Their War Cry is “Beauty and Booty!”

Wednesday, June 5, 1861

“A reckless and unprincipled tyrant has invaded your soil,” wrote Confederate General Beauregard, new commander of the Southern troops in and around Manassas, in a proclamation released on this date.

Abraham Lincoln, regardless of all moral, legal, and constitutional restraints, has thrown his abolition hosts among you who are murdering and imprisoning your citizens, confiscating and destroying your property, and committing other acts of violence and outrage too shocking and revolting to humanity to be enumerated.

All rules of civilized warfare are abandoned, and they proclaim by their acts, if not on their banners, that their war cry is ‘Beauty and booty.’ All that is dear to man, your honor, and that of your wives and daughters, your fortunes, and your lives, are involved in this momentous contest.

Beauregard had arrived at Manassas a few days ago, taking command of the Department of Alexandria.1 He had reconnoitered the ground, began throwing up entrenchments, requested more troops and was settling in when he was contacted by a prominent lawyer in Alexandria, a one-time Unionist, who was presenting a formal complaint about the various outrages that Union troops committed against his fellow Virginians.

Beauregard’s proclamation was the public response to the lawyer’s complaint. However, this proclamation was actually written by this same complaning lawyer and merely signed by the General. It was, however, no mere warning of impending Northern tyranny and the mass freeing of slaves. This was a call to arms. 2

Beauregard invited and enjoined the nearby men “to rally to the standard of your State and country, and by every means in your power compatible with honorable warfare to drive back and expel the invaders from your land.”

He also asked each of citizen to act as spies, to “give the earliest authentic information to these headquarters or to the officers under my command.”3


Harney: California or Bust!

Realizing that he really was no longer in command of the Department of the West, Union General William Harney wrote to Washington requesting another assignment. He was dismissed over a truce he made with pro-secessionist General Sterling Price. This truce President Lincoln found hard to swallow.

At first, he disputed his removal, but after there was only silence on the other end, he took the hint. “Under the course I pursued, Missouri was secured to the Union,” wrote Harney from his home in St. Louis, “and the triumph of the Government was only the more glorious, being almost a bloodless victory; but those who clamored for blood [presumably Genearl Lyon and Colonel Blair] have not ceased to impugn my motives.”

Almost poetically, Harney recalled his “long life, dedicated to my country.” He had been a soldier most of this life “and more than once I have held her honor in my hands.” His loyalty, he felt, was now in question. Should he be finally relieved of all duty, he feared that his “countrymen will be slow to believe that I have chosen this portion of my career to damn with treason my life, which is so soon to become a record of the past, and which I shall most willingly leave to the unbiased judgment of posterity.”

To spare himself this grief and to be “spared to do my country some further service that will testify to the love I bear her,” he requested “to be assigned to the command of the Department of California.”4

Though Harney did not get his wish, he would spend some time in Washington as a member of the Court of Inquiry before retiring in 1863.


Stubborn Rebel Battery at Pig Point

The USRC [United States Revenue Cutter] Harriet Lane, stationed at Newport News, Virginia was sent by General Butler on a reconnaissance mission up the James River. As the cutter reached the mouth of the Nansemond River, 12 miles up the James, they spotted men moving heavy artillery with ox teams. The flag of secession flew over them.

The ship drew within the range of her guns and opened fire. The Rebels returned fire from seven pieces.

Over the course of forty-five minutes (the Rebels claimed it was twenty), the Lane fired thirty rounds at the battery. Most of those shots fell short, though one scored a direct hit upon an eight-inch shell gun, knocking it out of the fight. The Rebels countered with fifty rounds. Two shots hit the Lane, both ripping through the rigging with one grazing the foremast.

The Harriet Lane was out-gunned and so steamed out of range and returned to Newport News.

Five Union sailors were injured, most by flying splinters. No Rebels were injured during the action.5

  1. This Department would soon become the (Confederate) Army of the Potomac, which itself would later become the Army of Northern Virginia. The date of the birth of the (Confederate) Army of the Potomac is fuzzy, but it seems to have been first used on June 29, 1861. []
  2. The Military Operations of General Beauregard by Alfred Roman, Harper & brothers, 1884. []
  3. Beauregard’s June 5th Proclamation is from the Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 2, p907. []
  4. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 3, p383. []
  5. Official Navy Records, Series 1, Vol. 5, p698-700. []
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6 thoughts on “Their War Cry is “Beauty and Booty!”

  1. Two things strike me about today’s post… the dramatically bombastic way Beauregard riles the confederates (“…acts of violence and outrage too shocking and revolting to humanity to be enumerated.”) and the passionate way Harney defends his diplomatic and bloodless assumption of territory.

    I think we sometimes forget that this was a terribly emotional conflict. Men were driven by passion and commitment on both sides. The manipulation used to get men to act was on par with any seen in the history of war. Many an exaggeration was used to lever men to action. And many calm and quiet men were accused of cowardice or complicity when they didn’t immediately resort to violence when prodded.

    The propaganda and the diplomatic backbiting that accompany every conflict are particularly evident to me in this case. Because I so love my country, and both sides of this conflict became my beloved United States, it is difficult to read how they impugned one another. I understand what drives men to conflict, but I shrink from observing my own country men trampling each other’s pride and honor. Even 150 years later it is hurtful to read…

    Thanks, Eric, for forcing us to see this again. Perhaps the reminder will help us keep coolers heads when we are manipulated by the news of revolution and civil strife around the world today. When we are asked to interfere with emotionally charged situations we don’t fully understand perhaps we will be less inclined to throw our own soldiers into conflicts that are not ours to meddle with. I try to remember that those men and women (of the US Military) are acting in my stead. I know I wouldn’t want to be asked to stand between angry Egyptians or angry Libyans any more than I would stand between the North and the South.

    1. Proclamations issued by Generals in the field during the early war are really wonder and shocking to read (wonderfully shocking!). In the Official Records, you get most of them, plus the reaction to them by the other side. In some cases, there were counter-proclamations and so on. It really was a dramatic time where everyone acted like teenagers about incredibly important things.

      As you know, I’m writing and researching a few months ahead of what’s actually posting. I recently came across a proclamation by a Missouri secessionist named Jeff Thompson that read:

      “Soldiers from Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Go Home! We want you not here and we thirst not for your blood. We have not invaded your states, we have not polluted your hearthstones, therefore leave us, and after we have whipped the Hessians and Tories, we will be your friendly neighbors if we cannot be your brothers.”

  2. Harney was clearly injured by claims that he was in cahoots with the Confederacy, but it does seem that his policy of diplomacy was naive. While he was negotiating with Price and Jackson, they were corresponding with the secretary of war of the Confederacy, and troops were massing in Arkansas.

    Lyon may have been overly belligerent, but Harney erred in the opposite direction, and it could have been disastrous for the North had he not been removed from command.

    1. All true, indeed. I think that’s probably where Fremont came in as a good idea. He wasn’t as radical as Lyon, yet still seemed to fit the mold. That, of course, was nearly disastrous. Harney meant well and was probably a naive, but nice fellow. Lyon, on the other hand, did not mean well. Fremont was the strange middle ground. Of course, nobody had a clue that he would be so incredibly bad at commanding. However, I’m getting ahead of myself.

    2. Indeed that is likely true. Yet naive is certainly less offensive to a man who dedicated himself to the service of his country than cowardly. We tend to see what we want in a situation. In Harney’s case (and probably many other cases) charges of cowardice or complicity were probably unfair. More often the case was surely that many believed there “must” be an alternative to armed conflict. And so they saw promise in phantoms and lies…

      When confronted with the horrors they certainly knew were coming many men must have hoped excessively for some choice other than killing and maiming neighbors with whom they had irreconcilable differences.

      1. Sean, Harney has some history in our area as well. If you’re not familiar with the Pig War that happened on San Juan Island, it’s something I think you’d enjoy. It involves Pickett (of Pickett’s Charge fame), the British and a pig. I was trying to figure out a way to wedge it into the blog, but gave up as it would be quite a stretch.

        There’s a really interesting Harney story that I didn’t relate. I’ve never really been completely sure that it was true, which is why I left it out of this blog. However, it’s just an interesting story that it bears a mention. Here and there, I see some reference to it, but nothing more.

        From a bio on “In April 1861, he was ordered to report to Washington by Lincoln’s new Secretary of War, Simon Cameron. The train on which he was traveling was stopped at Harper’s Ferry, and a young confederate office boarded announcing “General Harney, sir, you are my prisoner!” He was told a Confederate battalion had surrounded the train, sent with orders to intercept him before he reached Washington. In this way, William S. Harney became the first prisoner taken by the South in the Civil War. Later, in Virginia, William received apologies for the manner in which he was brought there, and he was offered a Confederate command under Robert E. Lee. He had previously served with Lee in the U.S. Army in the Mexican War. William refused, and he was allowed to continue on his trip to Washington.”

        It’s also mentioned in a 1878 biography . Maybe it’s true, but it always just seemed to be a bit… odd.

        Harney would probably not have been seen as cowardly, however. He was known to be a fierce fighter and to be responsible for a massacre or two of the Indians. More than likely, he was portrayed by Lyon and Blair to be pro-Southern.

        He is an interesting and frustrating man.

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