Military Adventures Beyond the Mississippi

Effects of Conciliation

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 readers' attention.

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