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Jun 28, 2018 - Carnage, Lincoln's Blood Lust, Lincoln's Grand Army, Myth of Saving the Union, Northern Culture Laid Bare, Uncategorized    Comments Off on One Thousand a Minute Casualty Rate

One Thousand a Minute Casualty Rate

Lee had 55,000-some troops with which to oppose Grant’s invading force of 108,000 at Cold Harbor, though the latter consisted of many raw, inexperienced garrison troops unfamiliar with infantry tactics. They were nonetheless thrown into mass assaults against Lee’s entrenched veterans in suicidal assaults, and Grant’s apparent disdain for the lives of his own men was later matched by his refusal of prisoner exchanges which be believed benefited the South. This led to the death of many Northern prisoners from disease and starvation, despite President Davis’ offer of allowing food and medicine for the prisoners.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

One Thousand a Minute Casualty Rate

“Many officers and men in grey were taken by surprise at Grant’s move to interpose his forces between them and the Rebel capital. After the long and brutal contest in The Wilderness, Rebels had expected men in blue to retire for a period. Instead, here they were – apparently headed toward Spotsylvania.

This showed Grant had no intention of retreating. Furthermore, the usual pattern of actions in Washington had not been followed. That meant failure or defeat would not remove [Grant] from command. He would be expected to continue his war of attrition, regardless of losses sustained by his own forces.

Despite [concerns of Northern officers], the general advance ordered by Meade and Grant began about 4:30PM on June 2 [1864]. [General William F.] Smith castigated the movement as providing conclusive proof of the “entire absence of any military plan” among the Federal forces. Despite “a murderous fire,” men in blue managed to reach the edge of the woods, where the second line caught up with them . . . resuming their advance [but] the enemy fire was so heavy that the fell back.

Whether the decision was made by Grant or by Meade, orders soon came for a full frontal assault at 4:30 on the following morning. Smith saw the Rebel positions as being more than merely formidable . . . Generations later, [historian] Jeffrey D. Wert characterized the Rebel works at Cold Harbor in two words: “nearly impregnable.”

Impregnable or not, orders were to take the Confederate works. Diaries and letters reveal that on the night before the scheduled grand assault, large numbers of men in blue wrote their names and addresses on slips of paper and pinned them to their shirts . . . essential if bodies of the slain were to be shipped home to their relatives.

Soon afterward it became generally known that the Federal move at Cold Harbor, whose width is variously estimated at having been from one-half to six miles, lasted less than 10 minutes. During that time, men in blue became casualties at a rate of about 16 per second. Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg is far better known and may have involved more casualties. Yet no other Civil War action approached Cold Harbor in its June 3rd per-minute casualty rate of approximately one thousand men.

Smith dashed off a dispatch to Meade in which he reported the triple repulse of one body of Federals [adding that] there was no hope that they could carry the works in front of them without relief from galling Rebel fire. In reply, he received orders to move forward [and later] an oral command that he lead another assault. “That order I refused to obey,” Smith later confessed.

Because the leader of the XVIII flatly disobeyed his commander, some eight thousand men in blue – more or less – watched as their comrades were once more mowed down. In the melee of battle, it is unlikely that anyone except a handful of loyal aides knew that he had defied Meade. If his action had been known at headquarters and regulations had been followed, his disobedience would have led to a charge of mutiny.”

(Mutiny in the Civil War, Webb Garrison, White Mane Books, 2001, excerpts pp. 134; 136-139)

Destruction and Desolation Rather than Peace

By the spring of 1864, war weariness and long casualty lists at the North were bringing hope to the possibility of peace negotiations through an emerging Northern peace party. Though several previous peace initiatives had failed due to Lincoln’s intransigence, President Jefferson Davis again sought opportunities to end the bloodshed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Destruction and Desolation Rather than Peace

“The cause of the South could no longer be submitted, to the arbitrament of battle unaided [by foreign intervention]. The opening campaign of the spring of 1864 was deemed a favorable conjuncture for the employment of the resources of diplomacy.

To approach the Federal government directly would be in vain. Repeated efforts had already demonstrated its inflexible purpose not to negotiate with the Confederate authorities.

A commission of three gentlemen was appointed by the President to visit Canada with the aim of negotiating with such persons at the North as might be relied upon to facilitate the attainment of peace.

The Confederate commissioners, Messieurs Clay of Alabama, Holcombe of Virginia, and Thompson, of Mississippi, sailed from Wilmington, North Carolina [in April, 1864], and arrived within a few weeks on the Canadian frontier in the execution of their mission. A correspondence with Mister Horace Greeley commenced on the twelfth day of July, 1864.

Through Mister Greeley the commissioners sought a safe conduct to the Federal capital. For a few days Lincoln appeared to favor an interview with the commissioners, but finally rejected their application, on the ground that they were not authorized to treat for peace. The attempted negotiation was a failure, and peace was impossible.

In the meantime President Lincoln had called, for three years’ service, another 500,000 men to start on March 10, an additional 200,000 for March 14, and 500,000 volunteers for July 18, 1864. Mr. Lincoln’s subsequent re-election dashed all hopes in the South for a peaceful settlement.

Meanwhile the war raged without a sign of abatement. Generals Grant and Meade attacked General Lee at Wilderness, Virginia, on May 5-6, and at Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia, from the 10th to the 12th of May. General Sherman attacked General J.E. Johnston’s army at Resaca on May 14; Butler attacked Beauregard at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia, on the 16th of May; Grant and Lee fought at Cold Harbor on June 3 . . . and General Sherman occupied Atlanta, Georgia, on September 2, 1864.

The South began to read its fate when it saw that the North converted warfare into universal destruction and desolation. Long before the close of winter, popular feeling assumed a phase of sullen indifference which, while yet adverse to unconditional submission to the North, manifestly despaired of ultimate success. The people viewed additional sacrifices as hopeless, and anticipated the worst.”

(Jefferson Davis, Patriot, a Biography, 1808-1865, Eric Langhein, Vantage Press, 1962, excerpts pp. 75-77)

Lincoln’s New Frame of Mind

Allan Ramsey was a court painter to George III as well as a published political theorist, who argued, regarding the American revolutionists, that “should the people remain obstinate, their scorched and impoverished land could be occupied by loyal immigrants.” As he saw the inhabitants of British America as bidding defiance to the Crown and in a state of war with the King’s forces, they should expect no mercy and total war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s New Frame of Mind

“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 people, 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. This requires a prior act of total criticism, which is the characteristic mark of the philosophical act.

The concept of civilized warfare is unique to Europe and lasted about two centuries, roughly from the beginning of the eighteenth century until World War I. Civilized war was to be between combatants only and could not be directed against civilians as part of a strategy for victory.

The most important part of this system consisted of the rules for ending a war and establishing and equitable peace. The vanquished were to be treated with respect. Compensation to the victor was not to be conceived as punishment but as the cost of defeat in an honorable contest of arms. The idea of demanding unconditional surrender was out of the question. Such a demand denies the nation the right to exist and so would destroy the principle of the comity of nations.

The distinguished military historian B.H. Liddell Hart judged that the first break in the system came not from Europe but from America, when Lincoln shocked European opinion by directing war against the civilian population of the eleven American States that in State conventions (the same legal instrument that had authorized the State’s entrance into the union) had voted to withdraw from the federation and form a union of their own.

Lincoln’s scorched-earth policy and demand for unconditional surrender exhibited a new frame of mind that only eighty years later would reveal itself in the terror-bombing of Dresden and Hiroshima . . . it has been estimated that more than 135,000 perished in the British and American bombing of Dresden, carried out within three months of the end of the war, when the defeat of Germany was certain.

Dresden was a city of no military value and known to be packed with refugees, mostly women and children fleeing from the Soviet armies in the east.

[America entered World War I in 1917] and rather than [seek] a negotiated settlement . . . Social progressives now spiritualized the war into a holy crusade to restructure all of Europe, to abolish autocracy, and to establish universal democracy. The war was transformed by the language of totality. It was now the war to make the world safe for democracy, and the war to end all wars. The concept of the final war, the philosophically reflexive war, is perhaps the ultimate in the barbarism of refinement.”

(Philosophical Melancholy and Delirium, Hume’s Pathology of Philosophy, Donald W. Livingston, University of Chicago Press, 1998, excerpts pp. 297-299)

 

The Importance of a Good Death

Southern historian Shelby Foote explained that “the best historical reading is the source material . . . written by people who saw it.” And he recognized that the people who made up the Confederacy, especially the yeoman farmers, were fiercely independent. “He was not only convinced that he was as good as you were, but if you questioned it, he would shoot you off your horse.” Men like these made for a fearless army few wanted to contend with.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Importance of a Good Death

“You don’t want to overlook something that the [South] did have and that was tremendous courage. I’ve studied and studied hard the charge at Gettysburg, the charge at Franklin, the charge at Gaines Mill, or the Northern charge at Fredericksburg, wave after wave, and I do not know of any force on God’s earth that would have got me in any one of those charges.

It absolutely called for you to go out there and face certain death, practically. Now, I will do any kind of thing like that under the influence of elation and the adrenalin popping; it’s just inconceivable to us nowadays that men would try tactics that were fifty years behind the weapons.

They thought that to mass your fire, you had to mass your men, so they suffered casualties. Some battles ran as high as 30 percent. Now that’s just unbelievable, because 4 or 5 percent is very heavy casualties nowadays. You go into a battle and suffer 30 percent . . . at Pickett’s charge, they suffered 60 percent and it’s inconceivable to us . . . the stupidity of it, again.

Originally, the South had a big advantage. They were used to the castes of society and did not take it as an affront that a man had certain privileges. They didn’t think it made him any better than they were. But those privileges came his way, and they were perfectly willing for him to have them as long he didn’t think he was any better than they were.

But the Northern soldiers, they weren’t putting up with any privileges. A Massachusetts outfit spent its first night in the field and damn near had a revolution because the officers wanted to put their bedrolls out of the line. Well, the Southerners never had that problem. It seemed to them sensible that the officers should be over here, and the men there.

Of course, 99.9 percent of that war was fought by home folks. The fighting men were of very high quality, too. You see, those units were together for four years, many of them, and they became superb fighting machines.

You take an outfit like the Twenty-third Virginia: after four years and large numbers of casualties great battles, it becomes a very skillful military instrument. They never went home. Very few furloughs were given – some during the winter months to a few people.

The Civil War was an interesting time. It was very important to make what was called a “good death.” When you are dying, the doctor says you are dying, he [says] you will die about 9 o’clock tonight. You assemble your family around you and sing hymns, and you are brave and stalwart and tell the little woman that she has been good to you and not to cry. And you tell your children to be good and mind their mother. Daddy’s fixing to go away.

That was called a good death, and it was important. It was of tremendous importance.”

(Conversations with Shelby Foote, William C. Carter, editor, University Press of Mississippi, 1989, excerpts pp. 29-31)

Mar 19, 2018 - America Transformed, Carnage, Lincoln's Blood Lust, Lincoln's Revolutionary Legacy, Myth of Saving the Union, No Compromise    Comments Off on The Horror and Bitter Cost of War

The Horror and Bitter Cost of War

At the battle of First Manassas, a young Major Bryan Grimes served on the field and staff of the Fourth North Carolina Regiment under the command of Colonel George B. Anderson. Though Grimes did not participate in the battle, his view of how to treat the enemy was clear: “If my wishes could be consulted and followed I should say, raise the black flag and give no quarter to invading foes.” Witnessing the death and destruction caused by the enemy invasion of a formerly peaceful landscape hardened him to the grim task ahead.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Horror and Bitter Cost of War

“The month near the front impressed the major and altered his views on several matters. “Fighting from my opinion, is the least of the soldier’s exposures,” he observed. “The danger of battle is nothing in comparison to the risks from exposure to which he is subjected in camp life.”

His proximity to the July 21st action allowed him to absorb firsthand the grim reality and harsh aftermath of the Manassas battle: “The stench now arising from the putrefaction of the dead is intolerable,” described the North Carolinian in a letter home.

“A [handkerchief] full of whiskey and an extra bottle to keep it full is the only means by which you can visit the severely contested spots on the battleground.”

Taking an interest in where his fellow Tarheels had fought during the engagement, Grimes sought out the spot where Col. Charles Fisher and the Sixth North Carolina was engaged. Fisher was killed during the action and the unit had suffered heavily.

Although the bodies had been removed, “at least fifty horses in an area the diameter of which is perhaps forty yards,” were rotting under the hot July sun. In addition to the flotsam of battle, burial sites littered the devastated landscape. “Near a church I saw eight freshly dug holes and one of the wounded (still at the church used as a hospital) informed me that he counted seventy dead bodies thrown into one of the pits.”

Clearly the aftermath of the fighting at Manassas had deeply affected the young officer. “If only you could visit our hospitals you would feel in all its horror the bitter cost of war. And if one drop of milk of human kindness toward them weren’t permitted to exhibit itself, you couldn’t be a true Southern man at heart.”

(Lee’s Last Major General: Bryan Grimes of North Carolina, T. Harrell Allen, 1999, Savas Publishing Company, excerpts pp. 31-34)

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)

Nov 5, 2017 - America Transformed, Antebellum Realities, Carnage, Freedmen and Liberty, Race and the South, Slave Revolt Fears, Southern Culture Laid Bare    Comments Off on Sad Result of Britain’s Colonial Labor System

Sad Result of Britain’s Colonial Labor System

Both colonies, Virginia and North Carolina, feared the growing numbers of Africans working the plantations that enriched far-off England, but pleas to restrict importations of slaves were rebuffed by the King. After the Revolution, sentiment towards solving the slavery problem increased steadily in the South and in 1816 the American Colonization Society was formed with more Virginians active in its affairs than any other State. The object of the group was to colonize Negroes in Liberia and return them to the land from which they were torn.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sad Result of Britain’s Colonial Labor System

“[In] August 1831 an event in Southampton County, in the southeastern corner of the State near North Carolina, caused the people of Virginia to forget for a time that there was a controversy between the sections. This was Nat Turner’s bloody slave insurrection.

The white population of Richmond and the entire State was filled with alarm when the slave Nat Turner led some sixty blacks in an orgy of killing that took the lives of nearly sixty whites, most of them women and children. Captain Randolph Harrison of Richmond led his troop of light horse to the scene, but was unable to cover the eighty miles to Jerusalem . . . until the day after the massacre. By that time the Negro uprising had been effectively put down.

The bugler for the light horse troop was a free Negro named Dick Gaines. He is described as tall and black, “a fine rider and striking figure as he appeared on horseback, bugle in hand, in his red jacket, sword and helmet, with its crest of white horse-hair falling over his broad shoulders.”

Unrest among Richmond slaves was feared when word of the Turner massacre was received, but the blacks were said to be altogether docile and “as astonished and indignant was were the whites.” However, the white population not only of Richmond but the entire South was alarmed by the events in Southampton.

Turner had been treated well by his master, and had apparently been satisfied with his lot. Yet he and his cohorts not only murdered his master and mistress and their baby, but scores of others. The memory of Gabriel, and his far more extensive plan for wholesale murder, was also on their minds.

It was in this atmosphere that the General Assembly convened in late 1831. The frankest discussion of slavery that had yet occurred took place in that session. Both the Richmond Enquirer and Whig were arguing for the immediate or eventual elimination of the slave system. But the legislature ended by doing little or nothing . . . The time was not felt to be ripe.

Negroes, both slave and free, made up a vital part of Richmond’s labor force, especially in the tobacco factories, the coal mines and the Tredegar Iron Works. In addition, black mechanics had a virtual monopoly in carpentry, masonry, shoemaking, cooperage and other trades prior to the Civil War. Many white artisans left the State rather than compete with them.”

(Richmond: The Story of a City, Virginius Dabney, Doubleday & Company, 1976, excerpts, pp. 109-110)

American Boys Dying in European Wars

The British faced the peril of 1940 as they faced the peril of 1916, by maneuvering Americans into bailing them out of wars that should have been avoided, or settled with diplomacy and an armistice. Roosevelt critic Burton K. Wheeler knew well that providing loans, equipment and munitions to one belligerent in a conflict makes the United States a target and American financial interests would always seek political assurances that their investments are amply protected. Few American leaders seemed to learn the stern lessons of the Great War.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

American Boys Dying in European Wars

“I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars . . . The purpose of our defense is defense.”

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had said it during his campaign for re-election in 1940. Wendell Wilkie, the Republican, had made approximately the same pledge that fall. They had made their peace and neutrality covenants with the people that autumn, but now it was January, 1941 – an ominous time . . .

The wind ruffled the bunting on the stand where President Roosevelt took his inaugural oath again. Four years earlier he stood in this same place and spoke of the crisis of the banks, poverty, unemployment, and other agonies of a nation in the spasms of the Depression. That pain was not fully gone and so he referred to it again: “The hopes of the republic cannot forever tolerate either undeserved poverty or self-serving wealth.”

The real peril, in a world threatened by aggressors, he said, is inaction. “We risk the peril of isolation,” he told the shivering crowd. Only a few days before, a great new issue had arisen to confront the Seventy-Seventh Congress: Lend-Lease, a program to sustain besieged Britain.

That Roosevelt proposal, Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana had said, means “war – open and complete warfare” which will “plow under every fourth American boy.” Roosevelt was infuriated.

Now Roosevelt’s words . . . told Americans: “In the face of great perils never before encountered, our strong purpose is to protect and perpetuate the integrity of democracy . . .”

[Congressman Henry M.] Jackson voted against the initial Lend-Lease proposal. He held out for a tightening of the original bill: It should have stronger restrictions, he said, to ensure against another national frustration like that which occurred from the unpaid war debts following World War I.”

(A Certain Democrat, Senator Henry M. Jackson, Prochnau and Larsen, Prentice-Hall, 1972, pp. 101-103)

Sep 27, 2017 - Aftermath: Destruction, America Transformed, Carnage, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on The Ghost of Masonboro Sound

The Ghost of Masonboro Sound

The people of the Masonboro Sound community southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, could hear in the distance the thundering cannon of an enemy fleet in January 1865 as it laid siege to Fort Fisher. After overwhelming the fort with millions of tons of shot and shell, “federal troops began to move inland, looting farms and houses as they went” as they re-asserted in North Carolina the political supremacy of the government in Washington.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Ghost of Masonboro Sound

“With the fall of [Fort Fisher], the Confederacy’s days were numbered. By late spring the four years of struggle were over. Gradually Masonboro men found their way home. Some were badly wounded, but all came back to do what John Hewlett had said he wished them to do – assist in building up the Kingdom of God at Masonboro.

It was late for plowing and planting, but there was no choice but to begin. Pine seedlings, briars, and honeysuckles had taken over the fields. Fish nets had rotted or disappeared altogether, and new ones had to be fashioned. Food everywhere was scarce, but persons on the sound fared better than most, they could find oysters, fish and shrimp at their doorstep. Some ex-slaves stayed to help them.

Many ex-slaves who had left plantations all over the Southland followed Yankee soldiers because they didn’t know what else to do. They became a burden to Northern armies, which could not care for them and feed them. Jim Irving, a South Carolina slave, followed Yankee soldiers to Wilmington, but soon found himself stranded in the city with nothing to eat and no way to earn anything. He met up with Elijah Hewlett, who told him to go with him down to the sound and he would give him work.

In a place such as Masonboro there would have to be a familiar ghost. And it would have to be in perhaps the oldest house on the sound. It was.

Sometime after the war, a soldier friend came to visit Dr. Anderson. He had been wounded in the war, had lost a leg, and had been fitted with a wooden leg. He was disturbed emotionally by his war experiences, and he would lapse into long silences. He would walk out on the pier and stand for hours, not moving, just gazing at the water.

The old pier was rotten and listing at a dangerous angle, but it was the habitual roosting place of a sad old egret, which, dull and gray like the weather at times, sat hunched over even in a blowing misty rain.

The old soldier often stood there looking just as forlorn and dejected as the sad old bird, and almost in the same spot. One morning the old soldier rose early and went out before the family was up. Hours later, they found him, lying face down in the water.

After that, members of the household thought they could sometimes hear the old soldier with his wooden leg thumping across the floor upstairs.”

(Between the Creeks, Crockette W. Hewlett and Mona Smalley, New Hanover Printing Company, 1971, excerpts, pp. 41-42)

This Sad Life in Vicksburg

The author below was Mary Ann Loughborough, the New York City-born wife of Colonel James Loughborough, assistant adjutant general to Major General Sterling Price. In mid-April 1863, Mary was visiting Vicksburg just as the enemy fleet had run past the defensive batteries on the Mississippi River and began subjecting the city to intense and indiscriminate bombardment.  For protection from this shelling, civilians dug caves in the clay hills which Vicksburg was built upon.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

How Sad This Life in Vicksburg

“Even the very animals seemed to share the general fear of a sudden and frightful death. The dogs would be seen in the midst of the noise to gallop up the street, and then to return, as if fear had maddened them. On hearing the descent of a shell, they would dart aside – then, as it exploded, sit down and howl in the most pitiful manner.

In the midst of other miserable thoughts, it came to my mind one day that these dogs’ hunger might become as much dreaded as wolves. The horses . . . would frequently strain the halter to its full length, rearing high in the air, with a loud snort of terror as a shell would explode near. I could hear them in the night cry out in the midst of the uproar, ending in a low, plaintive whinny of fear.

Sitting in [my] cave one evening, I heard the most heartrending screams and moans. I was told that a mother had taken a child into a cave about a hundred yards from us; and having laid it on its little bed, as the poor woman believed, in safety, she took her seat near the entrance of the cave.

A mortar shell came rushing through the air and fell with much force, entering the earth above the sleeping child – cutting through into the cave – oh! Most horrible sight to the mother – crushing in the upper part of the little sleeping head, and taking away the young innocent life without a look or word of passing love to be treasured in the mother’s heart.

I sat near the square of moonlight, silent and sorrowful, hearing the sobs and cries – hearing the moans of a mother for her dead child – the child that a few moments since lived to caress and love – speaking the tender words that endear so much the tie of mother and child.

How very sad this life in Vicksburg! – how little security we can feel, with so many around us seeing the morning light that will never more see the night! How blightingly the hand of warfare lay upon the town!

The moans of pain came slowly and more indistinct, until all was silent; and the bereaved mother slept, I hope – slept to find, on waking, a dull pressure of pain at her heart, and in the first collection of faculties will wonder what it is. Then her care for her child will return, and the new sorrow will again come to her – gone, forever gone!”

(My Cave Life in Vicksburg, By a Lady, Broadfoot Publishing Company, 1989 (original D. Appleton & Company, 1864), excerpts, pp. 71-75)

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