New Orleans: December 26, 1862. p. Old folds, short closed edge tear, one repaired edge tear. Very good. Item #3434
A rare general order from the Department of the Gulf, issued by Major General Nathaniel Banks as he was taking over command of the Union's western forces in December 1862. This order, dated December 26, promulgates to the army a proclamation issued by Banks ten days earlier in which he announced that "I have assumed command of the Department of the Gulf, to which is added, by his special order, the State of Texas." His duty, Banks writes, is "to assist in the restoration of the Government of the United States:" and his "desire" is "to secure to the people of every class all the privileges of possession and enjoyment which are consistent with public safety." In other words, President Lincoln has sent General Banks to New Orleans to restore order and bring Louisiana under federal control. As Banks writes, in the course of his new duty, he has been tasked to "treat as enemies those who are enemies" but allow those loyal to the Union to experience freedom as long as order is "unflinchingly maintained."
General Banks argues that the continuance of hostilities in the country cannot last. Echoing the most famous sentiment of President Lincoln's House Divided speech, Banks writes that "This country cannot be permanently divided." He also drives home the differences in the current state of life and the war in the North and South: "The Government does not profit by the prolongation of civil contest, or the private or public sufferings which attend it. Its fruits are not equally distributed. In the disloyal states desolation has empire on the sea and on the land. In the North war is an abiding sorrow, but not yet a calamity. Its cities and towns are increasing in population, wealth, and power. The refugees from the South alone compensate in great part for the terrible decimations of battle."
Perhaps most interesting in Banks' order here is his appraisal of the importance of the Mississippi Valley, and how the region ties the country together. Banks describes the "Valley of the Mississippi" as "the chosen seat of population, product, and power, on this continent." He points out that within the next few years, "twenty five million people, unsurpassed in material resources and capacity for war, will swarm upon its fertile rivers." He argues that the Mississippi Valley supplies the wants of Illinois and Ohio better than European markets, and that a "country washed by the waters of the Ohio, the Missouri and the Mississippi, can never be permanently severed." Essentially, Banks argues, if the Confederacy takes possession of the Mississippi Valley, it won't be for long: "If one generation basely barters away its rights, immortal honors will rest upon another that reclaims them." After all, Banks writes, the inevitability of union in the United States - of the success of the Union in the Civil War - is secured because "God has ordained it." Given this inevitability, Banks encourages the "People of the South-west" to "accept the conditions imposed by the imperious necessities of geographical configuration and commercial supremacy, and re-establish your ancient prosperity and renown."