Tag Archives: Louisiana

South Seeks to Win by Not Losing

January 3, 1864/2014
Volume 5, Issue 1 (169 Issues Since 15 October 2010)

Missionary Writes of Freedmen in Louisiana

January 8, 1864. Thomas Calahan, a United Presbyterian Church missionary working among freedmen in Louisiana, reported in the Liberator,

“[Y]ou have no idea of the state of things here. Go out in any direction and you meet negroes on horses, negroes on mules, negroes with oxen, negroes by the wagon, cart and buggy load, negroes on foot, men, women and children; negroes in uniform, negroes in rags, negroes in frame houses, negroes living in tents, negroes living in rail pens covered with brush, and negroes living under brush piles without any rails, negroes living on the bare ground with the sky for their covering; all hopeful, almost all cheerful, every one pleading to be taught, willing to do anything for learning. They are never out of our rooms, and their cry is for ‘Books! Books!’ and ‘When will school begin?’ Negro women come and offer to cook and wash for us, if we will only teach them to read the Bible. And think of people living in brush tents gathering for prayer meetings that last far into the night. Every night hymns of praise to God and prayers for the Government that oppressed them so long, rise around us on every side–prayers for the white teachers that have already come — prayers that God would send them more. These are our circumstances.”

As we read this primary source 150 years later, we might want to keep in mind the possibility that what he describes and how he describes it might have been influenced by his desire to raise funds and advocate for his missionary work.


James M. McPherson The Negro’s Civil War, p. 113.

South Seeks to Win by Not Losing

“By early 1864 most Confederate Southerners had probably given up hopes of winning the Civil War by conquering Union armies,” writes historian Stephen Davis in The Civil War in Georgia. He continues, “The Confederacy had a real chance, though, of winning the war simply by not being beaten. In spring 1864 this strategy required two things: first, Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s army in Virginia had to defend its capital, Richmond, and keep Union general Ulysses S. Grant’s forces at bay; and second, the South’s other major army, led by Joseph E. Johnston in northern Georgia, had to keep William T. Sherman’s Union forces from driving south and capturing Atlanta, the Confederacy’s second-most important city.”

“This win-by-not-losing strategy involved a time element as well. If Lee and Johnston could hold their respective fields through early November, then war-weary Northerners might vote U.S. President Abraham Lincoln out of office. The Democratic candidate, in turn, might seek an armistice with the Confederacy and end the war.”


“Atlanta Campaign,” Stephen Davis, in The Civil War in Georgia, p. 73


“Atlanta Campaign,” New Georgia Encyclopedia

Editor’s note: These entries were submitted by Peter A. Gilbert, Vermont Humanities Council, executive director

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Filed under Civil War Book of Days: 1864