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1864 March 12: Conclusion of Colonel Hobart’s Address Includes His Views on the War

March 18, 2014

This is the third and final part of Colonel Harrison C. Hobart’s address to the Wisconsin State Legislature.  The following is from the March 12, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal.  The whole article is very long and we have split it into three postings, the first is about Libby Prison, the second part details the famous escape, and today’s has Hobart’s closing remarks and his views on how to end the War.



Vigorous War the only Road to Peace.

From the Daily State Journal of March 3d.

Having concluded the narrative portion of his remarks, Col. Hobart said he wished to add a few more words as a citizen of Wisconsin, and a resident of the state almost from the date of its settlement and to give some of the impressions which he had gathered from what he had seen and experienced at the South respecting the war.  He believed that the rebels would move heaven and earth in order to achieve success the present year.  They would dash their entire strength upon us.  They were massing as far as possible all their military forces and not an element of power which they could control would be shared.  It was his firm belief that there was a strong Union sentiment even in Richmond, while it pervaded the rank and file of the army, but not the leaders.  They were determined and desperate.  It was the purpose of Mr. Davis [Jefferson Davis] and his associates to fight on to the bitter end.  Did the audience wish to know what he, the speaker, thought of the result ?  He believed that if the North would stand firm, if our people continue united as they have been, if we push forward the war with vigor, striking resolute blows, that the worst was over, and that the present season would witness the termination of the war upon a large scale.  He might be asked if he believed there was any mode of settlement except by fighting.  He has seized every opportunity while in the South to ascertain what the real sentiment of the people was.  At Atlanta, Augusta, Raleigh and Richmond, he had conversed with both officers and privates in the rebel army, for had felt a great interest in this subject.  Certainly if it were possible to settle the difficulties between the two sections of the country without the further effusion of blood, he should be most earnestly in favor of that method.  But it was his deliberate conviction that there could be no restoration of the Union, and no peace until we have whipped their armies.  Nothing but hard blows will shake their purpose.  When their armies are shipped, it was his impression, that the southern people would act as other people do under like circumstances, they would yield.  Nothing but a vigorous prosecution of the war could ever reconstruct this Union.  He said it with sorrow, knowing what war was, knowing that it meant suffering, sorrow and death to thousands.

The subject of slavery was a foregone thing.  The Southern people understood well, that if we succeeded there is to be no slavery.  They are prepared to accept this result in the event of their defeat.  They know it involves an entire change in their system of labor, for the philosophic element that underlaid this whole struggle, was the antagonism between the labor systems of the North and South.—This war was a death grapple between free and slave labor.  (Applause.)  One system or the other has got to succeed.  He asked his friends to consider what would be the condition of the country if the South were to triumph.  He was aware that it was said that the country was in danger from the soldiers, that there was danger of their allying themselves with the fortune s of some military leader and subverting the Government.  He wished to say that for nearly three years past he had been by the camp fire, and among the soldiers, and he declared from his own knowledge that if there was any zeal for liberty in this country it could be found to-night about the camp fires of our army.  (Applause)  When it ceased to exist there, there would be no liberty for the North.  But if we defeated their armies, would not the South remain in sentiment as hostile as ever?  No.  As the army advances into the South it effects great changes.  The population there, was changing.  Their country was becoming filled with Yankees.  The soldiers were marrying Southern women.  We were peopling the country as we went along.  (Great laughter, interrupting the speaker for some time.)

Col. H. resuming and looking to the galleries, I would say to the soldiers present, is it not true boys?  (Renewed Laughter)  Gen. Thomas [George H. Thomas] made a remark when with the army of Tennessee, that would be historical.  It gave a correct idea of the effects of the war.  He said “that this war was a slow process of colonization.”  Nashville, Baltimore, Washington and other southern cities had been almost transformed.  Northern men and northern ideas were gaining the ascendency in them.  Moreover when the way is closed some of our warmest friends would be found among those now in the Southern army.  There was no personal hostility of feeling between the men composing the opposing armies.  Many a time he had seen the cordial intercourse of northern and southern soldiers on picket.  He had seen the blue and gray uniforms sharing the same blanket.  They were friends until the actual clash of battle came, then they fought fiercely and earnestly.  But when the war was over, there would be found no bar to reconciliation between them:  on the contrary it would be the bravest men on both sides who would make the best friends.

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