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War for a Certain Interpretation

“We talk of peace and learning,” said Ruskin once in addressing the cadets of the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, “and of peace and plenty, and of peace and civilization, but I found that those were not the words which the muse of history coupled together, that on her lips the words were peace and corruption, peace and death.” Hence this man of peace glorified war after no doubt a very cursory examination of the muse of history.”

 War for a Certain Interpretation

“The surrender of the armies of Lee and Johnston brought the struggle to an end. The South was crushed . . . “the ground of Virginia had been kneaded with human flesh; its monuments of carnage, its spectacles of desolation, it’s altars of sacrifice stood from the wheat fields of Pennsylvania to the vales of New Mexico.” More than a billion dollars of property in the South had been literally destroyed by the conflict.

The palpable tragedy of violent death had befallen the family circles of the South’s patriotic not merely twice as frequently as in times of peace, or three times as frequently, or even ten times, but a hundred times as frequently. Within the space of four years was crowded the sorrow of a century. Mourning for more than 250,000 dead on battlefield or on the sea or in military hospitals was the ghastly heritage of the war for the South’s faithful who survived. The majority of the dead were mere boys.

Many strong men wept like children when they turned forever from the struggle. As in rags they journeyed homeward toward their veiled and stricken women they passed wearily among the flowers and the tender grasses of the spring. The panoply of nature spread serenely over the shallow trenches where lay the bones of unnumbered dead – sons, fathers, brothers and one-time enemies of the living who passed.

War is at best a barbarous business. Among civilized men wars are waged avowedly to obtain a better and more honorable peace. How often the avowed objects are the true objects is open to question. Avowedly the American Civil War was waged that a certain interpretation of the federal Constitution might triumph.

To bring about such a triumph of interpretation atrocities were committed in the name of right, invading armies ravaged the land, the slave was encouraged to rise against his master, and he was declared to be free.

“The end of the State is therefore peace,” concluded Plato in his Laws – “the peace of harmony.” The gentle and reasonable man of today has not progressed much beyond this concept. “War is eternal,” wrote Plato “in man and the State.”

The American Civil war strangled the Confederacy and gave rebirth to the United States. It brought forth a whole brood of devils and also revealed many a worthy hero to both sections. Seen through the twilight of the receding past a war is apt to take on a character different from the grisly truth.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida, William Watson Davis, Columbia, 1913, pp. 319-322)

Sep 30, 2021 - Aftermath: Destruction, America Transformed, Carnage, Costs of War, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on A Surgeon in a Unionist Prison

A Surgeon in a Unionist Prison

A Surgeon in a Unionist Prison

Dr. Joseph C. Shepard, born on Topsail Island, North Carolina, became Post Surgeon at Fort Fisher in 1864, and oversaw an earthen hospital beneath the Pulpit Battery of the massive fortress. During the second battle in mid-January 1865 against a massive Northern fleet with more cannon on its flagship than the entire fort contained, he dressed the leg wounds of Cape Fear District Gen. W.H.C. Whiting, and a short time later the left chest wound of fort commander Col. William Lamb.

After Gen. Whiting arrived at the fort before the second attack, he told Col. Lamb that he had come to share his fate as Gen. Braxton Bragg had “sacrificed’ the fort and its garrison.  No reinforcements would be forthcoming.

Dr. Shepard was imprisoned at Governors Island at New York for six weeks, then exchanged and sent to Greensboro, North Carolina. There he cared for the wounded at a Presbyterian church converted to a hospital, and rejoined his family at Scott’s Hill, north of Wilmington, after Gen. Johnston’s surrender at Durham.

He wrote the following from his Governors Island cell:

“I suppose it was inevitable – the War, that is. Our customs were different from those of the North. But who is to say which way was right, which way was wrong. All I know is that as I sit here in this Unionist prison on Governor’s Island, I wonder if I will ever see my family again.

Confined to these prison walls, I have nothing to do but think.  I cannot bear to think of the past several years and the ugliness of the War, so my mind drifts back to the year 1855. I had just graduated from the University of North Carolina and was preparing to study medicine in New York.  Life was so simple then.

A smile embraces my lips when I think back to May 8th, 1861, my wedding day, and envision my beautiful bride Mrs. Henrietta Foy Shepard. Although a happy day for us both, my wife was in mourning over the death of her father, Joseph Mumford Foy of Poplar Grove Plantation, who died just one month earlier. A great man he was, Mr. Foy. His death was a great loss to us all.

I had great reservations about leaving my wife so soon after our wedding, but my burning desire to further my education in medicine took me to Paris, France. Shortly thereafter, war erupted between the States back home and my loyalty to the South compelled me to return and offer my services.

Although I had originally enlisted for twelve months, an act of Confederate Congress dated April 16, 1862, extended my period of enlistment to three years or the duration of the war. Isn’t it interesting that the war came to an end exactly three months before the end of the extended enlistment period.

Oh, this cell is so cold and damp. How I wish I were with Henrietta and my daughter, Gertrude, basking in the heat of a warm, glowing fire. God willing, that day will come.

War is hell. And the ravages seem hardly reparable. But it is over. God only knows what’s in store for us now. Time will tell. I have once again read the surrender of General Lee to Lt. General Grant. We lost – but at least it’s over.

I’ve heard rumor that the failure of General Braxton Bragg to send in replacement troops was responsible for the fall of Fort Fisher. I don’t know if there is truth to this, but still, it’s over. Praise be to God Almighty with a prayer that our families will never have to endure this living hell again.”

(Reflections of Dr. Joseph Christopher Shepard, Surgeon, CSA, Governors Island Prison, Winter 1865)

 

Americans Unable to Control Their Future

Author Howard Ray White writes in his new “Rebirthing Lincoln” that Northern forces concentrating black refugees together in “contraband camps” promoted sickness and disease. He notes as well a smallpox epidemic “was first noted in 1862 among black congregations in Washington, DC . . . It subsequently spread south reaching epidemic levels among blacks and arriving in Texas in 1868.” This excellent and timely book is available in print or audiobook formats at www.Amazon.com.

The book helps make it clear that had the war been avoided through patience, diplomacy and a constitutional convention of States to solve their differences peacefully, the lives noted below would have been saved and the Founders’ republic perpetuated. Or perhaps two or more American republics, as Jefferson anticipated.

Americans Unable to Control Their Future

“The December 2011 issue of Civil War History, a scholarly journal published quarterly be The Kent State University Press, presented a highly-praised, 41-page census quantitative study by J. David Hacker, titled “A Census-Based Count of the Civil War Dead.” Hacker, presently at the University of Minnesota, reports that his study indicates that our ancestors suffered 750,000 soldier deaths instead of the 620,000 traditional number, an increase of 130,000.  He believes the Confederate deaths from disease and accidents have been seriously undercounted.

Due to the North’s scorched-earth policy, food, clothing and shoes were often scarce, increasing the death rate from exposure and disease, so we assign 70% of those 130,000 deaths to Confederates, elevating their death total from 260,000 to 350,000. The death toll for Lincoln’s invaders rises to 400,000. Hacker’s figures include war injuries that resulted in death up to 4 years after surrender.

A death toll of 350,000 Southern men represents 30 percent of the white male population, aged 18 to 48, that were living in the seceded States when Lincoln launched his invasion. And a death toll of 400,000 Northern men, many, many just-arriving immigrants, represents 9 percent of that population, aged 18 to 48.

Applying 30 percent to today’s American population (2010 census), calculates to 21 million deaths – a war death toll that today’s Americans cannot comprehend. Only the region between the Rhine and Volga in World War II suffered greater mortality.

White civilian deaths during Lincoln’s invasion and the first four years of the political Reconstruction that followed are a very sad historical story. William Cawthon estimated that 35,000 white civilians died. Historian James McPherson calculates that the North’s war against civilians destroyed two-thirds of the assessed value of wealth in the Confederate States, two-fifths of their livestock and over half of their farm machinery, resulting in a destitute people, struggling to find enough to eat, unable to control their future.”

(Rebirthing Lincoln: A Biography, Howard Ray White, Southern Books, 2021, excerpt pg. 258)

Republicans to Restore the Good Old Days

From its formation from the ashes of the Whig party in 1856, the Republican party in less than 5 years drove the Southern States to secession and engulfed the country in a devastating war which destroyed the American republic of 1789.  This party was formed in violation of Washington’s solemn warning against the formation of geographical political parties which he knew would endanger the very existence of the Union.

Republicans to Restore the Good Old Days

“The Republican leaders sought to convince the Northern voter that there would be no just cause for secession in the event of the election of the sectional president: that the Southern leaders were only bluffing and were trying to intimidate the Northern voter into voting against the dictates of his conscience.

[William] Seward, the author of the “Irrepressible Conflict” oration, explained that “the South would never in a moment of resentment expose themselves to war with the North while they have such a great domestic population ready to embrace any opportunity to assert their freedom and inflict revenge.”

He further explained that the election of Lincoln would terminate the conflict he had prophesied – not begin it. “Vote for us,” he cried, “and you will have peace and harmony and happiness in your future years.” And again he said, “When the Republicans are in office, what may we expect then? . . . I answer, “No dangers, no disasters, no calamities . . . all parties will rejoice in the settlement of the controversy which has agitated the country and disturbed its peace for so long.”

However, the New York Herald openly accused Seward of “pussyfooting.” Seward, it asserted, was a “moderate anti-slavery man at Detroit, a radical abolitionist at Lansing, a filibusterer at St. Paul, and the Brother Seward of John Brown did not hesitate to claim to be a good conservative, Union-loving patriot in New York.”

The election of Lincoln, according to Salmon P. Chase, another of the Republican leaders, would mean a restoration of the good old days of concord and goodwill between the North and the South, Tranquility, liberty and Union under the Constitution.” [Horace] Greeley, the Republican editor whose paper had the largest circulation of any paper in the United States, solemnly assured his readers that the election of Lincoln would be like “oil on troubled waters and would promptly remove all sectional excitement.”

(The Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861: A Study in Public Opinion, Mary Scrugham, Columbia University, 1921, excerpt pp. 45-46)

An American Chamber of Horrors

In an effort to forestall a Republican “Force Bill” designed to bring reconstruction horrors back to the postwar South, fourteen spokesmen that included Zebulon Vance, Robert Stiles and Bernard J. Sage undertook to explain the Solid South to what may be termed the New North. In April 1890 they published a symposium “Why the Solid South? Or Reconstruction and its Results,” designed to appeal to the self-interest of the North’s business class and a very clear recapitulation of what Reconstruction thus far “had cost in money, public morale and cultural retardation.”

An American Chamber of Horrors

“Hilary Herbert of Alabama, who served as editor, expressed . . . in a preface: “Its object is to show to the public, and more especially to the businessmen of the North, who have made investments in the South, or who have trade relations with their Southern fellow citizens, the consequences which once followed an interference in the domestic affairs of certain States by those, who either did not understand the situation or were reckless of results.”

There followed factual histories of Reconstruction in each of the ex-Confederate States, including West Virginia and Missouri, which also had suffered from the fraud, repression and vicious partisanship of the postwar settlement. All in all, it is one of the most dismal stories ever told, unrelieved by a single ray of light, unless a revelation of how much people can endure and how they will struggle to attain their hopes even in extremis be such.

Governor Vance of North Carolina in a particularly mild and philosophic chapter pointed out that during what was supposed to be a moral and political rebirth “the criminals sat in the law-making chamber, on the bench and in the jury-box, instead of standing in the dock.” It has become the fashion nowadays to regard Reconstruction as a kind of chamber of horrors into which no good American would care to look, but Governor Vance reminded his readers that no portion of our history better deserves study “by every considerate patriot.”

From the comparatively uneventful story of North Carolina’s experience, the chronicle moves on to the wild saturnalia of South Carolina, where amid riotous spending of public funds the State House was turned into a combination of saloon and brothel. Yet the ordeal of South Carolina was matched by that of Louisiana, where in four years’ time the incredible Warmoth regime squandered an amount equal to half the wealth of the State.

“Corruption is the fashion,” Governor Warmoth, an ex-soldier who had been dishonorably discharged from the Federal army, remarked with laudable candor. “I do not pretend to be honest, but only as honest as anybody in politics.”

(The Southern Tradition at Bay: A History of Postbellum Thought, Richard M. Weaver, George Core/M.E. Bradford, editors, Regnery Publishing, 1989, excerpts pp. 330-332)

Fiends in Federal Uniform

Sherman demonstrated control over his troops when it suited him, and could also allow subordinates to wink at soldier outrages. At Sandersville, Georgia alone, residents were left with no food or water for days while Union soldiers shot all the hogs, cows and chickens they could not take with them, the ground strewn with food, and carpets drenched with syrup and then covered with meal.  The roads along Sherman’s route were lined with the carcasses of horses, hogs and cattle, wantonly shot down to starve out the people and prevent them from making crops.

Fiends in Federal Uniform

“[During Sherman’s march through Georgia] a German-born private enthused to his family, “we live like God in France.” A good deal of looting also took place, especially by the foraging parties who operated with little supervision. “If money, watches or jewelry was found it was inevitably confiscated, recalled a New York veteran after the war, adding that the rampant thievery had “a very demoralizing effect on the men.” Even men of good reputation began to steal. There were men in prisons all over the country, the old veteran believed, “who took their first lessons in thieving while acting as one of Sherman’s foragers.”

Plenty of men regretted the hardship they and their comrades visited on civilians. During the destruction of railroads preceding the march, an Ohio soldier, drafted into the army only weeks before, scrawled in his diary: “There is great destruction of property about here. Much of it unnecessary. It is a pity to see homes of comfort destroyed thus. I think of my own house and wife and I can estimate the feelings of the enemy when I think how I would feel if served thus.”

Colonel Orlando M. Poe . . . complained to his own diary of the damage wrought by vandals, to the great scandal of our Army, and marked detriment to its discipline.” As the army neared to coast, a captain came upon four houses set afire “by some dirty rascal from our army . . .”

Eight days into the Savannah campaign, Major Thomas Taylor of the 47th Ohio . . . came upon a family who had been abused by a renegade party of [Union] foragers. After stripping them of everything edible, the “bummers” had smashed jars and dishes, vandalized furniture, scattered clothing, cut open mattresses, and threatened to burn the house down around their ears if they did not leave.”

“Such an act of barbarity,” Taylor wrote, “I have never witnessed in the service, yet these fiends wore the Federal uniform.”

(The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians 1861-1865, Mark Grimsley, Cambridge University Press, 1995, excerpt pg. 197)

 

Modernist Architecture’s Immense Damage

What is called “Modernism” in architecture was simply a response, primarily Marxist in its call to eradicate Western symbolism and meaning, to the rise of industrial manufacturing as man’s chief economic activity. The factory workers were deracinated country folk and their descendants bound to a new kind of slavery; their homes an industrial slum. But Marxist ideology would lift this new industrial man, who would attain control of “the means of production” with all class distinction abolished as life is reorganized by the Politburo.

Modernist Architecture’s Immense Damage

“When speaking of the faults of our surroundings we are naturally inclined to blame “bad architecture,” because buildings are easy to see in the landscape. Architects, just as naturally, inclined to dismiss this point of view as boobery. It is true that the mess we’ve made of places where we live and work is not solely the result of bad buildings, though there are plenty of them.

But that hardly lets architects off the hook. Rather, with the hubris of religious zealots, they set out on a great purifying mission that damaged the whole physical setting for civilization in our time.  The dogmas that guided them went by the name of Modernism. Heretics and skeptics were anathematized as systematically as the opponents of the fifteenth-century Vatican.

Modernism did its immense damage in these ways: by divorcing the practice of building from the history and traditional meanings of building; by promoting a species of urbanism that destroyed the age-old social arrangements and, with them, urban life as a general proposition; and by creating a physical setting for man that failed to respect the limits of scale, growth, and the consumption of natural resources, or to respect the lives of other living things.

The result of Modernism, especially in America, is a crisis of the human habitat: cities ruined by corporate gigantism and abstract renewal schemes. Public buildings and public spaces unworthy of human affection, vast sprawling suburbs that lack any sense of community, housing that the un-rich cannot afford to live in, a slavish obeisance to the needs of automobiles and their dependent industries at the expense of human needs, and the gathering ecological calamity that we have only begun to measure.

(The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape, James Howard Kunstler, Simon & Schuster, 1993, excerpts pp. 59-60)

If Our Enemies Prevail

Prominent South Carolina theologian James H. Thornwell saw the sectional conflict as not being merely between abolitionists an slaveholders,” but waged on one side by “athiests, socialists, communists, red Republicans and Jacobins, and the other by the “friends of order and regulated freedom. In one word, the world is the battleground and Christianity and Atheism the combatants.” Thornwell saw the progress of humanity as being at stake in the war.  Among Lincoln’s staunchest supporters were Karl Marx, many influential German revolutionaries who had fled the failed socialist revolutions of 1840s Europe, and New England utopians.

If Our Enemies Prevail

“Some Southerners saw such deception [as Lincoln’s] coming, James H. Thornwell, a prominent Presbyterian preacher and seminary professor in South Carolina, predicted if the South were defeated, then the North would not only revolutionize “the whole character of the government” from ‘a federal republic, the common agent of the sovereign and independent States’ to a “central despotism, with the notion of States forever abolished,’ but also would brand the South with the stigma of slavery:

“And what have we to expect if our enemies prevail? Our homes, too, are to be pillaged, our cities and property confiscated, our true men hanged, and those who escape the gibbet, to be driven as vagabonds and wanderers in foreign climes. This beautiful country is to pass out of our hands. The boundaries which mark our States are, in some instances, to be effaced, and the State that remain are to be converted into subject provinces, governed by Northern rulers and by Northern laws.

Our property is to be ruthlessly seized and turned over to mercenary strangers, in order to pay the enormous debt which our subjugation has cost. Our wives and daughters are to become the prey of brutal lust. The slave, too, will slowly pass away, as the red man did before him, under the protection of Northern philanthropy; and the whole country, now like the Garden of Eden in beauty and fertility, will first be a blackened and smoking desert, and then the minister of Northern cupidity and avarice.

There is not a single redeeming feature in the picture of ruin which stares us in the face, if we permit ourselves to be conquered.  It is a night of thick darkness that will settle upon us. Even sympathy, the last solace of the afflicted, will be denied to us.  The civilized world will look coldly upon us, and even jeer us with the taunt that we have deservedly lost our own freedom in seeking to perpetuate the slavery of others.

We shall perish under a cloud of reproach and of unjust suspicions, sedulously propagated by our enemies, which will be harder to bear than the loss of home and of goods. Such a fate never overtook any people before.”

(From Founding Fathers to Fire Eaters: The Constitutional Doctrine of States’ Rights in the Old South, James Rutledge Roesch, Shotwell Publishing, 2018, excerpt pp. xiv-xv)  

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)

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