Tormenting the Defeated South
Though the South laid down its arms to rejoin the Union without slavery or secession, it would not be allowed the dignity of self-government by the victorious Radicals. Some tormenters “hoped to goad them into violent action or language by forcing them to salute the United States flag or walk under it.” The radical German immigrant Carl Schurz visited the South after the surrender and declared that the South was “not impressed with any sense of its criminality” as if the Americans there committed a crime by forming a more perfect union according to Jefferson’s precepts.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Tormenting the Defeated South
“One of the foremost characteristics of a civilized people is its need and desire for government. It was a fearful sight to see law and order disintegrate with the collapse of the Confederate armies . . . Incoming Federal troops prevented the legislators from meeting except in Mississippi, where the legislators were speedily dispersed.
To prevent anarchy the army of occupation marched in [and comprised departments] under a major general. Even if the soldiers had been forbearing it would have had difficulty in preserving order everywhere; but with soldiers singing “John Brown’s Body” and exciting the Negroes . . . for a short interim there was little law and order in some parts of the South.
At the end of the war the tendency was for the best element in the Federal army to get mustered out first, leaving a less reliable soldiery to police the South. Many of these troops remaining were Negroes, the number in October 1865 amounting to 85,000. Many of them were scattered widely over the South where they became almost without exception a vicious influence.
Elated over their high station, their uniforms and guns, they took special delight in insulting white people and in instilling dangerous notions into the heads of the freedmen. Occasionally they had bloody clashes with the whites and ravished white women. In Nashville they collided with the police and were disarmed and turned over to the provost marshal; in Beaufort, North Carolina, a Negro soldier raped a white girl and was arrested . . . [the Negro troops in nearby Fort Macon] threatened to turn the guns of the fort on the city; and near Augusta, Georgia, marauding [black] troops demolished the home and threatened the lives of a family who objected to the Negroes drinking out of the well bucket instead of the proffered gourd dipper.
In Newberry, South Carolina, a Confederate soldier returning after the war to his Texas home was beset by Negro troops and murdered because he attempted to protect two white girls from their insults.
Southerners felt especially aggrieved that they should be thus humiliated by their former slaves and by self-obtruding blacks from the North. Was it to show the Southern people that a fundamental revolution was in the making for them?
Even Northerners felt the shame of it. Said one, “I am at a loss to see what good [the black soldiers’] presence here is now. If to humble the Southern pride, that end has been fully accomplished. I have heard black soldiers make the most insulting remarks to Southerners, who are too glad to get by with only that to take notice of them.” General Grant, seeing no good purpose served in having Negro troops in the South, advised their removal. Before the end of 1866 practically all had been withdrawn.”
(A History of the South, Volume VIII, The South During Reconstruction, 1865-1877, E. Merton Coulter, LSU Press, 1947, pp. 29-30)