Saturday, February 28, 2015
The War Department captured a great deal of booty following the Confederate surrender, including partially finished ships sitting in shipyards. One of the more famous examples was that of the CSS Ranger. Following the defeat in the Bahamas, the Confederate States Navy was reluctant to send out its remains ships in fleet strength. Instead, they preferred to send out smaller units to conduct hit-and-run raids against their enemies. The large battleships built after the turn of the century were not suited for this sort of combat. Instead, the Confederate Navy ordered a number of quicker battlecruisers constructed for the purpose.
On the day of Virginia’s surrender, workers in the Norfolk Shipyards did their best to destroy ships under construction, denying them to the Yankees. The Ranger was little more than a hull at the time and was ignored in favor of scuttling more complete ships. As such, the U.S. Navy took control of the wreckage at the end of the war and assessed the damage. The hulls could be used, though for what purpose they had yet to determine. The arms limitation treaty forced many of the new projects to be delayed or scrapped altogether.
In 1918, the hull of the Ranger sat in the shipyard, unused and slated for breaking up. That is, until Commander Eugene Ely happened upon the ship. The Great War saw an acceleration of aviation technology, from pusher aircraft that could barely match modern speed limits on a freeway to sleek, aerobatic biplanes and four-engine bombers. The U.S. Army was not the only institution interested in aviation.
The United States Navy organized its own air service. Airplanes were used in patrolling the coast, seeking out raiders and scouting for the fleet. A limited number of float planes saw service, carried towards the battle by modified cruisers and battleships. Hearing of Britain’s construction of an aircraft carrying ship, Ely and other naval aviators pressed the War Department to follow suit. It would make for an excellent scouting platform, and perhaps be used in an offensive manner. For admirals who spent their careers in search of bigger guns, the idea of aerial bombs sinking ships was laughable but it did not detract from the use of scouting.
To cut costs on the first aircraft carrier, Ely and his project team sought out first a ship capable of conversion but when he laid eyes upon the hull of the battlecruiser Ranger, he knew he found his ship. After securing funding, work on the U.S.S. Ranger began in earnest. With the low demand for a peace time navy, three years were spent constructing the aircraft carrier, with numerous U-turns in the design, including ripping out of the electrical system at one point in late 1919. It was not until 1921 that the Ranger was launched. Its first assignment was as a scout for the Atlantic Fleet.
Ranger served as a template for two more carriers, the Hornet and Wasp, launched in1926 and 1927 respectfully. Both were built from similar hulls as the Ranger, albeit constructed copies of the Confederate battlecruiser. The U.S. Navy did not have any purposely designed carriers until the 1930s with the launching of the Constellation, Constitution, Enterprise and Chesapeake. The Admirals complained loudly about the construction of these carriers as they diverted funds from their pet battleship projects. With the changing of America’s Congressional alignment, the budget also shifted to meet more pressing demands. Congressmen of the Labor and Republican Parties asked what was the point in building warship when there was no war on the horizon. It was a question that would come to haunt the United States after Reconstruction but that is another story.
Sunday, February 15, 2015
While the former Confederate States were to be forcefully brought back into the Union with compliant government, the Roosevelt Administration took a different route in dealing with America’s neighbors to the north. Canada, and its British master, were to be treated as equals at the negotiating table. In 1916, the two sides agreed to an armistice, that is a cease fire. Official peace did not arrive until after negotiations were complete in Halifax. Roosevelt’s primary goal was to regain territory lost in the Second and Third Anglo-American Wars, with the congressional delegation from Washington screaming for the past thirty years over ‘unredeemed Washington’, that is the land west of the Columbia River ceded to Canada in 1885.
The return of northern Maine, the Red River Basin and western Washington were an assumed term that neither side tried to dodge, though a number of Canadian and British settlers in the Puget Sound protested over being left to fend for themselves against the Americans. Along with the return of land, a precondition of the opening of negotiations would require a guarantee of property rights for all people who live in the exchanged lands. Roosevelt did not dispute it, saying that property rights were a sacred American institution.
President Roosevelt, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour and Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden met in Halifax during July 1917, to hammer our an agreement between the three nations with the ultimate goal being a permanent peace. For too long the English speaking word was divided against itself. With the C.S.A. no longer in existence there was no reason why a reconciliation could not be achieved. After all, mending the rift between North and South would prove a far greater challenge.
When the treaty was drafted and presented to the Senate, Senators balked at the idea of letting the hated British off so easily. At the very least, the United States should take ownership of all the Oregon Country or Britain’s Caribbean possessions. Roosevelt, not wanting to see his growing legacy as a peace maker destroyed, thundered to a group of Senators in private that the United States Army was already overburdened in the occupation and reconstruction of the South. It was quite impossible to occupy Canada as well, unless the Congress planned on raising more troops and thus raising taxes. With a massive war debt already on the books, the debate over ratification was short. Even then, Senators from Massachusetts, New York and Wisconsin voted against the Treaty of Halifax.
Terms of the treaty are summarizes as the following; 1) The northern border of the United States would have northern Maine, western Washington and the Red River Basin south of the 49th Parallel restored to the Union. Furthermore, the island of Vancouver and adjacent islands would be ceded to the United States without compensation. 2) The Great Lakes would be demilitarized. 3) Canada would be guaranteed right of passage through American Pacific Northwest waters and access to the Pacific would not be hampered. 4) The Grand Banks fishery would be neutralized, allowing fishing vessels from signatory nations free access. 5) Cession of the Bahamas to the United States in exchange for twenty-five million dollars. 6) Free Movement of nationals across the border of the United States and Canada. 7) Rights of citizens in ceded territories would not be abridged. Property would not be confiscated without due process of law. 8) Open (but not free) trade between the United States and British Empire. 9) A pact of non-aggression between signatory nations.
The demilitarization of the Great Lakes struck the United States Navy a minor blow. The success of the Great Lakes Campaign of 1913 was a great source of pride for the Navy, the first real victory in nearly a century, though it would pale in comparison with the annihilation of a Confederate battlecruiser squadron and battleship division in the Battle of Grand Bahama. Overseeing the dismantling of the lake monitors was Admiral Charles Vreeland. The USS Minnesota was towed to Duluth where the State of Minnesota purchased it as a floating museum. The rest of Vreeland’s fleet was consigned to the scrap heap, fated to be broken up, melted down and turned into plough sheers or automotive chases.
The non-aggression article caused a bit of a diplomatic unrest between the United States and its long standing ally Germany. Germany did not have such an arrangement with the British and was concerned that with North America concerned, their only useful ally would renege on Central Powers’ treaty obligations. Roosevelt suggested a similar peace between Britain and Germany, which was not as easy as the peace between Britain and America.
There remained concern in London that the Germans, not defeated in the Great War could still be a threat to the British Empire. Even without the US Atlantic Fleet, the High Seas Fleet would still offer the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet a formidable foe. The United States was on the other side of the Atlantic and had not the ability to occupy Canada. Germany was right next door and did have the potential to invade Britain. Just how successful the invasion would be is another matter. There could not be peace in the North Sea until the British felt secure on their island fortress.
As it was in part the Arms Race of 1900-10 that led to war, the recently returned American Ambassador in London suggested to Prime Minister David Lloyd George a general conference for arms limitation. As the war sunk all of its participants into debt, none could afford any massive military build ups for at least a generation. Even so, Germany and Britain would begin to rebuild if they saw the other as a threat. France was too battered by the war to fight and Austro-Hungary was in a poor state even during the war years. Russia faced its own internal troubles as revolutionaries both Red and White battled against the Tsar.
The first round of talks occurred in February 1918, taking place in neutral Rotterdam. The goal was to limit the size of all participating parties’ navies, a goal that all agreed upon in principle. What could not be agreed upon was the ratio that each nation would hold. Britain demanded the largest proportion, siting its geographical situation and its world-wide empire. American Secretary of State Seymour Loomis countered with the obvious question: would dominion navies be considered part of the Royal Navy or separate. Loomis then went on to point out that Canada was more than capable of defending its own coasts now that it was at peace with its only neighbor.
In order to gain concessions, the British conceded that Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand would retain independent navies with their own ratios. Without such an agreement it was quite possible that the arms limitation talks would have fallen apart as the Kaiser’s representatives insisted on being on par with the whole of the Royal Navy. With a smaller Royal Navy, the British would gain a smaller High Seas Fleet all the while knowing they could call upon the navies of their dominions to aid them if war again engulfed the world.
The delegations met again in Copenhagen in July 1918, this time to set ratios of battleships, battlecruisers and cruisers. Britain with its global empire and the United States with two oceans to defend would have the highest ratios, each nearly being equal to the other. Germany and France, with smaller empires were allocated an equal number with a ratio of 5:3 with the United States and British Empire. The growing Japanese Empire, a minor player in the Great War, was also brought into the talks by their British allies. They would gain a 5:3 ratio in battleships and battlecruisers as well.
The United States objected to a growing Combined Fleet, concerned that Marianas Territory would be threatened. In 1914, an Anglo-Japanese force landed on Guam and Saipan, holding the islands for the duration of the war. It was only British pressure that forced the Japanese out of the islands in 1916. In 1898, following the purchasing of the Marianas from Spain, the United States annexed Midway and Wake, handing them over to the Navy to use as coaling stations. These lesser, nominally unpopulated islands would equally be threatened.
Germany felt the same about its holdings in the Marshalls and Micronesia. Truk fell under British occupation in late 1913, with the British holding them until the end of the war. British occupation of German colonies was used at the European negotiation table to prevent Germany from demanding any of France’s colonies as concessions, though German and American pressure did force France to return independence to Morocco.
The final meeting of world naval powers took place in Versailles in November. With the ratios and tonnage of warships determined, all that remained was to determine a schedule of constructing new ships. Again, the 5:5:3:3:3 ratio was used, though France was in a poor position to achieve its full production. On November 12, 1918, the delegates signed the Treaty of Arms Limitation, popularly portrayed as the ‘Treaty of Versailles’ in American press. It was hoped the treaty, along with the Treaty of Halifax would issue in a new era of peace. It did not take long for the United States Navy to discover a loop hole in the treaty.
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Whether they succeeded or failed, the two million people taking part in the redistribution of Southern land had a tremendous impact on the economy and politics of the New South. Of the four categories for free land, no class stood out as a major success. Be they soldier, freedman or poor it was character that made the difference between success and failure. They were all given the same plots of land. What in the 19th Century was forty acres and a mule became in the 20th forty acres and a tractor.
With so many people tacking up the plough, the demand for agricultural machinery skyrocketed. What was done only ten years earlier by hundreds of slaves could now be performed by the property owner and his family. In order to meet this demand, factories churning out armored vehicles and aircraft during the war converted to civilian machinery such as ploughs, harvesters and combines.
During the war years, very little in the way of consumer goods were produced, leaving surviving soldiers with all of their earnings as the Army fed and clothed them. Those who were shrewd and saved every penny easily afforded the machinery, which was at first expensive. With so few tractors to go around and so many farmer demanding them, prices soared through the roof. Of course to accommodate the demand and stay in business, factories had to produce more.
Most of the tractors were produced in States such as Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The distance added cost and one man sought a means of gaining an edge on the market. An employee of John Deer, William Niederkorn quit the company in 1918 and headed south. Unlike the vulture capitalists, he lacked the funds or political connections to gain control of a formerly State-owned industry. Instead, with money saved over the years and loans from New York banks, he purchased a small, run-down factory in Atlanta, establishing Forty Acres and a Tractor. He hoped taking the slogan of land Redistribution would help with sales.
What really helped with sales was location. It is the key aspect of business. He built in the former Confederacy’s industrial belt, much closer to the demanding market. He took a risk that most of the people purchasing his tractors would eventually pay them off. Not all did but most were able to earn sufficient income from farming to pay their bills. In 1924, Forty Acres grew large enough to purchase a competing tractor manufacturer and double their output. Niederkorn would never surpass his former employer but managed to gain his fortune in the South by honest means.
Those who easily paid off their tractors were the soldiers prudent enough to save their monthly income. At the end of the war, they amassed a small fortune and were able to take their forty to one hundred sixty acre and turn it into a peaceful corner of the world. They were the great successes, churning out crop after crop for the rest of their days. Few of the success stories ever sold their farms, preferring the peaceful country life after three long years of war.
Not all soldiers were so frugal or enterprising. A great number of them wasted their income on gambling, drinking and other vices in and out of the trenches. It was not uncommon for an enlisted man to spend their monthly check on a forty-eight hour leave. They were equally entitled to a tract of land, though when they claimed their land they were forced to seek out loans to purchase equipment. More than half of these would-be farmers managed to make a living, paying back the banks over the next ten years and carving out a home in the New South.
That was not always the case. Not everyone who starts a business succeeds. At the turn of the 21st Century, nearly half of newly started businesses fail within the first five years. The failure rate on farms during the 1920s was not quite that high but it was still significant. Those without the fiscal discipline needed to run a business soon dug themselves deep into a hole. Unable to pay their loans, banks (usually large, Northern banks) would seize their collateral. This often meant the deeds to their farms. Those who were forecloses sought an ally against what they saw as ruthless capitalists.
In a sense, the large banks were ruthless sharks though when one fails to pay back their loan, then one is not entirely faultless. Sensing a means to gain at the poll, the Labor Party stepped in to help these dispossessed farmers. America’s own socialist party called itself Labor because the party bosses believed that ‘worker’s’ party invoked images of Red Revolution and that the term socialist was too European, too alien to suit the American mind set.
The Labor Party made its early gains by supporting organized labor in American factories and mines. They lost ground against the Progressive Party when the Progressives pushed for universal manhood suffrage, which with the passing of the 15th Amendment in 1897 became a reality. They lost again with the land redistribution scheme of 1916. As banks foreclosed on small farms they did not miss an opportunity to gain support.
The banks were the enemy, stepping on the backs of the poor to gain more and more wealth. Their rhetoric served as an anchor to gain votes in the North as well when veterans released from duty found it difficult to regain their old jobs. The war forced organized labor to bend for the benefit of the nation as a whole. Unions were as patriotic as any other organization and even more enthusiastic about restoring the Union and expanding their influence in the restored States. It did not occur to them in the war years to try and organize the replacement workers, millions of American women.
Factories wondered why they should accept the return of their former Union employees when they could keep their replacements, who made as low as 60% of the previous wages. Women wondered why they should give up their jobs. Married women often relinquished work in favor of their husbands. With 1.7 million Union dead, many women would never find husbands and had little choice but to work. They needed the income to keep their heads above the water in a turbulent world. Only the post-war boom, a surprising outcome sparred partly on by the demand of machinery down south, prevented the predicted Labor Party gains in the 1918 election.
In the occupied States, Labor and Progressive Parties made the biggest inroads, with the dividing line between the two seeming to be the same as between those who succeed in life and those who fail. At least that was how the Progressive Party would portray their rivals in the 1920 election. The Democratic Party opposed land redistribution in principle, though it did approval of punishing Southerners, as well as supported business saying that those who failed have mostly themselves to blame. The Republican Party was silent on the issue, with the RNC knowing there was little chance of them seeing a single federal level official elected in the South even after the States re-entered the Union.
Saturday, February 7, 2015
Violence in the South was not confined to organizations such as the Sons of the Confederacy. Often, they were spontaneous riots of civilians in poorly garrisoned regions. One of the larger riots struck Jackson, Mississippi on August 8, 1918. One of the Freedmen’s Bureau’s pet projects was the establishment of schools for the children of former slaves. Even in States were Free Blacks were allowed to live, they were seldom allowed an education. In almost all cases, any education took form in what would now be called home schooling.
More than three thousand of Jackson’s White population showed out in protest, surrounding the refurbished barn on the outskirts of town that would serve as a school. With an unemployment rate of upwards to 25%, much of the city’s population had nothing better to do with their time than to heckle Northern institutions. Within this protest were members of the Mississippi Home Guard, an organization similar to the Sons of the Confederacy, though focusing more on racial purity than simply killing Yankees.
The MHG planned to torched the new school during an incited riot. It was hoped that the law in the city would either be too busy trying to reign in the rioters or be sympathetic to the Guard’s cause. What they did not intend was for a company from the 61st Ohio Guard to appear in the city. Upon hearing of a fomenting riot, the commander of the company had his unit surround the school. Over the menacing crowd, Captain Ed Howards ordered the crowd to disperse. Even as his machine gun squads began to set up the tools of their trade the crowd did not back down.
In hindsight, it was a very foolish move. The former Confederacy was under martial law and Mississippi was no exception. If anything, it was stricter than and in Alabama than any other occupied States. Howards had hoped to break it up peacefully, a hope that was shattered along with a bottle full of gasoline hurled at one of the company’s vehicles. Sensing it was under attack, the company opened fire on the crowd of civilians, killing two hundred seven of them.
It was a step to maintain order too far. Northern newspapers, long since supporting Reconstruction and the punishment of the South, denounced the Jackson Massacre and its butchering of unarmed civilians. Unfortunately, not a single Home Guard member was found among the dead. The official response from the Roosevelt Administration was that if rioters did not wish to be shot then they should behave themselves. Behind the scenes, he sought for means to prevent excessive violence. Bringing the South back into the Union was hard enough without a civilian populace completely hostile towards it.
The 10th Cavalry Regiment, the famed and feared Buffalo Soldiers, back on their horses occupied a piece of Mississippi centered around the small town of Tupelo. For many in the regiment, it was a homecoming of sorts. Of these soldiers, Captain Hiram Wellington returned to a land he had not seen in twenty years. He was born on a plantation not far from Tupelo in 1874. In 1889, he managed to successfully runaway from his plantation. After a hair raising odyssey northward, he managed to cross the international boundary and reach the land of liberty.
Though Kentucky was one of the United States, its government and elite were not overly fond of Blacks, especially escaped slaves. Populated largely by pro-Union Southerners who relocated north after the States’ War, the White populace saw him as trouble. The Black population saw him as competition. After two years working odd jobs, he enlisted in the Army where he was assigned to the “all-Black” 10th Cavalry. In 1891, only the enlisted personnel were all Black. It was not until the Great War, when NCOs earned battlefield commissions did Black soldiers become officers.
Wellington was one such man, earning a commission in early 1916, seven months after being awarded the Silver Star in the previous year. By the time Tennessee surrendered, Wellington earned the rank of Captain, the highest rank any Black soldier could achieve at the time. In command of a cavalry regiment, he helped confiscate plantations and free slaves, including the home of his former owner, Jonathan Wellington. Wellington, the White Wellington and his family left Mississippi after losing much of their wealth, opting to start over in Chile. Hiram Wellington led the eviction of his former owners, one of the high points in his life.
After the riot in Jackson, the Secretary of the Interior and the Attorney General urged Roosevelt to remove the 10th Cavalry from occupation duty. They feared the political firestorm that would erupt if Black soldiers were forced to gun down unarmed White civilians. Roosevelt conceded the point yet refused to simply yank the 10th off the lines. The unit held an exemplary war record and to pull them off duty would be bad for troop morale. He sought a means of getting them off the front lines of Reconstruction while saving face.
He came up with the idea of converting the 10th Cavalry from horses to engines. The Great War saw the armored vehicle supplant the horse and most cavalry units were gradually transition to mechanical mounts. He decided to convert the 10th. His plan met with resistance in the War Department with the Secretary of War reminding the President that an armored vehicle was considerably more sophisticated than a horse. The War Department and Army remained skeptical whether or not Black soldiers could handle machinery.
Roosevelt countered with examples of intelligent Blacks, such as George Washington Carver, a man who was born a slave and became one of the premier minds of the Union’s Black community. If a Black man could claim a number of inventions then surely one could be trained how to maintain an engine. Even with this argument, he still agreed to give the 10th the simplest of the armored vehicles, the M3 Jackson scout/light armored vehicle.
Withdrawal from Mississippi and redeployment at Fort Knox for training on the M3 was played for all its propaganda value. In the United States, ones ability counted for far more than one’s race, ethnicity or legal status upon birth. A few editorials, such as one in the New York Times, pointed out the timing of this reassignment. For the Freedmen of the South, it was sign of hope. One could achieve anything in the United States. Unfortunately, for them the United States was not Alabama or Georgia but Illinois, Ohio and New York. This reassignment saw the start of a gradual movement of the Black population northward.
Towards the end of his life, Wellington dictated his memoirs to a former reporter of the Chicago Tribune. Being born a slave and educated later in his life, Wellington was only semi-literate. He could read orders as well as any soldier though his writing skills were sorely lacking. His book ‘Born a Slave and Died Free’ was published posthumously in 1931.