Summer Rerun: Stand Off at the Salado

The historical marker on Holbrook Road in suburban San Antonio

Like a great many locations of note to the tumultuous years of the Republic of Texas, the site of the battle of Salado Creek today doesn’t look much like it did in 1842  . . .  however, it is not so much changed that it is hard to picture in the minds’ eye what it would have looked like then. The creek is dryer and seasonal, more dependent upon rainfall than the massive amount of water drawn into the aquifer by the limestone sponge of the Hill Country, to the north. Then – before the aquifer was tapped and drilled and drained in a thousand places –  water came up in spectacular natural fountains in many places below the Balcones Escarpment. The Salado was a substantial landmark in the countryside north of San Antonio, a deep and regular torrent, running between steep banks lined with oak and pecan trees, thickly quilted with deep brush and the banks scored by shallow ravines that ran down to water-level. Otherwise, the countryside around was gently rolling grasslands, dotted with more stands of oak trees. There was a low hill a little east of the creek, with a house built on the heights. Perhaps it might have had a view of San Antonio de Bexar, seven miles away, to the south and west.

In that year, San Antonio was pretty much what it had been for two centuries: a huddle of jacales, huts made from plastered logs set upright in the ground and crowned with a roof of thatch, and thick-walled houses of unbaked clay adobe bricks, roofed with rusty-red tile, all gathered around the stumpy tower of the Church of San Fernando. A few narrow streets converged on the plaza where San Fernando stood – streets with names like the Alameda, Soledad and Flores. The whole was threaded together by another river, lined with rushes and more trees. The river rambled like a drunken snake,  but it generously watered the town, the orchards and farms nearby . . . and was the main reason for the town and a string of missions having been established by the Spanish in the first place. That street called the Alameda, or sometimes the Powderhouse Hill Road (now Commerce), led out to the east, across a bend of the river, and past another ramble of stone and adobe buildings clustered around a roofless church; the Alamo, once a mission, then a presidio garrison, and finally a legend. By 1842 – the siege of it’s Texian garrison only six years in the past – it was still a barracks and military establishment. In the fall of 1842, the Mexican Army returned to take temporary possession.

General and President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had never ceased to resent how one-half of the province of Coahuila-y-Tejas had been wrenched from the grasp of Mexico by the efforts of a scratch army of volunteer and barely trained rebel upstarts who had the nerve to think they could govern themselves, thank you. When General Adrian Woll, a French soldier of fortune who was one of Lopez de Santa Anna’s most trusted commanders brought an expeditionary force all the from the Rio Grande and swooped down on the relatively unprotected town  . . .  this was an action not entirely unexpected.

Coincidentally, for the Texans, that fall had seemed to be  a good time to get on with urgent civic business, such as the meeting of the District Court in San Antonio. There had not been the opportunity to try civil cases for many years; the town was full of visitors who had come for the court session: officials, lawyers and litigants. Court opened on September 5th – but within days rumors were flying of another Mexican incursion. Such rumors were cheerfully dismissed – not soldiers, just bandits and marauders. Just in case,  local surveyor John Coffee Hays – who already had a peerless reputation as a ranger and Indian fighter – was sent out to scout with five of his men. They saw nothing, having stayed on the established roads; unknown to them,  General Woll was approaching through the deserted country to the west of San Antonio, with a column of more than 1,500 soldiers – as well as a considerable assortment of cannon.

Under cover of a dense fog bank on the morning of September 11th, Woll’s army marched into San Antonio, with banners flying and a band playing. Having blocked off all escape routes, the General ordered a cannon fired to announce his presence. There was some sharp, but futile resistance, before surrender was negotiated. General Woll announced that he would have to take all Anglo men in San Antonio as prisoners of war; this included the judge, district attorney, assistant district attorney, court clerk, court interpreter, every member of the San Antonio Bar save one, and a handful of litigants and residents, to a total of fifty-five. They were kept prisoner – after five days they were told they must walk all the way to the Rio Grande, but they would then be released. Sometime during this period, the-then Mayor of San Antonio, John William Smith, managed to escape.

(Salado Creek today – not much water in it, because of the drought. And that is an egret.

Texas did not have much of a regular professional army, as most western nations understood the concept. Texas did have sort of an army, and sort of a navy, too – but mere tokens – the window-dressing required of a legitimate nation, which is what Texas was trying it’s best to become, given restricted resources. What Texas did have was nearly limitless numbers of rough and ready volunteers, who were accustomed to respond to a threat, gathering in a local militia body and volunteering for a specific aim or mission, bringing their own weapons, supplies and horses, and usually electing their own officers. They also had the men of various ranging companies, which can be thought of as a mounted and heavily-armed and aggressive Neighborhood Watch. Most towns and settlements of any size on the Texas frontier fielded their own Ranger Companies. By the time of Woll’s raid on San Antonio, those volunteers and Rangers were veterans of every fight going since before Texas had declared independence – a large portion of them being of that tough Scotch-Irish ilk of whom it was said that they were born fighting. That part of the frontier which ran through Texas gave them practice at small-scale war and irregular tactics on a regular and continuing basis.

One bit of good fortune for the Anglos of San Antonio and the various militias and of Texas generally, was that the captain of the local Ranger Company was not one of those caught by Woll’s lighting-raid. Captain John Coffee Hays and fifteen of his rangers had actually been out patrolling the various roads and trails, in response to rumors of a Mexican force in the vicinity. It was they who – upon their return in the wee hours of a September morning – found every road into San Antonio blocked by Mexican soldiers. Naturally, they did not let this event pass without comment or response.

Most people accept as conventional wisdom about the Texas frontier, that Anglo settlers were always the consummate horsemen, the cowboys and cavalrymen that they were at the height of the cattle boom years. But that was not so: there was a learning curve involved. The wealthier Texas settlers who came from the Southern states of course valued fine horseflesh. Horse-races were always a popular amusement, and the more down-to-earth farmers and tradesmen who came to Texas used horses as draft animals. But the Anglo element was not accustomed to working cattle – the long-horned and wilderness-adapted descendants of Spanish cattle – from horseback. Their eastern cattle were slow, tame and lumbering. Nor were many of them as accustomed to making war from the saddle as the Comanche were. Most of Sam Houston’s army who won victory at San Jacinto, were foot-soldiers: his scouts and cavalry was a comparatively small component of his force. It was a deliberate part of Sam Houston’s strategy to fall back into East Texas, where the lay of the land worked in the favor of his army. The Anglos preferred weapon in those early days in Texas was the long Kentucky rifle, a muzzle-loading weapon, impossible to use effectively in the saddle and more suited to their preferred cover of woods – not the rolling grasslands interspersed with occasional clumps of trees which afforded Mexican lancers such grand maneuvering room.

When did this begin to change for the Anglo-Texans? Always hard to say about such things, but I suspect that the Anglo-Texas began morphing into becoming what they fought almost as soon as Texas declared independence in 1836. The war with the Comanche was unrelenting for fifty years, and conflict with Mexico was open for all of the decade that the Republic of Texas existed, as well as simmering away in fits and starts for even longer. And one of the agents taking an active part in that metamorphosis from settler to centaur was Captain Hays, during the time that he commanded the San Antonio Ranger Company.  Jack Hays was one of the most innovative and aggressive Ranger captains. He had already begun schooling his contingent in horsemanship and hard riding, and in use of five-shot repeating pistols developed by Samuel Colt.

Hay’s contingent  spread the alarm brought by Mayor Smith – and in answer to it,  militia volunteers began to assemble from across the westernmost inhabited part of Texas. Colonel Matthew “Old Paint” Caldwell, from Gonzales began gathering a scratch force at Seguin, east and south of San Antonio. He collected up about a hundred and forty, and set out for a camp on Cibolo Creek, twenty miles from San Antonio, before settling on another camp on the Salado, seven miles north of San Antonio. He gathered another seventy or eighty volunteers – and more were on the way. But “Old Paint” was in any case, outnumbered several times over, and being a sensible man knew there was absolutely no chance of re-taking San Antonio in a head-on assault. But what if a sufficient number of Woll’s force could be lured out of the town – which may not have been a fortified town in the European sense of things, but certainly was set up to enable a stout defense against lightly-armed infantry. Caldwell arranged his few men efficiently, among the trees, deep thickets and rocky banks of the creek, with the water at their backs, and the rolling prairie, dotted with trees all the way to San Antonio spread out before them. Could any part of Woll’s invaders be lured into a kill-zone?  The Texians grimly proposed to find out.

There were only thirty-eight horses counted fit enough for what would be an easy ride to San Antonio, but undoubtedly a hard ride back. Jack Hays and his Rangers, and another dozen men were dispatched very early on the morning of September 17th. At a certain point, still short of San Antonio, Hays ordered twenty-nine of the men with him to dismount and set up an ambush. He and the remaining eight then rode on – to within half a mile of the Alamo, where the main part of Woll’s force had camped. They would have been clearly seen from the walls of the old presidio; it would have been about sunrise. What else did they do besides show themselves? Perhaps they fired a few shots into the air, shouted taunts, made obscene gestures clearly visible to anyone with a spyglass. It was their assignment to provoke at least fifty of Woll’s cavalrymen into chasing after them, hell for leather  . . .  instead, two hundred Mexican cavalrymen boiled out of the Alamo, along with forty Cherokee Indians (who at that time had allied themselves with Mexico) and another three hundred and more, led personally by General Woll. Hay’s provocation had worked a little too well – it was a running fight, all the seven miles back to the camp and the carefully arranged line of Texians with the Salado and the green forest of the trees and thickets at their back. Caldwell and the others were just eating breakfast when Hays and his party arrived breathlessly and at a full gallop. Over two hundred shots had been fired at them, none with any effect – not particularly surprising, given that it would have been extremely difficult to hit a moving target from a position on a galloping horse, and that reloading would have been near to impossible.

Having succeeded beyond their wildest dreams in drawing the Mexican force to follow them, Jack Hays and the others took up their position in “Old Paint” Caldwell’s line – carefully screened and sheltered among the trees. Caldwell sent out messages saying that he was surrounded, but in a good spot for defense, if any at all could come to his aid – and so it turned out to be. The canny old Indian-fighter had a good eye for the ground, and for an enemy. The pursuing Mexican cavalry drew up short, upon seeing his positions, or whatever evidence they could see from their position on the open prairie, looking into the trees along the Salado – but they did not withdraw entirely. Instead, Woll, and most of his command lined up and prepared to sling a great deal of musket-fire and a barrage of artillery shot in the direction of Caldwell’s force, none of which had any noticeable effect at all – on the Texians. Instead, Anglo-Texian skirmishers went forward with their chosen and familiar weapon and from their favorite cover sniped at leisure all through the next five hours, inflicting considerable casualties, before scampering back to safety on the creek-bank. Some sources claim at least sixty dead and twice that number wounded, against one Texian killed, nine or ten injured and another half-dozen having had hairsbreadth escapes. At one point, General Woll ordered a direct attack – a few of his soldiers got within twenty feet of the dug-in Texians. Being a fairly rational man, and a professional soldier, the General knew when it was time to cut his losses. Leaving his campfires burning, he and his forces silently fell back to San Antonio under the cover of night, and then withdrew even farther – all the way back towards the Rio Grande.

This would have been a complete and total victory for Caldwell   . . .  except for one unfortunate circumstance: a company of fifty or so volunteers from Bastrop, on their way to join him, had the misfortune to almost make it – to even hear the sounds of the fight, from two miles distant. The company of Captain Nicholas Mosby Dawson, from Bastrop and the upper Colorado was caught by Woll’s rear-guard, as they retreated. Only fifteen of Dawson’s men would survive that battle and surrender to superior military force. Caldwell’s men would find the bodies of the dead on the following day, as the pursued Woll towards the somewhat amorphous border. The fifteen Dawson men would join those Anglo-Texians taken prisoner in San Antonio in chains in Perote prison – some of those would be held in durance vile until early 1844.

For the rest of the life of the Republic, war on the border with Mexico continued at a slow simmer, now and again flaring up into open conflict: a punitive expedition here, a retaliatory strike there, fears of subversion, and of encouraging raids by bandits and Indians, finally resulting in an all-out war between the United States and Mexico when Texas chose to be annexed by the United States.

29 thoughts on “Summer Rerun: Stand Off at the Salado”

  1. I’ve been listening to the audio version of Caro’s biography of Johnson. The second volume, “Means of Ascent,” has a long section devoted to Coke Stevenson.

    I’ve gotten so interested in him that I’ve looked up his Wiki page and Caro wrote <a h ref="; a long essay in the NY Times rebutting Democrats who criticized his description of Stevenson.

    I even looked up The Coke Stevenson ranch, which has the original house he built for him and his wife Fay. The first ranch house burned down so he built this one of stone and concrete.

    Amazing life story and virtually unknown because Johnson slimed him in 1948 with lies. And still had to steal the election.

  2. Yeah, LBJ is kind of a mixed bag for us native and adopted Texans. Locally slimy – yeah, no doubt about it. National political operator? World-class. Hit the Peter-Principle level when it came to ‘outside the US borders’ matters? Oh, yeah – most definitely.

  3. Did LBJ arrange the assassination of JFK? I ask because the conspiracy theories that were bruited about when I was young didn’t seem to include this most obvious of ideas.

  4. No, LBJ didn’t have a hand in the JFK assassination, although there were plenty of conspiracy theorists who hated his guts enough to float it as a theory.
    Just one gunman, shooting from the book repository – a crazed leftist with a grudge and a fair degree of marksmanship.

  5. “Just one gunman, shooting from the book repository – a crazed leftist with a grudge and a fair degree of marksmanship.” That’s what I assumed for years. But then I learned what a vile creature LBJ was. I inferred that he would have been quite prepared to have Kennedy shot but I could see no evidence that he did.

    Has anyone any specific ideas about what motivated Oswald? What, for instance, was his grudge? No doubt there were plenty of Commies in the US: why did that particular one shoot JFK? Kennedy seems to me to have been at best a mediocre President, hardly worth the bother of bumping off. From the point of view of the KGB it worked out well in the end, with LBJ expanding JFK’s little war in Vietnam into something of a national disaster. But the KGB couldn’t have foreseen that.

  6. The most sensible theory that I have seen, Dearie – is that Oswald wanted to impress the Soviets, perhaps the Cubans; “Hey, I’ll show them how badass I am! Then they’ll have to give me some respect around here!” From what I have read, the Soviets and the Cubans had written him off as a whackadoodle with delusions of grandeur, or perhaps as a very unconvincing plant.

  7. Epstein has a theory, with some evidence, that Oswald was a KGB agent while a Marine in Japan and that he had a role in betraying the U 2 flights that were monitored from there. Among other things, he notes that Oswald had expensive Japanese girlfriends that a corporal could probably not afford.

    Maybe he wanted back in and this was an offer of bona fides. He did go to the Mexican Soviet embassy and there is no information about what happened.

  8. Grurray, Tony Accardo’s daughters went to school with my sister. He had a big estate in Long Beach , Indiana at a popular summer resort on Lake Michigan.

  9. Yes, LBJ stole the 1948 Senate primary. But in the 1941 primary, he lost by a similar method.Texas Monthly: Go Ask Alice.

    The origins of the Box 13 scandal lie in a painful lesson Johnson learned in the 1941 Senate primary, which was stolen from him by Governor W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel. One day after the election, Johnson was proclaimed the unofficial winner; campaign workers hoisted the jubilant candidate onto their shoulders, and John Connally—then Johnson’s campaign manager—sent a telegram that read “Unless miracle happens . . . looks like we’re in.” But an overconfident Johnson made a crucial mistake: He had instructed his key districts to report back their results promptly on primary day, but that alerted O’Daniel’s men to precisely how many votes they needed to “discover” in unreported districts to guarantee a win. Indeed, three days after the election, O’Daniel was declared the victor by 1,311 votes. It was the only electoral defeat Johnson ever suffered, and he would call the following few years the “most miserable period” of his life.

    Johnson did not contest the 1941 election results, most likely because he did not want to invite scrutiny: His campaign had engaged in questionable voting practices with the help of men like political boss George Parr. Known as “the Duke” of Duval County, Parr ruled much of South Texas through patronage and force, regularly fixing elections. He proved invaluable in 1948 when Johnson decided to run for the Senate again, this time against Stevenson.

    Politics in Texas at that time was down and dirty. LBJ was just playing by the rules. How much cleaner is Texas politics today?
    Mike K, your postings on Caro’s LBJ volumes are sending me subliminal messages that I need to take them off my bookshelves and read them.

  10. Having read Operation Solo: The FBI’s Man in the Kremlin, I doubt that the KGB was involved in the Kennedy assassination. Operation Solo is about Morris Childs and his brother Jack, former Communists who went to work with the FBI. Morris Childs made numerous trips to Moscow over two decades in the role of bagman bringing Kremlin dollars to the CPUSA. Coincidentally, Morris Childs was in Moscow around the time of the Kennedy assassination.

    Ponomarev was talking to Morris in his office about Johnson when subordinates burst in, their faces ashen. Unaware that Morris understood Russian, they ignored him and at once informed Ponomarev that Dallas police had arrested Lee Harvey Oswald for the murder of President Kennedy. Other ostensible facts they rapidly reported explained their alarm, which bordered on panic.
    Oswald, a former U.S. Marine, had defected to the Soviet Union and lived there with his Russian wife. Soviet psychiatrists who examined him after he attempted suicide in Moscow concluded that he was very abnormal and unbalanced, if not insane. When he asked to return to the United States, the Soviets were glad to be rid of him and they had no contact with him until a few weeks ago. Then he appeared unbidden at the Soviet embassy in Mexico City and requested a visa to go back to the Soviet Union, saying he intended to travel via Cuba. The embassy, following standard procedures, routinely asked Moscow for guidance. KGB headquarters reviewed his record, adjudged him a useless misfit, and ordered the embassy to brush him off. Accordingly, the Soviets in Mexico City advised Oswald that they could not issue a visa until he obtained a visa to enter Cuba. Forewarned, the Cuban embassy told him it could not issue a visa until he obtained a visa to enter the Soviet Union. This contrived runaround succeeded in turning Oswald away, and the Soviets heard nothing more from or about him until just now.

    The KGB swore to the Politburo and International Department that before, during, and after the time Oswald lived in the Soviet Union it never utilized him as an agent or informant. The Politburo had confiscated his KGB file, and the copy that aides gave Ponomarev apparently contained nothing to contradict this claim.
    Throughout the excited exchanges, Morris sat mute and phlegmatic, trying to transcribe into memory every word he heard. One of the Soviets finally took note of him and asked, “What are we going to tell this American here?” Ponomarev certified that Morris was completely trustworthy and declared he should be told the truth. Through an interpreter, Morris thereupon heard basically the same account given Ponomarev. Almost pleading, the Soviets beseeched him to believe they had nothing to do with the assassination.

    Logic and professional training inclined him to believe them. While the Soviets had not foresworn assassination as an instrument of state policy, even low-level murders had to be approved in advance by the Politburo, and Ponomarev surely would have known of any plan to kill the president. Neither Ponomarev nor other ranking Soviets with whom Morris spoke could have faked the kind of shock he personally observed.

    As the courier/bagman for the CPUSA, Childs dealt with people at the top of the Kremlin hierarchy. The book has photos of him with Brezhnev and friends. As Morris Childs had made friends with gray eminence Mikhail Suslov during a training course in Moscow during the 1930s, he had the trust of the Kremlin. Recall that as the chief ideologue, Suslov was instrumental in bringing Brezhnev to power. Morris Childs had an advantage that the Soviets never discovered neither during his training course in the 1930s nor during his decades as CPUSA courier: he understood Russian, courtesy of his immigrant parents. As such, he was better able to judge the veracity of what he heard.

    I have read a fair amount of “fiction” – DeLillo and Mailer- and nonfiction about the Kennedy assassination. Thomas Mallon’s Mrs. Paine’s Garage and the murder of John F. Kennedy, billed as nonfiction, points out an interesting connection. Oswald’s mother worked as a private nurse for a family that donated artwork to display in the Kennedys’ hotel room. I find it rather infuriating that the “liberal” press pushed the assassination as a consequence of right-wing hatred- even more absurd when one takes into account Oswald’s taking a potshot at General Walker. My guess is that Castro was involved. As I wrote- guess.

    That the FBI sponsored the CPUSA’s bagman to Moscow indicates how much the FBI feared the CPUSA.Morris Childs brought information back about the Sino-Soviet split, years before it was public. The intelligence that Childs brought back from Moscow made it worth keeping Gus Hall in comfort.

  11. Sgt. Mom
    The most sensible theory that I have seen, Dearie – is that Oswald wanted to impress the Soviets, perhaps the Cubans; “Hey, I’ll show them how badass I am! Then they’ll have to give me some respect around here!” From what I have read, the Soviets and the Cubans had written him off as a whackadoodle with delusions of grandeur, or perhaps as a very unconvincing plant.

    Sounds about right. But given the contacts that Oswald had w Cubans, I wonder if some Cubans might have fed Oswald some information in the hope that he would act independently on that information without expressly telling him to kill JFK. As the Cubans would not have expressly told Oswald to kill JFK, the Cubans would have plausible deniability if Oswald was caught. Some crazy psy-op. Regarding the “reasonableness” of the Cubans at the time, recall that in 1962 Castro was willing to precipitate nuclear war over the Russian missiles in Cuba. But this is all conjecture, I admit.

    The KGB was definitely not involved, given what I read in Operation Solo.

  12. He had instructed his key districts to report back their results promptly on primary day, but that alerted O’Daniel’s men to precisely how many votes they needed to “discover” in unreported districts to guarantee a win.

    Yes and the two thieves had a Mexican standoff but for Johnson’s mistake. Minnesota had a similar scene with Al Franken.

    It was similar in Washington State a few years before with Gregoire winning through ballot box stuffing.

    The difference in 1948 was that Stevenson was honest and had never taken a bribe, almost unique in Texas.

    Kennedy added Johnson to the ticket to get the dirty votes there and in Chicago.

  13. Hoping that Sarge forgives me for diverting the discussion here:

    “It was that same CIA memo that offered a detailed theory of the chain of events that led Oswald to kill Kennedy—how Oswald, who lived in his hometown of New Orleans for much of 1963, may have been inspired to assassinate the president if, as seemed probable, he read an article on Monday, September 9, in the local newspaper, that suggested Castro was targeted for murder by the United States.”


  14. For a Texan’s view of Lyndon, consider A Texan looks at Lyndon: A Study in Illegitimate Power (1964). I inherited a copy from my Okie uncle, who never got a Texas driver’s license in the 15 years he lived in Texas after his company transferred him there. Granted, the author’s viewpoint is not necessarily that of Jake Pickle, who represented Austin in Congress for 3 decades, and was one of only 6 Congressmen from the South to vote for the Civil Rights Bill of 1964.

    While my view of LBJ is ambivalent at best, I have a much more positive view of Lady Bird, his wife. For one, she had guts. Not long after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill, she took a railway tour of the South, where she made speeches in favor of the Civil Rights Bill. That took guts, as she knew before she started that she was going to have negative receptions to her support of the bill.It’s one thing to preach to the choir. It’s another thing to speak to your opponents.

    One of my brother’s elementary school classmates wrote a letter to Lady Bird in support of her highway beautification efforts. Not long after, he was directed to report to the principal’s office. In the principal’s office, the principal handed my brother’s classmate the telephone receiver. The White House was calling. Lady Bird could have simply replied with a pro forma letter. That Lady Bird took the trouble to call an elementary school kid informs me that she was a kind person. Not to mention that she also had very good political instincts- which is why LBJ continually consulted her. Say what you will about LBJ, he was not a dummy when it came to US politics- and he knew his wife was no dummy.

  15. Mike K @ August 2nd, 2017 at 8:01 pm Says:

    I’ve been listening to the audio version of Caro’s biography of Johnson. The second volume, “Means of Ascent”, has a long section devoted to Coke Stevenson.

    I remember Victor Lasky’s review of that book for The American Spectator. He was unfavorably impressed by Caro’s obvious axe-grinding.

    As he put it (quoting from memory): “It takes a pretty vicious attack on LBJ to make someone who went down in flames with Goldwater in 1964 feel sorry for the son-of-a-bitch.”

  16. Caro definitely doesn’t like Johnson.

    I think it is interesting when the biographer who writes a multivolume biography over 20 years doesn’t like the subject.

    Do you suppose he learned things we haven’t ?

    I have wondered what this country would look like if Johnson had not stolen that election.

    Sort of one of those alternate histories. I like them and have read a number. What if Lincoln had not been assassinated.

    What if Stonewall Jackson’s own men had not shot him ?

  17. “What if Lincoln had not been assassinated.”
    Lincoln’s assassination is easily the greatest single event tragedy in our national history (the original introduction of slavery doesn’t qualify as a single event). What if Reconstruction had proceeded along the lines of the Second Inaugural, instead of being dictated by Northern radicals intent on punishing the South and having no interest in rebuilding and bringing them into a more prosperous Union? No one but a triumphant Lincoln had any chance of doing that.

  18. “What if Reconstruction had proceeded along the lines of the Second Inaugural …” Yeah, but what if he’d decided that he should use his large army of experienced soldiers to attack Canada or Mexico to gain some land to expel the freed slaves to? That’s the trouble with alternative history: you can guess pretty much anything.

  19. While I am not a scholar on Lincoln, I was aware that Lincoln was an early supporter of the notion that freed
    slaves should be encouraged to emigrate to Liberia, and that he was a critic of the Mexican American war. I
    think that in view of these positions, instigating wars of aggression against either Canada or Mexico can be
    safely ruled out.

  20. Yeah, the notion that the American people, or the Army, would have tolerated invading Canada or Mexico in 1865 is absurd.

  21. “he was a critic of the Mexican American war.”

    The entire Whig party was radically opposed to the Mexican war as they saw it as a way to expand the territory of slavery. They opposed “Manifest Destiny” and threatened President Polk for going too far in the expansion west. I think they were wrong but their opposition helped keep slavery from the territories, like California.

    The Whigs collapsed as they could not handle the slavery issue and stay a national party,.

  22. “the notion that the American people, or the Army, would have tolerated invading Canada or Mexico in 1865 is absurd.” The notion that the American people would support an attack on Iraq because some Saudis had attacked the Twin Towers was absurd. And yet they did. Absurdities arise all the time. That’s what makes counter-factual history worthless.

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