Browsing "Aftermath: Destruction"

The South and Northern Finance Imperialism

One of the outcomes of the devastation and destruction was a need for Southern men to find employment and rebuild their impoverished section, and this most often meant working under the direction of the conqueror. Though Lee refused “to accept a sinecure from a Northern business concern,” many former Confederate officers became the agents or attorneys of the invading capitalists and “took action that had all the earmarks of scalawagism”, in the words of the author below.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The South and Northern Finance Imperialism

“One of the prices the South pays for its progressive industrialization is increasing servitude to Northern capital. New York has grown into the most autocratic city-state of modern times, with the Southern province of the United States as one of its important colonies.

The great financial houses of that and kindred cities control most of the region’s strategic industries, having sent out a second and third generation of carpetbaggers to found factories or to purchase those already existing. The Southern industries owned and controlled by outsiders include the region’s railroads, its coal fields, its iron reserves, its electric power, and its gas, Sulphur, and oil sources.

The existence of Northern patent monopolies and the absence of local machine manufacturing permit outside direction even of industries locally owned. The South manufactures its own cast-iron pipes, steel rails and bridges, and oils, but not its hardware, locomotives, automobiles, clocks, radios, dynamos, drugs, and many other finished products requiring the highest skill to produce and bringing in the highest profits.

Retail profits are siphoned out of the section by Northern-owned chain stores. The Southern businessman usually is a mere factor or agent of Northern principals, who control both production and distribution. His function is to sell [Northern articles] endeared to the Southern public through advertising. Some of these articles are as worthless as the wooden nutmegs the Yankee peddler is said to have imposed upon the public in ante-bellum times.

In 1937, economist David Coyle estimated that the South was paying out a billion dollars annually in excess of its income. It balanced its credit by selling property to investors from other sections of the country, by borrowing, by going bankrupt, and by destroying forests and lands to secure immediate incomes.

The possibility of the South revolting against its debtor status, in the manner of the Revolutionary planters against their British creditors, is ruled out by the outcome of the Civil War. That Southern leaders are able to reconcile the sons and grandsons of those who followed Robert E. Lee and William Jennings Bryan to the economic domination of the North caused Benjamin Kendrick to cry out bitterly in 1942:

“We are confronted by a paradox more amazing and ironical than any ever conjured by the imagination of Gilbert and Sullivan. The people of the South, who all their lives have suffered deprivation, want, and humiliation from an outside finance imperialism, followed with hardly a murmur of protest, leaders who, if indirectly, were nonetheless agents and attorneys of the imperialists.” What was true in 1942 is truer thirty years later.”

(The Everlasting South, Francis Butler Simkins, LSU Press, 1963, excerpt pp. 55-57)

The British Version of Sherman

With respect to the initiation of modern total war against a civilian population, the author below argues that after a century or two of civilized warfare between European combatants, “total war did in fact appear, beginning with the American Civil War, and has been the form of war in the twentieth century.” Lincoln’s general, Sherman, seems to have absorbed Allan Ramsey’s view of war against civilians, and was driven by his belief that Americans in the South could in no manner oppose the will of his government — to do so meant fire and sword used to bring them to subjection – after which his fury would cease. Sherman continued his total war against the Plains Indians; a young Spanish officer named Valeriano Weyler visited the North during the War, observed Sherman’s art of warfare, and used this to devastating effect against Cuban civilians in the mid-1890s.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The British Version of Sherman

“Although [David] Hume presented the specter of total war against the civilian population as a reduction to absurdity of British policy on both moral and practical grounds, his good friend Allan Ramsey embraced it as the only way to win the war. But what is most important about Ramsey’s proposal in the moral justification he offered for it.

Allan Ramsey was a court [portrait] painter to George III . . . [and] also a political theorist of some merit and wrote a number of pamphlets on political topics . . . [arguing in 1778] that the war is being lost because the British have not followed a proper strategy. The war must be turned against the civilian population.

Ramsey proposes that a garrison be established in New York . . . to serve as a rendezvous point for all British operations. Ten thousand troops are then to embark on transports to any province that is vulnerable and important . . . [and] to carry away all “that may be useful to the public service” and then “burn and destroy the houses, magazines, and plantations . . . sparing the lives of all the persons who do not attempt by arms to prevent them.” The troops are then to embark for some other province “where the like may be repeated.”

Washington’s army could not match the mobility of the British navy, and one could expect the colonial army to melt away as men returned to their devastated provinces to assist their families. Should the people remain obstinate, their scorched and impoverished land could be occupied by loyal immigrants.

Ramsey recognized that “such a scheme . . .” would be rejected as barbarous by “the more human, and more respectable part of the community.” But to this he had an ingenious reply.

[As] the American people claim to be sovereign; thus the people themselves are in a state of war with the King’s forces. “[The] inhabitants of America . . . with the express purpose of making war upon England, have formed themselves into a Government . . . where every man may be said, in his own individual person, to have bid defiance to the King of Great Britain; so that he must thank his own folly and temerity, if, at any time, he should come off short from so unequal a contest.”

We have here the germ of the twentieth-century rationale for total war: war aimed at the people of a nation, scorched-earth strategy, the bombing of civilian populations, massive deportations of peoples, and the enslavement of the vanquished.

Total war is not unique to the twentieth century, nor is it due to “technology,” which has merely made its implementation more practicable and terrible. Modern total war is possible only among “civilized” nations. It is shaped and legitimated by an act of reflection, a way of thinking about the world whereby an entire people become the enemy.

Happily the rules [of civilized warfare] were still in force for Lord North and George III, who did not follow Ramsay’s advice to wage total war against the colonists. The complete domination of reflection over moral sentiment, which is the mark of the barbarism of refinement, had not yet occurred.”

(Philosophical Melancholy and Delirium, Hume’s Pathology of Philosophy, Donald W. Livingston, University of Chicago Press, 1998, excerpts pp. 296-301)

Pillaging and Flattening American towns

Referring to his prewar employment and residence in Louisiana, the Macon [Georgia] Telegraph called the destructive Sherman “Judas Iscariot, a betrayer, a creature of depravity, a demon of a thousand fiends.” As for Sherman’s misunderstanding of treason, it is clearly defined in Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution as “levying War against them [the united States], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Sherman, by order of his commander, Lincoln, waged war against the united States.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Pillaging and Flattening American Towns

“Officially, Sherman’s orders to his officers were against capricious violence and destruction on his army’s sweep through South Carolina. But the true desires of their leader filtered back to Sherman’s men as they slogged through the swamps under the dripping moss of the live oaks in South Carolina Low Country. Sherman issued few, if any, restraining orders to the troops.

South Carolina is where treason began, and there, Sherman swore, was where it would end. And so, to Sherman’s implied commands, the troops responded with a greater vengeance than they had in Georgia.

Villages in Sherman’s path through the Low Country were virtually obliterated: Hardeeville, Purysburg, Robertville, Lawtonville, Allendale. At least one brigade – often two or more a day – marched through, pillaging and flattening the towns and the lands between mid-January and early February 1865.

The forces commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Edward S. Solomon of the 82nd Illinois Infantry of Operations seem to have been particularly effective in razing the hometowns of the Willingham and Lawton families.

In a postscript to a report that Colonel H. Case of the 129th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, First Brigade, Third Division, Twentieth Corps, had made . . . reported that a forage party near Camden “has captured at last a portion of the assets of the Bank of South Carolina and the Bank of Camden and also a quantity of jewelry and silver plate” and that “the safes were delivered to the Provost Marshal of the Twentieth Corps.”

Shortly after Lee’s surrender, a correspondent of the New York Times wrote, “I hazard nothing in saying that three-fifths [in value] of the personal property we passed through were taken by Sherman’s Army.”

(Kith and Kin, a Portrait of a Southern Family, Carolyn L. Harrell, Mercer University Press, 1984, excerpts pp. 135-138)

 

Preaching Racial Hatred in the South

Descending upon the prostrate South were the “Carpetbaggers” – Northern adventurers settling in the South and bent upon aiding the Republican Party through organizing the freedmen politically. Many were “astute demagogues who through vague speeches and tricks of mass organization won the confidence of the naïve Negro.” Northern newspaperman Horace Greeley described them as “stealing and plundering, many of them with both arms around Negroes, and their hands in their rear pockets, seeing if they cannot pick a paltry dollar out of them.” The infamous Union League was the destructive instrument of the Republican Party which drove a political wedge between Southern blacks and whites.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Preaching Racial Hatred in the South

“Scalawags were Southerners willing to espouse Republicanism for reasons of opportunism. When the pro-Negro policies of the carpetbaggers caused the scalawags to desert Republicanism, Northern leaders, conscious of the power of numbers, to an ever greater degree relied upon pure Negro support.

The principal agency of the carpetbaggers was the Union or Loyal League. Initially it was composed almost entirely of white unionists with patriotic rather than political aims. As the [radical] plans of Congress unfolded in 1867, its main purpose became the organization of Negro voters [as Republicans]. In every Southern community trusting Negroes were organized into secret lodges of the order which indulged in mummery and high-sounding platitudes. In its heyday the Union League was said to have more than 200,000 members.

Ceremony, talk about freedom and equal rights, sententious references to the Declaration of Independence, accompanied by the clanging of chains, the burning of weird lights, and prayers and songs – all had their compelling effect upon the Negroes’ emotions and thoughts. They were repeatedly reminded that their interests were eternally at war with those of Southern whites, and that their freedom demanded the continued supremacy of the Republican party.

As a consequence of these teachings, the Union League “voted the Negroes like “herds of senseless cattle.” One member described it as the ‘place we learn the law.” When asked why he voted Republican, another member replied “I can’t read, and I can’t write . . . We go by instructions. We don’t’ know nothing much.”

During the presidential campaign of 1868, the Union League of North Carolina declared that if Grant were not elected, the Negroes would be remanded to slavery; if elected, they would have farms, mules, and hold public office.

One fact is of fundamental importance in understanding the course of radical Reconstruction: the Negroes were aroused to political consciousness not of their own accord but by outside forces. This revolution in Southern behavior, unlike the more lasting political revolutions of history, was not a reflection of accomplishments in other fields.

Attainment of political equality by the Negroes, in other words, was not attended by social and economic gains, possibly not even signifying a general demand for these advantages.

Such a lack of support not only meant that the radical political experiment could be destroyed almost as easily as it was created, but that participation of the Negro in politics would be erratic and irresponsible. Even if it had not been that way, it would have been so regarded, because the Negroes did not preface their attempt to win political equality with the attainment of respect in other fields of social endeavor.”

(A History of the South, Francis Butler Simkins, Alfred A. Knopf, 1953, excerpts, pp. 272-273)

Ministering Angels Arrive in the Philippines

The Treaty of Paris submitted to the Senate for ratification in 1899 passed with barely the two-thirds majority required, though the prospect of commercial exploitation in Asia carried the day for Republicans. President William McKinley told Congress in his message asking for ratification that turning the Philippines over to our commercial rivals “would be bad business.” Senator Hoar of Massachusetts had forgotten his region’s treatment of the Pequot tribe who were sold into slavery and his State’s part in subjugating Southern States in the 1860s. The brutal methods used to subdue Filipino’s resisting occupation were familiar to the American South, which remembered Sherman’s visit.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Ministering Angels Arrive in the Philippines

“The Treaty of Paris gave the United States sovereignty over the Philippines, but it could not come into force until the Senate ratified it. Opponents denounced the treaty as an imperialist grab of distant land and shamed American ideals and overextended American power.

Senator George Frisbee Hoar of Massachusetts warned that it would turn the United States into “a vulgar, commonplace empire founded upon physical force, controlling subject races and vassal states, in which one class must forever rule and the other classes must forever obey.”

Supporters countered with three arguments: that it would be ludicrous to recognize Filipino independence since there was no such thing as a Filipino nation; that it was America’s duty to civilize the backward Filipinos; and that possession of the archipelago would bring incalculable commercial and strategic advantages.

As this debate was reaching its climax, in what the New York World called “an amazing coincidence,” news came that Filipino insurgents had attacked American positions in Manila. It later turned out that there had indeed been a skirmish but that an American private had fired the first shot. That was not clear at the time, however, and probably would not have mattered anyway.

Several senators declared that they now felt obligated to vote for the treaty as a sign of support for beleaguered soldiers on the other side of the globe. “We come as ministering angels, not as despots,” Senator Knute Nelson of Minnesota assured his colleagues.

In September, 1901, a band of Rebels . . . fiercely set upon [American soldiers at Balangiga], stabbing and hacking them to death. Of the seventy-four men who had been posted in Balangiga, only twenty survived, most with multiple stab wounds. News of the “Balangiga Massacre” was quickly flashed back to the United States [and it] stunned a nation that was only beginning to realize what kind of war was being fought in the Philippines.

American commanders on the islands . . . ordered Colonel Jacob Smith, who had participated in the Wounded Knee massacre in the Dakota Territory a decade before, to proceed to Samar and do whatever was necessary to subdue the rebels. Smith arrived . . . and ordered his men to kill everyone over the age of ten and turn the island’s interior into “a howling wilderness.”

“I want no prisoners,” he told them. “I wish you to kill and burn. The more you kill and the more you burn, the better it will please me.”

(Overthrow, America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, Stephen Kinzer, Times Books, 2006, excerpts pp. 49-53)

The North Must Fall Under the Same Rule

Once the American States in the South were subdued and martial law instituted, the occupation forces wreaked havoc among the slowly-adjusting population, both white and black. At an 1866 Fourth of July observance in Atlanta, a resident wrote that “the occasion was observed only by the black population. They had a grand procession [though] a lot of drunken Yankee soldiers . . . attacked them, and there was a general row. No one was killed, but more than twenty shots were fired, and many were injured. There is a bitter feeling between the Negroes and the Yankees . . .”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

North Must Fall Under the Same Rule

“On April 30, 1865, news was received in Georgia through a dispatch from General (Joseph E.] Johnston to Governor [Joseph] Brown that hostilities against the United States had ceased. From Savannah and Macon as centers, military occupation was extended over the whole State during April, May and June.

Frequent broils occurred between soldiers and citizens, between Negroes and white soldiers and citizens and between white people and [US] colored troops. Garrisons where colored troops were established were centers for disturbance. And Negro soldiers everywhere, had a bad influence on the freedmen of the neighborhood, encouraging them in idleness and arousing in them a feeling of distrust or hostility to their white employers.

Discontent among the Federal soldiers themselves did not make matters more comfortable. White volunteers were restive, thought they ought to be immediately mustered out, and regular soldiers did not get along with colored troops.

General [Ulysses S.] Grant, after his tour of inspection in the South, reported to President [Andrew] Johnson, December 18, 1865, that the presence of black troops, lately slaves, demoralized labor by their advice and by furnishing resorts for freedmen for miles around, whereas white troops generally excited no opposition. Negro troops had to be kept in large enough numbers for their own defense.

Conditions were represented thus by a distinguished Georgian [N.G. Foster] in a letter to General Sherman on May 10:

“ . . . Almost daily our houses are entered and pilfered, and we meet at every turn the air or derision and defiance. Many of the farms were left overcrowded with helpless women and children, with a few old men. Now the [US] commander’s cavalry squads, stationed at various points in the country, permit the Negroes to take the plough stock from the farmer and swarm into their camps, and lounge about, abandoning all labor – Surely, whatever may be the final destiny of this people, they ought to be required to make a support – And the Negro girls for miles and miles are gathered to the [Federal] camps and debauched.

It is surely is not the wish of those persons who aim at an equality of colors to begin the experiment with a whole race of whores . . .

I have not conversed with a [Southern] soldier who had returned, that does not express a prefect willingness to abide the issue. They say they made the fight and were overpowered, and they submit. Nothing will again disturb the people but a sense of injustice . . . [but] No people who descended from Revolutionary fathers can be kept tamely in a state of subjugation. And if it becomes necessary to establish a military despotism [in the] South, any man with half an idea must see that the North must eventually fall under the same rule.”

(Reconstruction in Georgia, Economic, Social, Political, 1865-1872, C. Mildred Thompson, Columbia University, 1915, excerpts, pp. 132; 136-139)

Resisting New England’s Cultural Imperialism

The war was the result of a revolution in American politics as the Whigs disintegrated after the election of 1852 and the Democrats came apart in 1860 – resulting in the loss of the national spirit in the parties and the onset of purely political sectional opinion. The pattern of support for the new Republican Party in 1856 was a map of greater New England and new States colonized by the descendants of Puritan migration. Author David Hackett Fischer (below) writes of Lincoln: “On his father’s side, Lincoln was descended from New England Puritans who had intermarried with Pennsylvania Quakers and migrated to Appalachia and the Ohio Valley. He represented every regional components of the Republican coalition.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Resisting New England’s Cultural Imperialism

“In defense of their different cultures, the two sections also fought differently. The armies of the North were at first very much like those of Fairfax in the English Civil War; gradually they became another New model Army, ruthless, methodical and efficient. The Army of Northern Virginia, important parts of it at least, consciously modeled itself upon the beau sabreurs of Prince Rupert. At the same time, the Confederate armies of the southwest marched into battle behind the cross of St. Andrew, and called themselves “Southrons” on the model of their border ancestors.

The events of the war itself radically transformed Northern attitudes toward Southern folkways. As casualty lists grew longer Northern war aims changed from an intention merely to resist the expansion of Southern culture to a determination to transform it. As this attitude spread through the Northern States the Civil War became a cultural revolution.

After the War . . . The Republican coalition dominated national politics by its electoral majorities in the north, and by military occupation in the South. Radical reconstruction was an attempt to impose by force the cultures of New England and the midlands upon the coastal and highland South. The Southern States were compelled to accept Yankee constitutions and Yankee judges, Yankee politics and Yankee politicians, Yankee schools and Yankee schoolma’ams, Yankee capitalists and a Yankee labor system.

The cultural revolution continued in some parts of the South until 1876. It succeeded for a time in modifying many Southern institutions . . . with the exception of slavery itself, most effects lasted only as long as they were supported by Northern bayonets. As long as the old folkways survived in the South, it was inevitable that the material and institutional order of Southern life would rapidly revive when Yankee soldiers went home.

After the elections of 1876 . . . Union troops were withdrawn. Yankee school systems were abolished; Yankee schoolma’ams were shipped back to New England; Yankee constitutions were rewritten. Despite talk of a “new South” after 1876, young Southerners (both white and black) continued to learn the old folkways.”

(Albion’s Seed, Four British Folkways in America, David Hackett Fischer, Oxford University Press, 1989, pp. 860-863)

 

The Twilight of the Confederacy

The infamous “Wilson Raid” into Alabama and the burning of Tuscaloosa in early April 1865 had no impact whatsoever on the outcome of the war, as by March the Southern Confederacy had been all but overrun and Lee was exhausted in Virginia. Opposing Wilson’s 14,000 well-armed and equipped troopers were Nathan Bedford Forrest’s ill-equipped and scattered cavalry numbering 5,000.

Chaplain Basil Manly of Alabama was the brother of Charles Manly, the last Whig governor of North Carolina and serving 1849 to 1851. The cruel act of destroying barns and farm implements as well as killing or carrying away livestock was intended to hasten the onset of starvation among Southern civilians.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Twilight of the Confederacy

“In the spring of 1865, the Yankees returned to Alabama. By this point, not even the South’s most feared cavalryman, Nathan Bedford Forrest, could stop the 14,000 Federal horsemen under Major General James H. Wilson. As Forrest tried to stay between the Yankees and Selma, Wilson ordered one of his subordinates . . . to take the city of Tuscaloosa, to divert some of the Confederates 6,000 troops.

[The enemy’s] 2,000 cavalrymen swept aside the few militiamen who tried to stop them, captured the town and, while pillaging the area “burned the buildings used for public purposes at the university,” including the library, from which only a few items were saved.

The Yankees also “took away all the horse and mules they could find. They camped in our streets, that night, and next morning they proceeded to burn the foundry and factory, the miter sheds, and the bridge across the river.”

The Federals left the city just ahead of the Confederate cavalry sent to intercept them, having successfully diverted Forrest, who was soon defeated by the twenty-seven-year-old Wilson. Wilson’s victory over the notorious Forrest would have made him a hero two years earlier, but was simply a mop-up operation in the spring of 1865.

On May 23, a “body of Yankees under Col. Marsh, which have been here about a week, took their departure. The soldiers “took all the good horses and mules they could get; without compensation. Corn, meat, etc., they took from private parties, at pleasure . . .” The Northern troops were said “to be from Illinois,” and [Basil] Manly had heard that “they took a Negro out, just before they left, who had stolen a [Northern] captain’s horse, etc., and shot him.”

In the spring of 1866, [North Carolina] Governor [Charles] Manly [1795-1871] wrote to a family friend, describing what had happened the year before. His plantation, Ingleside, [near Raleigh], to which he retired in the late 1850s, was destroyed by “Sherman’s Devils.” Coming onto the property, the Yankee troops “tore the House all to pieces, broke down the plastering and ceiling, all the doors and windows, stole all the furniture, all my books and papers and the old grain omnibus with all its contents – took every mule, horse, cow, sheep and poultry, all my corn fodder and hay, burnt up fences and destroyed [my] farming tools.”

Worse still, “a great part of this villainy was perpetrated after the surrender” of the Confederacy, but, as Governor Manly complained, “no redress could be obtained.”

(Chaplain of the Confederacy, Basil Manly and Baptist Life in the Old South, A. James Fuller, LSU Press, 2000, excerpts, pp. 304-306)

 

“All the Land Belongs to the Yankees Now”

The South laid down their arms with the understanding that political union with the North would be restored, albeit against their will, but their rights in that political union would be as they were before hostilities commenced. This was not to be — punishment and retribution for seeking independence followed the shooting war – the second phase of the war would continue to 1877 and beyond.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

“All the Land Belongs to the Yankees Now”

“Gloom and depression gripped Richmond after the surrender. Thieves, murderers and pickpockets swarmed in the streets. The prevailing feeling of despair was intensified when suspicions were expressed in certain Northern quarters that Jefferson Davis and other Confederate leaders were somehow responsible for Lincoln’s death. This was, of course, absurd, but Northern radicals were looking for an excuse to punish the South to the limit.

Orders were accordingly issued forbidding as many as three former Confederates to stand on any Richmond street corner, lest they engage in further “conspiracies.” No Confederate insignia could be worn, with the result that a former soldier who had only his battered Confederate coat had to cut off the buttons or cover them with cloth. Many citizens talked of emigrating to Canada, Europe or Latin America.

Negroes were flooding into Richmond and other cities from the country districts. An estimated fifteen thousand came to the former Confederate capital, doubling its black population. Many of these newcomers believed vaguely that they would be cared for indefinitely by “Marse Linkum” or his agents.

As one of Emma Mordecai’s former slaves put it: “All de land belongs to de Yankees now, and dey gwine to divide it out ‘mong the colored people . . .” Another ex-slave was heard to say: “Dis what you call freedom! Can’t get no wuck, and got ter feed and clothe yo’sef.”

It was often easier for blacks to get work than whites. Ex-slaves were known to bring their impoverished former masters or mistresses Federal greenbacks and food from the US Commissary. It was clear that there were strong ties of affection between onetime slaves and their erstwhile owners.

Schoolteachers came down from the North to instruct blacks. Those in charge of these activities were idealistic in the extreme, but too frequently were lacking in understanding. Among those in dire need of help were the returning Confederate soldiers who had been confined in Northern prisons. These haggard, weak and often ill men, clad in hardly more than rags, staggered into town after somehow making their slow and tortuous way back to the South.

Fighting between Federal soldiers and Negroes occurred frequently in Richmond. Two soldiers shot a black through the head, leaving him for dead near the old Fair Grounds after robbing him of two watches and five dollars, according to the Dispatch.

The Virginia press was almost unanimous in opposition to Negro suffrage. The Richmond Times, said, for example: The former masters of the Negroes in Virginia have no feeling of unkindness toward them, and they will give them all the encouragement they deserve, but they will not permit them to exercise the right of suffrage, nor will they treat them as anything but “free Negroes.” They are laborers who are to be paid for their services . . . but vote they shall not.”

(Richmond: The Story of a City, Virginius Dabney, Doubleday & Company, 1976, excerpts, pp. 199-202)

 

Ruffin’s Library and Slaves Lost

Edmund Ruffin of Virginia, born in 1794 while Washington was president, committed suicide in his room at Redmoor Farm in Amelia County on 17 June 1865, unwilling and unable to live under a Northern tyranny that had already destroyed his life, family, and way of life. The veteran of the War of 1812 had observed, from 1861 through 1865, what the Northern conqueror was capable of with the invasion of his beloved Old Dominion.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Ruffin’s Library and Slaves Lost 

“One other loss of property occurred during the first occupation at Beechwood [plantation], the result of looting by Union troops: the libraries were destroyed. Ruffin had no inventory of his books. He suspected at first that most of the volumes had been sent by the Union commander to New York for sale. A Union soldier’s letter, which eventually fell into the family’s hands, explained that the libraries had been the objects of looting by Union troops.

Slaves began “absconding” from Marlbourne, Beechwood, and Evelynton very early in the war, just as they did from farms all along the Pamunkey and lower James rivers once [General Geroge] McClellan occupied the peninsula. The level of desertions astonished Ruffin.

Beechwood suffered heaviest losses from slave defections between May and June 1862, when sixty-nine of the slaves still held there fled. “Not a single man is left belonging to the farm,” he noted on 11 June. (One of the absconders, a man Ruffin knew as William and described as “an uncommonly intelligent Negro,” would return in August 1862 to guide Union forces landing in Prince George.)

Events in June 1862 that broke up the slave community at Beechwood and Evelynton demolished Ruffin’s assumptions about slaves and their relationship to his family . . . he decided the notion that black people felt a commitment to their own families was just a false statement.

At Beechwood and Evelynton individual slaves had absconded with no apparent concern for their families left behind — evidence, Ruffin surmised, that they had no such commitment. [In the early summer of 1862, Ruffin sold] twenty-nine troublesome slaves. That sale, Ruffin said, was an ordeal . . . their slaves had forced them to “a painful necessity thus to sever more family ties,’ . . . [but] he had sold to just one buyer, who represented just two plantations; he had tried to break no family tie except those already broken by the slaves themselves.”

(Ruffin, Family and Reform in the Old South, David F. Allmendinger, Oxford University Press, 1990, excerpts, pp. 164-166)