Browsing "Aftermath: Destruction"

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)

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)  

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