Sherman’s Brand of Pillaging
The writer(s) of “Lincoln, as the South Should Know Him,” below, were comparing Sherman’s atrocities to the German invasion of Belgium in 1914. The latter may have been more British propaganda aimed at drawing the US into the war, but the point was made that Kaiser Wilhelm’s troops were kind soul’s when compared to Sherman’s bummers. And the point is well made that the commanders, Sherman and Lincoln, were ultimately responsible for the behavior and criminality of the army.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Sherman’s Brand of Pillaging
“One of [General Joe] Wheeler’s scouts, observing Sherman’s advance, reported that during one night, and from one point, he counted over one hundred burning homes. And as to the looting, a letter written by a Federal officer, and found at Camden, S.C., and after the enemy had passed, and given in the Southern Woman’s Magazine, runs as follows:
“We have had a glorious time in this State. The chivalry have been stripped of their valuables. Gold watches, silver pitchers, cups, spoons, forks, etc., are as common in camp as blackberries. Of rings, earrings, and breastpins I have a quart. I am not joking – I have at least a quart of jewelry for you and the girls, and some A1 diamond pins and rings among them. Don’t show this letter out of the family.”
Sherman long desired burning Columbia, in the most solemn manner calling his God to witness as to his truthfulness. When, after the overwhelming evidence that he did burn it was adduced, he unblushingly admitted the fact, and that he had lied on Wade Hampton with the purpose of rendering him unpopular, and thereby weakening his cause. But a mere lie shines white against the black ground of Sherman’s character.
The necessities of war demanded that Sherman live off the country he traversed. Those elastic necessities may have been stretched to demand that he destroy even the pitiful stint of food that the South had left; that he wrest the last morsel from the mouth of the mother and babe, lest, perchance, some crumb thereof reach and nourish the men at the front.
But what necessity of war, except that brand that Sherman fathered and sponsored, demanded that the torch follow the pillager, that every home be burned, and famishing mother and babe be turned out in midwinter to die of cold and exposure?
It is a maxim of war, as it is of common sense, that the higher the rank the greater the fame or blame for any given act. Above the perpetrator stood the commander of the army. Sherman; above Sherman stood the commander-in-chief of all the Federal armies, Abraham Lincoln. If Lincoln ever discountenanced Sherman and his methods, he never gave word to it, and he was a man of many words.”
(Lincoln As the South Should Know Him, Manly’s Battery Chapter, Children of the Confederacy, Raleigh, North Carolina, 1915?, excerpts, pp. 2-8)