May the Mississippi bring forth a Leader!

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Childhood, Military Life, and Time in the House (1814-1846)
  • "The work of a soldier is never truly over. That is something I learned in the seventy-nine years I've given to this great nation, in its military, its congress, and its executive branch. I dealt with some of the most arrogant and stubborn men in the world, from my Presidents to my senior and junior officers, as well as my own cabinet members. Frequently urged by my friends to write my story, I never went out of my way to do so until now simply because there was so much to be done, too much attention would be kept from writing these. Now, however, at the end of this old soldier's life, the urging of my friends and family to finally place pen to paper before my story is lost has finally convinced me to write my story, a story of a fortunate American out of what could've likely been millions of less fortunate ones. I am not writing nor will I publish this for financial benefit nor do I expect my story to do well in sales. This is a story that must be told simply because it is a chronicle of a figure of my nation's history who must not be forgotten, lest our successors repeat the mistakes we made years ago. Throughout my life, and especially while the country was in the throes of rebellion, there were a great many individuals I meet that changed my views and there are bouts of bravery that I personally could never do. Comments of these men and issues that have occurred in politics throughout my life are my own and I can only hope that my differing viewpoint will bring to mind a new way of looking at things. Thus, with these remarks, it is my sole belief that these memoirs be written so one can form their own opinion of me." - Preface of Life Story of Arthur Lewis Henderson.

    "When born, the man that would eventually become known as the Nation's greatest President Post-Civil War, Arthur Lewis Henderson, many would not expect him to be the one that would forever change the nation's history. He would be born in Greenville, Mississippi, in the sparsely populated Washington County. Arthur, the youngest of 7 children, would be the last child born in the family as weeks later his mother, Alicia Duncan Henderson, would pass away due to complications from giving birth. Thus, he never had a mother figure in his early life except for a kind slave of his father's by the name of Summer. Summer was kind and sweet, aged 67 by the time of Arthur's birth in mid 1814. However, his own father was an entirely different story. Jacob Rudolph Henderson Sr. was, to put it bluntly, an awful man. He drunk so much that he would pass out, force his children to work until they started bleeding with little incentives or food, and refused to show any fatherly affection. In fact, if any of his children dared to speak against him, they would get beaten, as Arthur would note one specific instance in 1823 between his elder brother Jacob Jr. and his father 'My brother, seeing myself tired and bleeding harshly, placed me on the stairs and came to father to ask for me to have a break. My father simply snorted and gave me a slight kick, urging me to get up. I groaned and response and Jacob grabbed my father's shoulder, ordering him to leave me alone. Upon seeing these two acts of defiance, my father would first slam the whiskey bottle he was holding in his left arm across my brother's face before kicking me several times, saying I was useless and nothing but a disgrace to the family name. This would continue for what felt like hours before he finally left, seemingly bored with torturing me.'

    Jacob Henderson Sr. had an interesting background and life before having Arthur. The grandson of Hanoverian immigrants to South Carolina, the Hendersons would move over to what is now Mississippi in the 1780s shortly following the Revolutionary War, establishing a decent sized plantation and making a large profit from the good they produced. Jacob's father, Conrad Henderson, was a French and Indian War Veteran as well as a Revolutionary War Veteran while Jacob would be a Veteran of the War of 1812. Despite all the fortunes and what seemed to be an easy life, it would all come crashing down as Jacob would fall victim to speculating on land in 1810 and acquire massive debt, which he could only pay off by selling huge tracts of his plantation to other plantation owners as well as Slaves to at least hold on to what little land and slaves he had left. It was this that led him to drink so heavily and this drinking would prove to be his downfall. In 1828, an awful bout of yellow fever would claim everyone but Arthur, Jacob, and Arthur's brother Owen (His sister, Elizabeth, would be married to future Mississippi Governor Tilghman Tucker). Following this bout of death and despair, the three remaining men continued to work the plantation for the next 2 years until Jacob would suffer a fall while chasing after runaway slaves after heavily drinking. He would drown as a result and so the land would be left to Owen. Together, the two would work together to keep what little remained of the plantation up and going until in 1832 when Arthur would reach 18.

    Owen and Arthur only received the most basic of education growing up, not learning much besides learning how to read/write and some basic math, due to the fact that the more well educated Jacob had no interest in teaching them. However, Owen believed the youngest Henderson was destined for greater things than simply living on the plantation and wasting away on it and Elizabeth would agree, with the two all but forcing Arthur to head over to the prestigious military academy at West Point in New York. It was thanks to a few family friends in high places that would allow for Arthur to attend the academy. Arthur found life much more bearable at West Point than he had found life at the Henderson plantation, strangely enough, even saying 'This military school in this northern state is a far superior home than my true home back in Mississippi and the students of this academy are more family than my own.'

    Some of his closest friends in the West Point Class of 1836 would be Montgomery C. Meigs, David P. De Witt, James Lowry Donaldson, John W. Phelps, and Lloyd Tilghman (no relation to Arthur's brother-in-law) and these five friends would help him progress in his military career, especially in his crucial rise in the Union ranks during the Civil War that ensured the North's victory in the war. He showed amazing character and could rally a group of students quickly, while also coming up with imaginative yet simple strategies on the fly. To quote one Robert E. Lee of Virginia who visited the young man 'Henderson is the very definition of the model soldier.' In 1836, Henderson would graduate at the top of his class and upon graduating, he would be deployed first to Virginia to await a military assignment while holding the rank of First Lieutenant.

    During his time in the Old Dominion, he would meet with an influential figure, ex-Senator and a member of the Democratic Party that supported nullification John Tyler, who would introduce the young Henderson to his 15 year old daughter Letitia. Of Arthur, John would write 'A man of considerable character, yet also smart and cunning, he made me question my own words while conversing with him at several points. He even brought me to his point of view at times and I found myself agreeing. If there is ever a man who can balance politics and military life so easily through his oratory skills alone, Arthur Henderson is the one.' Impressed by the young Mississippian and knowing that his daughter had taken a liking to him, Tyler would see Arthur as something like family and would even allow him and Letita to interact at various points. However, for much of the 1830s and 1840s, Henderson would be a Democrat.

    In 1837, he would be wounded while serving under Zachary Taylor in the Battle of Lake Okeechobee in the Second Seminole War, though his actions in which he led a small group of soldiers directly into the Seminole camp and held it for several minutes would bring him up several ranks to Colonel. Upon returning from his the battlefield, he would return to Virginia to spend time with the Tyler family and in 1839, would gain the hand of Letita, who was 7 years Henderson's junior, in marriage [1]. His relationship with his father-in-law would remain close until the late 1850s..." - The Republican of the Mississippi : An Examinination of Arthur Lewis Henderson's Life (Student Essay written in History Class for College)

    From 1840-1842, he was deployed in Northern New York, where he would take a great interest in how the state handled itself economically and politically, taking notes of its large industries and lack of slaves as well as strong economic development for the poor white population. He would even begin writing a series of essays throughout much of his early life that he would publish in the mid 50s after spending over a decade working on them, titling them "Development in the South : The Case for Southern Industry." At the same time, he would be influenced by a meeting with the state's Whig Governor, William Seward, that would begin to slowly turn him against the institution of Slavery. In early 1842, upon hearing there would be a House seat open and at the urging of his father-in-law, who was currently the President, and his brother-in-law, he would run for the seat and win it by a large margin. Upon entering, he would be a key Democrat vote in several major votes, hiding his true Conscience Whig beliefs for Political expediency. As he would write 'In order to build myself statewide, I needed to stay quiet about how I truly felt. It is nothing new for a politician to lie and I learned very quickly that if I wanted to bring change to my state, then it was best I silently waited for my opportunity to strike.'

    Henderson would remain a relatively obscure figure and wouldn't participate in many votes, caring for his children John (born on December 16th, 1841), Alicia (born on November 17th, 1843), and Jesse (born on January 12th, 1846) with Lecita passing away from yellow fever in 1846 shortly before Arthur would leave Congress. Wanting a sense of purpose that he knew the Army life would give him, Arthur announced his votes for the declaration of war on Mexico and on the Walker Tariff before resigning from his House Seat and being assigned as a Colonel to Zachary Taylor, with his service in the Mexican-American War being what would drive him to wide known success and would raise the eyebrows of many of the higher-ups in the union military.

    [1] - Yes, Lecitita did marry at age 17, which wasn't the norm for this time period. I have no idea why John allowed her to marry so young, since it seems her Husband wasn't anything special, but yeah. I hope this doesn't turn off a lot of you all from reading the TL.

    Hope you enjoyed the TL, I plan to add in more memoir segments for the Mexican-American War section of this Timeline. We'll get into the bigger, political sphere of this world in the 1850s, but as of right now, enjoy the ride as I try to build a person from scratch. Hope to hear your guy's thoughts soon.
     
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    War in Mexico and Time as Governor (1846-1850)
  • "In August, I had rejoined the Military for a new purpose in my life due to the fact that while I was congress, I realized how truly unhappy I was with my own life. While I was indeed saddened to leave behind my precious three young children, John, Alicia, and Jesse, I knew they would be properly cared for by my sister Elizabeth until I returned from the war. Upon rejoining the military, I regained control of my old regiment, the 3rd Mississippi, and many of the soldiers I once commanded were still in it by the time I had arrived. In Mid September, I was transferred to the Army of my old Commander, Zachary Taylor, and was placed under the command of a future political rival of mine, Brigadier General John A. Quitman. For several days, we would march south from our base of operations in Marin. Three days later, I'd get my first real taste of an equal battle. On September 19th, we arrived at our destination, the city of Monterrey, but as we arrived in site of the city, we were met by cannon fire as the city's defenders prepared to fight us to the bitter end, forcing us to stop at a place called Walnut Springs. While there, me and my men admired the land of the battlefield we found ourselves on, with a junior officer of mine commentating 'This land is so beautiful, it seems so fragile. It is a tragedy to have a battle here.' I could only nod my head in agreement.

    Initially, it seemed we would be in for a bloody affair with losses sure to be high due to all the fortifications around the city. However, as if providence itself came to our aid, the Mexican army would abandon the city, destroying the fortification that likely took them months to build before they had to rebuild them in an amusing display to us Americans. My men would be placed in the 2nd Division under Brigadier General William Jenkins Worth and we were tasked with taking Independence Hill, Bishop's Palace, and Federaton Hill west of the City, with my Regiment going right into the heat of Battle in the center of the Division. On September 20th, we started to enact our orders, the entire division moving in a wide circle to remain out of range of the cannons of the Citadel, with the Mexicans likely cursing us for enacting such a maneuver. The day after, we heard fire east of our position and we knew right then and there that was now the moment as General Taylor launched his diversion. First, the Mexican cavalry came charging at us, yet we repelled them with great ease, unleashing a hailstorm of musket fire into them with my regiment losing 35 men. This forced their entire line to flee in fear of our mighty division, allowing us to pass under the guns of Independence Hill before we made our move on the weakly defended Federation Hill. I led 100 of my men personally in the assault on the hill, suffering relatively few losses as the Mexican peppered us from the top of the hill with their gunfire, to which we responded with out own as we continued our perpendicular climb. Minutes into our arrival to the top of the hill, the Mexican infantry would retrat to the fort and then a few more minutes later, the Texans and Louisianans would take the fort, driving the Mexican Infantry off the Hill as we planned out our assault on Independence Hll and Bishop's Palace next.

    The next day, we were completely on our own as we received word that Taylor had seen heavy losses from his diversionary assault the prior day. Once more, I would lead my regiment in directly attacking the hill at three in the morning. Going slowly and carefully, we were undetected by the Mexican Infantry and Cannon and were only discovered when we neared the top, by which point, it was too late to have a defensive line be formed as we pushed forward. However, the defenders at Fort Libertad would realize how dire their situation was and would fall back quickly to Bishop's Palace, a stronger and far harder to capture position. We would deploy our howitzer and begin to unleash hell upon the Mexican defenders, softening them up for our eventual assault. In order to further aid us in victory, we left a tempting target as we had a single unit to defend the howitzer as the rest of the assault group moved to the sides of the hill. To my great elation, the trap was successful and we were able to blast the door to Bishop's Palace open, having fierce hand to hand combat. I personally took out several Mexicans by my own hands until finally, the position fell and the flag was raised as my men cheered in victory. The next day, we would see an all out assault on the city, with large numbers of casualties for both sides as we engaged in urban, street to street, house to house fighting. I led a squad of men into taking a House and we moved rooftop to rooftop, clearing each house as we went along, as we remembered the advice from the far more experienced Texans. The next day, the battle would end and days later, the Mexican Army was allowed to leave, a move I criticized at the time but now I see the wisdom of it. The army was mauled and exhausted, we still would have to engage the nigh impregnable citadel, and the Mexican Army had the ability to breakout if they so wanted. So, it was in the interest of preventing more needless casualties that Taylor allowed for his actions.

    We would remain in Monterrey to rest, replenish, and resupply our exhausted force for the rest of the year and for the start of 1847 as well. We would soon receive word that the President of Mexico, Santa Anna, was heading our way with a massive army and so, General Taylor would decide to place the Army of Occupation at Buena Vista, a strong defensive position that gave us the advantage despite being outnumbered nearly four to one. On February 22nd, we would begin our battle with my men held in reserve due to our large amount of combat experience. While we heard gunfire and fighting, we did not engage ourselves, being kept in reserve for the entire time. The following day would see an engagement that rang that would aid in Taylor's fame, as well as my own. A detachment of Mexican Cavalry would arrive and assault our position, but we would repel them after a few minutes of engaging them, simply because the leader of them seemed indecisive, as if he was surprised that we were there. Had he just ignored us, the Mexicans very likely would've won the battle, even though I would've tried my hardest to prevent that from happening. In the afternoon, I would lead a charge against the already charging Mexican Lancers, surprising them and taking several of them captive as the rest fled, stunned at my bravery. Then, my regiment would be sent to halt the main thrust of the opposing force, with my fellow Colonel, Jefferson Davis, who I didn't know at the time would later become my greatest opponent, and together, we not only pushed back the Mexican force, but prevented any type of trap being sprung with a company being split off from my men to form a rearguard.

    They would charge at us but with the assistance of the 3rd Indiana, us Mississippians held our ground extraordinarily well and pushed back the entire enemy column, seizing the day on our side if the field. We were then moved hours later to reinforce the center and repelled Anna's reserves in one grand assault that combined both artillery and infantry, with the day's fighting ending in us standing strong and, much to our disbelief, the Mexican Army that was still superior to us retreating. I received word from my brother and sister back home saying I had become a town hero and General Taylor himself was impressed by my actions. So, with no engagements for us on the horizon, I would resign my command in the Army and return to political life, running for Governor. It was a difficult campaign, but I had gained statewide support after Taylor endorsed me, stating
    'There is no man I'd want leading a regiment and he served excellently as a Congressman as well.' I would win the election by nine points and the following Year, I would begin to work on the transformation of the state of Mississippi..." - Excerpt on Life Story of Arthur Lewis Henderson detailing his life in the Mexican-American War.

    "Arthur Lewis Henderson would be inaugurated on January 10th, 1848 as the second and last Whig to be elected Governor of the state (the first was 8th and 11th Governor Charles Lynch). As Governor, Henderson would move for a new program, which would promote industry in the state of Mississippi, with a push for large amounts of industry to be built in Greenville, his hometown, Jackson, Vicksburg, Corinth, and Tupelo. This was to incentivize employment of poor whites and put them on equal footing with the planting class. These industries, mostly arms factories, textiles, and mills, gave thousands of jobs to those unable to get them and increased Henderson's popularity with the lower classes while another plan to slowly incentivize an end to slavery in Mississippi, a state tariff on British goods, would earn him the ire of the elite of the state. He would also work to create several proper brigades of men, 4 of which would be entirely loyal to him and would serve with him all the way to the end of the Civil War. His term was short, however, at only two years, and so he would have no choice but to leave his work unfinished in 1850 as Jefferson Davis took over. The following year, however, he would enter the Senate, and that was when an entirely new career would begin for him. He would indeed face massive opposition however and Henderson would laer state that his time in the Senate is what would prepare him for the headache that was the Presidency..." - Short High School Essay Excerpt on Arthur Lewis Henderson.
     
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