Rev. Clement M. Butler, D. D., On the “Manacle” Story and Public Sentiment After the Battle

31 01 2013

The “Manacle” Story,

We copy from the Protestant Churchman, published in New York, the following letter from Rev. Clement M. Butler, D. D., Rector of Trinity Church, Washington:

Some recent travelers announce that it is generally believed in the Confederate States than Gen. Scott was killed and the battle of Bull Run, and that the late Congress was held in Philadelphia. These are specimens of the singular delusions with regard to glaring facts, which prevail at the South. We cannot put down all these misapprehensions to the account of willful falsehood, for many of them prevail among good men known and honored and beloved in all the churches. I will mention a single case.

It has not been thought necessary here at the North to deny the story that manacles to the number of 6, or 20, or 30,000, were taken with Gen. McDowell’s army, for the purpose of being placed upon the citizens of the Southern States. Yet, the story is believed in the South, no, of course, by the political and military leaders, (for they invent it,) nor only by the ignorant whites, who have been long trained to credit all sorts of Northern atrocities, but by profound Doctors of Divinity of Northern birth and constant Northern associations, and who might therefore be supposed to doubt whether our Government, at a single leap, had passed far beyond the bounds of an Austrian or Neapolitan despotism.  Our good brother, Dr. Andrews of Shepherdstown, in an address prepared for the Northern churches, as an appeal for peace, (soon, I believe, to be published,) uses this language: “Among the vast and various stores captured on Sunday last, at Manassas, was a wagon loaded with manacles, judged to be 5,000 or 6,000. This I had from an eyewitness on the spot.” In a P. S. , he adds: “The account of the manacles is confirmed. A Federal officer captured, who professed to know all about it, said there were $12,000 worth in the lot which was captured. They are being distributed all over the South.”

Other statements as remarkable follow: The Rev. Dr. Col. Pendleton showed him 30 pieces of cannon in one place, among which was Sherman’s battery, which he (the Rev. Dr. Co. P.) had captured without the loss of a man killed or wounded. Now, it is known that Sherman’s battery was not taken, and that our total loss of guns was 25. “The killed and fatally wounded of the Federal army were 6,000, and the total of guns captured was 63.” On these statements I need not dwell, but finding, to my utter surprise, that the story of the manacles was believed by some intelligent a person as Dr. Andrews, I immediately proceeded to the War Department, to make inquiries on the subject.

The Adjutant-General emphatically denied that there was any truth in the statement, and authorized me to use his name. I called also at General Scott’s office, and not being able to see him, stated that I wished an official answer from his office, in reference to this matter. In reply, his aid, Col. Van Ranselear, declared the he had himself made this inquiry of Gen. McDowell, who told him that he had taken one hundred pair of manacles, as a preparation for insubordination threatened in part of a single regiment, and that these were all they had, and this was the only purpose for which they were taken. And yet, an eye-witness on the spot had seen five or six thousand! And these five or six thousand “are being spread all over the South!” Doubtless, these clanking manacles will produce all their intended effect there, but it is much to be doubted whether an appeal for peace to the churches of the North will be very effective when based upon facts such as these.

A friend recently visited the Theological Seminary, and found it (appropriately) in the possession of a New York regiment. He states that scarcely any injury has been done to the buildings, and that the grounds are kept in better than their usual order. The Colonel has strictly forbidden all depredations on private property, and recently discovering one of the men milking a cow, fired his pistol at him. The lofty tower of Aspinwall Hall is regarded as a very important out-look. Gen. McClellan, on a recent visit, considered whether the building should not be made his headquarters on the Virginia side. Whether or no it was in consequence of recent rumors that Beauregard was about to occupy Alexandria and Washington, my friend could not tell, but his attention was directed to the fact that the trees on Shooters Hill had been so cut away that two great guns were pointed directly upon Alexandria from Fort Ellsworth, and two others upon the Seminary; and that pains were taken to have these facts known rather than disguised. Most earnestly do we hope that no “military necessity” may bring them into action. Alexandria has already suffered all that even an enemy could wish, and more than enough to make friends, who have pleasant and sacred associations with the place, to weep. Indeed, one recent incident, which illustrates how unnatural anger gives way in a Christian heart before habitual benevolence, would plead not in vain, if it were known, for the preservation of the city. A strong Secessionist, who had been heard to say that he would not give a cup of water to a dying Federal soldier, had his feelings of pity and magnanimity so raised by the spectacle of our poor, fugitive, wounded, exhausted, and hungry soldiers, as they poured into Alexandria, that he exerted himself to the utmost for their comfort, and actually provided about 400 dinners for them at his own expense, before the day was closed. I rejoice to record this incident. Are there not many of our impulsive Southern friends whose talk is full of ferocity before the battle, who will exhibit a similar kindly reaction when it is over? There was much unpardonable and ferocious hatred exhibited in repulsive forms of cruelty at Bull Run, and the testimonies to this effect are too numerous and undoubted to be forgotten or denied; but there have been also many kindly courtesies shown to the prisoners at Richmond. May not war, with the mutual respect and the high courtesies to which it shall give birth, bring about the reconciliation and fraternal peace which the irritating strife of politics never could produce? I find the Confederate prisoners regard such a suggestion as wild delusion. But who ever, under a strong passion to-day, could be made to believe in the reaction which will take place to-morrow? Yet they who witness a flood-tide, as it comes tumbling in and raging and foaming on the rocks, in the evening, may see it, spent and still, slowly receding from the late lashed shore, in the calm morning.

Washington is singularly calm. Some strange spirit of subordination has possession of us all. We are growing modest and distrustful of our ability to plan campaigns. We have ceased to insist upon a victory to-morrow. While, on the one hand, we ache for a success which shall be decisive, on the other, we dread to express the feeling, lest it might have a feather’s pressure in hastening an attempt before success would be morally secure. In the meantime, we see and hear scarcely any troops, but we meet long, long trains of wagons in the avenues; we see whole herds of horses and mules on some side-lots in the neighborhood of the city; and those who are wakeful at night, think they hear the measured tramp, as if many men were marching without music. I have heard great Canterbury Cathedral organs giving out grave and majestic music, but the sound of a regiment’s march, in a still nigh, over the Long Bridge, with the thought of what soul-working and heart-working accompany it, and make its measured fall awful, is to me more moving and magnificent than that.

San Francisco Bulletin, 10/9/1861

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Clement M. Butler at Wikipedia

Contributed by John Hennessy

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One response

31 01 2013
Bob Huddleston

Propaganda is wonderful — and the accuracy has not improved in 150 years!

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