On July 2,1863, Gen. William Barksdale's brigade, the 17th Mississippi, descended on the Union position in the Peach Orchard bordering Gettysburg's Emmitsburg Road.
Frances Parkman was a militant New England war hawk who disliked the black man but considered the Boston aristocracy superior to the Southern leadership, though it must emulate the military expertise exhibited by Southern men. The Brahmin class may have indeed been tested by the battles Parkman lists, but they were no great victories. At Ball’s Bluff, for example, Northern scouts mistook a row of trees as Confederate tents and the nearby 17th Mississippi delivered the Brahmins a severe thrashing while their regiments assaulted the “tents.”
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"
Patriotic Brahmin Manhood Beneath a Surface of Froth and Scum:
“Parkman had always detested the abolitionists, and he had little concern for the Negro, but he was [Col. Robert Gould] Shaw’s cousin, and he took great pride in later years pointing this out to distant correspondents. One suspects, however, that he was almost ashamed that Shaw led Negroes [of the 54th Massachusetts], since he never mentioned this fact.
[In] two letters [of November 1862], he further developed the odd propaganda line that the best way to whip the South was to emulate certain aspects of its civilization. He went from praising the military education of the Southern aristocrat to praising his political education. Compared to the North, where an “organized scramble of mean men for petty spoils” had driven the better elements from politics, the South had made politics “a battleground” for the well-born, “where passion, self-interest, self-preservation, urge to [the most intense] action every power of their nature.” This explained “the vigor of their development.”
By comparison, the education of Northern gentlemen had been too academic. Now, however, the war was altering the picture. The South, which had identified the North with three classes: the merchants, the politicians and the “abolitionist agitators” and therefore, with “extravagance, fanaticism and obstreperous weakness,” was learning how, “under a surface of froth and scum, the great national heart still beat with the pulsations of patriotic manhood.” In other words, they underestimated the ability of the Northern gentry to adapt to military life.
It was in his letter of July 21, 1863, published only three days after the death of Shaw, that Parkman revealed most fully what was really on his mind. Repeating his charge that “the culture of the nation” had become a “political nullity,” Parkman referred specifically to the “Brahmin cast”, which had “yielded a progeny of gentlemen and scholars since the days of the Puritans,” but had “long since ceased to play any active part in the dusty arena of political turmoil.”
This class, however, had at last found an outlet for its energies. Brahmins had been tested in battle at places like Ball’s Bluff, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg and removed all doubts about their vigor and character. Pointing to the “necrology” of Harvard University” as an example to the nation, Parkman clearly suggested that the American people had no further excuse for rejecting the political and social authority of what was now a tried and true aristocracy. Perhaps a patrician could finally say that the age of “ultra-democratic fallacies” was coming to an end.
There were very genteel New Englanders who professed to see the war as a vindication of democracy and egalitarianism. Charles Eliot Norton and others claimed that their wavering belief in democracy had been revived by the proofs of obedience and endurance shown by the common people and by the Negroes in the struggle.
It depended on the preservation of the model which had been suggested by the assault on Fort Wagner. If the “inferior elements,” whether Negro or white, consented to be led by “the best culture [of aristocratic New England],” then their rights were assured; if however, they struck out in directions of their own, democracy and equality might again be questioned.”
(The Inner Civil War, Northern Intellectuals and the Crisis of the Union, George M. Frederickson, Harper & Row, 1965, pp. 161-165)