On the following day General Banks by public
proclamation assumed command of the Department of the Gulf, to which was now
added the State of Texas. The change in commanders was very generally
believed to be in consequence of a desire on the part of the Government to
pursue conciliatory measures. The policy pursued by General Banks confirmed
this hypothesis. He suspended all public sales of property on account of the
United States until further orders. He released a number of political
prisoners. His inaugural proclamation was of a conciliatory and persuasive
character. It was followed in ten days by another accompanying the
President’s emancipation proclamation, the object of which seemed to be to
demonstrate to the rebels’ satisfaction that “the war is not waged by the
Government for the overthrow of slavery,” and that the only way to secure
its preservation was by a return to the Union.
These measures, however, accomplished no good results.
They encouraged but did not conciliate the rebels. The order which had been
preserved under the more stringent rule of his predecessor was followed by
growing disorders. The soldiers were insulted in the streets. Indecent and
threatening letters were sent anonymously to various officers. Jefferson
Davis was publicly cheered by crowds of men and boys. Thus experience
demonstrated the necessity of rigor.
General Banks found himself compelled to change
somewhat his tone. He gave public notice that offensive demonstrations of
any kind would be instantly and severely punished. He confirmed the order of
General Butler assessing* for the support of the poor, those rich
secessionists who had subscribed to the secession fund. And he thus
demonstrated both his ability and his purpose to preserve order by measures
of severity should those of conciliation fail.
Thus passed the winter of 1862-‘68 in arranging the
civil government, and in preparing for military movements in the spring. The
military operations of General Banks in the Department of the Gulf naturally
range themselves under four great expeditions. The Port Hudson, the
Opelousas, the Texas, and the Red River expeditions. The first we have
described in our last Number. It is to the other three we now direct our