Friday, May 29, 2015

May 27, 1861 - W.H. Russell and the Countdown to Bull Run

William Howard Russell, the first great war correspondent, became an important contact for British Consul Robert Bunch, "Our Man in Charleston." 

The reporter for the Times of London landed in the United States in March of 1861, met Lincoln, Seward and other dignitaries in Washington, then proceeded to South Carolina, just missing the bombardment of Sumter, before touring much of the rest of the new Confederacy. 

On this site we will be excerpting passages from Bunch's letters and from Russell's private journals and his book My Diary North & South up through his famous report on the Battle of Bull Run, or First Manassas, on July 21, 1861, and on through the summer. 

Our Man in Charleston: Britain's Secret Agent in the Civil War South will be published July 21, 2015.

* * *

In late May, after meeting Jefferson Davis in the makeshift Confederate capital of Montgomery, Alabama, and taking a riverboat to Mobile where he encountered the last man known to have imported African slaves to the United States, Russell arrived in New Orleans.

May 27th. I visited several of the local companies, their drill-grounds and parades; but few of the men were present, as nearly all are under orders to proceed to the camp at Tangipao or to march to Richmond. Privates and officers are busy in the sweltering streets purchasing necessaries for their journey. As one looks at the resolute, quick, angry faces around him, and hears but the single theme, he must feel the South will never yield to the North, unless as a nation which is beaten beneath the feet of a victorious enemy.

In every State there is only one voice audible. Hereafter, indeed, state jealousies may work their own way; but if words mean anything, all the Southern people are determined to resist Mr. Lincoln s invasion as long as they have a man or a dollar. Still, there are certain hard facts which militate against the truth of their own assertions, "that they are united to a man, and prepared to fight to a man." Only 15,000 are under arms out of the 50,000 men in the State of Louisiana liable to military service. " 

Charges of "abolitionism" appear in the reports of police cases in the papers every morning; and persons found guilty, not of expressing opinions against slavery, but of stating their belief that the Northerners will be successful, are sent to prison for six months. The accused are generally foreigners, or belong to the lower orders, who have got no interest in the support of slavery. 

The moral suasion of the lasso, of tarring and feathering, head-shaving, ducking, and horseponds, deportation on rails, and similar ethical processes are highly in favor. As yet the North have not arrived at such an elevated view of the necessities of their position.

The New Orleans papers are facetious over their new mode of securing unanimity, and highly laud what they call "the course of instruction in the humane institution for the amelioration of the condition of Northern barbarians and abolition fanatics, presided over by Professor Henry Mitchell," who, in other words, is the jailer of the work-house reformatory.

 * * *

Every night since I have been in New Orleans there have been one or two fires; to-night there were three, one a tremendous conflagration. When I inquired to what they were attributable, a gentleman who sat near me bent over and, looking me straight in the face, said in a low voice, "The slaves."

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