Browsing "Aftermath: Destruction"

The South to Receive a Proper Education

After conquering and humiliating the South, the North’s next step was to re-educate the rising generations of Southern youth while herding the freedmen into the Republican Party to ensure political supremacy in the conquered region. The South’s history had to be rewritten; “its history was tainted by slavery and must be abjured,” and Southern children must learn to speak of “our Puritan fathers.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The South to Receive a Proper Education

“For ten years the South, already ruined by the loss of nearly $2 billion invested in its laborers, with its lands worthless, its cattle and stock gone, its houses burned, was turned over to the three millions of slaves, some of whom could still remember the taste of human flesh and the bulk of them hardly three generations removed from cannibalism. These half-savage blacks were armed.

Their passions were roused against their former masters by savage political leaders like Thaddeus Stevens [of Pennsylvania], who advocated the confiscation of all Southern lands for the benefit of the Negroes, and extermination, if need be, of the Southern white population; and like Charles Sumner [of Massachusetts], whose chief regret had been that his skin was not black.”

Not only were the blacks armed, they were upheld and incited by garrisons of Northern soldiers; by Freedmen’s Bureau officials, and by Northern ministers of the gospel, and at length they were given the ballot while their former masters were disarmed and, to a large extent, disenfranchised.

For ten years, ex-slaves, led by carpetbaggers and scalawags, continued the pillages of war, combing the South for anything left by the invading armies, levying taxes, selling empires of plantations under the auction hammer, dragooning the Southern population, and visiting upon them the ultimate humiliations.

After the South had been conquered by war and humiliated and impoverished with peace, there appeared still to remain something which made the South different – something intangible, incomprehensible, in the realm of the spirit.

That too must be invaded and destroyed; So there commenced a second war of conquest, the conquest of the Southern mind, calculated to remake every Southern opinion, to impose the Northern way of life and thought upon the South, write “error” across the pages of Southern history which were out of keeping with the Northern legend, and set the rising and unborn generations upon stools of everlasting repentance.

Francis Wayland, former president of Brown University, regarded the South as “the new missionary ground for the national school-teacher,” and President Hill of Harvard looked forward to the task for the North “of spreading knowledge and culture over the regions that sat in darkness.”

The older generations, the hardened campaigners under Lee and Jackson, were too tough-minded to re-educate. They must be ignored. The North must “treat them as Western farmers do the stumps in their clearings, work around them and let them rot out,” but the rising and future generations were to receive a proper education in Northern tradition.”

(The Irrepressible Conflict, Frank Lawrence Owsley; I’ll Take My Stand, The South and the Agrarian Tradition by Twelve Southerners, LSU Press, 1977 (original 1930), pp. 62-63)

The Fatal, Unjust Advantage

England reaped a fortune with its dominance of blockade running for most of the war, and stood nearly ready for mediation and intervention on the side of the American South. The latter was frustrated not by any abhorrence of slavery — as the British had much to do with its introduction and perpetuation in North America – but by the appearance of Russian fleets in New York and San Francisco harbors in the fall of September, 1863. The Russians had not forgotten their fleets bottled up during the Crimean War, and Lincoln was glad to have an ally with which to threaten Europe if intervention was attempted.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

That Fatal, Unjust Advantage

“How different might the fortunes of war have proved had England been honestly neutral. Grant even that she had seized the Alabama and the Florida, what would this have signified if she had stopped Federal recruiting in Ireland and insisted that the example should be loyally followed on the continent?

Had she taken stringent measures to prevent emigration of recruits to the North, as she stopped the supply of a navy to the South, the Federal armies would have been weakened by more men than Grant and Sherman now command, and thus the North would have lost that fatal, that unjust advantage by which the South has been crushed.

Richmond has fallen before an army of foreign mercenaries. Lee has surrendered to an army of foreigners. With a horde of foreigners Sherman occupied Atlanta, took Savannah, ravaged Georgia, and traversed the Carolinas.

By the aid of foreign mercenaries the South has been destroyed, and that aid the conquerors owe to the connivance of England. It is not often that a duty neglected, an opportunity thrown away can ever be retrieved. It is not often that a great public wrong goes utterly unpunished.

We are little disposed to import into politics the language of the pulpit, but we cannot forbear to remind our readers that nations as well as individuals are responsible for the use they make of the powers and opportunities intrusted to them, and history does not encourage us to hope that so grievous a dereliction of duty as that of which on our part the South has been the victim will go eventually unpunished.”

(English Sentiment for the South, from the Methodist Review, 1867, Confederate Veteran Magazine, January, 1921, page 48)

Effecting a Change of Masters

The examples of Jamaica and Haiti were clear to most in the antebellum period, though the abolitionists seemed unconcerned with the predictable result of emancipation in America. With the result of Lincoln’s revolution, the African slave had only changed masters as he became the chattel and ward of the now all-powerful federal government at Washington. The Republican party now needed the freedmen’s vote to ensure their victory at the polls, and worked ruthlessly through its Union League to keep Republican ballots in black hands.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Effecting a Change of Masters

“It is scarcely in the power of human language to describe the enthusiastic delight with which the abolitionists, both in England and in America, were inspired by the spectacle of West India Emancipation. We might easily adduce a hundred illustrations of the almost frantic joy with which it intoxicated their brains [but we might also illustrate] how indignant [the abolitionist] became that others were not equally disposed to part with their sober senses.

In one day, probably seven hundred thousand of human beings were rescued from bondage to full, unqualified freedom. The crowning glory of this day was the fact that the work of emancipation was wholly due to the principles of Christianity. The West Indies were freed, not boy force, or human policy, but by the reverence of a great people for justice and humanity.

[The good people of the free States] did not go into raptures over so fearful an experiment before they had some little time to see how it would work. They did, no doubt, most truly and profoundly love liberty. But then they had some reason to suspect, perhaps, that liberty may be one thing, and abolitionism quite another. Liberty, they knew, was a thing of light and love; but as for abolitionism, it was, for all they knew, a demon of destruction.

We shall begin with Jamaica. The very first year after the complete emancipation of the slaves of this island, its prosperity began to manifest symptoms of decay. The abolitionist not only closed his eyes on every appearance of decline in the prosperity of the West Indies, he also seized with avidity every indication of the successful operation of his [emancipation] scheme, and magnified it to both himself and to the world.

[But] “Shipping has deserted her ports; her magnificent plantations of sugar and coffee are running to weeds; her private dwellings are falling to decay . . .”It is impossible [to not arrive] at the conclusion that the freedom granted to the negro has had little effect except that of enabling him to live at the expense of the planter so long as anything remained. Sixteen years of freedom did not appear to its author to have “advanced the dignity of labor or of the laboring classes one particle,” while it had ruined the land, and this great damage had been done to the one class without benefit of any kind to the other.”

In relation to Jamaica, another witness says: “The marks of decay abound . . . People who have nothing, and can no longer keep up their domestic establishments, take refuge in the abodes of others, where some means of subsistence are still left;. . . the lives of crowded thousands appear to be preserved from day to day by a species of miracle.

We might fill volumes with extracts to the same effect. We might in like manner point to other regions, especially to Guatemala, to the British colony on the southern coast of Africa, and to the island of Hayti, in all of which emancipation was followed by precisely similar events. By the act of emancipation, Great Britain paralyzed the right arm of her colonial industry. The laborer would not work except occasionally, and the planter was ruined. The morals of the Negro disappeared with his industry, and he speedily retraced his steps toward his original barbarism. All this had been clearly foretold.

Precisely the same thing had been foretold by the Calhoun’s and Clays of this country. The calmest, the profoundest, the wisest statesman of Great Britain likewise forewarned the agitators of the desolation and the woes they were about to bring upon the West Indies. But the madness of the day would confide in no wisdom except its own, and listen to no testimony except the clamor of fanatics. Hence the frightful experiment was made . . .

But what is meant by freedom of the emancipated slaves, on which so many exalted eulogies have been pronounced? Its first element, it is plain, is a freedom from labor – freedom from the very first law of nature. In one word, its sum and substance is a power on the part of the freed black to act pretty much as he pleases.”

The magnificent colony of St. Domingo did not quite perish . . . the entire white population soon melted, like successive snowflakes of snow, in a furnace of that freedom that Robespierre had kindled. The atrocities of this awful massacre have had, as the historian has said, no parallel in the annals of human crime. “The Negroes,” says Alison, “marched with spiked infants on their spears instead of colors; they sawed asunder the [white] male prisoners, and violated the females on the dead bodies of their husbands.”

The work of death, thus completed with such outbursts of unutterable brutality, constituted and closed the first act in the grand drama of Haytian freedom. In this frightful chaos, the ambitious mulattoes, whose insatiable desire for equality had first disturbed the peace of the island, perished miserably beneath the vengeance of the very slaves whom they had themselves roused from subjection and elevated into irresistible power. Thus ended the second act of the horrible drama.

[In the new independent Negro state, the lands] were divided out among the officers of the army, while the privates were compelled to cultivate the soil under their former military commanders . . . No better could have been expected except by fools or fanatics. The blacks might preach equality, it is true, but yet, like the more enlightened ruffians of Paris, they would of course take good care not to practice what they had preached.

Hence, by all the horrors of their bloody revolution, they had only effected a change of masters. The white man had disappeared, and the black man, one of their own race and color, had assumed his place and his authority.”

(Liberty and Slavery, Albert Taylor Bledsoe, J.B. Lippincott & Company, 1856, pp. 229-278; reprinted 2000 by www.confederatereprint.com)

Appalling the Horde of Genghis Khan

Wartime Governor Zeb Vance of North Carolina compared the “gentler invasion of Cornwallis in 1781” with Sherman’s hordes in 1865, noting Cornwallis’s order from Beattie’s Ford, January 28, 1781: “It is needless to point out to the officers the necessity of preserving the strictest discipline, and of preventing the oppressed people from suffering violence at the hands of whom they are taught to look to for protection . . . ”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Appalling the Horde of Genghis Khan

“Vance considered it apparent to every intelligent observer as 1865 dawned that the Confederacy was doomed. Lee was holding Richmond with what he described as “a mere skirmish line.” In twenty miles of trenches, Grant faced him with 180,000 men. Savannah had fallen and while the south still held Wilmington and Charleston, their loss was inevitable.

Sherman with 75,000 troops was preparing for the “home-stretch toward Richmond,” driving the scattered Confederate detachments – not more than 22,000 – before him. Enemy cavalry overran the interior of the Confederacy. “Nowhere,” Vance continued, “was there a gleam of hope; nowhere had there come to us any inspiring success. Everything spoke of misfortune and failure.”

Vance was most critical of the conduct of Sherman’s army and the “stragglers and desperadoes following in its wake.” He was severe in his castigation of the Federal commander.

“When a general organizes a corps of thieves and plunderers as a part of his invading army, and licenses beforehand their outrages, he and all who countenance, aid or abet, invite the execration of mankind. This peculiar arm of the military service, it is charged and believed, was instituted by General Sherman in his invasion of the Southern States.

Certain it is that the operations of his “Bummer Corps” were as regular and un-rebuked, if not as much commended for their efficiency, as any other division of his army, and their atrocities were often justified or excused on the ground that “such is war.”

Vance in his denunciation of Sherman was not able to look ahead to wars in which supposedly enlightened nations would make civilians their main target, devastate entire cities to break down morale and the will to resist, and degenerate warfare to a barbarity that would have appalled the horde of Genghis Khan.”

[Vance continued:] “The whole policy and conduct of the British commander was such to indicate unmistakably that he did not consider the burning of private houses, the stealing of private property, and the outraging of helpless, private citizens as “War,” but as robbery and arson. I venture to say that up to the period when that great march [Sherman’s] taught us the contrary, no humane general or civilized people in Christendom believed that “such is war.”

(Zeb Vance, Champion of Personal Freedom, Glenn Tucker, Bobbs-Merrill, 1965, pp. 374-376)

The Old Hate

Sherman’s soldiers spared little from looting and destruction in North Carolina as they had done in Georgia and South Carolina. After the conflict, wartime Governor Zebulon Vance wrote: “When a general organizes a corps of thieves and plunderers as a part of his invading army, and licenses beforehand their outrages, he and all who countenance, aid or abet, invite the execration of mankind. This peculiar arm of the military service, it is charged and believed, was instituted by General Sherman in his invasion of the Southern States. Certain it is that the operations of his “Bummer Corps” were as regular and un-rebuked, if not as much commended for their efficiency, as any other division of his army, and their atrocities were often justified or excused on the ground that “such is war.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Old Hate

“Long before you ever came into North Carolina, your name was a terror to us; news of your march through Georgia and South Carolina had preceded you. “Massa Harold” (my great-grandfather) had expected you to have horns and hoofs; he must have been surprised when you appeared on a neighboring plantation as an ordinary man of forty-five with a head of unruly red hair and a shaggy beard.

But your soldiers were hungry, and they scouted the country-side for food. That is why they came to our house. (No, it was not one of those story-book mansions with white columns; it was only a two-room log cabin. There had been better days for the family, but that is another story.)

On that morning in March of 1865 when your “bummers” rode up to our gate, “Ole Mammy” (my great-grandmother, then a woman of forty-seven) was standing in the yard. Beside her stood a young woman of eighteen (Aunt Fed), a boy of nine (Uncle Richard), and a little girl of six (Aunt Queen), and a Negro slave (“Aunt Bessie”) . . . and Frank (my grandfather, then aged thirteen) were down in the swamp with an old horse and a cow. (Three older sons had been taken prisoners at the fall of Fort Fisher just the month before.)

Your men found the cow; she would not be quiet and so ended in your pot. (She was dry anyhow.) Frank came up to the house and found your men digging in a ditch for a keg of gold which “Aunt Bessie” had told them was buried there. (People still come and dig for that treasure, but ‘ther aint nare been one.”) Thanks for cleaning out the ditch.

And we got the feathers picked up and the bed ticks sewed back together. Thus far, we were about even; you got the cow, and we kept the horse; you cleaned out the ditch and made us clean up the house. But the thing that made us mad was that pot of chicken stew.

Frank remembered it well. It was the last chicken they had. “Old Mammy” had saved it for an emergency. When she heard that you were over on the Faison Plantation, she knew that the emergency had come. She had hoped her family would have it eaten before you came, but it was still in the pot when she heard that dreaded cry, “Yankees, Yankees; the Yankees are coming.”

And everyone had to hurry to his place. At first your soldiers were nice enough, but after all that digging they were short on manners. They ransacked the house, and not finding the gold, they spied the small pot on the hearth. Now, if your men had drawn up a chair and had said grace like Christians ought to do and had eaten the stew, it might have passed without being recorded. But no, your men were mad and poured out stew on the floor and then stepped on the pieces of chicken. This was too much for that hungry thirteen year old boy; he darted up from his stool with fire in his eyes. “God damn you dirty rascals.”

(A Southerner’s Apology to General Sherman, A Reticule by Dr. James H. Blackmore, Flashes of Duplin’s History and Government, Faison and Pearl McGowen, Edwards & Broughton, 1971, pp. 243-244)

Suppressing Conservative Votes in Texas

The carpetbagger class was not the only alien fixture of postwar Texas. Edmund J. Davis was a former district judge in Texas who raised a regiment of Texas cavalry for the enemy and led the postwar “radical faction” of blacks and Texas scalawags. Davis was widely despised and one who, in the words of one loyal Texan, “led armies to sack and pillage their own State.”  The North’s Union League organized freedmen into a solid political bloc to support Republican candidates for office; the Ku Klux Klan was organized to oppose the Union League.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Suppressing Conservative Votes in Texas

“Passed over [President Andrew] Johnson’s veto on March 2, 1867, the First Reconstruction Act divided the former Confederate States, except [Johnson’s home State of] Tennessee, into five military districts and declared the existing civil governments in these States to be only provisional. Congress combined Texas with Louisiana into the Fifth Military District under the command of General Philip H. Sheridan.

The advent of Congressional Reconstruction shocked and angered Texas conservatives. Disregarding the four years of Civil War just ended, the Conservatives, or Democrats, now charged the northern Republicans with unleashing with “fanatical malignity” a “stupendous revolutionary scheme.” [To add fuel to the fire] Freedmen’s Bureau agents throughout the State continued to chronicle the many “sad complaints” of the freedmen and the routine “fearful state of things” in their respective districts.

[Texas freedmen and] often influential, newly arrived northerners (mostly former or current United States soldiers or officers whom Conservatives called “carpetbaggers”) held mass meetings of blacks and formed secret local Union Leagues for mobilizing the black Republican electorate.

Republican fortunes depended squarely on the leadership of the most stouthearted of the freedmen. Republican hopes also hinged on excluding from the voting lists every unqualified ex-Confederate. [Republicans leaders] denied that problems had arisen in some counties in finding competent registrars who could take the required “ironclad oath” that they had never voluntarily supported the Confederacy. (The vast majority of Texas white men in 1867 would not have been able to take this oath.)

[By] the end of January 1868, local boards throughout the State had registered about 89 percent of the black adult males, or 49,550 freedmen. A common charge made by Conservatives . . . was that blacks had been “registered with little regard for age.”

[Republican mobilization] of the freedmen had been a success. Texas blacks flocked to the polls and voted in large enough numbers to validate the holding of the constitutional convention. On the days of the election when blacks arrived en masse to vote, many county seats had the look of what one observer called an “African settlement.”

In Travis County, a group of Webberville blacks, dramatically led by their leader holding a sword and the national flag, came to the polls armed and on horseback. Upon their arrival, the local postmaster handed their leaders “Radical” ballots stamped on the back with “the United States Post Office stamp” so that the illiterate among their followers would be able to identify them as genuine Republican tickets.

White registrants avoided the polls in droves: over two-thirds i=of them sat out the referendum balloting. The turnout showed that most Texas whites did not consider that they had a genuine voice in the election or that they simply did not care.

(The Shattering of Texas Unionism, Politics in the Lone Star State During the Civil War Era, Dale Baum, excerpts, pp. 161-163; 172; 175)

The North’s Union League Created the Klan

To paraphrase Southern leaders during Reconstruction hearings in Congress, if they would disband the northern Union and Loyal Leagues that set black against white in the South, the Klan would disappear from the face of the earth. It is clear from literature of the day that the disarmed South saw the Klan as a defensive measure against the Union League; the Klansmen flew no flag.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The North’s Union League Created the Klan

“The nocturnal secrecy of the gatherings, the weird initiation ceremonies, the emblems of virtue and religion, the songs, the appeal to such patriotic shibboleths as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Flag, and the Union, the glittering platitudes in the interest of social uplift — all these characteristics of the League had an irresistible appeal to a ceremony-loving, singing, moralistic and loyal race.

That the purposes of the order, when reduced to the practical, meant that the Negro had become the emotional and intellectual slaves of the white Radical did not dull the Negro’s enthusiasm, he was accustomed to be a slave to the white man” [South Carolina During Reconstruction, Simkins & Woody, page 7].

The Union League gave the freedmen their first experience in parliamentary law and debating . . . [they] were active in the meetings, joining in the debate and prone to heckle the speakers with questions and points of order. Observers frequently reported the presence of rifles at political rallies, usually stacked in a clump of bushes behind the speaker’s platform, sometimes the womenfolk left to guard them.

In the autumn of 1867, a League chapter made up mostly of blacks, but with a white president named Bryce, was holding a meeting with its usual armed sentries on the perimeter. When a poor white named Smith tried to enter the meeting, shots were fired; there followed a general alarm and, subsequently, a melee with a white debating club nearby. The Negroes rushed out; Smith fled, hotly pursued to the schoolhouse; the members of the debating club broke up in a panic and endeavored to escape; a second pistol was fired and a boy of fourteen named Hunnicutt, the son of a respectable [white] citizen, fell dead.

[Northern officer John W. De Forest wrote]: “The Negroes, unaware apparently that they had done anything wrong, believing, on the contrary, that they were re-establishing public order and enforcing justice, commenced patrolling the neighborhood, entering every house and arresting numbers of citizens. They marched in double file, pistol in belt and gun at the shoulder, keeping step to the “hup, hup!” of a fellow called Lame Sam, who acted as drill sergeant and commander. By noon of the next day they had the country for miles around in their power, and the majority of the male whites under their guard.”

(Black Over White, Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina During Reconstruction, Thomas Holt, University of Illinois Press, 1977, pp. 29-32)

Sherman’s Progressive Soldiers at Smithfield

It is said the path Sherman’s “bummers” cut through North Carolina left a trail devoid of roosters, which no longer crowed in the morning because they didn’t exist. One Northern general wrote that his foragers were in truth “highwaymen, with all of their cruelty and ferocity and none of their courage; their victims are usually old men, women and children, and Negroes whom they rob and maltreat without mercy, firing dwellings and outbuildings filled with grain . . . These men are a disgrace to the name of soldier and country.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sherman’s Progressive Soldiers at Smithfield

[Northern Chaplain John J. Hight’s Diary] Wednesday, April 12 [1865]:

“This has been a morning of most wonderful excitement and enthusiasm. A dispatch has been read to each Regiment, from General Sherman, announcing the capture of [Gen. Robert E.] Lee’s entire army by General Grant. Such a serenade of bands Smithfield [North Carolina] has never had before, and will never have again. The troops move rapidly across the Neuse [River] . . . the design is to push on towards Raleigh and bring [Gen. Joseph E.] Johnston to an engagement, if possible.

We yesterday passed a house where there had been skirmishing. The woman declared that the shooting almost scared her to death. “Was it infantry or cavalry?” inquired someone.

I took a walk about the town. The Masonic and Odd Fellows’ Halls have been rifled. In the latter there is a skeleton, in a coffin. Saw an old dismounted gun lying near the riverbank. It must date back to as early as the Revolution.

At the court house I noticed the shelves, in the offices, are emptied of their contents on the floor. The archives of [Johnston] county lie in confusion amongst the dirt. Many of the documents date back to old colonial times, when legal proceedings were done in the King’s name.

The churches are [broken] open, and the books scattered about the pews. At the graveyard I noticed the graves of a number of rebels, bearing ominous dates – about the time of the Bentonville fight. In the same yard there is blood, seemingly where one of our soldiers was killed yesterday.

[Sherman’s] aide-de-camp, Major Henry Hitchcock provides more details: “At Smithfield, on the morning of the 12th [of April] . . . Even in Smithfield the public stocks “went up” – visibly; for some of “the boys” set fire to them.” I refer to the wooden stocks, near the jail, a comfortable institution for the improvement of criminals which the “conservative Old North State has retained from colonial times.

Another Sherman aide-de-camp, Major Nichols, adds . . . “The court house and jail stand in the public square, and that relic of the past, the public stocks, stood by the side of the jail until our progressive soldiers cut down the machine and burned it.”

(Smithfield, As Seen by Sherman’s Soldiers, Don Wharton, 1977, Smithfield Herald Publishing Company, excerpts, pp. 8-11)

Highwaymen in North Carolina

Though it is claimed that Sherman did not sack and burn North Carolina as he did South Carolina, there is scant evidence that the former did not suffer as did the latter. In the bummer’s path were helpless women, children and old men – whose scarce food supplies, valuables and farm animals were made off with by soldiers in blue.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Highwaymen in North Carolina

“[T]he “corn-crib” and “fodder-stack” commandoes could look back upon a plentiful harvest between Fayetteville and Goldsboro. Meat and meal had been found in abundance. So skillfully had [Sherman’s] “bummers” covered this region that the rooster no longer crowed in the morning because he no longer existed. Had the rooster escaped with his life, there would have been no fence rail for him to stand on.

[General J.D. Morgan said] “I have some men in my command . . . who have mistaken the name and meaning of the term foragers, and have become under that name highwaymen, with all of their cruelty and ferocity and none of their courage; their victims are usually old men, women and children, and Negroes whom the rob and maltreat without mercy, firing dwelling and outhouses even when filled with grain . . . These men are a disgrace to the name of soldier and the country . . . ”

Elizabeth Collier, an eighteen year-old girl of Everittsville, [North Carolina] entered in her diary:

“On Monday morning, the 20th [March], the first foraging party made their appearance at Everittsville. They asked for flour and seeing we were disposed not to give it, made a rush in the house and took it himself—the cowardly creature even pointed his gun at us – helpless women. Looking out, we soon saw that poor little Everittsville was filled with Yankees and they were plundering the houses . . . everything outside was destroyed – all provisions taken – fences knocked down – horse, cows, carriages, and buggies stolen, and everything else the witches could lay their hands on – even to the servants clothes.”

(The Civil War in North Carolina, John G. Barrett, UNC Press, 1963, pp. 346-347)

Experimenting with Government Social Programs

Former Alabama Governor George Wallace recalled: “My father used to tell me that poverty and illiteracy in the South resulted from the way in which we were treated after the war when they burned the schools down, burned the railroads, just desecrated the South. We are just now overcoming the effects of that tyranny and of the iniquitous Thaddeus Stevens [the Radical Republican leader in Congress], who wanted nothing but vengeance.” Wallace felt himself as one of the South’s “rural proletariat,” and committed himself to “rid the region of what he considered a Northern-imposed inferiority.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Experimenting with Government Social Programs

“Most Southerners of the [postwar] – and their progeny, including George Wallace – viewed the period of military occupation as cruelly harsh . . . [but] for Southerners, “the unforgiveable reality was not that military rule was unbearably strict or unreasonably long but that it had been imposed at all; what mattered was that the bayonets had glittered among a people who had complied, whatever their reluctance and misgivings, with the Lincoln program for Reconstruction, only to find that the rules had changed as the political winds shifted.

Military rule (but not military occupation) ended in most States in 1868. By then, however, the federal Reconstruction Acts had placed the South’s political structure firmly under the control of [Republican] Radicals who, in practice if not in law, hand-picked governors, legislators, judges, tax collectors, and postmasters.

Many of the jobs were lucrative political plums that lent themselves to graft and payoffs. Legislators were bribed to sell railroad holdings to speculators for next to nothing. An Alabama editor of the time complained that “inside the State capitol and outside of it, bribes were offered and accepted at noonday and without hesitation or shame,” which helped “to drive capital from the State, paralyze industry, demoralize labor, and force the [best] citizens to flee Alabama as a pestilence, seeking relief and repose in the wilds of the distant West.”

Bribes and frauds notwithstanding, Reconstructions greatest dollar cost to the South came from enormous (and frequently wasteful) legislative spending on new programs fostered by the novel and, for the time, somewhat extraordinary notion that social responsibility was a function of the government.

These programs involved not only the establishment of free public school systems for white and black children but also the construction of insane asylums, hospitals, roads, and bridges. Despite extravagances and often misused funds, America’s first integrated governments – [Southern] legislatures comprising blacks, carpetbaggers and scalawags – were experimenting with social programs that State governments in the North had never before financed.

But these largely noble experiments were undertaken at the expense – financially and psychologically – of Southern white landowners, who saw the American republic’s traditional rights and values being overturned by what seemed to them a motley collection of blacks, Northern usurpers and Southern traitors.

In formal as in common speech . . . “the United States are” became “the United States is.” But to Southerners, the end of the war – the War Between the States, as most Southerners would refer to it for at least the next 125 years – meant encroaching federalism and government involvement in theretofore private sectors.

Thenceforth, at least well into the heyday of George Wallace, Alabamians would distrust and often detest the federal government, or at best, view it with deep misgivings.

In Barbour County, the defeated whites told their children and grandchildren horror stories of Reconstruction that would burn into their memories: black constables “paraded the streets,” administering “powers of sovereignty” over whites; federal troops carried off or killed farm animals, burned cotton, and plundered stores and homes; once-wealthy families were reduced to penury; local leaders were arrested on trumped-up charges; most whites were prohibited from voting in local and State elections while blacks, induced by threats, money or liquor, were permitted to vote two or three times each for candidates sympathetic to the Radicals.”

(George Wallace, American Populist, Stephan Lesher, Addison-Wesley, 1994, pp. 10-12)