Abraham Lincoln's Confiscation Proclamation


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, August 9, 1862

We have made our extensive collection of Harper's Weekly newspapers available for your online research. This archive includes all the newspapers published during the Civil War. We are hopeful that you find this resource useful.

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Martin Van Buren

Martin Van Buren

Lincoln's confiscation proclamation

Lincoln's Confiscation Proclamation

Order to Seize Southern Property

Chickahominy Cavalry Charge

Chickahominy Cavalry Charge

The Battle of Charles City Road

The Battle of Charles City Road

General Keyes

General Keyes

General Halleck

General Halleck

General Pope Cartoon

General Pope Cartoon


The Army of Virginia

The Army of Virginia

Map of Richmond

Battle of Charles City Road

Battle of Charles City Road






[AUGUST 9, 1862.




IN pursuance of the sixth section of the act of Congress entitled "An Act to suppress Insurrection, to punish Treason and Rebellion, to seize and confiscate the Property of Rebels, and for other Purposes," approved July 17, 1862, and which act, and the joint resolution explanatory thereof, are herewith published, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby proclaim to and warn all persons within the contemplation of said sixth section to cease participating in, aiding, countenancing, or abetting the existing rebellion, or any rebellion, against the Government of the United States, and to return to their proper allegiance to the United States, on pain of the forfeitures and seizures as within and by said sixth section provided.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this 25th day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight [L.S.] hundred and sixty-two, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.


By the President—


Secretary of State.


Annexed is the sixth section of the Confiscation act referred to by the President in the above proclamation:

Sec. 6. And be it further enacted, That if any person within any State or Territory of the United States, other than those named as aforesaid, after the passage of this act, being engaged in armed rebellion against the Government of the United States, or aiding or abetting such rebellion, shall not, within sixty days after public warning and proclamation duly given and made by the President of the United States, cease to aid, countenance, and abet such rebellion, and return to his allegiance to the United States, all the estate and property, moneys, stocks, and credits of such person shall be liable to seizure as aforesaid, and it shall be the duty of the President to seize and use them as aforesaid, or the proceeds thereof. And all sales, transfers, or conveyances of any such property after the expiration of the said sixty days from the date of such warning and proclamation shall be null and void; and it shall be a sufficient bar to any suit brought by such person for the possession or the use of such property, or any of it, to allege and prove that he is one of the persons described in this section.




EUROPEAN politics are a queer puzzle. The latest news from Europe contains the statement that a new and close alliance has been formed between France and Russia. Simultaneously, we perceive that the Moniteur, the official organ of the French Government, has ceased to take the side of the Southern rebels, once more eulogizes the North, and even undertakes the defense of General Butler from British scurrility.

If Louis Napoleon really cherishes the desire to humble England—as Englishmen unanimously believe—events could not have shaped themselves more conveniently for the accomplishment of his purpose. His newspapers have encouraged the British to think that if England interfered in this country France would side with her. Acting on this belief the London press has pursued us with a brutal and blackguard malignity which has filled the American heart with the most intense hostility toward England. If, in carrying out the policy of the new Russo-French alliance the French Emperor should resolve to quarrel with England, he would thus have the entire civilized world—with, perhaps, the single exception of helpless Austria—on his side. Spain would want to regain Gibraltar. Italy is burning to avenge the wrongs of 1859. And this country, we are sorry to say, has been goaded to such a pitch of fury by the studied unkindness and steady hostility of the British people that we should certainly raise no hand on behalf of Great Britain.

It is a little remarkable that, at a late review of Volunteers in England, the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, took pains to be present, and warned the soldiers—"with unusual and startling earnestness," as a reporter said—to be ready, when the time came, to perform manfully the work for which they had been organized.


MAJOR-GENERAL HENRY W. HALLECK is now Commander-in-Chief of the armies of the United States, and the public may consequently feel satisfied, in the first place, that the various operations of our forces will be directed by a single mind; and secondly, that the directing mind will be that of a soldier, and not that of a lawyer.

It is impossible to exaggerate the mischief which has been done by division of counsels and civilian interference with military movements. General Halleck's rapid successes in the West merely increased the obstacles in the path of General McClellan, and enabled Jeff Davis to call to Richmond the ablest generals and possibly some of the troops of the Southwestern rebel army. Again, when General McClellan embarked at Alexandria for Old Point, it was with the distinct understanding that General McDowell would co-operate with him with 40,000 men from Fredericksburg; it was not till his campaign had actually commenced that the civilians

in authority at Washington discovered that a movement by McDowell on Richmond might leave Washington uncovered, countermanded their previous orders, and paralyzed the Army of the Potomac. If General McClellan had understood that he could not have the co-operation of McDowell his plans might have been very different, and the losses incurred at Williamsburg, Fairoaks, and the Chickahominy might have been spared. We have it on the best authority that when General McClellan first received intelligence from Washington that he must dispense with McDowell's army, he covered his face with his hands, and remained several hours plunged in sombre silence—to use the language of one of his aids, "with an awful expression." He saw that the carefully-laid plans which had been submitted to and approved by the civilian authorities at Washington had been overset by an after-thought of theirs; and that the result, which had been mathematically certain, was now rendered problematical. If General Halleck had been at Washington, with the powers of a Commander-in-Chief, Beauregard would never have been set free to go to Richmond, and McClellan would never have been allowed to depart on an expedition whose success could have been afterward defeated by civilian panic.

There has been much said in the papers about a rivalry between McClellan and Halleck. There is no foundation for any thing of the kind. General Halleck was suggested as Commander-in-Chief by General McClellan on 9th July, when the President visited Harrison's Landing, and was appointed as soon as Mr. Lincoln returned to Washington on 11th. They are old personal friends, thoroughly appreciate each other's genius, and will work together in perfect harmony.

It may not be amiss to refer briefly, in this connection, to the speech of Senator Chandler, of Michigan, on the subject of the war, and to the echoes of that speech in the press. Certain friends of General M'Clellan are vastly indignant that a speech should have been made criticising their hero. We do not share the feeling. In our opinion General McClellan has not committed a single error in the work intrusted to him, and has evinced qualities which place him in the highest rank among soldiers. History, we think, will place his movement from the Chickahominy to the James among the grandest military exploits on record; and will pronounce that others, not McClellan, are responsible for the failure of the Union army to take Richmond in July. At the same time we should be very sorry to believe that we had any soldier in the field who was not subject to criticism, or whose performance might not fairly be a topic of debate. Senator Chandler is entitled to his opinion of General McClellan, and entitled to express, as the Tribune and Herald are entitled to print it. It must go for what it is worth. General McClellan, we are satisfied, would be the last man to object to criticism. He is enough of a man to know that if it be unjust, his merits will shine all the brighter for his previous depreciation; if it be just, the sooner he is got out of the way the better for the country. Thus far Senator Chandler's attack seems to have merely intensified both the public and the President's confidence in McClellan.

The appointment of a resident Commander-in-Chief at Washington, and the Presidential orders directing the army to subsist itself on the enemy, and employ negroes in every fitting capacity, indicate that we are turning over a new leaf in the method of carrying on the war. The new orders from Washington command the hearty approval of all loyal people. It is time that the rebels should be made to feel, in their hearths and homes, the horrors of the war they have forced on us. And it is high time that, in prosecuting the arduous task before us, we should secure any allies we can—white men if they offer, but if not, black, brown, or yellow.

A number of well-meaning persons complain that the Government is too slow—that we should have had a million of men in the field—that the President ought long ago to have authorized our armies to subsist themselves on the rebels, and employ fugitive slaves. It is very easy to prophesy after the event—very simple for people who have had no responsibility to bear, to turn round upon the men who have borne the whole burden of public service on their shoulders and say, when disaster occurs, "I told you so."

History teaches us very plainly that revolutions are steadily progressive, and that a Government, to be safe and strong, must never be in advance of the people. If Mr. Lincoln had commanded our generals to seize the property of Southern men in May, 1861, three-fourths of the North would have protested against the act as needless and barbarous. If, at the same time, he had authorized generals to enlist negroes, at least as large a majority of the Northern people would have opposed him; numbers of army officers, who are now fierce abolitionists, would have resigned; and such excellent soldiers as General Lewis Wallace, General Ben Butler, General Hunter himself would have refused to serve. Mr. Lincoln was compelled to wait until stern experience had eradicated from the Democratic mind the old pro-slavery prejudices, which had been fostered for a generation. Let any one ask General Wallace what his views were when he raised the 11th Indiana Zouaves: he will say that, while he was for the Union, he

was heartily pro-slavery. Now he denounces those who oppose negro regiments as little better than traitors. Compare General Butler's letter to Governor Andrew, dated from Annapolis, in April, 1861, with his present dispatches: the progress is marvelous. In April, 1861, there was not a firmer supporter of slavery in the country than Major Dave Hunter, of Illinois, who has just raised the 1st South Carolina Regiment of Volunteers, consisting exclusively of negroes. It is possible that Mr. Lincoln may have foreseen, fifteen months ago, that we should be compelled to arm negroes and seize Southern property. But whether he did or not, it is more than probable that, if he had so far anticipated the progress of public sentiment as to inaugurate the war with these measures, we should have had—what the rebels fondly counted upon —a divided and powerless North.

So, again, with regard to the numbers of our forces. Why didn't the President call out 300,000 on April 15, 1861, instead of 75,000? Let any candid man recall his sensations on the morning when the call for 75,000 appeared and say, honestly, whether he didn't think the number excessive. Why, Illinois doubted seriously whether she could raise 6000. It was a new business. None of the young men knew any thing of war. The wisest could not tell whether the people of the North would fight en masse for the Union. If Mr. Lincoln had stated in a proclamation that 300,000 men were required, people might have replied that the game was not worth the candle. So in July, when he asked for 400,000 men and $400,000,000. The ex post facto critics shriek, "Why didn't he call for a million, and finish up the work?" Those very men, when the Message appeared on 5th July, believed and declared that it was merely an exaggeration intended to frighten the South. They didn't dream that 400,000 men would be wanted, much less raised, and found too few.

We do not wish to be understood as excusing the mistakes of the Government. It was a fatal blunder to stop recruiting last Fall. And it was an inexcusable error—one of the many absurdities for which Mr. Cameron has to answer —to allow a single regiment to march to the field without establishing a recruiting depot to fill up its ranks as they became thinned by the casualties of war. These are the stupidities into which peaceful nations always fall when they embark in the strange and unnatural business of war. But in the main, history will decide that the Administration of Mr. Lincoln raised as many troops and as speedily as the temper of the North would allow.

Three hundred thousand more men are now wanted, and they will probably be forthcoming without a draft. We trust that the President and General Halleck will not commit the unpardonable blunder of organizing them into raw regiments, so as to be useless, when they might be made invaluable by being distributed among veteran battalions. But it is possible that we may have this lesson, too, to learn by experience.

Meanwhile officials in each State are preparing the necessary registers for a draft. It is hardly likely that the war will be concluded without one. Even with 300,000 fresh troops, our armies will still be outnumbered by the rebels, who have 700,000 men in the field. But it is evidently wiser for the President to exhaust the voluntary system, and then fall back on drafting, rather than run the risk of rendering the war unpopular in the rural districts at the present critical moment by drafting men, if there be no absolute necessity for resorting to such extreme measures. By-and-by the public mind will be educated to the necessity, and then the wiseacres will shout aloud—We told you so! We told you so!


GENERAL SCOTT, when, after the battles upon Manassas Plains (won so often not only before they occurred but since, by newspaper strategists), it became necessary to commit to some one the two-fold Herculean task of making a great army and planning a vast and complicated campaign, recommended McCLELLAN, not only because of the vigor and capacity which he had shown in Western Virginia, but on account of the gallantry, skill, and indefatigable energy which he exhibited throughout the campaign in Mexico. Into that campaign he entered in the lowest rank of commissioned officers—that of second lieutenant—but in the highest department of the service—the engineers—a position achieved by his graduating at West Point with the highest honors.

In Mexico he won not only reputation for skill and energy as a military engineer, but laurels for his gallantry in the field. He had been working night and day in the furtherance of SCOTT'S plan of attack upon the heights of Cerro Gordo, and so successfully as to elicit the commendations of the veteran commander, when he was detailed to PILLOW'S brigade in the general assault, and where he performed his duties under the fiercest fire of the day; that brigade, which moved upon the Mexican right, having been obliged to attack the enemy under such great disadvantages of position, and having met with such determined resistance that it was repulsed

with heavy loss—the field having been won by the carrying of the centre and left. In this his first battle he won the meed of special mention. At the battles of Contreras, fought on the 19th and 20th of August, 1847, McCLELLAN again distinguished himself by his daring and gallantry. Being detailed to General TWIGG'S division, he led its way to the attack on the 19th, and pushed a reconnoissance for the placing of batteries so near the enemy's lines that he and the topographical officer with him both had their horses shot under them. The battle coming on immediately, and the commander of the howitzer battery having been severely wounded, McCLELLAN sprang forward, took his post, and fought the battery with great spirit and ability until it became so disabled as to require shelter. General TWIGGS specially recommended him to the favorable consideration of General SCOTT for "efficiency and gallantry" in this affair; and he was immediately brevetted First Lieutenant of Engineers. Next came the battles of Churubusco—five desperate conflicts in a day and a night—throughout which McCLELLAN'S conduct commanded the admiration of every one. Then followed the assaults upon El Molino del Rey and Casa de Mata, outposts of the Castle of Chapultepec —fearful struggles; for although both positions were carried, it was with the almost unprecedented loss in killed and wounded of nearly one-fourth of the attacking three. In the midst of these bloody and apparently desperate fights McCLELLAN went imperturbably about his work, managing the guns and placing the batteries as if he were on parade. At the assault upon the Castle itself he was equally conspicuous, and won from General WORTH special mention for "gallantry and conduct," besides the commendation which he received for "signal service" as an engineer in the report of the commander of that corps. And finally, at Mexico, he was the first officer to push into the city, which he entered at the head of his sappers and miners at three o'clock in the morning, and where he encountered that most dreadful of all attacks, firing from windows and house-tops, which was kept up by two thousand released convicts; the Mexican regular army having fled. His previous services on the 12th of September had caused him to be brevetted Captain; but as he modestly declined the honor of a sword from Philadelphia last year because he "had done nothing to deserve it," so here he declined his captaincy; but when upon the taking of the city of the Montezumas he was again brevetted Captain "for gallant and meritorious conduct at Chapultepec and Mexico," he accepted the twice-won honor.

There remains but a word to be said to the profound strategists who would at once put him to school as a general, and degrade him in the eyes of the country as a man. It is, that although they may choose to disregard his subsequent services as an organizer at West Point, as an explorer at the West, and as a theorist in the Crimea, which gained him distinction in the records of the War Department, and, finally, his bringing order out of the chaos which succeeded Bull Run; and although he has not yet entered Richmond, it would be prudent for them not to attack a man for the lack of soldierly qualities who, by conspicuous gallantry and daring, as well as by professional skill, won his captaincy upon bloody fields before he was twenty-two years old.



IN the prosecution of a great war two things are essential—money and spirit; and of the two the latter is the most important. That at least is a lesson which we ought long ago to have learned from the rebels. We were wont, in the early days of the trouble, to console ourselves with the reflection that they had no money, and no credit, and no food, and that they must very soon starve and surrender. But had we not an earlier lesson? Had we not Valley Forge in our history? People will go shoeless, and hungry, and cold. By all the logic of circumstances they will be beaten a dozen times, yet still fight desperately. Why? Because there is no shoe so stout, no dinner so satisfactory, no fire so warm, as an idea. Good or bad makes little difference. In the great religious wars the Protestants and Catholics fought with equal fury. It can not be denied that Philip II. was quite as much in earnest as William of Orange and the stout Hollanders.

Now we have plenty of money, but if we lack spirit we are beaten already. "Couldst thou not watch with me one hour?" Are we such faint hearts that, if success will not tumble from sheer over-ripeness into our arms, we will shake our heads dolefully and suck our imbecile thumbs in despair? We have a great work to do. It is of a kind that can not be done in a month or a year. We have to suppress an armed insurrection, and then establish and guarantee peace. It is a tremendous business. It demands men of robust hearts and strong arms and the most cheerful wills. It is precisely the kind of task that should be most welcome to a nation of our race and breeding. It is to educe order from chaos; to squelch a miserable semi-barbaric system of civilization, with its few enormously rich, and its hordes of wretchedly poor and abject, and establish a uniformity of right and advantage. It is to banish the hideous old night of Slavery with the jocund young day-spring of Liberty. (Next Page)




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