Browsing "Aftermath: Destruction"

Bitter Road to Forced Reunion

A very popular book in the North, Sherman’s (1875) Memoirs went far to further exacerbate sectional hatred as he condemned the South and “took an almost lustful pride in describing the tremendous power his hand had wielded in spreading terror and destruction.”

Bernhard Thuersam,


Bitter Road to Forced Reunion

“If the [Southern] prisons constituted a Northern grievance the South likewise had its hurtful memories [of the war]. While Northerners blamed the evil genius of slavery for the war, Southerners [like Major T.G. Barker speaking in Charleston in 1870:] pointed the finger of responsibility to “those men who preached the irrepressible conflict to the Northern people” and “helped to bring on that unlawful and unholy invasion of the South.”

The South felt that it had been betrayed. [The Southern Review in 1867 said:] “Assuredly the subjected portions of this imperial republic (so called), with the bitter experience they have of outraged honour, justice, and humanity, on the part of those once their associates and friends, can never again by any possibility trust that vast engine of tyranny, a consolidated popular Union, nor derive from it one ray of hope for their own welfare, or for the happiness of mankind.”

It was to this “deep spirit of hate and oppression toward the Southern people,” and not to the necessities of war, that the South attributed the vast destruction of its property.

The ineradicable sense of injury felt by the South took concrete form in condemning the ravages committed by General Sherman’s army in Georgia and South Carolina. “No tongue will ever tell, no pen can record the horrors of that march,” wrote an intimate associate of General Joseph E. Johnston whose surrender to Sherman is sometimes pictured as a love feast.

“Ten generations of women will transmit, in whispers to their daughters, traditions of unspeakable things.” The hurt was accentuated by Northern pride in the achievement. The South resented the arrogant and jeering tone of the song, “Marching Through Georgia,” and bridled when Northern orators described Sherman’s army going through the conquered land “lie a plow of God.” Sherman personified all that the South had suffered.

The most contentious bone . . . was the destruction of Columbia. Sherman’s own defense was to blame General Wade Hampton . . . [and] the charge was made deliberately in Sherman’s official report. “I did it,” he later wrote, “to shake the faith of his people in him, for he was, in my opinion, a braggart, and professed to be the special champion of South Carolina.”

[The South] cherished a hateful image of the martyred Lincoln . . . who carried out in action his prophesy of war and destruction. He and his Cabinet, wrote the Southern Review, had a “perfect comprehension of the passions, prejudices, susceptibilities, vices and virtues . . . of the people upon whom they had to practice. They knew every quiver of the popular pulse . . . They were masters of every artifice that could mystify and mislead, and of every trick that could excite hope, or confidence, or rage . . . They filled their armies, established their financial system, controlled the press, and silenced opposition, by the same ingenious and bold imposture.”

The South sneered at a North which observed the Fourth of July and “at the same time denounced as damnable heresy the doctrines of the Declaration of Independence.” When Chicago was destroyed by fire in 1871 it was considered . . . [a] demonstration of Divine vengeance,” because it had been in Chicago that “the rowdy Lincoln, the prime agent of our woes, was nominated.” [After the death of] General Custer in the massacre of 1876, it was remembered in Virginia that the gallant martyr of the Little Big Horn was also the Custer who had executed seven captured Confederates of Mosby’s command without treating them as prisoners of war.”

(The Road to Reunion, Paul Buck, Little, Brown and Company, 1937, pp. 48-49; 52-55)

Better to Die in the Last Ditch

Of the war and its end in the submission and occupation of the American South, those enduring the degradation vowed that “These things will not stay forgotten . . . daughters and Veterans can not afford to be silent about the painful past. Let our descendants have a truthful account of that awful time as far as written words can give it.” The source below can be obtained from

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865


Better to Die in the Last Ditch

“Twenty years after Appomattox in a survey to determine “how the war had most significantly changed” the lives of Confederate women, “all said that doing their own work or adjusting to hired Negro domestics was their major postwar problem.” Sallie Southall Cotton wrote to General William G. LeDue in 1909 about Reconstruction:

“Defeated, oppressed, humiliated, poverty-stricken, disenfranchised, taxed to pay the war debt, while too poor to support ourselves, deprived of opportunity politically, and handicapped by pride and the bitterness of rebellion against our condition, the South was a pitiable spectacle – and her rise from that condition to the splendid attainments of today is a crown of honor she deserves because she has won it by overcoming obstacles which at first seemed insurmountable.”

Dr. Henry Bahnson, in his speech to Confederate veterans, had this to say about Confederate women:

“We can speak in unstilted praise of the best and greatest glory of the South – the women of the war. Their soft voices inspired us, their prayers followed us and shielded us from temptation and harm. We witnessed their Spartan courage and self-sacrifice in every stage of the war. We saw them send their husbands and their fathers, their brothers and their sons and their sweethearts, to the front, tempering their joy in the hour of triumph, cheering and comforting them in the days of despair and disaster.

Freely they gave of their abundance, and gladly endured privation and direct poverty that the men in the field might be clothed and fed. Their days of unaccustomed toil were saddened with anxious suspense, and the lonely, prayerful vigils of the night afforded no rest.

They nursed the sick and wounded; they soothed the dying; and in the last stages of the war when all was lost but honor, were made to marvel at their saintly spirit of martyrdom standing as it were almost neck deep in the desolation around tem, bravely facing their fate, while the light of heaven illuminated their divinely beautiful countenances.”

Catherine DeRosset Meares [of Wilmington] remarked: “The sense of captivity, of subjugation . . . [was] so galling that I cannot see how a manly spirit could submit to it . . . Oh, it is such degradation to see [our] young men yield voluntary submission to these rascally Yankees. Better to stand on the last plank and die in the last ditch.”

(Blood and War at My Doorstep, North Carolina Civilians in the War Between the States, Brenda Chambers McKean, Volume II, Xlibris, 2011, pp. 1082-1083)

Bearing Their Afflictions With Philosophy and Christian Fortitude

The postwar South endured a swarm of curious Northerners: some journalists, many exploitive speculators, and often offensive bigots “who gave advice, condemned customs, asked obtrusive questions, and published tactless statements.” Despite New England’s large part in the African slave trade and perpetuation of slavery with its ravenous cotton mills, the North was determined that the South alone would be punished for the supposed sins of slavery.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865


Bearing Their Afflictions with Philosophy and Christian Fortitude

“The defeated Southerners were expected to make the sacrifices necessary for reforms favoring the Negro. They were willing to recognize the defeat of the Confederate armies, the freeing of the slaves, and the restoration of the Union. A considerable number with the fear of summary punishment before them were willing to repudiate the Confederacy with unseemly haste. A few – the first scalawags – were prepared to adopt the beliefs of the conquerors.

For the great majority, however, the tragic outcome of the war increased their hatred of Northerners, made Southern doctrines more precious, and invested the war leaders with an aura of heroism. Only the minimum demands of the victor were to be accepted. As soon as it became clear that the North would not be as vindictive as some imagined every reform suggested from the outside was contested bitterly.

Those among the conquerors who imagined that military defeat had reduced the white Southerners to impotence were to be unpleasantly surprised. Although defeated, these people were not without material resources. Despite threats of confiscation, the land remained mostly in their hands and agricultural possibilities partially compensated for decline in land values. All tools were not destroyed and many cities were unscathed or only partially wrecked.

The whites faced their difficulties with superb courage. “While clouds were dark and threatening,” wrote a Northern newspaper reporter, “I do not believe there was ever in the world’s history a people who bear their afflictions with more philosophy and Christian fortitude than these unfortunate people.” Women cheerfully returned to the kitchen and men turned to manual labor. A philosophy of hard work and close economy was preached, and every expedient which might lead out of the impasse of poverty and social stagnation was advanced.

The war had accustomed men to hardships, and the women had learned to manage plantations, maintain slave discipline, and endure privations. Certainly there was no ground for the belief, fostered by the romantics, that Southerners were a lazy and improvident lot who were helpless unless ministered to by faithful blacks. Actually, they were ready to assume duties previously exercised by Negroes, at the same time resisting Northern assaults on their inherited privileges.

They were backed in their policies by an assertive country folk who were accustomed to dwell on lands of their own, and who had a profound contempt for Northerners . . . had proved their stamina while serving in the Confederate army . . . [and] were ready to terrorize Yankees and Negroes alike if members of either group attempted to upset the traditional social order.”

(The South Old and New, A History, 1820-1947, Francis Butler Simkins, Alfred A. Knopf, 1947, pp. 171-172)