History of Insurgencies and Resistances

This isn’t by all means comprehensive, but it does relate to the American experience. And only domestic American experiences, no Phillippines.

The FBI watches over the domestic insurgency.

Media and the war

New York City had a number of widely read and influential newspapers and periodicals, whose influence was felt across the country, not just in the city itself. Horace Greeley, one of the founders of the Republican Party, grew his New York Tribune into America’s most influential newspaper from 1840 through 1870. Greeley used it to promote the Whig and Republican parties, as well as antislavery and a host of reforms. Greeley, who during the secession crisis of 1861 had espoused a hard line against the Confederacy, became a voice for the Radical Republicans during the war, in opposition to Lincoln’s moderation. By 1864, he had lost much of his control over the newspaper, but wrote an editorial expressing defeatism regarding Lincoln’s chances of reelection, an attitude that was echoed across the country when his editorials were reprinted.

The New York Herald, under owner James Gordon Bennett, Sr., was a constant source of criticism of Lincoln’s administration and policies, although Bennett and his paper strongly supported the Union. He had endorsed John C. Breckinridge early in the 1860 presidential campaign, then shifted to John Bell. In 1864, Bennett promoted George B. McClellan against, but officially endorsed neither candidate.

In addition to the powerful newspapers, New York City housed the printing presses of several other important periodicals such as Harper’s Weekly , Frank Leslie’s Illustrated News, and New York Illustrated News. Political cartoonist Thomas Nast became a well-known commentator on the war, and his efforts helped stir patriotism and fervor for the Union. Field war correspondents and artists such as Alfred Waud provided the public with first-hand accounts from the Northern armies.

Two journalists for the Brooklyn Eagle conspired to exploit the financial situation during early part of 1864, a plot known as the Civil War gold hoax. On May 18, two New York City newspapers, the New York World and the New York Journal of Commerce, published a false story that President Lincoln had issued a proclamation of conscription of 400,000 more men into the Union army. Share prices soon fell on the New York Stock Exchange when investors began to buy gold, and its value increased 10%. Officials finally traced the source of the story to the two men from the rival Brooklyn newspaper and arrested them.

In another celebrated case, Thomas W. Knox, a veteran journalist for the New York Herald, published a series of scathing attacks on General William Tecumseh Sherman and his men, which helped fuel speculation over Sherman’s sanity. Knox also printed important information pertaining to the Vicksburg Campaign that led to him being charged, tried, and found guilty of disobedience of orders, although he was acquitted on espionage charges.

[edit] 1864 Election Day sabotage

Secret agents from the Confederacy had been in New York City throughout the war, providing information on troop strengths, political views, shipments, etc. back to Richmond. Some of these agents planned an act of terrorism for Election Day in November 1864, when they would simultaneously burn down several leading city hotels. The plot was initially foiled due to a double agent who turned over communications to Federal officials, and to a massive military presence that deterred the plotters. Election Day passed without incident. However, on November 25, the saboteurs finally struck, setting fires at several hotels and other leading landmarks, including P. T. Barnum’s museum. Fervent efforts by the city’s firefighters extinguished most of the blazes, and most of the conspirators fled to Canada.[5]

A little bit of Civil War insurgency.

The CIA‘s take on Civil War insurgencies.

Sweet struck first on the night of November 7. With the aid of Union Army agents, Sweet arrested the raid’s leaders and Sons of Liberty officers, along with “106 bushwhackers, guerrillas, and rebel soldiers.” Cached in a collaborator’s home near the camp were 142 shotguns and 349 revolvers, along with thousands of rounds of ammunition. Sweet reinforced the military guard in the city by mobilizing a force of 250 militiamen—and arming them with the raiders’ confiscated guns.

Undeterred by the failure in Chicago, Commissioners Thompson and Clay authorized the boldest operation yet: the torching of New York City by eight agents. The agents were to set the fires with containers of “Greek fire,” the general name, dating to antiquity, for incendiary substances. The 1864 version of Greek fire was developed for the Confederacy by a Cincinnati chemist who mixed phosphorous with carbon bisulphide. Exposed to air, the mixture bursts into flames.

In New York, the leader of the saboteurs went to a certain basement where an old man with a beard handed him a valise containing twelve dozen sealed, four-ounce bottles. Each man checked into a series of hotels, then went back to each one, opened a bottle in the room, left, and locked the door. They set fires in 19 hotels, a theater, and P.T. Barnum’s American Museum. The fires did not amount to much. There was no panic. There was no uprising.

The last known Canadian sabotage operation came in December 1864. John Beall, who had failed to seize the Michigan, vainly tried three times to derail Union trains as they passed near Buffalo. Some of these trains carried Confederate prisoners. As he was heading back to Canada after the third attempt, he was arrested. Tried and convicted as a spy and a guerrilla, Beall was hanged on February 24, 1865.

A month later, Robert Cobb Kennedy met the same fate. He had been caught trying to get from Canada to Richmond. He blurted out a confession that doomed him as one of the New York terrorists. “I know that I am to be hung for setting fire to Barnum’s Museum,” he said, “but that was only a joke.”

The next arrest of a Canadian conspirator came in May 1865. Luke Pryor Blackburn, a Kentucky doctor attached to the Confederate sabotage group, was arrested in Canada on charges of conspiracy to murder in a foreign country. The charge had originated with an alert U.S. consul in Bermuda. Blackburn had been in Bermuda caring for victims of a yellow-fever epidemic. The consul learned that Blackburn had secretly collected victims’ sweat-soaked clothing and blankets and shipped them to Canada.

At Blackburn’s Canadian trial, an accomplice-turnedinformant testified that Blackburn believed that yellow fever could be transmitted by the victims’clothing. (It was not yet known that the disease was spread by the bites of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.) On Blackburn’s instructions, the accomplice picked up trunks in Halifax and shipped them to Northern cities in a plot to start a yellow-fever epidemic. A special valise was to be presented to President Lincoln. Secreted among the gift of dress shirts were rags of fever victims’ clothing.

Blackburn was soon acquitted for lack of evidence, but few noticed. The war was over, and Lincoln was already dead—assassinated by a man who had met with the Canadian conspirators, John Wilkes Booth.

Booth had been in Canada in October 1864, but little is known about his visit with conspirators there. Richard Montgomery, the double agent in Canada, claimed that Booth and others had met to plot the kidnapping of President Lincoln. (The ransom was to be the freeing of Confederate prisoners of war, who could then fight again and perhaps win the war.) The kidnappers were to strike in March 1865, but an unexpected change in Lincoln’s schedule thwarted them. When General Lee surrendered to General Grant on April 9, 1865, the plot dissolved. But five days later, Booth transformed himself from kidnapper to assassin and killed Lincoln.

Lafayette Baker, head of the National Detective Police, responded to a summons from Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “Come here immediately and see if you can find the murderer of the President.” On April 26, Baker found Booth, but failed to take him alive. The assassin was fatally shot when he refused to come out of a barn that his pursuers had set afire

What’s this about Canada folks might be wondering?

In secret sessions during February 1864, the Confederate Congress passed a bill that authorized a campaign of sabotage against “the enemy’s property, by land or sea.” The bill established a Secret Service fund—$5 million in U.S. dollars—to finance the sabotage. As an incentive, saboteurs would get rewards proportional to the destruction they wreaked. One million dollars of that fund was specifically earmarked for use by agents in Canada. For some time, agents there had been plotting far more than across-the-border sabotage. They believed that their plans for large-scale covert actions could win the war.

Canada, then officially known as British North America, was against slavery, but not fully supportive of the North. As a British possession, Canada reflected Britain’s brand of neutrality, which tipped toward the South and King Cotton. Many Canadians worried about the possibilitythat the breakup of the Union might tempt the United States to add territory by attempting to annex Canada. As the war wore on and Canadians’ sympathy for the South grew, so did toleration for harboring Confederate agents.

The Canadian operations station was in Toronto under the military command of Captain Thomas Henry Hines, who had ridden with Morgan’s Raiders in guerrilla sorties into Kentucky and Tennessee. On the raids, Hines had made contact with leaders of pro-South underground networks in what was then called the “Northwest”—part of today’s Midwest.

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