With the war nearly over and nothing to gain from destroying private homes and property, Lincoln’s Grand Army added salt to the wounds in a State which was rightly driven from the Union four years earlier by his inability to compromise and avoid war. In 1865 began reconstruction and twelve years of misrule, robbery and outrage in the American South.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Grand Army of the Republic of Thieves
“Glen Burnie, [North Carolina] March 21, 1865
My Dear Cousin,
Well Pattie, I have seen the Yankees at last, and I earnestly pray that I may never see them again. The 9th of March will ever be remembered by me. The vagabonds appeared here early that morning, we had no idea they were within fifty miles of here . . . There was a hundred fifty men in the first squad that came here, and such a yell as they gave when they rode in the gate, mortal never heard.
Papa ran to the swamp as soon as he saw them coming, and they were almost frantic with rage when they found he had left and started in the woods to find him and swore by all the saints in heaven that they would kill him if they found him.
The rascals all came in, and in less than ten minutes the house was stripped of almost everything. Pa had the night before fortunately concealed his two watches and your jewelry in a very nice place . . . One of them came to me to know where they were, I of course refused to tell, he them immediately presented a pistol to my head and swore he would take my life if I did not tell him . . .” They carried off every earthly thing we had to eat, did not leave a grain of corn or coffee, or anything that would sustain life one day, and they found all our silver and took every knife, fork and spoon we had in the world.
They set the Piney Woods on fire all around us. Tell Aunt Jenny they set on fire all the rosin she saw, and turned day into night. They carried off a great many of our clothes, have not left me a cloak or shawl of any kind, tore the silk you gave Jenny all to flinders, and carried off my best dresses, and two of Mama’s silks. Have not one blanket in the house, have only a half dozen quilts. The Yankees burned our barn and swore they would burn our house over our heads, but Providence saved it. I can’t tell you how.
Well Pat, I must close by telling you that the Yanks never caught Papa and that we are not quite starved to death, though we came very near it, we went five days without a mouthful of bread. You will excuse the paper I know as it is all the Yankees left in the house, and ‘tis a wonder they left this.
Oh how I do hate the very name of Yankee! May the chilling blight of heaven fall on their dark and doomed souls. May all the powers of earth and heaven combine to destroy them, may their land be one vast scene of ruin and desolation as ours is. This is the blessing of the innocent and injured one. I forgive them? May heaven never! Nellie”
(A Goodly Heritage, Emma Woodward MacMillan, Wilmington Printing Company, 1961, pp. 65-