SOLD Manuscript of Sickles’ Cooper Union Address Mapping the Path to Union Victory

A 14-page handwritten speech entitled "Forebearance towards the South is folly," reflecting the views of the Union leadership, he predicts the rise of the U.S. to global prominence.

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A Congressman and powerful politico in the New York Democratic Party, he quickly tendered his services to the government when the war broke out. The Republican Lincoln saw support of loyal Democrats as crucial to the war effort, both because the opposition party had so many adherents and their concurrence negated any...

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SOLD Manuscript of Sickles’ Cooper Union Address Mapping the Path to Union Victory

A 14-page handwritten speech entitled "Forebearance towards the South is folly," reflecting the views of the Union leadership, he predicts the rise of the U.S. to global prominence.

A Congressman and powerful politico in the New York Democratic Party, he quickly tendered his services to the government when the war broke out. The Republican Lincoln saw support of loyal Democrats as crucial to the war effort, both because the opposition party had so many adherents and their concurrence negated any possible allegation that the war was just a partison party maneuver.

Sickles was welcomed and appointed a Union major general and corps commander, and played a prominent part at Gettysburg, where he lost a leg and won a Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry on the field. Pres. Lincoln visited him during his stay in the hospital. He was thus a man with exceptionally close connections in both the Democratic and Republican camps, an insider who was privy to the thoughts and opinions of those who directed the war for the Union. Sickles returned to New York after convalescing from his wound and was active in supporting the war.

The following is his original 14 page handwritten address delivered at Cooper Institute in November 1863, entitled “Speech on the War,” containing a thorough exposition of the views of the Union leadership and a perceptive assessment of the conflict.

“This is the auspicious moment to strengthen the Union Army. The Battle of Chattanooga has secured our foothold in the heart of the insurgent territory. East Tennessee, Northern Alabama and Georgia and the mountainous regions of North Carolina, which we now command, contain a hardy, industrious population of Union men. This region is at once the available point of the South and the focus of its Union sentiment. It will not be long before we shall reap the rich harvests of this victory, the fruits of the genius of Rosecrans, Grant and Hooker- the completion of a series of operations extending over a period of two years..

"In the South this is the moment of angush…Adversity often inspires the greatest achievements in war- the success of today too often relaxes the energy of a combatant and leads him to the disasters of the morrow. If we would afford the South the opportunity to recover from the shock of the staggering blows of the past year, we have only to suffer our Army to dwindle away without any recruits, while the rebel conscription fills up their depleted ranks. If we would drive them from defeat to despair- if we would prove to the South that it can neither recover what it has lost nor keep what it yet holds- we have only to furnish the men the President, with a wise forecast, asked for in October…

"Meanwhile we must not fail to profit by our successes of the past year. Mr. Seward- always prompt and sagacious- may profit by the occasion to address a polite note to the European Cabinets demanding a termination of the privileges accorded to the rebels as "belligerants". We cannot fail to see that our iron-clads and our victories have made friends for us in Europe. Let us remind my Lord Palmerston on New Year’s Day that the concession of belligerant rights to the Southern insurgents was one of the instances in which the clever manager of European affairs made a blunder. Now is their time to undo this wrong.

"Let us remind Europe that this concession of belligerant rights keeps afloat on the seas a fleet of corsairs, which has inflicted tremendous injury upon the commerce of a friendly power- that these freebooters were all built and fitted out in European ports- that not one of them ever entered a Confederate port- that not one of them has ever sent a capture into any port for condemnation in a prize court- and that this fleet of pirates is kept afloat for its lawless work of spoilation, solely by means of facilities allowed them by European states in violation of international law and the comity of nations. Wanting the bad faith of the transaction at the outset, let us demand the revocation of this concession now, in view of the utter hopelessness of the rebel cause- gently reminding Europe that in the general war foreshadowed by Louis Napoleon in his recent speech, we can play a part in the concession of belligerant rights and the equipment of a thousand privateers for the combatants- while our ships protected by our ironclads, will do the carrying trade for the world…

"Let us insist that the question for Europe is no longer whether the Southern Confederation shall be recognized as a government, but whether a crumbling, tottering conspiracy shall any longer be dignified with the name and privileges of a belligerant- and to no end except to furnish munitions of war for a hopeless cause and to injure the commerce of a friendly but powerful rival, whose patience with European animosities is well-nigh exhausted. Let Europe remember that her hour of danger- so vividly described by the Emperor of the French, will be America’s opportunity… Now is the time to put forth our utmost strength for a final campaign. There is no harm in remembering that the hour of triumph is the hour of magnanimity.

"Side by side with our great preparations, let us announce a Constitutional and just policy for the reclamation of the insurgent states. The well disposed inhabitants within our lines should be treated as citizens. And every inhabitant within our lines with arms in his hands employed in guerilla warfare, should be treated as Napoleon directed Joseph to treat the Spanish guerillas under like circumstances- shoot them wherever found…

"The foothold we now have is the very citadel of the South- the mountains and vallies of the Cumberland in our hands- their defeated armies in the Southwest without a retreat except towards the seaboard, always fatal to them; while the army of Lee has only a choice between starvation in the defenses of Richmond and a battle and a rout at the hands of the Army of the Potomac if Lee’s army ventures to stay in the field. To make all of this sure and easy, hurry on your volunteers- fill up the ranks of our weak batallions- and let the whole nation rally with one heart for the final campaign…If you do not find in these results enough to raise the martial spirit of the people, let me plead with you to look at our brave fellows languishing and dying of starvation in the loathsome prisons of the enemy. Shall we not be swift to avenge their tortures?

"Let us march on and release them. Remember the barbarities practiced upon Union men, women and children throughout the South- hunted through forest and canes by bloodhounds, perishing with hunger, hung on the scaffold. Contrast these with our kindness to the rebel captives and wounded and our toleration of thousands and thousands of Southerners in our midst who openly sympathize or secretly aid the rebel cause. But I am forgetful of an old tradition- we have always been told that the South was the land of chivalry, courage and courtesy- while the North was a commonplace region absorbed in trade and common schools.

"This reminds me of an incident in the Gettysburg campaign last summer. A party of rebel cavalry made a descent upon the farm of a widow not far from Emmitsburg and carried off her flock of sheep. Soon afterward, the commanding officer of the foraging party made his appearance and politely offered the old lady Confederate script for the plunder. She refused it saying her old rags would sell for more, and vowing that if she were a man she would defend her flock with a sword… Already the South welcomes an Emperor in Mexico…Look at the intrigues of their diplomats abroad in inviting European intervention in the affairs of this continent, against which Washington admonished his countrymen; see their efforts to provoke war between this country and England and France; witness their schemes to excite Spanish disquietude…Who believes that the forms or the substance of free institutions will survive another generation if the South prevail in this war? The aristocratic classes all over the world are against us and for the South because they know that the success of the South is the restoration of European institutions and influence over this continent…

"The truth is we are dealing with a cabal not restrained by any responsibility to public opinion- a hideous outlaw among nations- not amenable to treaties- international law or civilization; and now in the desperation of their fortunes, they bluster and bully and rave like ruined gamesters. Forebearance towards the South is folly. It has been exhausted. Last year the North generously gave expression to decided overtures for peace- for such the South regarded the election of Seymour in New York…the nomination of Vallandigham in Ohio- the New York City riots…How were these signs of conciliation met? By demands more arrogant than ever.

"The Susquehanna and the Ohio must be our Northern and Western frontier; we will not negotiate except upon the basis of recognition; we will concede for equivalents, the free navigation of the Mississippi, but we must control its outlets. There is only one negotiation which the South will respect- the sword. The President understands this and therefore he appeals to the country to fill up the army. The South must feel the overwhelming power of the Union; and when they are compelled to acknowledge its supremacy, they will lay down their arms and not until then. On that assurance let us all work to fill up our ranks and make war more vigorously than ever. How shall we raise volunteers?…

"I propose that every man holding a public office under the Federal, State or City government, shall for a month turn recruiting officer, find at least one volunteer, and as many more as he can…There are 25,000 merchants and traders in this state, employing 50,000 clerks. These are young men. They should each raise one volunteer. Those who refuse or have not the energy and heart to do it- let their comfortable places and snug salaries be enjoyed by disabled soldiers- by the women whose husbands, brothers or fathers have fallen in the struggle or who are now fighting our battles… Our fathers struggled with England for seven years for the privilege of trying the experience of free institutions. We are battling to preserve them in the assurance of their value afforded by a century of success and happiness.

Our soldiers are the children of the Republic. They will enjoy hereafter a preference in all employments, public and private. Those who are honorably discharged for wounds or for disability incurred in service have claims upon all who respect valor and devotion. Let them never suffer want. Take care of the brave men who have served you faithfully and you will easily get more. Do not wait for them to beg. The baptism of battle is a new birth for a man- it makes him better, nobler, prouder. He will have a deeper scorn for what is mean, truer reverence for all that is good. You may be sure he will neither beg nor steal. If you suffer him to die of want in the midst of plenty, he will ask you only for a grave and meet his fate with the contempt for death which he learned in battle. In this righteous war, the soldier’s career is the path of honor and fame. Who will not kiss the tattered flags of our heroic batallions? While freedom has a friend, ever blooming immortelles [flowers] freshened by the tears of affection will adorn the graves of the fallen. America will repeat to her braves the words of the Spartan mother- "My sons, do not lament your wounds, for every step you take reminds Sparta that you have defended her in battle." It is signed “D.E.S., Maj. Genl.”

At this powerful moment, the one-legged Sickles would have returned to his seat, hobbling on his crutches as just such a reminder. A very important assessment of the war and the belligerents, and the first complete manuscript speech by a major figure in the war that we can recall seeing. It manifests Sickles’ ties to both the senior Union political and military leadership, and helps us understand its thinking. It is significant that most of Sickles’ predictions here came true: the South would lose the war but only come to terms when beaten militarily, the U.S. military would expand, and the European nations would desert the Confederacy. Perhaps his most interesting prediction, however, was that a time of peril for Europe in the future would provide the U.S. with its opportunity to rise to power and influence. The peril arose over 50 years later, in World War I, with the results Sickles suggests here.

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