Browsing "Aftermath: Destruction"

Merchant of Terror

To his brother John Sherman on October 1, 1862, General W.T. Sherman wrote:

“I rather think you now agree with me that this is no common war — that it was not going to end in a few months or a few years. For after eighteen months the enemy is actually united, armed and determined, with powerful forces well-handled, disciplined and commanded on the Potomac, the Ohio, the Missouri. I knew, and know yet, that the Northern people have to unlearn all their experiences of the past thirty years and be born again before they will see the truth.”

Property destruction was not the complete answer. Sherman was convinced of this, since the “guerilla” attacks continued even after the example offered in the fate meted out to Randolph. There was something lacking – an element to complete the new concept of war – if the part played by the people of the South was to be eliminated.  With acceptance of the fact that destruction of property was not the final answer, Sherman’s mind leaped the gap and seized on the solution – terrorism. 

He would so thoroughly inject the shock of fear into the South that it would lead to its complete demoralization. Such demoralization would work like a slow poison, resulting in the paralysis of the Confederate armies through wholesale desertions of men returned home to assure the safety of their families. More important, dread would so sicken the people of the South that they would clamor for cessation, and to obtain relief they would exert every pressure on their government to end the war.

Here then, in Memphis, was the mold made. The months ahead would see it filled in: it would harden into the completed philosophy of total war, employing a program of devastation and waste, the turning loose on the countryside of a horde of pillagers and looters who would do their work systematically and well.”

(Merchant of Terror: General Sherman and Total War, John Bennett Walters, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1973, excerpt pp. 65-66)

Unceasing Blows and Sheer Attrition

In early May 1864, Grant moved across the Rapidan River in Virginia to pass quickly through the Wilderness before giving battle. Instead, there he lost some 26,000 men in the dense thickets. On June 3rd Grant lost “more men in the eight minutes of hottest fighting than in any period of the war.”  Though this carnage intensified the peace movement in the North, Lincoln provided Grant with an endless supply of immigrants, substitutes and conscripted men to continue this fearful slaughter. Lincoln, despite ruling the North with near-dictatorial powers, was well-aware 1864 was an election year and victories at any cost were needed before November.

Unceasing Blows and Sheer Attrition

“With the spring of 1864, the war entered a new phase. Union victories in the West had cut deeply into the economic and military strength of the Confederacy.  They had done more, for they had associated the names of Grant and his lieutenants with a habit of mind which connoted aggressiveness, strategy on a large scale, and victory.

It was not that Grant was a supreme master of the “science of war,” nor even that he merited full credit for the victories under his command . . . It was rather that a situation had been reached where, with Northern recruiting, Confederate depletion, and Grant’s sledge-hammer blows, the essential conditions of Union triumph had been presented.

Almost immediately [after Grant’s elevation to lieutenant-general] the final grand strategy of the war began to unfold itself, a strategy by which Grant used his numerical superiority and plunged ruthlessly ahead in Virginia, losing an enormous number of men, but wearing out the Confederates by sheer attrition; while in the lower South Sherman attained unenviable laurels by destroying vast amounts of food and other supplies in his “march” through Georgia and the Carolinas.  

It was by these unceasing blows at the heart of the Confederacy that the war, which had dragged on indecisively for three years, was brought to an end in 1865.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction, James G. Randall, D.C. Heath and Company, 1937, excerpts pp. 539-543)

Perpetuating Sectionalism

Louisiana’s tragic experience in defeat and Reconstruction produced a remarkable carpetbag governor, Henry Clay Warmoth of Illinois. One of his most notable utterances was “I don’t pretend to be honest . . . I only pretend [to be as] honest as anybody in politics . . . why, damn it, everybody is demoralized down here. Corruption is the fashion.” It has been noted that Warmoth amassed a million dollar fortune while governor with a salary of $8,000 per year.

Perpetuating Sectionalism

“From the time that Benjamin F. Butler’s troops marched into New Orleans on May 1, 1862, until the inauguration of Francis T. Nichols in 1877, Louisiana was under the heel of an oppressive radical regime.  Self-government ceased; only the Negroes, white scalawags, and carpetbaggers had voting rights. Military rule was, in effect, martial law, and whatever could not be gained politically was accomplished with the bayonet. Black votes were manipulated, and the State legislature soon comprised a great number of illiterate Negroes who did the bidding of their new masters.

US Grant . . . was a weak president, and willingly or not, he became the tool of the radical Congress. He associated himself with a group of disreputable financiers and politicians. His administration brought ruin and anarchy by overturning a society and offering no substitute for social groundwork.

The Reconstruction policy of the Radical Republicans, to which Grant gave his full support, assured the supremacy of the Northern mercantile and industrial classes in the councils of the nation. But it also created a defensive unity among the people of the South, and it kept alive the hatred between the two sections of the country.

A climate of hate, political vindictiveness, and class distinction raged, with Negroes as the political pawns. The Republican-dominated legislature passed an act making service in the “Louisiana Native Guard” compulsory for all able-bodied citizens between eighteen and forty-five. Since the organization excluded disenfranchised whites, it was a black militia. In some instances these troops were used to terrorize white communities.

Meanwhile, the average black farmer, who had been promised forty acres and a mule, received nothing. Most relied upon their former masters for succor or advice, and often freed slaves and their former masters weathered this troubled era together.”

(Louisiana Legacy: A History of the State National Guard, Evans J. Casso, Pelican Publishing, 1976, excerpt pp. 90-91)

Prosperity Through Armaments

To underscore the following excerpts, author George Thayer states that “We live in an age of weapons. Never before in the history of mankind have weapons of war been so dominant a concern as they have been since 1945.” Thayer writes that after the second war to end all wars, the US “had given away $48.5 billion worth of arms and military supplies to 48 nations.” One of these was the Soviet Union of Josef Stalin, who Roosevelt had armed to the teeth and who immediately became the US’s postwar primary adversary.

Prosperity Through Armaments

“In the twenty-four years since 1945, there have been fifty-five wars of significant size, duration and intensity throughout the world. This means that mankind faces a new and violent conflict somewhere in the world slightly more often than once every five months, any one of which is capable of provoking a holocaust.

If one adds to this total all the coups, large-scale riots and clashes of unorganized, low-order violence, then the total of postwar cases of armed conflict that have had significant impact on the course of history would number in excess of fifteen score – more than one per month.

Today we are far along the way to losing our sense of proportion, for by any definition many of these wars have been quite large. For instance, bombing tonnage in the Korean War exceeded all the tonnage dropped by the Allies in the Pacific Theater of World War II. In the “small” six-day Sinai War of 1967, more tanks were committed to battle than by the Germans, Italians and Allies together at the crucial twelve-day battle of El Alamein in 1942. And from July 1965 to December 1967, more bomb tonnage was dropped on Vietnam than was dropped by the Allies on Europe during all of World War II.

Consider some of the political consequences that today’s arms trade have produced:

The fall of Germany’s Erhard government in 1966 can be blamed in large part on Bonn’s purchases of American military equipment which it could not afford and did not need.

The cancellation of the Skybolt missile by the United States in 1962 was one of the contributing factors that led to Prime Minister MacMillan’s resignation in 1963.

The Pakistan-India War of 1965, in which American equipment was used on both sides, produced two results adverse to United States interests: it forced Pakistan to take a more neutral position in world affairs, and it forced India to consider manufacturing nuclear weapons.

Had there been no large infusion of American weapons into the area (ostensibly as a defense against communism), the war would not have taken place.”

(The War Business: The International Trade in Armaments, George Thayer, Simon and Schuster, 1969, excerpts pp. 17-21)

The Wheel of Fortune’s Revolution

“In the last days of Pope Eugenius the Fourth, two of his servants, the learned Poggius and a friend ascended the Capitoline Hill; reposed themselves among the ruins of columns and temples; and viewed, from that commanding spot, the wide and various prospect of desolation.

The place and the object gave ample scope for moralizing on the vicissitudes of fortune, which spare neither man nor the proudest of his works, which buries empires and cities in a common grave; and it was agreed that in proportion to her former greatness the fall of Rome was the more awful and deplorable.

Her primeval state, such as she might appear in a remote age, when Evander entertained the stranger of Troy, has been delineated by the fancy of Virgil. This Tarpeian rock was then a savage and solitary thicket: in the time of the poet, it was crowned with the golden roofs of a temple: the temple is overthrown, the gold has been pillaged, the wheel of fortune has accomplished her revolution, and the sacred ground is again disfigured with thorns and brambles.

The hill of the Capitol, on which we sit, was formerly the head of the Roman empire, the citadel of the earth, the terror of kings; illustrated by the footsteps of so many triumphs, enriched with the spoils and tributes of so many nations. This spectacle of the world, how it is fallen! How changed! How defaced!

The path of victory is obliterated by vines, and the benches of the senators are concealed by a dunghill. Cast your eyes on the Palatine hill, and seek, among the shapeless and enormous fragments, the marble theater, the obelisks, the colossal statues, the porticoes of Nero’s palace: survey the other hills of the city; the vacant space is interrupted only by ruins and gardens.

The forum of the Roman people, where they assembled to enact their laws and elect their magistrates, is now inclosed for the cultivation of pot-herbs or thrown open for the reception of swine and buffaloes. The public and private edifices, that were founded for eternity, lie prostrate, naked and broken, like the limbs of a mighty giant; and the ruin is more visible, from the stupendous relics that have survived the injuries of time and fortune.”

(The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume III, Edward Gibbon, Modern Library, 1995, excerpt pp. 2426-2427)

The Essence of Piety

Richard Weaver wrote of the modern position of egotism, which seems to permeate all we see, read and hear today.  This develops, he reasoned, “when man has reached a point at which he will no longer admit the right of existence of things not of his own contriving.”  He presents the paradox of man’s continual warring upon nature as “not a sign of superiority to her; it is proof of preoccupation with nature, of a sort of imprisonment by her.”

The Essence of Piety

“[Man’s] immersion in the task of reconstructing nature is an adolescent infatuation. The youth is an intellectual merely, a believer in ideas, who thinks that ideas can overcome the world. The mature man passes beyond intellectuality to wisdom; he believes in ideas too, but life has taught him to be content to see them embodied, which is to see them under a sort of limitation. In other words, he has found that substance is part of life, a part which is ineluctable.

The humbler view of man’s powers is the essence of piety; and it is, in the long run, more rewarding, for nature seems best dealt with when we respect her without allowing ourselves to want too fiercely to possess her.

The second form of piety accepts the substance of other beings. It is a matter of everyday observation that people of cultivation and intellectual perceptiveness are quickest to admit a law of rightness in ways of living differently from their own; they have mastered the principle that being has a right qua being.

Knowledge disciplines egotism so that one credits the reality of other selves. The virtue of the splendid tradition of chivalry was that it took formal recognition of the right to existence not only of inferiors but also of enemies.

The modern formula of unconditional surrender – used first against nature and then against peoples – impiously puts man in the place of God by usurping unlimited rights to dispose of the rights of others. Chivalry was a most practical expression of the basic brotherhood of man. But to have enough imagination to see into other lives and enough piety to realize that their existence is a part of beneficent creation is the very foundation of human community.

There appear to be two types to whom this kind of charity are unthinkable: the barbarian, who would destroy what is different because it is different, and the neurotic, who always reaches out for control of others, probably because his own integration has been lost.”

(Ideas Have Consequences, Richard M. Weaver, University of Chicago Press, 1948, excerpts pg. 173-175)  

Morality and Community

The 1861-1865 war was essentially one of the defense of traditional, decentralized American communities, as established after the Revolution, against a centralizing liberalism which sought to establish hegemony in Washington. The latter was victorious.

Morality and Community

“Morality, as traditionally conceived, supposes, first of all, a metaphysical vision of the nature of man and the sort of life that is good for man. Virtues are cultivated dispositions of character that enable the soul to live out the life that is good for man. A virtuous soul, with much training over a long period of time, may come to love those things that are truly good as opposed to those that merely appear as such.

Second, morality presupposes community. A man cannot know what good is independent of a concrete way of life, lived in community with others, in which the good is exemplified. A man becomes good through emulation and by apprenticing himself to a master craftsman in the art of human excellence.

The marks of a genuine community are the temple, the graveyard, and the wedding celebration. The favorable connotations that attach to this essential structure of human life are inappropriately applied to associations that are not communities at all – for instance, the “business community,” the “entertainment community,” “gated communities,” or the “homosexual community.” IBM does not have a burial ground; homosexuals do not marry and beget children; and “gated communities” are often places where affluent strangers move to escape the aftermath of social disintegration. These associations have value, but they are not communities.

This is how Greeks, Romans, Hebrews, Christians and Muslims traditionally understood morality. These traditions had different understandings of what the human good is, what the virtues are, and how they should be ranked, but they never questioned the metaphysical postulate that there is such a thing as the human good and that morality is the adventure of critically exploring it on a concrete form of life.

Liberalism rejects this fundamental assumption, arguing that a metaphysical vision of the human good is not something human beings can agree on. Since compromise over questions of the ultimate good is not possible, liberals argue that constant and implacable conflict is inevitable.

Liberalism gradually began to shape American public policy after the Civil War and kicked into high gear after World War II. The Bill of Rights, designed to protect the States – distinct political societies capable of pursuing radically different forms of social life – from the central government, was turned upside down to protect the autonomy of the individual from the States.

The regulation of morals, law enforcement, and religion, which gave legal protection to distinct ways of life, was transferred by judicial social engineers to the central government. The education of children, which had been the province of local schools financed by real estate taxes, was now regulated by the federal courts.

By the 1980s, the earlier philosophical rejection of the Western conception of morality was cashed out in the colleges of many of the institutions necessary to sustain it. The United States was becoming a spiritual desert, and the signs of moral decay were ubiquitous: a spectacular increase in crime, divorce, falling educational standards, promiscuous abortion, illegitimacy, anomie, and a society with little desire to reproduce itself. If we wish to make the world safe for substantial moral communities, we must consider serious political alternatives to the master creation of liberalism, namely, the large-scale centralized state.”

If we wish to make the world safe for substantial moral communities, we must consider serious political alternatives to the master creation of liberalism, namely, the large-scale centralized state.”

(Communitarians, Liberals, and Other Enemies of Community and Liberty: Scaling Back the Enlightenment, Donald W. Livingston, Chronicles, July 2002, excerpts pp. 23-25)

“When the Yankees Come”

The excerpts below were taken from “When the Yankees Come,” an edited narrative of slave experiences during Sherman’s invasion of South Carolina in early 1865 by Paul C. Graham. The sources employed were The Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States – collected by the Federal Writers’ Project of the WPA in the 1930s.

When the Yankees Come

“Yankees! Oh, I hear folks speak about the Yankees plundering through the country plenty times. Hear about the Yankees going all about stealing white people silver. Say, everywhere they went and found white folks silver, they would just clean the place up.” Josephine Bacchus, Marion County, SC. Age 75-80.

“When the Yankees come they seem to have special vengeance for my white folks. They took everything they could carry off and burnt everything they couldn’t carry.” Charley Barber, Near Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC. Age 81.

“The Yankees come and burn the gin-house and barns. Open the smokehouse, take the meat, give the slaves some, shoot the chickens, and as the mistress and girls beg so hard, left without burning the dwelling house.” Millie Barber, Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC. Age 82.

“I was fifteen when the Yankees come thru. They took everything, horses, mules, cows, sheep, goats, turkeys, geese, and chickens. Hogs? Yes sir, they kill hogs and take what parts they want and leave other parts bleeding on the yard. When they left, old master have to go up into Union County for rations.” Anderson Bates, Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC. Age 87.

“The Yankees kill all the hog. Kill all the cow. Kill all the fowl. Left you nothing to eat. If the colored folk had any chicken, they just had to take that and try to raise them something to eat.” Solbert Butler, Scotia, Hampton County, SC. Age 82.

“The Yankees come. First thing they look for was money. They put a pistol right in my forehead and say: “I got to have your money, where is it?” There was a gal, Caroline, who had some money; they took it away from her. They took the geese, the chickens and all that was worth taking off the place, stripped it. Took all the meat out of the smoke-house, corn out of the crib, cattle out the pasture, burnt the gin-house and cotton. When the left, they shot some cows and hogs and left them lying right there.” Lewis Evans, Near Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC. Age 96.

“The Yankees marched through our place, stole cattle, and meat. We went behind them and picked up lots that they dropped when they left.” Rev. Thomas Harpe, Newberry, Newberry County, SC. Age 84.

“Sherman set fire everywhere he went – didn’t do much fighting, just wanted to destroy as he went.” Amos Gadsen, Charleston, Charleston County, SC. Age 88.

(When the Yankees Come, Former South Carolina Slaves Remember Sherman’s Invasion: Voices from the Dust, Volume I, Paul C. Graham, editor, Shotwell Publishing, 2016, excerpts pp. 2-3; 8; 18; 27)

Desecrating Graves in Raleigh

The Ladies Association of Wake County, North Carolina was formed as the Northern commander in occupied Raleigh ordered Southern dead removed from their graves or he would have them dug up and the remains thrown into a nearby roadway. Gen. Lawrence ‘O’B. Branch’s wife, during the early occupation of Raleigh, overheard that all Southern officers above the rank of captain were to be hung, which included her husband.

Desecrating Graves in Raleigh

“The following extracts were made from a paper by Mrs. M.L. Shipp, in the woman’s edition of the [Raleigh] News and Observer, May 20, 1895, in regard to the most prominent association of the State: “The Ladies Memorial Association of Wake County was formed in 1865, when it was necessary to remove from the grounds of the Pettigrew Hospital the remains of the Confederate soldiers buried there.

It was but a short while after the federals took possession of Raleigh before the Mayor was notified that they admired the spot where rested he Confederate dead, and ordered that they be moved at once, or they would be thrown out in the country road.

A town meeting was called, and the association formed, Mrs. L. O’B. Branch being made President . . . A resting place [at Oakwood] was selected for the reinterment of the beloved dead, and, with the help of the young men and boys of the town, the work was successfully accomplished. The graves were comparatively few at first, but none were safe from Sherman’s “bummers,” as there was scarcely a new-made grave anywhere but what was opened by these men, in search of treasures . . .

Many Confederate dead from the country were moved this spot, and the grounds were laid off and improved by [Sergeant] Hamilton, a soldier of the Confederate army who lost both eyes from a wound. To raise funds to care for the Confederate dead and erect a monument to their memory . . . it was reported that contraband articles such as Confederate flags, a strand of Gen. Lee’s hair, pictures of President Davis or any Confederate general . . . [the constant fear was] the sudden appearance of a bluecoat with orders to search the room for these contraband articles.”

(Women of North Carolina, Confederate Veteran, May 1898, excerpts pg. 227)

Barbarian Vandals in Louisiana

Gen. Richard Taylor was the son of General and President Zachary Taylor, and an 1845 graduate of Yale. In 1847 his father viewed the struggle over slavery had been “brought about by the intemperate zeal” of Northern fanatics, and told him that if the North ever exceeded its ”right and proper” constitutional power, “let the South act promptly, boldly and decisively with arms in their hand if necessary, as the Union in that case will be blown to atoms, or will no longer be worth preserving . . .”

Barbarian Vandals in Louisiana

“[Taylor] personally refused to abandon the dream of [liberating] New Orleans. Even with little or no help from other quarters of the Confederacy, he would work constantly toward the day when he could gather enough strength to deliver the city into the hands of his fellow Louisianans.

With an attack on New Orleans now impossible, Taylor’s [desired] to press southeastward . . . to relieve nearby parishes of the oppressive federal presence. “We are prisoners in every sense of the term,” wrote a local militia commander . . . Were we to attempt exercising any military authority, we would be arrested and our families harassed. Where is our protection to come from?”

Taylor answered the plea by sending Major Edward Waller’s unit of mounted Texas riflemen . . . On September 4 [1862], a detachment of the Texans, along with the militia unit, struck the federal outpost at Des Allemands and forced its garrison back toward New Orleans.

Capturing enough Yankee rifles to replace many of their outdated flintlocks and shotguns, Waller’s men also recovered piles of booty the federals had stolen during a recent raid upon nearby plantations. “Books, pictures, household furniture, finger rings, breast pins, and other articles of feminine adornment and wear, attested [to] the catholic taste and temper of these patriots,” observed Taylor.

The enemy had in fact swept through Taylor’s home parish, St. Charles. His plantation, Fashion, left in the care of an overseer during his family absence, had suffered some of the worst desecration and looting. “It is one of the most splendid plantations that I ever saw,” wrote a Vermont private in a letter . . . “I wish you could have seen the soldiers plunder this plantation.” Not only did they confiscate all of the stock animals, but they also forced Taylor’s slaves to help them ransack the house and barns.

The spoils included “hundreds of bottles of wine, eggs, preserved figs and peaches, turkeys, chickens, and honey in any quantity . . . the camp is loaded down with plunder – all kinds of clothing, rings, watches, guns, pistols, swords, and some of General [Zachary] Taylor’s old hats, coats, belt-swords — and, in fact, every old relic he had worn is worn about the camp . . . nothing is respected.”

Robert Butler . . . [one of the Des Allemands militiamen described the aftermath of federal destruction]: “It was one continual scene of desolation and sadness – nearly every place on the route had been despoiled and plundered – even to the huts of the poorest creoles.”

When they reached Fashion . . . “it was a complete wreck, the furniture smashed, the walls torn down, pictures cut out of their frames, while . . . scattered over the floor, lay the correspondence and official documents of the old General while President of the U.S. – the barbarians had respected nothing but the portrait of General [Winfield] Scott upstairs.”

(Richard Taylor, Soldier Prince of Dixie, T. Michael Parrish, UNC Press, 1992, excerpts pp. 252-255)

Pages:1234567...12»