Browsing "Costs of War"

Merchant of Terror

To his brother John Sherman on October 1, 1862, General W.T. Sherman wrote:

“I rather think you now agree with me that this is no common war — that it was not going to end in a few months or a few years. For after eighteen months the enemy is actually united, armed and determined, with powerful forces well-handled, disciplined and commanded on the Potomac, the Ohio, the Missouri. I knew, and know yet, that the Northern people have to unlearn all their experiences of the past thirty years and be born again before they will see the truth.”

Property destruction was not the complete answer. Sherman was convinced of this, since the “guerilla” attacks continued even after the example offered in the fate meted out to Randolph. There was something lacking – an element to complete the new concept of war – if the part played by the people of the South was to be eliminated.  With acceptance of the fact that destruction of property was not the final answer, Sherman’s mind leaped the gap and seized on the solution – terrorism. 

He would so thoroughly inject the shock of fear into the South that it would lead to its complete demoralization. Such demoralization would work like a slow poison, resulting in the paralysis of the Confederate armies through wholesale desertions of men returned home to assure the safety of their families. More important, dread would so sicken the people of the South that they would clamor for cessation, and to obtain relief they would exert every pressure on their government to end the war.

Here then, in Memphis, was the mold made. The months ahead would see it filled in: it would harden into the completed philosophy of total war, employing a program of devastation and waste, the turning loose on the countryside of a horde of pillagers and looters who would do their work systematically and well.”

(Merchant of Terror: General Sherman and Total War, John Bennett Walters, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1973, excerpt pp. 65-66)

On The Bare Hills, Men Without a Country

It is said that Grant at Appomattox offered rations and transportation home to Lee’s surrendered Americans, or to exile in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Many might have gladly avoided living under Northern rule, “but in distant homes were old men, helpless women and children, whose cry for help it was not hard to hear.” With all the destruction around them and carpetbaggers flowing Southward, “no one dreamed of what has followed.”

On the Bare Hills, Men Without a Country

“[The enemy] were proud of their success, were more willing to give than our men, in the soreness of defeat, and not a man of that grand army of a hundred and fifty thousand men but could, and, I believe, would testify, that on purely personal grounds, the few worn out, half-starved men that gathered around General Lee and his falling flag held the prouder position of the two. Had politicians left things alone, such feelings would have resulted in a very different condition of things.

“We stacked eight thousand stands of arms, all told: artillery, cavalry, infantry, stragglers, wagon rats and all the rest, from twelve to fifteen thousand men.

The United States troops, by their own estimate, were one hundred fifty thousand men, with a railroad connecting their rear with Washington, New York, Germany, France, Belgium, Africa – all the world, and the rest of mankind,” as General [Richard] Taylor comprehensively remarked, for their recruiting stations were all over the world, and the crusade against the South, under pressure of the “almighty dollar,” was as absolute and varied in its nationality as was that of “Peter the Hermit,” under pressure of religious zeal upon Jerusalem.

Those of us who took serious consideration of the state of affairs, felt that with our defeat we had absolutely lost our country – the one we held under the Constitution – as though we had been conquered and made a colony of by France or Russia. So far, it was all according to the order of things, and we stood on the bare hills, men without a country.”

(Dickison and His Men, Mary Elizabeth Dickison, Courier-Journal Printing, 1890, excerpt pp. 241-243)

The Most Costly Price of the Civil War

It is estimated that the Civil War cost $8 billion, which, including destruction of property, derangement of the power of labor, pension system and other economic losses, is increased to $30 billion. To this total is added the human cost of 620,000 battlefield deaths – the war killed one out of every four Southern white males between 20 and 40 — and at least 50,000 civilians dead from indiscriminate Northern bombardment of cities, and starvation.

In the immediate postwar and its two million men in blue mustered out, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) became a rich political endorsement as Northern politicians lined up to offer higher pensions in return for votes.  

The Most Costly Price of the Civil War

“War always intrenches privilege in the councils of the nation. The power of the financier is increased. He is called in to rule. Otherwise the state would not go on. Such was our own experience as a result of the Civil War.

Prior to 1861 a democratic spirit prevailed in the nation. Economy was the note in government expenditures. The Civil War ushered on a new era. The need for revenue brought about a merger of the protected interests of Pennsylvania and New England and the banking interests of Wall Street with the Treasury Department, a merger which has continued ever since.

Corruption born of army contracts and war profits penetrated into Congress and the various departments of the government. The public domain of the West was squandered in land grants to the Pacific Railroads with no concern for posterity. The richest resources of the nation were given away. For years after the war, privilege was ascendant and democracy reached to lowest ebb in our history.

Taxes were collected not for the needs of the government, but to maintain a protectionist policy. Revenues were squandered and pork-barrel methods prevailed. Pensions were recklessly granted to prevent a treasury surplus, while appropriations for rivers and harbors, for public buildings, and other purposed became the recognized practice of congressional procedure.

For fifty years the reactionary influences which gained a foothold during the Civil War maintained their control of the government. This was the most costly price of the Civil War, far more costly than the indebtedness incurred or the economic waste involved.”

(Why War? Frederic C. Howe, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1918, excerpt pp. 313-314)

A Militaristic and Aggressive Nation

James William Fulbright, 1905-1995, was born in Missouri and reared in Arkansas, which he eventually represented both in the House and Senate. He signed the Southern Manifesto which declared the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling as “a clear abuse of judicial power” as only Congress can legislate; in 1964 and 1965 he opposed both the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Acts as unconstitutional invasions of clear State authority.

Fulbright additionally questioned the reasons why the Army, Navy and Air Force each spent “millions of tax dollars annually on persuasion of the public that its particular brand of weaponry is the best.” At the conclusion of the 1861-1865 war, Lee wrote to Lord Acton that “The consolidation of the States into one vast empire, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor to ruin which has overwhelmed all that has preceded it.” 

A Militaristic and Aggressive Nation

“Violence is our most important product. We have been spending nearly $80 billion a year on the military, which is more than the profits of all American business, or, to make another comparison, is almost as much as the total spending of the federal, State, and local governments for health, education, old age and retirement benefits, housing, and agriculture. Until the past session of the Congress, these billions have been provided to the military with virtually no questions asked.

Many people looked on [the Sentinel ABM program] as they now look on Safeguard, not as a weapon but as a means of prosperity. For the industrialist it meant profits; for the worker new jobs and the prospect of higher wages; for the politician a new installation or defense order with which to ingratiate himself with his constituents.

Military expenditures today provide the livelihood of some ten percent of our work force. There are 22,000 major corporate defense contractors and another 100,000 subcontractors. Defense plants or installations are located in 363 of the country’s 435 congressional districts. Even before it turns its attention to the public at large, the military has a large and sympathetic audience for its message.

These millions of Americans who have a vested interest in the expensive weapons systems spawned by our global military involvements are as much a part of the military industrial complex as the generals and the corporation heads.  In turn they have become a powerful force for the perpetuation of these involvements, and have had an indirect influence on the weapons development policy that has driven the United States into a spiraling arms race with the Soviet Union and made us the world’s major salesman of armaments.

A Marine war hero and former Commandant of the Corps, General David M. Shoup, has said: “America has become a militaristic and aggressive nation.”

(The Pentagon Propaganda Machine, J.W. Fulbright, Liveright Publishing, 1970, excerpt pp. 12-13)

Prosperity Through Armaments

To underscore the following excerpts, author George Thayer states that “We live in an age of weapons. Never before in the history of mankind have weapons of war been so dominant a concern as they have been since 1945.” Thayer writes that after the second war to end all wars, the US “had given away $48.5 billion worth of arms and military supplies to 48 nations.” One of these was the Soviet Union of Josef Stalin, who Roosevelt had armed to the teeth and who immediately became the US’s postwar primary adversary.

Prosperity Through Armaments

“In the twenty-four years since 1945, there have been fifty-five wars of significant size, duration and intensity throughout the world. This means that mankind faces a new and violent conflict somewhere in the world slightly more often than once every five months, any one of which is capable of provoking a holocaust.

If one adds to this total all the coups, large-scale riots and clashes of unorganized, low-order violence, then the total of postwar cases of armed conflict that have had significant impact on the course of history would number in excess of fifteen score – more than one per month.

Today we are far along the way to losing our sense of proportion, for by any definition many of these wars have been quite large. For instance, bombing tonnage in the Korean War exceeded all the tonnage dropped by the Allies in the Pacific Theater of World War II. In the “small” six-day Sinai War of 1967, more tanks were committed to battle than by the Germans, Italians and Allies together at the crucial twelve-day battle of El Alamein in 1942. And from July 1965 to December 1967, more bomb tonnage was dropped on Vietnam than was dropped by the Allies on Europe during all of World War II.

Consider some of the political consequences that today’s arms trade have produced:

The fall of Germany’s Erhard government in 1966 can be blamed in large part on Bonn’s purchases of American military equipment which it could not afford and did not need.

The cancellation of the Skybolt missile by the United States in 1962 was one of the contributing factors that led to Prime Minister MacMillan’s resignation in 1963.

The Pakistan-India War of 1965, in which American equipment was used on both sides, produced two results adverse to United States interests: it forced Pakistan to take a more neutral position in world affairs, and it forced India to consider manufacturing nuclear weapons.

Had there been no large infusion of American weapons into the area (ostensibly as a defense against communism), the war would not have taken place.”

(The War Business: The International Trade in Armaments, George Thayer, Simon and Schuster, 1969, excerpts pp. 17-21)

Locked in a Bloodbath

Lincoln’s stated goal in waging war against the South was to maintain the territorial union of States within the 1787 Constitution, which Southern States had withdrawn from. The South established its own union, sending commissioners to Washington to arrange a settlement of funds due that government and a treaty of peace between the two countries.  Lincoln’s refused to see the commissioners and secretly sent an armed expedition to reinforce Fort Sumter, by then a useless fortification as it was within South Carolina’s sovereign territory – and explicitly constructed with funds from all States for South Carolina’s protection.

Even if Lincoln reasoned that South Carolina could not withdraw from the 1787 union and it remained within, waging war against a State was treason as defined in Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution.

Locked in a Bloodbath

“Soon after hostilities began, the Model 1861 Springfield rifle, capable of killing fire at a thousand yards, would become standard issue for Union infantry, while Confederate troops were being equipped with small arms equally as good. The result was mass slaughter.

In eight of the first twelve big battles, Confederates assumed the tactical offensive, and lost ninety-seven thousand men in doing so. Altogether, the South suffered 175,000 battle casualties in the first twenty-seven months of fighting, a figure somewhat higher than the entire Confederate military establishment in 1861.

[Grant accumulated] sixty-four thousand casualties during the three months of his sledgehammer Wilderness campaign and taking as the major sign of his victory, in late May 1864, the fact that a battle with Lee’s troops “outside of entrenchments cannot be had.”

Yet the Confederates would remain unbeaten inside their trenches for almost a year more. And, in fact, a better indication of the true tactical situation was the spectacle of Union troops pinning their names to their uniforms shortly before the notorious frontal assault on Confederate positions at Cold Harbor on 3 June so that their corpses might be better identified after the battle.

Unlike their officers, foot soldiers drew an altogether more practical, if less heroic, conclusion as to the tactical significance of new weaponry, and sought cover and defensible positions whenever possible. Thus, by mid-1863 both sides were becoming addicted to trenches . . .

As far as they went, field fortifications were an entirely correct solution to the revolution in small arms, the long-range rifle having roughly tripled the advantage of defense over offense by putting attacking troops under deadly fire almost from the moment they became visible.  Yet trenches also prefaced a very static and inconclusive sort of war, as the siege of Richmond-Petersburg indicated. Thus at some point it became necessary for troops to physically overcome opposing trenches.

Cavalry, on the other hand, was deeply and permanently undermined. The fate of the saber charge was epitomized by the deaths of one Major Keenan and his adjutant, who jointly led a column of the Eighth Pennsylvania Horse in a desperate advance against Stonewall Jackson’s victorious infantry at Chancellorsville. Not only did the charge fail miserably, but after the battle the bodies of Keenan and his adjutant were found to have thirteen and nine bullet wounds, respectively.”

 (Of Arms and Men: A History of War, Weapons and Aggression, Robert L. O’Connell, Oxford University Press, 1989, excerpts pp. 197-199)

Lincoln’s Lights

By capturing, confiscating and conscripting black men for his war effort, Lincoln greatly succeeded where earlier British emancipation efforts to thwart American independence failed.  Had Cornwallis won victory at Yorktown, would George III and Parliament have hung Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Henry and the rest of American leadership, and rewarded black slaves with political rights and the land of rebels?

Lincoln was certainly appreciative of the black military labor gained from captured Southern territory, and depriving the South of agricultural workers which was the primary target of earlier British emancipation efforts in 1775 and 1814. At the same time Lincoln had to face political reality once the Southern armies and leadership were dispensed with, and the votes of his freedmen were required to insure permanent Republican party hegemony.

Lincoln’s Lights

“While there is endless speculation about how Lincoln felt in the recesses of his heart and about what he would have done had he lived, it is usually agreed that he never gave his support to full equality for Negroes. Nor is there one shred of credible evidence that he ever modified his fundamental racial attitudes, in spite of his gentle nature, his kind feelings for Negroes, and his appreciation for their military prowess.

Beyond signing the bills that came before him and aiding the struggle to equalize military pay rates, the President generally stood aloof from the campaign being waged in Congress for more rights and advancement for Negroes.

Moreover, he never so much as hinted that the ballot be given to Negroes living in the North, and he apparently assumed no leadership in the battle to eliminate the Black Laws in Illinois and elsewhere in the Middle West.

Although he assented to the repeal of his colonization program in 1864, it is likely he never gave up the idea completely. As prospects for deportation dimmed, he suggested at various times that an apprenticeship system ought to be established to prepare for racial coexistence.

But it was the need to found a loyal political organization in the South, rather than his compassion for the Negro, that absorbed most of his attention, and the party he envisaged was to have a white base.  At one time the President suggested that the Unionist government in Louisiana might consider enfranchising “some of the colored people . . .”; but he steadily turned down demands that equal suffrage be imposed on the South and used his influence in Congress to block such legislation.

According to his lights, the freedmen were to be entrusted to the care of those conservative white Southerners whom he hoped would control politics in the new South. As Kenneth M. Stammp has said, “The Negroes, if they remained, would be governed by the white men among whom they lived, subject only to certain minimum requirements of fair play.”

(Free But Not Equal: The Midwest and the Negro During the Civil War, V. Jacque Voegeli, University of Chicago Press, 1967, excerpts pp. 168-169)

The Fatal Precedent

The origins of the Mexican War are far more complex than usually presented in modern textbooks, with England figuring prominently into the reasons behind a hurried annexation. A need to preserve Texas as a reliable supplier of cotton, while limiting American expansionism, propelled Britain into mediating Mexican-Texan difficulties. While New Englanders opposed annexation on supposedly moral grounds, they coveted California which would give them a port more convenient for whaling and their opium traffic with India – the latter creating severe addiction problems in China.

John C. Calhoun opposed James Polk’s war with Mexico with a plea “that America never take one foot of territory by an aggressive war.” He added, “If fight we must, let us fight a defensive war.” He dismissed Polk’s assertion of “war exists with Mexico” as a “palpable falsehood.”

The Fatal Precedent

“The way Polk got the [Mexican] war started ensured that it would be vehemently protested in certain quarters. Shortly after Texas was annexed (December 29, 1845), Polk ordered General Zachary Taylor, commander of the army in Louisiana, to move to Texas to protect its southern flank on the Rio Grande.

In reality, the southern flank was the Neuces, 150 miles to the north; Mexico claimed the area between the two rivers, and the pretensions of Texas and the United States was without foundation. An American reconnoitering party of sixty-three men encountered a Mexican force near the Rio Grande and was attacked. Eleven were killed, five wounded and the rest captured.

When Polk received the news, he asked Congress to appropriate funds to support Taylor, declared that the Mexicans had invaded the United States and “shed American blood on the American soil,” and requested not a declaration of war but a recognition that “war exists” by virtue of Mexico’s action.

The Democratic majority in the House limited debate to two hours, read but a few of the documents Polk had submitted, and passed a bill calling for volunteers and appropriating $10 million. Just sixteen congressmen voted against the bill.

Among the few in Congress who spoke against the action was John C. Calhoun. Unlike northern opponents of the war, he had strongly favored the annexation of Texas, but he thought the war was avoidable, set a dangerous precedent . . . The passage of the appropriations bill with its “war exists” preamble in effect transferred to the presidency Congress’s power to declare war, for the president as commander in chief could order troops anywhere, provoke a fight, and present Congress with was a fait accompli.  

The precedent could prove fatal, Calhoun insisted, for it “will enable all future presidents to bring about a state of things, in which Congress shall be forced, without deliberation or reflection, to declare war, however opposed to its convictions of justice or expediency. The precedent would, indeed, be applied to Calhoun’s own State fifteen years later.”

(States’ Rights and the Union: Imperium in Imperio, Forrest MacDonald, University of Kansas Pres, 2000, excerpts pp. 150-151)

Capturing Sea Island Volunteers

While it is generally reported that black recruits in the occupied Sea Islands of South Carolina flocked to the Union standard, the truth is that many ran from Northern State agents sent to enlist them for their State quota of troops.  While many enlisted voluntarily, it was due to generous enlistment bounties offered, much of which stuck to the recruiter’s hands, and the possibility of being forced into service or shot for refusal.  During the war the Northern States paid nearly $300,000,000 in bounties for recruits to fill the blue ranks.

The writers below were ardent antislavery New England men at Port Royal, both Harvard men just out of college. Their 1864 observations are telling.

Capturing Sea Island Volunteers

“The next group of letters returns to the subject of Negro recruitment. By this time various Northern States, in despair of finding enough men at home to make out the number of recruits required of them by the general Government, were getting hold of Southern Negroes for the purpose, and their agents had appeared in the Department of the South, competing for freedmen with offers of large bounties.  At the same time, General Foster made up his mind that all able-bodied Negroes who refused to volunteer, even under these [bounties], should be forced into the service. If the conscription methods of the Government up to this time had not been brutal, certainly no one can deny that adjective to the present operations.

From CPW

Aug. 9. Lieutenant-Colonel Rice, agent for Massachusetts, has come. After looking about a little, he does not think the prospect of getting recruits very brilliant, but his agents are at work in Beaufort streets, and may pick up a few men. He intends to send native scouts on to the main to beat up recruits; $35 a man is offered for all they will bring in.

Colonel Rice intended to come down here to-day, but had to go and see General [John G.] Foster and Colonel [Milton] Littlefield, Superintendent of Recruiting. (He, Colonel L., calls it recruiting to conscript all he can lay hands on.) There is to be, not a draft, but a wholesale conscription, enforced here. Lieutenant-Colonel Strong of the First South [Carolina Colored Volunteers] (Thirty-third USCT) enrolled all colored men last month.  

It is possible, if the men can be made to understand this, that a few can be induced to volunteer, but I hardly think than many will be secured, either by enlistment or draft.

From WCG

Sept 23. They are carrying out the draft with excessive severity, not to say horrible cruelty. Last night three [black] men were shot, — one killed, one wounded fatally, it is thought, and the other disappeared over the boat’s side and has not been seen since, — shot as they were trying to escape the guard sent to capture all men who have not been exempted by the military surgeons. The draft here is mere conscription, — every able-bodied man is compelled to serve, — and many not fit for military service are forced to work in the quartermaster’s department.

Oct. 12. You ask more about the draft. The severity of the means employed to enforce it is certainly not to be justified, nor do the authorities attempt to do so, — after the act is done. The draft is carried on by military, not civil, powers. We have no civil laws, courts, officers, etc. The only [lawful] agents to be employed are necessarily soldiers, and the only coercion is necessarily that of guns and arbitrary arrests.

The Massachusetts recruiting agents, of course, have nothing to do with enforcing the draft. But their presence seems to have increased its activity and their bounty money contributes to its success.

(Letters From Port Royal: Written at the Time of the Civil War, Elizabeth Ware Pearson, editor, W.B. Clarke Company, 1906, excerpts pp. 281-284)

Radical Experiment in the District

On January 4, 1867, President Andrew Johnson was preparing his veto of the District [of Columbia] Suffrage Bill, telling his cabinet of issues with the Bill. He pointed out that “New York Negroes were obliged to comply with property requirements not necessary for white voters”, while other Northern States like Pennsylvania and Indiana excluded them from voting altogether.”

Johnson added that “the representatives of States where suffrage is either denied the colored man or grant [voting rights on qualifications being met] . . . should compel the people of the District of Columbia to try an experiment which their own constituents have thus far shown an unwillingness to test for themselves . . .” It was clear to Johnson that the motivation for Negro suffrage was the voting potential they held, and the potential for Republican Party political hegemony in the future. This led to virtually unbroken Republican national rule until Woodrow Wilson.

It is noteworthy that when the Emancipation Bill of April 1862 provided freedom for colored people in the District, which also compensated their owners, Lincoln insisted that the measure be coupled with a $100,000 appropriation to settle the freedmen in Haiti and Liberia.

Radical Experiment in the District

“The question of voting by Negroes had become by this time a burning national issue and one on which the Republican Party was by no means unanimous. Even in the North only six States permitted Negro suffrage without restrictions. Negroes were not permitted to vote in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, and . . . New York still maintained property qualifications for Negro voters.

The Radical wing of the Party, led by [Charles] Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens, was, however, adamant on this issue. It was essential in their opinion that the colored man should be permitted to vote . . . [and] the control of the Southern States by the Republican Party could be maintained by the Negro vote, since it was quite inconceivable that the vast majority of Negroes would vote for any other Party than the Republicans who had freed them.

Realizing the difficulties of achieving Negro suffrage in the States, the leaders of the Radical Wing of the Republican Party began to turn their attention to the District of Columbia over which Congress had jurisdiction.

If Negro suffrage could be achieved in the District, with its large colored population, that would set the standard which some of the Southern States might be eventually be persuaded or compelled to follow.

Thus the municipal politics of Washington and Georgetown were to become a vital issue in the struggle for power between the Radical Republicans in Congress and Andrew Johnson, the Conservative Democrat in the White House.”

(The Uncivil War: Washington During the Reconstruction, 1865-1878, James H. Whyte, Twayne Publishers, 1958, excerpts pg. 37)

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