Two Views of Courage: April 1862



"At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth…could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years… If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide."
– Abraham Lincoln

Yankee Courage

The April 24, 1862, Richmond Daily Dispatch included an editorial on Yankee courage

We have never been of the number of those who doubted the courage of the Yankees as a people. We have often been compelled to express our dissent from the general opinion on this subject, and to hold that it is not only wrong in itself, but impolitic thus to underrate an enemy. Among the many faults of the Puritan breed, want of courage was never ascribed to them by anybody. Oliver Cromwell and his Roundheads were as pestilent citizens and as good soldiers as England ever produced. Their offshoots in America were of the same character — fanatical, cruel, intolerant, devilish, but hardy and courageous. When such men are to be fought, it is as unjust to our own soldiers as to themselves to stigmatize them as cowards. That agreeable diffusion only tends to diminish the vigilance and energy of our soldiers, and robs them of the glory which their victories deserve. That the Yankees are not as military a race as the people of the South, is evident enough, and that in this war their position as invaders diminishes their courage and efficiency, we believe. But, in general, although fighting qualities may not be as universal in the North as the South, they are a people whom we ought to fight with both hands, and not delude ourselves by relying upon their cowardice.

At the same time, we are free to confess that, we have not derived our ideas of Northern prowess from anything we have seen in this war. That idea was derived from our knowledge of the firmness of their race in the English and American Revolution, and in the last war with England. There are those whom the present war, for the first time has induced to believe that the Yankees are men of physical courage. On the contrary, if anything could have shaken our preconceived opinions on this subject, and could have made us believe that any race of men are destitute, as a whole, of physical valor, it would have been the conduct and circumstances of the present war. It began with the cowardly declaration: "We are eighteen millions of people and you but six millions, and can whip you with ease." It has not only had all the odds of men and arms in its favor, but relied upon that odds as its means of conquering the South, its leading organs declaring that it was only by outnumbering us two or three to one that its objects could be accomplished. In point of fact, it has only been by the most enormous odds that it has ever gained a victory. Such a thing as a victory gained by a smaller against a larger number — which has been the character of every Southern success — has not yet been achieved by the North in this war. Its triumphs, in every single instance, have been gained by the most tremendous superiority in numbers, and in the kind of weapons employed, and in all the equipments and munitions of war — triumphs which a nation like England or France would have blushed to exult over. Its troops, especially those of the West, have fought well, and in some instances with conspicuous vigor, but in every case they have had the animating idea that they outnumbered their enemy four to one, that they had weapons of longer range and superior character, and that they were themselves a vast disciplined army, fighting against a mere mob, inferior in numbers and miserably armed. The conduct of their government has done no more than that of the people to add laurels to Northern reputation. It has tried to hound the whole world on to the assault of an enemy not one third its numbers, it has ransacked every nation in Europe for materials to fill its armies, and it shrank most ignominiously from a conflict with England which its own braggart pretensions had rendered imminent. It is enough to make the bones of the old Puritans shake in their graves to see the conduct of their descendants in this war, for whilst those departed saints would smile approvingly upon all the schemes of persecution and plunder, they could never forgive men whose boldness was not equal to their villainy.

The steel breast plates have added the finishing touch to the degeneracy of the Yankees in the conduct of this war. What nation of the earth, except themselves, puts its soldiers in coats of mail? And that, too, against an enemy whom they outnumber three to one? What would be thought of the duellist who should take the field encased in hidden armor? Fortunately, as the battle of Corinth proved, breastplates are as unsubstantial as most Yankee inventions. They are ineffectual to protect even the breasts, they cannot shelter the head, which is a large enough target for Southern marksmen.”


On the day this was printed, Naval forces under Flag Officer Farragut ran the Forts defending New Orleans and subsequently captured not only the forts but the entire city.

images  imagesCA0U1YV5

“From April 18 to April 28, Farragut bombarded and then fought his way past the forts in the Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip, managing to get thirteen ships up river on April 24.

Historian John D. Winters in The Civil War in Louisiana (1963) noted that with few exceptions the Confederate fleet at New Orleans had "made a sorry showing.

Capture Crew

Self-destruction, lack of co-operation, cowardice of untrained officers, and the murderous fire of the Federal gunboats reduced the fleet to a demoralized shambles."


The war would rage on for three more years costing countless lives and treasure. The slaves would eventually begin a long march to freedom.
The country’s landscape would be changed forever but two truths emerged from this day:
  • No amount of courage can stop a well aimed bullet once it has been fired
  • The only words that can stop a well managed fleet are the words that flow from the pens of those who provide for its creation and sustainment

"In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free – honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just – a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless." Lincoln’s Second Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862.

Mister Mac

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