unsubstantiated metaphor and metonymy of one Dr. I Winslow Ayer, a witness against Mr. and Mrs. Morris and others. Dr. Ayer's book, openned to Mrs. Morris' confession, is linked at left. Scroll down to access the rest of the book. For a sympathetic understanding of Ayer, a remarkable example of a 19th century American archetype, see the graduate student's project linked at left.
For another view of Ayer see an article in the Indiana Magazine of History, September 1918, by Mayo Fesler. Mr. Fesler, DePaul University, and University of Chicago, was a municipal reformer and author. His discussion of the Sons of Liberty, Knights of the Golden Circle and others is linked nearby. Fesler characterizes Ayer as, "…a street agent for a patent medicine….Ayer's account of the plotting of the Sons of Liberty, when measured by the testimony of other witnesses who were thoroughly acquainted with the facts, seems distorted and unreliable."
Mary Prudence Blackburn married Buckner S. Morris 25 Nov 1855. She was born in Woodford County Kentucky 11 July 1819, and died in Jefferson County, Kentucky 18 October 1884. During the Civil War she and Judge Morris were living in Chicago. They were both reportedly members of the Sons of Liberty, an allegedly seditious organization planning insurrection in support of the Confederacy.
Judge Morris was arrested and imprisoned for conspiring to free prisoners from Fort Douglas, but was eventually acquitted by a military court. The experience ruined him financially, and he lost most of his property. His wife, Mrs. Mary Blackburn Morris was also arrested, on evidence of the same informants, but was released after confessing that she'd aided escaped prisoners. She was unquestionably guilty. She confessed as much in later years in a letter to Mrs. Fannie Beers, as reported in her memoir, "A Record of Personal Experience and Adventure During the Four Years of War (see excerpt right or link at left for entire memoir).
Mrs. Morris, not unlike Mrs. Lincoln, had relatives in the south. Her brother Luke was a physician in the service of the Confederacy, often working out of Canada, and involved in blockade running. After the war he was tried and acquitted of conspiring to incite insurrection, and in particular of involvement in a failed attempt to spread Yellow Fever throughout New England. Historians still differ on his involvement in Confederate plans to kidnap Lincoln. After the war he was elected Governor or Kentucky, during which time he appointed his brother James as Secretary of State. James was a captain in the Confederate army, and for a year a prisoner of war. After the war James helped draft a new Kentucky constitution in 1890.
Buckner Stith Morris (August 19, 1800 – December 16, 1879), born in Kentucky, was the ex-mayor of Chicago, served as Circuit Judge in the 1850s, and in 1864 was named by informants as a member of the Sons of Liberty. The phrase, "To hell in a hand basket," is said to have appeared in print for the first time as a quote placed in Judge Morris' mouth by patent medicine agent Dr. I Winslow Ayer in his hyperbolic expose of Confederate insurrection, "The Great North-Western Conspiracy in All Its Startling Details," (can you feel the P. T. Barnum hucksterism?). In "Doctor" Ayer's book, a historical source document of about the same quality as Marshall's book, he has Judge Morris proclaiming, "Thousands of our best men were prisoners in Camp Douglas, and if once at liberty would 'send abolitionists to hell in a hand basket.'"
NB: Of Mrs. Morris, Mrs. Beers (see memoir nearby) has the following to say:
Her sympathies, always Southern, became strongly enlisted upon the side of the unfortunate prisoners at Camp Douglas. Both Judge Morris and his wife were deeply implicated in the plot to release these men. Their home in Chicago was a place of secret rendezvous for Southerners who, in the interest of these prisoners, were secretly visiting Chicago.
By some means constant communication with the prisoners was established, and if they still suffered horribly, hope revived among them for a while, and her blessed presence lightened their burdens. Mrs. Morris well knew that by implicating herself in the plot she was placing herself and husband in a position to suffer in their own persons and property in case of failure. Death would be the most probable consequence. Yet she risked it all. To use her own words, copied from a letter which I received from her shortly before her death,
"I did help my suffering, starving countrymen, who were subjected to the horrors of Camp Douglas. I loved them with all the sympathy and pride of a mother, and I did spend upon them every dollar of my own money and as much of my husband's as I could get by fair means or foul in my hands.
"At the close of the war we found ourselves broken in health and fortune, but my husband had still enough left for our support; but the great Chicago fire swept our all away.
"Should my health improve, I wish to make an effort to send you a fuller account, and to add my small morsel of praise to the gallantry and patient endurance of the most bitter and maddening trials that men were ever called upon to endure.
"One unselfish action I would like to have recorded of a member of J.H. Morgan's command, the same to which my dear friend Colonel B.F. Forman belonged, and he can tell you how proud all Kentucky was of her brave boys. This is what I wish to write, because I like to have every noble deed recorded. After my good brother, Ex-Governor Blackman (who has administered medicine whenever I needed it), removed to Tennessee, and I felt the attack coming on from which I have so long and so severely suffered, I applied to Dr. R. Wilson Thompson for medical advice, and, receiving it, put my hand in my pocket. He said, almost sternly, 'No, no, Mrs. Morris, do not attempt that; you cannot do it,' and, rising abruptly, left the house. Returning the second day, he said, 'I fear you did not understand me, Mrs. Morris: I feel as every Confederate soldier feels, or ought to feel,—that he could never do enough for you; we could never receive pay from you for anything.' And so for the last five months he, although like many of our brave boys has had many hardships to endure, and his constitution shattered, has come through snow and sleet night and day to minister to the relief of an old woman who only did her duty to him and his people twenty long years ago. How few remember to be grateful so long! Present my best love to my old friend B.F. Forman. I remain always your friend and well-wisher,
"Mrs. Mary B. Morris
"Spring Station, Kentucky."
Now comes an intriguing Marshall-touted victim, Hiram Wentworth. Unlike many other Bastile citizens, he speaks to us via letter in his own voice. And what a voice, allusively illusive, flamboyant, righteously humble, indomitable, sometimes in rhyme. It's a distinctive voice we will hear again.
Hiram Wentworth enlisted in the Union Army August 21, 1861 at Fort Snelling, Minnesota. Records place his birth in Maine about 1829, say he was discharged for "inability," and was later held as a political prisoner at Fort Delaware. A story in the Buffalo Courier of December 15, 1862 includes him in a list of political prisoners, "…arrested on the most frivolous charges…" He appears on the roll of prisoners at Fort McHenry in August 1862.
Tracing him is complicated by several Hiram Wentworths being born in Maine about the same time. Our Hiram left colorful tracks in the press. In fact he was a journeyman printer for many years, and a writer. The "jour" printer was a specimen of the nineteenth century, traveling, footloose, and sometimes with multiple families.
We get our first good look at him from a news article appearing in the Pittsburgh Daily Post on January 31, 1863 (linked nearby). We learn he was born in Maine, was working in Dallas when the war started (the census places him there in 1860), was arrested at least three times as a Yankee spy while working in the Confederacy, got through the lines and enlisted in Minnesota. He was dishonorably discharged for refusing to have his hair cut, it is described as long and flowing, and then jailed for making seditious statements to someone. That's when he wrote the letter we see in Marshall's book.
The Pittsburgh article says to avoid arrest again he, "suddenly took his departure for the West—hair and all." We may come to believe he wrote this article himself. In fact we find a Hiram Wentworth in the west, and as we follow his tracks, we find he is Marshall's political prisoner. In 1868 he wrote a letter to the Wheeling Virginia Daily Register in support of woman suffrage but denouncing universal suffrage, because he opposed the black vote, a common Copperhead sentiment. We won't reproduce the letter, but you can look it up. His views, common in that day, don't need airing in ours.
Writing to the newspaper was a Wentworth custom. In 1858 Hiram Wentworth advertised for a wife in the New York Omnibus, was rebuked for the same, and sent a blistering reply very much in the style and voice we associate with the long-haired political prisoner (letter is linked at left). In it you will find his trademark phrasing, unhinged lexicon, too-sly-by-half understatement, and doggerel verse.
After the 1868 letter about woman suffrage, Hiram Wentworth wrote to a young woman, Edna Bower, who'd attempted suicide. He advised against her action and proposed marriage. We read about it in news accounts from Santa Cruz, Sacramento, and Fort Stockton in November, 1885. This Hiram Wentworth described himself as, "…a sober, industrious man of about 55 with a ranch in the mountains, near Gilroy." The Santa Cruz Surf wondered if it was the same Hiram Wentworth "who advertised in our local papers so much several years ago." He shows up on the voter rolls in San Francisco and Santa Clara from 1869 to 1890, and in 1886 the San Franciso Examiner published a letter from Hiram Wentworth of Gilroy, California to president Grover Cleveland. The letter is an appeal for justice, in the voice we recognize from his Bastile letter, asking for assistance in shoring up a claim to land on Mount Madonna. He says he's been squatting on the government land for 13 years, has filed homestead claims, and has been thwarted by a land developer named Henry Miller. He gives his personal history, which includes a stint in the Army and as a "political prisoner." He directs the president to turn his ranch into a "free government park," if he dies before securing title. The amazing letter marks him as the Bastile Wentworth and is linked nearby.
On February 23, 1886, at age 56, Wentworth married Etta L. Conrad, a 36-year old Canadian, in Santa Barbara. It may not have gone well. In 1887 he published an astonishing bit of fiction/doggerel called, "Sold by his Wife in Mexico!" and he calls himself, "The Bard of Mount Madonna." It is linked nearby, available after all these years through Internet magic, and demands a read. It's short. Readers will recognize the familiar voice, and recall Wentworth's love of long hair when they read about him again escaping, "the shears." It features a picture of a woman, see nearby and on the main page, who, one assumes, was his wife, Etta Conrad Wentworth.
After the crowning achievement of his book publication, which seems to be marking some sort of matrimonial defeat, the trail goes poof. In 1896 an odd story appears in the Gilroy Telegram, picked up by others, "Hiram Wentworth, the 'Poet of Mount Madonna,'" we read, "has turned up at Atchison, Kan., in the role of a healer, and a phalanx of cures attest to the efficacy of his curative powers. The divine spirit was probably generated on the 'Mount' while he lived in this community." We can divine from this that Wentworth had not been seen around Gilroy for a while, but was remembered.
Following the trail to Atchison Kansas seems productive at first. What a delicious thought, Wentworth a Kansas medicine man. There was indeed a Hiram Wentworth living there, Hiram H. Wentworth, commonly referred to as H. H. Wentworth, and he was a spiritual healer, credited with long distance curative powers, for which he either took no payment, or small payment, stories differed, and he had long hair. Alas, H. H. Wentworth had been living in Atchison for years, was one of the old timers who'd been knocking around doing this and that, until, miraculously, someone thought to publicize his healing powers, around 1895. He was compared to another prominent faith healer of the time named Schlatter, who'd evidently just gone missing. It was a national sensation and poor Wentworth, a Christian Scientist, was burdened with appeals for healing from all over the country. He was about 25 years older than Bastile Wentworth.
Who invented the story of the Gilroy Wentworth being the Atchison Wentworth? What became of the Gilroy Wentworth? We know our Hiram Wentworth was a "jour printer," meaning a day-laboring printer who moved around from job to job. We know it was a common profession in those days, a sort of brotherhood, like hoboing, and that our Wentworth had a knack for getting his flamboyant writings into print. It's easy to imagine him going to his friends in the newspaper business and getting them to print his work for its sensational value.
We find a Hiram Wentworth, born in Maine about 1830, occupation "printer," living in Boston in 1900. He gets run over by an electric trolley in 1910 and winds up widowed in an old folks home. Alas, he seems to have been in Boston for decades and had married a Jane Dodge back in 1860, but he was probably also a writer. A verse he probably wrote is linked nearby. A Hiram B. Wentworth sails from San Francisco to Hawaii in 1899, billing himself as a machinist, and dies there July 27, 1900. Curiously, his death is listed among patients at the Kalaupapa Leper Hospital, and records indicate he'd been there since November 29, 1890, apparently a member of staff. News accounts have him in Hawaii in 1885. Even more curiously, Hiram H. Wentworth, Machinist, appears in the roll of Kansas immigrants settled near Topeka by the New England Emigrant Aid Company in 1855. He's not our man. The trail runs cold, our Hiram Wentworth vanished.
His wife reappears using her maiden name, and lives into the twentieth century. Amazingly, she appears in the Kansas Historical Society rolls as having a death claim against something called the Knights and Ladies of Security Benefit Association, on July 30, 1919, from Santa Cruz, California.
There is a touching legacy. Mount Madonna, following Wentworth's instructions, but probably not influenced by them, has become a county park, not quite free, and furthermore, almost all descriptions of it include some variation of the provocative factoid, " A late 1800’s resident of the mountain, the recluse pioneer and poet Hiram Wentworth, has been given credit for naming the 1,897-foot peak “Madonna” after the Italian name for the Virgin Mary." Wentworth's nemesis in his letter to President Cleveland, Henry Miller, gets a broader mention in most accounts.
We find no record of General William Brindle's arrest outside the pages of Marshall's book, and those secondary histories that footnote it as a source. We don't find his name among the prisoners mentioned in the OR (Official records of the War), nor in news accounts of that time or later, nor in any of the biographical sketches of General Brindle. He lived a public life, was active in politics, and figures in other news accounts.
He was a Democrat, appointed to the office of Land Receiver in Kansas by Buchannan, is remembered as staunchly pro-slavery, and enters history as a defender of fair elections in the infamous "Calhoun Candle-box" affair in 1858. A Kansas Historical Society essay, linked at left, gives an overview of this lapse of voter niceties, and a news account from after the war, also linked at left, gives a more colorful view, including General Brindle's heroic efforts to preserve democracy. In brief, pro-slavery delegate John Calhoun maneuvered the convention toward a pro-slavery constitution, topping his efforts by hiding some anti-slavery votes under a woodpile inside a candle box. Brindle, although pro-slavery, was also honest, and, on a tip from old "Dutch Charlie," who'd witnessed the woodpile incident, arranged a search warrant for the woodpile. Fairness was restored. It's a good story, but at no time in its telling, or at any other time, does anyone allude to General Brindle's arrest.
The best argument for believing the arrest happened is General Brindle's silence. He died in 1902, was active in politics and public life when Marshall's book came out, was known for his scrupulous honesty, and yet never suggested in anything that comes down to us, that Marshall's story was untrue. He was active in the Democrat party, and must have been aware of "The American Bastile," and must have known he was one of its star witnesses. If the story were not true we must assume he would have said something. He was not bashful about riding high principle, and honesty was one of his major hobbles as a politician. He said nothing, and yet he makes an unlikely victim of Marshall's police state, being as he was, a champion of free Kansas.
Marshall reports his arrest to have been brief, and offers no indication it was ordered from Washington. In fact his description of Brindle's arrest is hazy. He was quickly released. Rather than being part of some police-state dragnet, it sounds more like local sore-settling by some tiny tyrant, quickly overturned when real authority got involved.
Should we believe Marshall's story? If it's true, then another pro-slavery victim of the Bastile is chalked up.
Charles Ingersoll's Civil War saga recalls one of those cautionary themes school children associate with Robespierre: master of the mob consumed by the mob. In 1859 Charles Ingersoll, anti-abolitionist, helped organize a mob in Philadelphia to suppress by intimidation a speech by abolitionist George W. Curtis. It took 500 policemen to preserve Mr. Curtis' freedom of speech. Five years later, after Lincoln's assassination, Charles' brother Edward Ingersoll was harassed by a mob after a speech sympathetic to the Confederacy, denouncing the public debt. He defended himself by waving a pistol, was arrested and carted to jail. Charles attempted to visit him, was recognized by the mob and severely beaten. The police saved Charles' life, his brother was released, and the two of them left town. At least they weren't guillotined.
Between these two excursions into the mob, the Ingersolls' politics of sympathy for slave owners entered the national stage. Charles and Edward's father, Charles Jared Ingersoll, advocated "conciliation" not "compulsion" as the only way of preserving the union. The elder Ingersoll blamed secession on the abolitionists, and tried to enlist the living ex-presidents in designing a compromise. The effort failed when Martin Van Buren and Buchannan declined involvement.
In 1862 Charles the younger wrote "A letter to a Friend in a Slave State," opposing the war as a means of saving the union. It was published in the Philadelphia Democrat and became a defining instrument in the 1862 elections, rallying Democrats against Lincoln. Ingersoll's stated intent was to throw the Republicans out of office as the only means of preserving the union. His sentiments were well received in Philadelphia, a city characterized by Frederick Douglas with, "There is not perhaps anywhere to be found a city in which prejudice against color is more rampant than Philadelphia."
Charles Ingersoll attended a mass rally of Democrats in August 1862, at which they adopted resolutions supporting the war and condemning secession. They also condemned the Lincoln practice of arbitrary arrests, and opposed emancipation and abolition. He gave a speech denouncing Lincoln's conduct of the war, and accused his administration of corruption and profiteering in language so blunt many in the audience considered it extreme. He was arrested for giving aid and comfort to the enemy, among other things. After some intricate "lawyering" the charges were dropped, to the relief of many Republicans, who considered them unjustified.
Mr. Marshall's chapter on Charles and Edward Ingersoll brings us the 1865 mob action, not the more legitimate complaint about Charles' arrest in 1862 for strident electioneering, nor any hint of mob-victim Charles' earlier efforts as mob-organizer. We're told the police arrested gun-toting Edward, and did little to protect Charles, simply because they were political enemies of the late president. Perhaps, but the case doesn't involve the habeas corpus theme, nor the intervention of Marshall's bête noir, Seward. It occurred during the assassination hysteria, when speaking ill of Lincoln was an imprudent test of free speech.
At the end of Marshall's Ingersoll chapter we read what he may have assumed would generate everlasting outrage in his readers, and perhaps revealed his real motivation. He quotes the City Council on their belief that the Ingersoll case was less important than that of a "negro…more entitled to respect than such a man as Charles Ingersoll." That was Marshall's get-off-the-stage indictment of the Ingersoll's political enemies.
James Walter Wall (May 28, 1819- 9 June 1872) was a lawyer in Trenton and Burlington, New Jersey, a Democrat, and the son of Senator Garret Wall. He became Mayor of Burlington in 1850, ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1854, and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention from New Jersey in 1860.
In 1861 Wall was an editor of the New York Daily News, a Democratic newspaper hostile to Lincoln. The paper was closed and Wall thrown in prison. He was released in two weeks after pledging allegiance to the Union, and returned to New Jersey in victory, giving along the way a self-congratulatory speech. He was criticized nationally for his anti-emancipation stance, but became a martyr to the Peace Democrats' cause.
In 1863, as part of a fulminating response to the Emancipation Proclamation, the New Jersey legislature selected him to fill out the term of a deceased Senator, and forwarded him to Washington along with the New Jersey Peace Resolutions, which denounced emancipation and called for peace negotiations with the Confederacy. The resolutions were ineffective, and Wall was not reelected. At least some of his constituents appreciated his style. The Democratic Club of Delaware Township called his "short, but brilliant career…honorable to himself, useful to his State, and satisfactory to his constituents," and called on him to, "bide his time," for his eventual reward.
This same Democratic Club of Delaware Township provides useful insight into the thinking of Lincoln's opponents in the north, and makes us understand how delicate was the coalition Old Abe steered toward the preservation of the Union, and the abolition of slavery. It also reveals the seeds that germinated into the conflicts following the war that boiled into our present moment. A history blogger named Marfy Goodspeed, gives us the specifics in a nearby link.
In 1864 Wall was revealed to be involved in arms sales to the Indiana insurrectionist Clement L. Valandigham through Daniel W. Vorhees. Letters from him were discovered and published that seemed to offer twenty thousand Garibaldi Rifles, from a Philadelphia dealer, to various insurrectionist plots festering across the Midwest.
Unlike some of Marshall's victims, James W. Wall is well represented in the Official War Records (OR), with letters from him and various other people, including Seward. They have quite a lot to say about his arrest in 1861, pro and con. The records are linked nearby, and you can look him up. There seem to be no OR entries about Wall's involvement in gun sales, but they were reported in the newspapers at the time.
Wall seems to have faded out of the spotlight at the end of the war. He went back to lawyering in Elizabeth, NJ, and passed away in 1872.
What should we make of James W. Wall? Opinions differ. Various blogs and writers find things in Mr. Wall and his comrades to admire. See the Abbeville Institute for a less unfavorable, historical take on the Copperheads. "Goodspeed Histories," see nearby, tells us, "James W. Wall was one of the most outspoken, hot-headed opponents of the war, publishing his views in newspapers and in speeches."
Michael Burlingame in "Abraham Lincoln: A Life," has this to say about Wall.
Further enhancing the Republicans’ chances was the blundering leadership of the Democratic party. As T. J. Barnett told a leading New York Democrat, “the partizans are carping & yelling about dead issues, or the secondary one of Constitutional law.”
In Washington, leading opponents of the administration were “selfish & unworthy!” They should stop criticizing Lincoln personally, stop harping on the race issue, and stop acting in such a partisan manner. “The hatchet must be buried with Mr Lincoln, on the War question,” Barnett counseled. The “Democracy must stand like Ate with her hound-furies, under the flag and by the side of its constituted authorities.”
As it was, the Democrats did not seem like “a grand loyal Union party.” Barnett was right. The Democrats sorely missed the leadership of Stephen A. Douglas, whose unalloyed Unionism contrasted sharply with the negativism of so many other party spokesmen. Plaintively Barnett expressed the hope that the Democrats would “discard such oracles as Fernando Wood, James Brooks, & [Charles] Ingersoll, and [James W.] Wall, and Vallandigham, and [Daniel] Voorhees.”
Historian Joseph Bilby has this biography of Wall on Facebook.
James Walter Wall was born in Trenton on May 26, 1820, the son of prominent New Jersey politician and U. S. Senator Garret Dorset Wall. After graduating from Princeton, he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1841. Wall moved to Burlington, New Jersey, in 1847 and was elected mayor there in 1850. After declining a Democratic Party nomination for Congress in 1850, he ran unsuccessfully for a congressional seat in 1854.
Wall attended the 1860 Democratic convention in Charleston, South Carolina as a New Jersey delegate and supporter of Southern candidate Vice President James C. Breckinridge. An outspoken critic of the Union cause from the very outset of the war, he wrote inflammatory articles in Copperhead newspapers.
On September 11, 1861, Wall was dragged kicking and screaming out of his house by a posse of U. S. marshals and Burlington police. He went down hard, tossing one officer across the room and knocking another unconscious. Never formally charged, Wall was offered release after two weeks upon signing a loyalty oath and quickly complied, but later complained bitterly of “the wrong and outrage” inflicted upon him by the government. At home, he proclaimed himself “armed to the teeth,” and threatened that another incident would result in “a dead marshal on my doorstep.”
Following the death of New Jersey U.S. Senator John R. Thomson in office in 1863, Wall was elected by the state’s legislature to fill out the six-week remainder of Thomson’s term, even though his extremism did not reflect the mainstream party view. In a speech in Philadelphia on his way to Washington, Wall told his audience that he was going to fight for “those great principles of liberty…which are embodied in the amendments to the Constitution of the United States, every one of which, I am sorry to say, has been trampled under foot by the present Administration.”
Dismissing the moral aspect of human slavery, Wall, like many Copperheads, chose to characterize it as a local private-property issue viewed through a lens of inherently racist assumptions. During his brief tenure, he posited in a speech on the senate floor that abolition would result in “a white nation, which lost its liberties and its name in endeavoring to give freedom to the black and inferior race.”
Historian William Gillette has characterized Wall’s mini-term as “brief and insignificant,” and he was replaced by wealthy Newark harness manufacturer William Wright, a less polarizing choice. After his brief and bombastic strut across the national stage, James W. Wall returned to relative obscurity and the practice of law. He moved to Elizabeth in 1869 and died there on June 9, 1872. He is buried in Saint Mary’s Episcopal Churchyard in Burlington."
John A. Marshall is correct that Wall was unceremoniously tossed into prison, held without charge, and finally released. He was undoubtedly handled roughly, and his imprisonment was harsh, very likely. If you're happy to live in a country that continues to value freedom, in all its meanings, and a country that helped the world abandon its ancient acceptance of slavery, perhaps you're happy James W. Wall did not prevail, and Lincoln did.
Francis (Frank) Key Howard (October 25, 1826-May 29, 1872) the grandson of Francis Scott Key, was the editor of the Daily Exchange, a Baltimore newspaper sympathetic to the Confederacy. He was the son of Charles Howard, Francis Scott Key's son, and he had five brothers fighting for the Confederacy.
When Francis Scott Key watched the bombardment of Fort McHenry from the British ship HMS Tonnant in Baltimore Harbor, September 13-14, 1814, he was moved to compose the Star Spangled Banner. He could not have imagined his grandson, Francis Key Howard, would be arrested exactly 47 years later and confined in that same fort. The incident is compelling metaphor for the paradox-like contradictions of America's Civil War.
High-sounding rhetoric, and irrefutable principles were belched out on both sides of America's great paroxysm, with the usual human mix of sincerity and cynicism. The balance tips toward the verdict of history on the fulcrum of personal identity, the way we define our mortal coterie, whether family, tribe, nationality, religion, race, species or life-state.
Lincoln and his cabinet considered Maryland, and Baltimore in particular, to be a bastion of secessionist sentiment, and they were not wrong in their assessment. Howard was one of many, including the Mayor of Baltimore, and several members of Congress, who were arrested for supporting the Confederacy. The Philadelphia Inquirer called Howard's newspaper a "secession sheet," and several news accounts called the arrested people secessionists. Accusations are not proof, but these points are cited to help acclimate us to the moment. Guns were being fired in extreme anger, and nobody wanted to be shot in the back.
Mr. Howard was held at Fort McHenry for just over a year, after which he published a book, "Fourteen Months in American Bastiles." It was published in 1863, while the war was still blazing, and the booksellers were themselves arrested. It might be the first published comparison of Lincoln's wartime arrests to the French Bastille. It may be the source of Marshall's spelling.
After his brush with history during the early years of the war, Mr. Howard went on with his political struggles, continued in the newspaper business, apparently did a little farming, and lived on into the 1870s. He seems to have developed a health problem that drove him to Europe where he died in 1872.
His difficulties with Lincoln arose from his support for the Confederacy, and his abhorrence of including former slaves in the body politic of America. His son appears in a few news articles of the latter 19th century as a competitive walker, a popular sport of that time, and even in that sport, there were a few people evidently accusing him of corruption.
Mr. Marshall's account of Francis Key Howard is drawn from his book, see the nearby link. His arrest is amply documented in the official war records (OR linked nearby). Also nearby are a few other related links and new accounts.
Franz Schubert : The Trout (Die Forelle)