Wartime Governor Zeb Vance of North Carolina compared the “gentler invasion of Cornwallis in 1781” with Sherman’s hordes in 1865, noting Cornwallis’s order from Beattie’s Ford, January 28, 1781: “It is needless to point out to the officers the necessity of preserving the strictest discipline, and of preventing the oppressed people from suffering violence at the hands of whom they are taught to look to for protection . . . “
Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865
Sherman’s Horde of Thieves and Plunderers
“Vance considered it apparent to every intelligent observer as 1865 dawned that the Confederacy was doomed. Lee was holding Richmond with what he described as “a mere skirmish line.” In twenty miles of trenches, Grant faced him with 180,000 men. Savannah had fallen and while the South still held Wilmington and Charleston, their loss was inevitable.
Sherman with 75,000 troops was preparing for the “home-stretch toward Richmond,” driving the scattered Confederate detachments – not more than 22,000 – before him. Enemy cavalry overran the interior of the Confederacy. “Nowhere,” Vance continued, “was there a gleam of hope; nowhere had there come to us any inspiring success. Everything spoke of misfortune and failure.”
Vance was most critical of the conduct of Sherman’s army and the “stragglers and desperadoes following in its wake.” He was severe in his castigation of the Federal commander.
“When a general organizes a corps of thieves and plunderers as a part of his invading army, and licenses beforehand their outrages, he and all who countenance, aid or abet, invite the execration of mankind. This peculiar arm of the military service, it is charged and believed, was instituted by General Sherman in his invasion of the Southern States. Certain it is that the operations of his “Bummer Corps” were as regular and un-rebuked, if not as much commended for their efficiency, as any other division of his army, and their atrocities were often justified or excused on the ground that “such is war.”
Vance in his denunciation of Sherman was not able to look ahead to wars in which supposedly enlightened nations would make civilians their main target, devastate entire cities to break down morale and the will to resist, and degenerate warfare to a barbarity that would have appalled the horde of Genghis Khan.”
[Vance continued:] “The whole policy and conduct of the British commander was such to indicate unmistakably that he did not consider the burning of private houses, the stealing of private property, and the outraging of helpless, private citizens as “War,” but as robbery and arson. I venture to say that up to the period when that great march [Sherman’s] taught us the contrary, no humane general or civilized people in Christendom believed that “such is war.”
(Zeb Vance, Champion of Personal Freedom, Glenn Tucker, Bobbs-Merrill, 1965, pp. 374-376)