Browsing "Aftermath: Destruction"

Destruction, Confiscation and Genocide

Ample evidence suggests that exterminating Southerners and repopulating their lands with New Englanders was desired by abolitionist radicals like Eli Thayer and Parson Brownlow. The latter wanted Negro troops under Ben Butler to drive Southern men, women and children into the Gulf of Mexico to clear the way for those loyal to Lincoln’s government to settle on confiscated Southern lands.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Destruction, Confiscation and Genocide

“For many [Southern] manufacturers, the personal and financial losses of the Civil War were truly overwhelming. At Roswell, Georgia, [Northern-born] Barrington King found upon his return from refugeeing farther South, away from Sherman’s destructive swath across that State, that “going towards the creek to see the destruction of our fine mills, all destroyed, the loss of two sons, another wounded, & one with a broken wrist, all caused by the late unnatural war, made me sad indeed.”

Duncan Murchison, the former proprietor of the Little River factory in Fayetteville, North Carolina, lamented, “the fortunes of war have snatched away nearly the whole of my property – my cotton factory, store house, ware-houses, turpentine distillery, with all the stock on hand, were burned by Genl Sherman’s army, and my grain, provisions and stock taken by the two contending armies.”

With six bullet wounds himself, William H. Young of Columbus’s [Georgia] burned Eagle factory also “suffered much and heavily in the recent war by the loss of children and property.”

Ralph Brinkley, who fled the Memphis Wolfe Creek mill upon the entrance of federal troops into Tennessee, wrote the president that he “suffered heavily by the war, and by the loss of two lovely children” and was weighted down with grief and affliction.” The psychological and economic trauma was made more acute by the uncertain political atmosphere in the North.

Eli Thayer, once a confidant of John Brown, wrote [President Andrew] Johnson that Confederate lands should quickly be confiscated and immigrants settled on them. The president at times seemed to endorse treason trials and massive confiscations.

Following the complete occupation of the former Confederacy in the summer of 1865, Secretary of the Treasury McCulloch approved extensive seizures of property that fell under the terms of [the Northern confiscation acts since 1861]. Secretary McCulloch, responsive to Andrew Johnson’s insistence that treason be made odious, ruled that State and locally-owned properties in the South were also alienated and liable for confiscation by virtue of their use in the rebellion.

In North Georgia, [Barrington] King observed, as did others across the South, that many freedmen were “leaving their masters’ plantations, crops ruined, no one to do the work – all flooding to the cities and towns, expecting to be supported by Govt.” Although accommodating to free labor, he believed that “without some law compelling the Negroes to work for wages, there will be trouble in another year, as the poor creatures expose themselves, become sickly & fast dying off.”

Then high mortality rate for freed people in the summer of 1865 convinced King and many managers that blacks could not survive without supervision.”

(Confederate Industry, Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War, Harold S. Wilson, University of Mississippi Press, 2002, excerpts, pp. 234-237; 252-253)

 

If Southerners Had Behaved Themselves . . .

One of the myths of the Northern invasion of the American South is that Sherman did not wreak the destruction on North Carolina as he and his vandals had in South Carolina. Homes in the Old North State were looted indiscriminately and livestock shot to deny noncombatants food for themselves and their children.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

If Southerners Had Behaved Themselves . . .

. . . [T]he Yankees came by the hundreds and destroyed everything that we possessed — every living thing. After they had taken everything out of the house—our clothes, shoes, hats, and even my children’s clothes — my husband was made to take off his boots which a yankee tried on. The shoes would not fit, so the soldier cut them to pieces. They even destroyed the medicine we had.

In the cellar, they took six barrels of lard, honey and preserves — and what they did not want, they let the Negroes come in and take. They took 16 horses, one mule, all of the oxen, every cow, every plough, even the hoes, and four vehicles. The soldiers filled them with meat and pulled them to camp which was not far from our home. They would kill the hogs in the fields, cut them in halves with the hair on. Not a turkey, duck or chicken was left.

My mother in law . . . was very old and frail and in bed. They went in her bedroom and cursed her. They took all our books and threw them in the woods. I had my silver and jewelry buried in the swamp for two months.

We went to Faison Depot and bought an old horse that we cleaned up, fed and dosed, but which died after a week’s care. Then the boys went again and bought an ox. They made something like a plough which they used to finish the crop with. Our knives were pieces of hoop iron sharpened, and our forks were made of cane — but it was enough for the little we had to eat.

All of which I have written was the last year and month of the sad, sad war (March and April, 1865). It is as fresh in my memory and all its horrors as if it were just a few weeks ago. It will never be erased from my memory as long as life shall last.

I do not and cannot with truth say I have forgotten or that I have forgiven them. They destroyed what they could of the new house and took every key and put them in the turpentine boxes. Such disappointment cannot be imagined. My children would cry for bread, but there was none. A yankee took a piece out of his bag and bit it, and said: “If you had behaved yourselves this would not have happened.”

(Sampson Independent, February 1960; The Heritage of Sampson County (NC), Volume I, Oscar Bizzell, editor, pp. 253-254)

Northern Destruction and Rebel Trophies

Anyone who scratches the surface of the Northern war upon the South cannot avoid the obvious question of why those Americans who sought a more perfect union with the consent of the governed, and in full compliance with Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, were to suffer wanton destruction, defeat and virtual enslavement for the very same act initiated by their forefathers in 1776.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Northern Destruction and Rebel Trophies

“The Civil War was not worth its cost. It freed the slaves, upset a social and an economic order, strengthened the powers of the national government, and riveted tighter upon the South a colonial status under which it had long suffered. What good the war produced would have come with time in an orderly way; the bad would not have come at all.

Its immediate effects on the South were glaring and poignant; those more fundamental were less evident and long-drawn out. The war generation bore the brunt, and it was they who had to grapple hardest with the new problems.

As the war had been fought almost entirely in the South, here its destructions were wrought. What invasion feeds upon is the same everywhere – towns and cities, lines of railways, bridges and fences, forests and fields, factories and homes, livestock and granaries, and personal belongings.

Of all the Federal officers General Sherman was most proficient in carrying the rigors of war to the people, and for this Southerners set him upon a permanent pinnacle dedicated to Civil War ruthlessness, and often gave him credit for the destructions of other commanders. The lone chimneys – Sherman’s sentinels – reared themselves as conspicuous landmarks along the sixty-mile wide swath he cut across Georgia and up through South Carolina . . .

A Northerner who had travelled through the South declared that Sherman had not left a building on the railway from Macon to Savannah, and two years after the war Sherman . . . recalled to his veterans what had happened:

“Look to the South, and you who went with me through that land can best say if they too have not been fearfully punished.  Mourning in every household, desolation written in broad characters across the whole face of their country, cities in ashes and fields laid waste, their commerce gone, their system of labor annihilated and destroyed. Ruin, poverty and distress everywhere, and now pestilence adding to the very cap sheaf to their stack of misery; her proud men begging for pardon and appealing for permission to raise food for their children; her five million slaves free, and their value lost to their former masters forever.”

[Sherman] did his worst in South Carolina and left conditions there which a loyal Northern witness averred no pen could describe. Fearing he would be thought to be sentimentalizing, he added, “Yet that treatment was what the haughty little State needed.” Philip H. Sheridan’s ravages of the Shenandoah Valley and four years of other warfare in Virginia made the Old Dominion a fearful sufferer. Tennessee and Mississippi lay in ruins wherever armies had marched. Alabama claimed destructions amounting to $300,000,000 and the cane planters alone in Louisiana suffered losses set at $100,000,000. Total material destruction throughout the South has been estimated in billions of dollars [William W. Davis, The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida, 1913, pg. 319].

Later, plundered belongings turned up in Northern pawnshops, and Southerners long charged that “the houses of volunteer officers, and chaplains especially, in almost every New England and Northern village” were filled “with stolen plate, pictures, books and even wearing apparel, and, in fact, everything from a piano to a pap-spoon, which, . . . [were] proudly displayed as “rebel trophies,” or “confiscated property.”

A group signing themselves “Many Southern Ladies” published in Northern papers a plea asking for the return of their property and directed it to “the families of lawyers, ministers, captains, colonels, generals, professors in colleges . . . [and to] thousands of privates in the army, and chaplains and governors of States.”

Grand Army of the Republic of Thieves

With the war nearly over and nothing to gain from destroying private homes and property, Lincoln’s Grand Army added salt to the wounds in a State which was rightly driven from the Union four years earlier by his inability to compromise and avoid war. In 1865 began reconstruction and twelve years of misrule, robbery and outrage in the American South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Grand Army of the Republic of Thieves

“Glen Burnie, [North Carolina] March 21, 1865

My Dear Cousin,

Well Pattie, I have seen the Yankees at last, and I earnestly pray that I may never see them again. The 9th of March will ever be remembered by me. The vagabonds appeared here early that morning, we had no idea they were within fifty miles of here . . . There was a hundred fifty men in the first squad that came here, and such a yell as they gave when they rode in the gate, mortal never heard.

Papa ran to the swamp as soon as he saw them coming, and they were almost frantic with rage when they found he had left and started in the woods to find him and swore by all the saints in heaven that they would kill him if they found him.

The rascals all came in, and in less than ten minutes the house was stripped of almost everything. Pa had the night before fortunately concealed his two watches and your jewelry in a very nice place . . . One of them came to me to know where they were, I of course refused to tell, he them immediately presented a pistol to my head and swore he would take my life if I did not tell him . . .” They carried off every earthly thing we had to eat, did not leave a grain of corn or coffee, or anything that would sustain life one day, and they found all our silver and took every knife, fork and spoon we had in the world.

They set the Piney Woods on fire all around us. Tell Aunt Jenny they set on fire all the rosin she saw, and turned day into night. They carried off a great many of our clothes, have not left me a cloak or shawl of any kind, tore the silk you gave Jenny all to flinders, and carried off my best dresses, and two of Mama’s silks. Have not one blanket in the house, have only a half dozen quilts. The Yankees burned our barn and swore they would burn our house over our heads, but Providence saved it. I can’t tell you how.

Well Pat, I must close by telling you that the Yanks never caught Papa and that we are not quite starved to death, though we came very near it, we went five days without a mouthful of bread. You will excuse the paper I know as it is all the Yankees left in the house, and ‘tis a wonder they left this.

Oh how I do hate the very name of Yankee! May the chilling blight of heaven fall on their dark and doomed souls. May all the powers of earth and heaven combine to destroy them, may their land be one vast scene of ruin and desolation as ours is. This is the blessing of the innocent and injured one. I forgive them? May heaven never!   Nellie”

(A Goodly Heritage, Emma Woodward MacMillan, Wilmington Printing Company, 1961, pp. 65-

The Governor's Coffin

The occupation troops of Northern General Ambrose Burnside at New Bern in mid-1862 not only loaded their empty transports with furniture, carpets and jewelry for the return trip North, but also found New Bern cemeteries full of coffins to appropriate.  Even Lincoln’s hand-picked proconsul, Edward Stanly, who was appointed “governor” of North Carolina, resigned in disgust after observing the looting by Northern soldiers.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Governor’s Coffin

Richard Dobbs Spaight (1796-1850), son of a Revolutionary War veteran who was also a member of the North Carolina Legislature, United States Congressman and delegate to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, served as governor of The Old North State from 1835 to 1837.

He was born in New Bern, and prior to being governor, he served in the State Legislature from 1819 to 1822, and again from 1825 to 1834. Spaight was the last governor to be elected by the legislature, and was a member of the 1837 Constitutional Convention which transferred the gubernatorial election to popular vote. During the War Between the States, Northern occupation troops used the Stevenson House (corner Pollock & George Streets) in New Bern as a hospital for wounded soldiers.

In a truly unbelievable act of barbarism, “the body of Governor Spaight was dug up by Northern soldiers, the skull placed on a gate post, and the metal coffin used to send the body of a federal soldier back North.”

(A New Geography of North Carolina, Bill Sharpe, Sharpe’s Publishing Company 1961, page 1232)

No Full-Blown Yankee Heroes

The belief that the Northern soldier fought for the emancipation of the black man is a long-standing myth and coupled with the parallel myth that Lincoln saved the Union. The army of occupation brought an alien culture to the South which looted farms and left destitute American women and children without food or the means to survive.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

No Full-Blown Yankee Heroes

[Diary Entry] June 5, Monday [1865]:

“A Yankee came this morning before breakfast and took one of father’s mules out of the plow. He showed an order from “Marse” Abraham and said he would bring the mule back, but of course we never expect to see it again. I peeped through the blinds, and such a looking creature, I thought, would be quite capable of burning Columbia. [Northern] Capt. Schaeffer . . . He not only will not descend to associate with Negroes himself, but tries to keep his men from doing it, and when runaways come to town, he either has them thrashed and sent back home, or put to work on the streets and made to earn their rations.

People are so outraged at the indecent behavior going on in our midst that many good Christians have absented themselves from the Communion Table because they say they don’t feel fit to go there while such bitter hatred as they feel towards the Yankees has a place in their hearts. The Methodists have a revival meeting going on, and last night one of our soldier boys went up to be prayed for, and a Yankee went right up after and knelt at his side. The Reb was so overcome with emotion that he didn’t know a Yankee was kneeling beside him . . . Some of the boys who were there told me they were sorry to see a good Confederate going to heaven in such bad company.”

[Diary Entry] June 6, Tuesday:

Strange to say the Yankee brought back father’s mule that was taken yesterday — which Garnett says is pretty good evidence that it wasn’t worth stealing.

They are making a great ado in their Northern newspapers, about the “robbing of the Virginia banks by the Confederates” but not a word is said in their public prints about the $300,000 they stole from the bank at Greenville, S.C., not the thousands they have taken in spoils from private houses, as well as the banks, since these angels of peace descended upon us. They have everything their own way now, and can tell what tales they please on us, but justice will come yet. Time brings its revenges, though it may move but slowly.

Some future Motley or Macaulay will tell the truth about our cause, and some unborn Walter Scott will spread the halo of romance around it. In all the poems and romances that shall be written about this war, I prophesy that the heroes will all be rebels, or if Yankees, from some loyal Southern State. The bare idea of a full-blown Yankee hero or heroine is preposterous. They made no sacrifices, they suffered no loss, and there is nothing on their side to call up scenes of pathos or heroism.

(The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl, Eliza Frances Andrews, D. Appleton, 1908, pp. 287-290)

The Grand Army's Death's Head

The United States Centennial observance in 1876 could not avoid the reality of one section of the country pinned to the other by ruthless conquest and bayonets still stained with American blood. Having left the Union in 1861 to preserve the Founders’ Constitution, there was little to celebrate in 1876.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Grand Army’s Death’s Head

“The . . . celebration of the birth of the American nation — was held in Philadelphia in 1876. An occasion so completely engaging the attention of the country and participated in so widely drew forth much discussion in the South.

Some Southern leaders opposed their section taking part; they still felt that the country was not theirs and that it might be less than dignified in themselves, and lacking in respect for their heroic Revolutionary ancestors, to go to Philadelphia and be treated as less than equals in a union which those ancestors had done a major part to found.

Former [South Carolina] Governor Benjamin F. Perry saw in the Centennial an effective way to drive home to the country the similarity of principles of the rebellion that became the Revolution, and the rebellion that became the “Lost Cause.

[He wrote:] “This Centennial celebration of the rebels of ’76 cannot fail to teach the Northern mind to look with more leniency on Confederate rebels who only attempted to do in the late civil war what the ancestors of the Northern people did do in the American revolution . . . It shows a want of sense as well as a want of principle, and a want of truth, to call the rebels of 1776 patriots and heroes, and the rebels of 1861, “traitors.”

Only one contingency would induce a Virginian not to take part. The Grand Army must not be represented: “It would be the death’s head on the board; the skeleton in the banquet hall.”

(The History of the South, Volume VIII, E. Merton Coulter, LSU Press, 1947)

 

Toys and Fuel for Goths and Vandals

The barbarian invader will often destroy his victim’s institutions of religion and learning, symbols having no meaning for him. This invader will also destroy literature which he sees as counter to his narrow vision, replace it with that which extols his more primitive culture and base ideals, and then inform his captives that this is progress.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Toys and Fuel for Goths and Vandals

“Almost in the twinkling of an eye the whole social fabric of the South was swept away, and a half-century has hardly sufficed to produce an entire readjustment to new conditions, so fundamental was the change. The libraries and colleges, indeed all institutions that fostered and conserved its culture, suffered heaviest.

Almost every school building in the South was occupied at one time or other by soldiers as barracks or hospitals, and books and instruments of unknown value were used as fuel or served as toys for the idle hours of high privates. In many of the libraries, broken sets and mutilated volumes still remain as pathetic reminders of the days of blood and fire.

The famous library at Charleston was partially destroyed, the building being used as a military hospital; all the Virginia institutions suffered greatly, as did those in Kentucky and Tennessee. The most astonishing episode, however, of the kind, in that most astonishing conflict, was the burning of the library building and collections of the University of Alabama, during the final days of the war. This library, which was one of the largest and best selected in the South, was ruthlessly destroyed at a time when the issue of the conflict had been decided, and no conceivable gain could have resulted from such an action.

Of the influence of his books upon the man of the early South, we are permitted to judge by the work the Southerner did in the forming of the nation. [The] schools and libraries of ante-bellum days surely had a large share in the development of the men who defended, by impassioned speech and heroic deed, social traditions and an ideal of the state doomed by the spirit of progress.”

(The South in the Building of the Nation, Volume VII, Edwin Wiley, Southern Historical Publication Society, 1909, pp. 500-501, 510)

 

No Sanity in Reconstruction

Raised in poverty in Reconstruction North Carolina, Thomas Dixon became a State legislator before he was old enough to vote, practiced law, was a noted minister, and author of “The Clansman” at age thirty-eight. He was determined to one day write the story of Reconstruction to let the truth be known.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

No Sanity in Reconstruction

“[Many] corrupt [Northern] leaders sought means to give vent to hatreds that had been aroused by the war. William G. Brownlow, better known as “Parson Brownlow,” a preacher who became Governor of Tennessee during the Reconstruction era, had declared in a speech to a convention in New York in 1862:

“If I had the power, I would arm every wolf, panther, catamount and bear in the mountains of America, every crocodile in the swamps of Florida, every Negro in the South, every fiend in hell, clothe them all in the uniforms of the Federal army and turn them loose on the rebels of the South and exterminate every man, woman and child south of the Mason Dixon line. I would like to see especially the Negro troops, marching under Ben Butler, crowd the last rebel into the Gulf of Mexico and drown them as the Devil did the hogs in the Sea of Galilee.”

Such fanaticism from influential leaders was not conducive to soothing the wounds of the war. In Dixon’s native State of North Carolina, as a result of proceedings brought by Dixon’s uncle, Colonel [Lee Roy] McAfee, William W. Holden became the first governor to be impeached in an American commonwealth when his corrupt practices could no longer be borne by the people.

Many sane, responsible men, such as Dixon’s father and Colonel McAfee, took part in the Ku Klux Klan in an effort to bring some sort of order out of the tragedy of Reconstruction. These men did not tolerate injustice, and when they saw that the Klan had served its purpose, they immediately wanted to disband it.

In later years, Dixon wondered how any person could have lived through Reconstruction and still have retained his sanity. Lawlessness was, for a period of many months, the rule rather than the exception.

One of the brightest periods in Thomas’s childhood began on the day a young Negro boy, bloody, unconscious and almost dead, was brought to the home of the Dixon’s. The boy’s father, in a drunken fit, had tried to kill him with an axe. [The Dixon’s legally adopted him] and from that day forward young Dixon and little Dick were inseparable companions.”

(Fire from the Flint, The Amazing Careers of Thomas Dixon, Raymond Allen Cook, John F. Blair, Publisher, 1968, pp. 13-14)

Despicable and Malevolent Old Thad Stevens

Lincoln’s devastating warfare upon the American South was followed by the brutal military-occupation regimes of Pennsylvanian Thaddeus Stevens and his Radical Republicans.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Despicable and Malevolent Old Thad Stevens

“[M]y first recollections of the social and political life of our little village of five hundred inhabitants are all set in a sense of mystery and uncanny terror. A dreaded name was on every man’s lips—“Old Thad Stevens.”

Lest it be thought that I am giving a prejudiced Southern record of this strange old man and his character, I quote a sentence from The Epic of America by James Truslow Adams, the greatest historian our nation has yet produced, a scholar of Northern birth and training. On page 275 Mr. Adams says:

“Unfortunately, on Lee’s dash into Pennsylvania, the iron-works of a man whose one idea had been to get rich quickly were destroyed. They belonged to Thaddeus Stevens, perhaps the most despicable, malevolent and morally deformed character who has ever risen to high power in America.”

A man from our county went to Washington to ask of President Johnson the pardon of a friend who was still a political prisoner. Johnson had declined to interfere. He learned that the President had been stripped of all power by the Radical bloc in Congress headed by Thaddeus Stevens. He must see Stevens and present his petition to the Dictator, the real ruler of America . . . And on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, whom he loathed, this malevolent outcast had suddenly become master of the nation, determined to destroy Lincoln’s plan of Reconstruction and enforce one of his own, inspired by his black mistress.

Steven’s plan was as simple as Lincoln’s but as different as night from day. He declared the Southern States conquered territory and subject only to the will of the conqueror. He proposed to stamp out the white race of the South from the face of the earth and make their States into [Negro] territories. To this end, two years after the close of the war, he destroyed the Union, wiped out the Southern states, established five military districts instead of the eleven old commonwealths, took the ballot from the white leaders of the South, enfranchised the whole Negro race and set them to rule over their former masters. And this at a time when the people were in a life and death struggle to prevent famine.

Mr. Stevens thus paralyzed every industry of the South, turned every Negro from the field to the political hustings and transformed eleven peaceful States into hells of anarchy. His fanatical followers, blinded by passion, deliberately armed a million ignorant Negroes and thrust them into conflict with the proud half-starved white men of the South. Such a deed can never be undone. It fixed the status of these two races in America for a thousand years.”

(Southern Horizons, The Autobiography of Thomas Dixon, IWV Publishing, 1984, pp. 20-23)