Early in the winter of 1863 Francis Pierpont, the Governor of the Restored Government of Virginia, met with President Lincoln at the White House requesting he countermand the order sending General Nathaniel P. Banks to New Orleans.
Governor Pierpont argued that Union forces be focused on Richmond, with the objective of forcing the CSA Government to flee and thereby resulting in a “speedy termination of this war.”
Lincoln agreed but indicated that political realities necessitated prolonging the war. He explained to Pierpont that “if an intelligent angel would drop down in one corner of this room and sit there for two weeks hearing all that is said to me, I think that he would come to the conclusion that this war is being prosecuted for the purpose of obtaining cotton from the South for the Northern cotton mills. So General Banks has to go to Louisiana to get the cotton. My situation is such that I am not free to resist this demand. I am so dependent on New England, and those using cotton, for money, men and supplies, that I cannot do as I wish under the circumstances.”
In a nutshell, Lincoln’s frankness to Pierpont goes far to explain the cause, conduct, and effects of the war. As we prepare to mark the 150th anniversary of General Lee’s surrender to General Grant in 2015, it behooves us to know the truth. It is the truth about the War that will set us free from the political order the New England Kings of Cotton Mills birthed.