Articles by Karl Marx in Die Presse 1862

The Situation in North America

Source: MECW Volume 19, p. 256;
Written: on November 4, 1862;
First published: in Die Presse, November 10, 1862.

London, November 4

General Bragg, who commands the Southern army in Kentucky — the other fighting forces of the South there are restricted to guerilla bands — on invading this border state issued a proclamation which throws considerable light on the latest combined moves of the Confederacy. Bragg’s proclamation, addressed to the states of the Northwest, presupposes his success in Kentucky as a matter of course, and obviously reckons on the eventuality of a victorious advance into Ohio the central state of the North. In the first place, he declares the readiness of the Confederacy to guarantee freedom of navigation on the Mississippi and the Ohio. This guarantee only makes sense the moment the slaveholders are in possession of the border states. At Richmond, therefore, it was assumed that the simultaneous invasions of Lee in Maryland and Bragg in Kentucky would secure possession of the border states at one sweep. Bragg then goes on to vindicate the South, which is only fighting for its independence, but, for the rest, wants peace. The real, characteristic point of the proclamation, however, is the offer of a separate peace with the Northwestern states, the invitation to them to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy, since the economic interests of the Northwest and the South coincide just as much as those of the Northwest and the Northeast are minn cally opposed. The following can be seen: No sooner did the South fancy itself safely in possession of the border states, than it officially boasted of its ulterior motive of reconstructing the Union but without the states of New England.

Like the invasion of Maryland, however, that of Kentucky came to grief: just like the former in the battle of Antietam Creek, so it happened to the latter in the battle of Perryville, near Louisville.

The Confederates were on the offensive here, just as they were there, having attacked the advance guard of Buell’s army. The Federals owe their victory to General McCook, the commander of the advance guard, who held his ground against the enemy’s considerably superior forces long enough to give Buell time to bring his main body into the field. There is not the slightest doubt that the defeat at Perryville will entail the evacuation of Kentucky. The most considerable guerilla band, formed of the most fanatical partisans of the slave system in Kentucky and led by General Morgan, was annihilated at Frankfort (between Louisville and Lexington) at almost the same time. Finally, there comes the decisive victory of Rosecrans at Corinth, which makes imperative the hastiest retreat of the beaten invasion army commanded by General Bragg.

Thus, the Confederate campaign for the reconquest of the lost border slave states which was undertaken on a large scale, with military skill and with the most favourable chances, has come utterly to grief. Apart from the immediate military results, these battles contribute in another way to the removal of the main difficulty. The hold of the slave states proper on the border states naturally rests on the slave element of the latter, the same element that enforces diplomatic and constitutional considerations on the Union government in its struggle against slavery. However, in the border states, the principal theatre of the Civil War, this element is in practice being destroyed by the Civil War itself. A large section of the slaveholders, with their “black chattels”, are constantly migrating to the South, in order to bring their property to a place of safety. With each defeat of the Confederates this migration is renewed on a larger scale.

One of my friends [Joseph Weydemeyer], a German officer, who fought under the star-spangled banner in Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee in turn, writes to me that this migration is wholly reminiscent of the exodus from Ireland in 1847 and 1848.

Furthermore, the energetic sections of the slaveholders, the young people, on the one hand, and the political and military leaders, on the other, separate themselves from the bulk of their class, since they either form guerilla bands in their own states and, as guerilla bands, are annihilated, or they leave home and join the army or the administration of the Confederacy. Hence the result: on the one hand, a tremendous dwindling of the slave element in the border states, where it had always to contend with the “encroachments” of its competitor, free labour; on the other hand, removal of the energetic section of the slaveholders and its white following. Only a sediment of “moderate” slaveholders is left, who will soon grasp greedily at the pile of money offered them by Washington for the redemption of their “black chattels”, whose value will in any case be lost as soon as the Southern market is closed to their sale. Thus, the war itself brings about a solution by, in fact, radically changing the form of society in the border states.

For the South the most favourable season for waging war is over; for the North it is beginning, since the inland rivers are now navigable once more and the combination of land and sea warfare already attempted with so much success is again possible. The North has used the interval to good advantage. “Ironclads”, ten in number, for the rivers of the West, are rapidly nearing completion; to which must be added twice as many, semi-armoured vessels for shallow waters. In the East many new armoured vessels have already left the yards, whilst others are still under the hammer All will be ready by January 1, 1863. Ericsson, the inventor and builder of the Monitor, is directing the building of lime new ships after the same model. Four of them are already “afloat”.

On the Potomac, in Tennessee and Virginia, as well as at different points in the South — Norfolk, New Bern, Port Royal, Pensacola and New Orleans — the army daily, receives fresh reinforcements. The first levy of 300,000 men, which Lincoln announced in July, has been fully provided and is in part already at the theatre of war. The second levy of 300,000 melt for nine months is gradually being raised. In some states conscription has been replaced by voluntary enlistment; in none does it encounter serious difficulties. Ignorance and hatred have decried conscription as all unheard-of occurrence in the history, of the United States. Nothing can be more mistaken. Large numbers of troops were conscripted during the War -of Independence and the second war with England indeed, even in sundry small wars with the Indians, without this ever encountering opposition worth mentioning.

It is a noteworthy fact that during the present year Europe supplied the Unite d States with an emigrant contingent of approximately 100,000 souls and that half of these emigrants consist of Irishmen and Britons. At the recent congress of the English Association for the Advancement of Science at Carnbridge, the economist Merivale was obliged to remind Il Is countrymen of a fact that The Times, The Saturday Review, The Morning Post and The Morning Herald, riot to mention the dii minorium gentium, have so completely. forgotten, or want to make England forget, namely, that the majority of the English surplus Population finds a new home in the United States.