CWRT flagge


Vol. 24 No.10 - October 2011


Volume 24, No. 10
Editor: Stephen L. Seftenberg

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 Assembly

President's Message:

It is with great sadness that I have to inform you of the death of the Round Table's vice-president, Herbert "Bud" Filer. He was a great asset to our organization and readily offered assistance whenever needed. "Bud" was the personification of a true gentleman. Our deepest sympathies to Mrs. Filer and the family.

Thank you to everyone who generously donated to our Speaker's Fund. Your thoughtfulness and financial support have replenished our coffers. It is greatly appreciated. It is never too late to make a donation!  Gerridine LaRovere, President


Margie Yansura will share with the Civil War Round Table the experiences of her maternal grandfather, Hugh Tudor, who was a private in the 25th Regiment of the Iowa Voluntary Infantry during the U.S. Civil War. Much of the insight into his life as a Union soldier which she will share comes from the diaries he kept during his time as a solider in 1864 and 1865. Margie's mother, Juanita Tudor DeFord Lowrey, is now 85 and is the youngest known surviving child of a Civil War veteran. Hugh Tudor was 81 when he died, and left two young daughters aged four and two. Margie Yansura is a public relations consultant who lives in the historic Flamingo Park Neighborhood in West Palm Beach.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 Assembly
Program: An Evening with Justice David Davis

David Davis, Abraham Lincoln’s campaign manager (in the person of our Vice President, William McEachern, attired in judicial robes), made a spectacular appearance at a press conference held in the Wigwam in Chicago, Illinois, on May 17, 1860, to be interviewed by Lavinia D. Throater, of the Chicago News Flash (in the person of our President, Gerridine LaRovere). The Round Table attendees, as supporters of Mr. Lincoln, had been given special admission slips to the balcony.

WigwamMiss Throater began the interview by noting that outside the Wigwam were many unhappy supporters who were being denied entry to the Convention. Judge Davis (who presided over the court in Illinois’ Eight Circuit from 1848 to 1862), chuckled and said they were probably supporters of one or more of Mr. Lincoln’s 12 opponents (primarily Messrs. William Seward of New York, Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania, Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, Edward Bates of Missouri and William Dayton of New Jersey). Judge Davis dismissed these candidates as follows: Mr. Chase is a radical who would destroy the nation if elected and his efforts at “moderation” simply alienated the radicals. Mr. Seward was a former Democrat who had alienated the former Whigs in prior elections.” Mr. Bates prior association with the Know Nothing Party had alienated German-American voters. Mr. Cameron was only a “favorite son.”

DavisJudge Davis admitted that his candidate was a “dark horse” whose views were carefully crafted so as not to alienate anyone outside the South. His strategy was to obtain commitments to Mr. Lincoln as each delegate’s second choice if and when his own candidate faded. Judge Davis said, with pride, "I spent $700 of my own money to rent the entire Tremont Hotel where I could entertain the delegates from other states. I must admit my food and liquor bill was enormous!" He also admitted that he led each of the leading contenders to believe that they would be appointed to President Lincoln’s cabinet if they instructed their delegates to vote for Lincoln after the first ballot. He said that when Mr. Lincoln had heard of this, he sent a telegraph instructing his managers that no deals were to be struck. Strangely, he said he never got that telegram. He admitted that he sought the support of Caleb B. Smith, Indiana’s favorite son, with whose support he hoped to start a "bandwagon" for Honest Abe. Davis coyly admitted that once he had the Indiana delegation, he seated the Pennsylvania delegation between the Illinois and Indiana delegations and instructed the latter to tackle the Pennsylvania delegates one-on-one.

InsideSmiling, Judge Davis said it worked out just as planned: Seward led on the first ballot, but Lincoln caught up to him on the second ballot and passed him on the third, at which point four Ohio delegates changed their votes, triggering an avalanche toward my candidate. We ended up with 349 votes out of 466 cast. We then picked Senator Hannibal Hamlin of Maine as Vice President. Our platform was aimed at Northern voters: slavery would not be allowed to spread any further; tariffs protecting industry would be imposed and a homestead law granting free land in the West to farmers.

Ms Throater then turned to the judge’s biography: I was born on March 9, 1815 in Maryland. As you may notice, I have retained my Southern accent. My mother, Ann Mercer Davis, came from a rich family. Her father owned three plantations and gave my parents one. My daddy died before I was born so I was raised by my uncle, the Reverend Henry Lynn Davis, until my mother married one Franklin Bess, who proceeded to loot my inheritance. When my uncle went to court and won, my stepfather moved to Ohio. I graduated from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, in 1832. Kenyon’s tuition was $70 a year, competing with Harvard and Yale, which then charged $100 a year. Kenyon was heavy in Greek and Latin. I was never very good at those languages, so I never used them in my briefs or opinions. A Massachusetts lawyer befriended me, gave me $45 and sent me to study with a bishop in Massachusetts. After a year, he suggested that I attend the New England School of Law, which later became the Yale Law School. After graduation in 1836 I moved to Illinois. In those days, lawyers spent six months a year riding circuit. It was then that I met Abe Lincoln, who was six years older than I. Abe was brilliant before juries and I knew the law, so we became partners for ten years. Abe Lincoln was a brilliant, self-educated man, but somewhat peculiar. For one thing, he did not always take my advice!

We were both elected to the Illinois state legislature in 1844-46 as Whigs. We both helped write a new state constitution. In 1848, Abe was elected to Congress for one term, then came back to build a very nice law practice. From 1848 to 1862 I was a circuit judge in the same circuit where my friend Abe Lincoln was practicing. The country was going through cycles of boom and bust and I was able to buy distressed land. My wealth came in handy in 1860! After helping Abe to win the Presidency, I rode to Washington, D. C. with him. I helped him select appointees for federal offices, including his cabinet, the famous "Team of Rivals." I wanted to be appointed as Commissary General, but General Winfield Scott opposed having a civilian in that important position. I persisted in helping my friends obtain appointments. Once when Abe refused to name a friend named William Ormay as a general, he said, "There’s that Davis; he agitates me; sooner or later he’ll get his way." One day I noticed on Abe’s desk a list of candidates for the Supreme Court. My name was on the list but crossed out. I became very upset and Abe put my name back on the list.

CourtMy cousin, Henry Winter Davis, a radical Republican, almost single-handedly kept Maryland from seceding. By February 1862, Abe had nominated two men to the Supreme Court. My friends, Caleb Smith of Indiana and Sen. Orville Hickman Browning of Illinois (who had been appointed to the seat of the late Stephen Douglas) worked to get me appointed to the Court of Claims. However, a third Supreme Court seat came up in the fall and Abe made a recess appointment that was confirmed on December 8, 1862.

You may well be surprised to know that I felt and still feel that President Lincoln erred in issuing the Emancipation Proclamation as written. He should have restructured his cabinet to fill it with people loyal to him. The Proclamation seemed hollow and weak to me.

Asso. JusticeI served on the Supreme Court until 1877. I wrote 88 majority opinions and 19 dissenting opinions. My most famous opinion and the one I am most proud of is Ex Parte Milligan, 71 U. S. 2 (1866). General Benjamin Franklin Butler had Mr. Milligan, a Confederate sympathizer who was plotting insurrection, arrested, tried before a military tribunal, and sentenced to death. Butler, as Commissioner of the Military District of Indiana, argued that in time of war, he could try anyone for insurrection under any rules he chose. James Garfield, a future President, represented Mr. Milligan. For a unanimous court, I wrote that trials of civilians by presidentially created military commissions are unconstitutional. Martial law cannot exist where the civil courts are operating. To hold otherwise was the "end of Liberty." My decision denounced arbitrary military power and has become one of the bulwarks of American civil liberty.

When Mr. Lincoln was assassinated, at the request of his son, Robert, I acted as the administer of his estate, since he left no will! I discovered that Mrs. Lincoln had been allowed to run up enormous bills. She had purchased 300 pairs of kid gloves and had spent $2,000 on furs for the dress she wore to the Second Inaugural Address! She wanted these bills to be paid from her husband’s estate, which I resisted. When she left the White House, she stripped it of all its furniture and furnishings.

In 1872, I was nominated for the Presidency by the Labor Reform Convention. Our platform supported the 8-hour day, national currency backed by the full faith and credit of the nation rather than by gold, and elimination of the national debt. I was also considered by the Liberal Republican Party, but withdrew from the race when Horace Greeley was nominated. Poor Horace died before the election and his electoral votes were split among several other candidates. I received one electoral vote!

You may be surprised to hear me say that I felt "inadequate" as a Justice of the Supreme Court and resisted moves to have me nominated as Chief Justice. In the election of 1876, William Tilden, the Democratic candidate won the popular vote but Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republican candidate was leading in electoral votes 185 to 184. Twenty votes from Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina and Oregon were in dispute. Congress appointed a special 15-man commission to decide who was to be President. The House was controlled by the Democrats and it named 3 Democrats and 2 Republicans; the Senate was controlled by the Republicans and it named 3 Republicans and 2 MansionDemocrats. Two Democratic and 2 Republican Supreme Court justices were named. I, as the most trusted independent in the nation, was to be the 15th and deciding vote! The Democrats misplayed their hands, though, and the Democratically-controlled Illinois state legislature elected me as a Senator, apparently thinking they would gain my support for their candidate. Rather than be accused of having "sold" my vote, I resigned from the Supreme Court and accepted my election as Senator. A Republican justice, Joseph P. Bradley, took the seat I would have had and voted for Hayes on all 20 electoral votes. To win this election, the Republicans agreed to end military Reconstruction, Hayes agreed to serve only one term. Mr. Tilden won my respect by advising his supporters to accept the result, which was really a "hollow" victory for the radical Republicans, who lost control of the South.

Living roomI served in the Senate from 1877-1883. When James A. Garfield was assassinated in 1882, Vice President Chester A. Arthur succeeded him. At the time, the President pro tempore of the Senate was next in line to be President. The Senate was evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, but both sides trusted me and so I was elected in 1881 as President pro tempore, and served until my retirement in 1883.

By my death in 1886, I had become very wealthy. I built a 36-room mansion in Bloomington, Illinois, using the same architect who designed the state capitol. My wife, Sarah, designed a beautiful garden. Our son, George Perrine Davis, was a respected banker in Bloomington. My grandson left the house to the David Davis Mansion Foundation upon his death in 1957.

Many questions followed this wonderfully feisty interview as additional reporters pitched in!

Longstreet and Forrest – Two Different Generals

LongstreetYour editor ran across short articles about James Longstreet (1821-1904) and Nathan Bedford Forrest (1821-1877) and got the brilliant idea of comparing their personalities and records during and after the Civil War. As a military leader, Longstreet was a mediocre leader but a capable subordinate to Robert E. Lee. In contrast, Forrest was a superb military leader and an insubordinate subordinate.

One historian has said, "Longstreet made three mistakes that have denied him his deserved place in Southern posterity: he argued with Lee at Gettysburg, he was right, and he became a Republican." Longstreet graduated from West Point in 1842, fought and was wounded in the Mexican War and joined the Confederacy on June 1, 1862. He fought well at Second Bull Run, Antietam and Fredericksburg. However, "he displayed a lack of ability on his own." At Gettysburg, as a believer in "strategic offense and tactical defense," he opposed attacking Meade directly in favor of maneuvering Meade out of his superior defensive position. As a reward, he was detached to reinforce Braxton Bragg in Georgia. He disagreed with Bragg (most did!) and was soon detached to East Tennessee where he again "showed an incapacity for independent operations." He rejoined Lee and was severely wounded in the Battle of the Wilderness. Called by Lee his "Old War Horse," Longstreet remained with his chief through the surrender at Appomattox.

After the war he befriended Grant and served as minister to Turkey. He also served under McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. Criticized by many Confederates for switching sides, he wrote a book, "From Manassas to Appomattox," and outlived his detractors, dying January 2, 1904, in Gainesville, South Carolina, where he was buried. There are few monuments to him in the South.

ForrestForrest was also born poor but prospered as a slave trader and owned several cotton plantations. Forrest’s obituary states he was "a man of obscure origin and low association, a shrewd speculator, negro trader and duelist, but a man of great energy and brute courage."

By 1861 he was one of the richest men in the South and could have been exempt from the war, yet he enlisted as a private. Finding his fellow troops to be poorly equipped, he bought horses and equipment for them with his own money. Despite a lack of formal military training, he displayed a gift for leadership and tactics and personal bravery. During the war he killed over 33 Union troops with saber, pistol and shotgun.

At Fallen Timbers, he astounded everybody by charging into the Union soldiers by himself, hauling one of them onto his horse as a human shield and riding back to his own lines, despite being shot in the spine. Grant is quoted as saying that "Forrest was the only Confederate cavalryman of whom [Grant] stood in much dread." At the Battle of Cedar Bluff he fooled the Union general, who outnumbered him, into surrendering by parading his troops around a hilltop to appear as a larger force! At Fort Pillow, his record was besmirched by the massacre of black Union soldiers who were trying to surrender. A Confederate soldier testified that "General Forrest ordered them shot down like dogs." Debate over the "facts" of this event soured sectional and racial relations to this day. One month later, Forrest won his last victory at Brice’s Crossroads, where his 3,500-man force crushed a Union force of 8,500 men. He argued bitterly with his commanding generals, Braxton Bragg and John Bell Hood.

Forrest was one of the first men to grasp the doctrine of "mobile warfare." He used his cavalry as a modern general would use motorized infantry. He is famous for allegedly saying that his motto was "to git thar fust with the mostest." After the war, he, joined the Klu Klux Klan and conducted "a campaign of midnight parades, whipping and even killing Negro voters and white Republicans to scare them from voting and running for office." In contrast to Longstreet, there are countless statutes and monuments to Forrest throughout the South.


Last changed: 10/06/11

Home  About  News  Newsletters  Calendar  Memories  Links  Join