Exposing the GOP's Shameful Historical Role in the Native American Genocide
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The federal railroad subsidies enriched many Republican members of Congress. Congressman Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania “received a block of [Union Pacific] stock in exchange for his vote” on the Pacific Railroad bill, writes Brown.
Republican Congressman Oakes Ames of Massachusetts was a shovel manufacturer who became “a loyal ally” of the legislation after he was promised shovel contracts. A great many shovels must have been required to dig railroad beds from Iowa to California.
Sherman wrote in his memoirs that as soon as the war ended, “My thoughts and feelings at once reverted to the construction of the great Pacific Railway. … I put myself in communication with the parties engaged in the work, visiting them in person, and assured them that I would afford them all possible assistance and encouragement.”
“We are not going to let a few thieving, ragged Indians check and stop the progress [of the railroads],” Sherman wrote to Ulysses S. Grant in 1867. [See Michael Fellman’s Citizen Sherman: A Life of William Tecumseh Sherman.]
The chief engineer of the government-subsidized transcontinental railroads was Grenville Dodge, another of Lincoln’s generals during the war with whom Sherman worked closely afterward.
As Murray Rothbard points out, Dodge “helped swing the Iowa delegation to Lincoln” at the 1860 Republican National Convention, and “[i]n return, early in the Civil War, Lincoln appointed Dodge to army general. Dodge’s task was to clear the Indians from the designated path of the country’s first heavily subsidized federally chartered trans-continental railroad, the Union Pacific.”
In this way, Rothbard concludes, “conscripted Union troops and hapless taxpayers were coerced into socializing the costs of constructing and operating the Union Pacific.”
Immediately after the war, Dodge proposed enslaving the Plains Indians and forcing them “to do the grading” on the railroad beds, “with the Army furnishing a guard to make the Indians work, and keep them from running away.”
Union army veterans were to be the “overseers” of this new class of slaves. Dodge’s proposal was rejected; the U.S. government decided instead to try to kill as many Indians as possible.
In his memoirs, Sherman has high praise for Thomas Clark Durant, the vice president of the Union Pacific Railroad, as “a person of ardent nature, of great ability and energy, enthusiastic in his undertaking.” Durant was also the chief instigator of the infamous Credit Mobilier scandal, one of the most shocking examples of political corruption in U.S. history.
Sherman himself had invested in railroads before the war, and he was a consummate political insider, along with Durant, Dodge, and his brother, Senator John Sherman.
President Grant made his old friend Sherman the army’s commanding general, and another Civil War luminary, General Phillip Sheridan, assumed command on the ground in the West.
“Thus the great triumvirate of the Union Civil War effort,” writes Sherman biographer Michael Fellman, “formulated and enacted military Indian policy until reaching, by the 1880s, what Sherman sometimes referred to as ‘the final solution of the Indian problem.’”
What Sherman called the “final solution of the Indian problem” involved “killing hostile Indians and segregating their pauperized survivors in remote places.”
“These men,” writes Fellman, “applied their shared ruthlessness, born of their Civil War experiences, against a people all three [men] despised. … Sherman’s overall policy was never accommodation and compromise, but vigorous war against the Indians,” whom he regarded as “a less-than-human and savage race.”
All of the other generals who took part in the Indian Wars were “like Sherman [and Sheridan], Civil War luminaries,” writes Sherman biographer John Marszalek. “Their names were familiar from Civil War battles: John Pope, O. O. Howard, Nelson A. Miles, Alfred H. Terry, E. O. C. Ord, C. C. Augur . . . Edward Canby . . . George Armstrong Custer and Benjamin Garrison.” General Winfield Scott Hancock also belongs on this list.