Browsing "Crimes of War"

Lincoln’s Legacy of Political Assassination

Lincoln’s array of assumed extra-constitutional powers is broad, and one was the authority to order the assassination of Jefferson Davis and his cabinet in early 1864. One could certainly envision Ford’s Theater as a retaliatory measure more than a year later, but that was clearly the work of Lincoln’s own radical opponents in his own party – eliminating him through political assassination.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s Legacy of Political Assassination

“The United States emerged from World War II militarily victorious but politically deformed. Instead of a republic, it was now a superpower with military and economic capabilities previously unimagined. In place of a constitutional government of limited powers and official accountability was a national-security regime of executive orders, the CIA, and plausible deniability.

Instead of “no entangling alliances,” the US government not only entered alliances, but created and fostered them . . . Instead of respecting the sovereignty of other nations, Washington subscribed to the messianic ideology of American Exceptionalism, the belief that the United States is politically and morally superior to other countries and, therefore, entitled to intervene in their domestic affairs.

Arguably, not since the Lincoln regime had the federal government usurped so much power or imbibed such a messianic doctrine. This shaped its foreign policy, which occasionally has been conducted less by diplomacy than by selective political assassination. Here, again, Lincoln provided a precedent.

By February 1864, Lincoln’s attempt to defeat the Confederacy – first by starving and bombarding Southern civilians, and later, by striving to foment a race war in the South – had failed. With antiwar sentiment growing and a presidential election looming in November, Lincoln desperately needed a major military victory. To that end, he authorized a cavalry raid on Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy.

[The] raid’s ostensible goal was to rescue 1,500 Union officers incarcerated in Richmond and another 10,000 rank and file soldiers imprisoned on nearby Belle Isle. Taking part in this raid was Col. Ulric Dahlgren, son of Lincoln’s close friend Rear Admiral John Dahlgren.

The raid, which began as a comedy of errors, ended as a military fiasco. Among those killed by Confederate defenders was Colonel Dahlgren, on whose body was found an order describing the true purpose of the raid – “the city [Richmond] must be destroyed and Jeff Davis and [his] cabinet killed.”

Such an act would be entirely consistent with how Lincoln waged his war against the South. It is more than likely that an increasingly desperate and despondent Lincoln sought his reelection in the political assassination of his Confederate counterpart.

The precedent Lincoln established was adopted by the US government during the Cold War. Executing political assassinations is the responsibility of the CIA under the supervision of an oversight committee, called the Special Group . . . To ensure plausible deniability, the CIA often employs citizens of the targeted regime, frequently military officers, to perform the actual assassinations.

If the US government can assassinate foreign opponents by demonizing them as “terrorists” or supporters of terrorism, what is to prevent Washington from employing this tactic against domestic opponents? The process Lincoln began is now complete.”

(Lincoln’s Legacy: Foreign Policy by Assassination, Joseph E. Fallon, Chronicles, January 2003, excerpts pp. 50-51)

Homage to the Hounds

“The children owned a pretty little pet, a grey hound . . . Gathering up a stone, one of the soldiers watched his moment, and approaching the group where they were at play, suddenly dashed out the brains of the little dog, at the very feet of the children.”

William Gilmore Simms, Columbia, South Carolina, 1865

“We were determined that no dogs should escape, be it a cur, a rat dog, or bloodhound; we exterminated all. The dogs are easily killed. All we had to do was bayonet them.”

Col. Oscar Jackson, Sixty-third Ohio Volunteers, 7 March 1865

“It was pitiful to see the poor, half-starved cur go up to the men with almost melancholy countenance, as much to say: “I have seen better days but now am starving. Just let me go along, and I will be a good, dutiful dog.” Sometimes he gets a kick or a bullet for his confidence . . . As for the general run of these animals, they were relentlessly shot down.”

David Conyngham, reporter, New York Herald, February 1865

 

Homage to the Hounds

“You suffered too.

It was war on dogs as well –

On every living thing it seems:

Ages of mutual friendship

All are betrayed

In one fire-breathing

Dragon day.”

 

(Poems from Scorched Earth, James Everett Kibler, Charleston Press, 2001, page 5)

 

Total War, Confiscation and Sheer Theft

Author Clyde Wilson asserts that “The triumph in 1861-65 of the Republican Party over the will of the American people and the invasion, destruction and conquest of the Southern States, like a foreign territory has somehow, strangely, gotten mixed up with the idea of government of, by and for the people.” The Republican president crowned his revolutionary actions with the creation of a nationalist mythology which we still live under today. The Union was preserved by Lincoln and his party in a territorial sense, but not the Founders’ Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Total War, Confiscation and Sheer Theft

“Another great moral cost of the War, as Richard Weaver pointed out, was inauguration by the Republicans of the “total war” concept, reversing several centuries of Western progress in restraining warfare to rules.

General Sherman himself estimated that in his march across Georgia and the Carolinas, only 20 percent of the destruction had any military value. The rest was sheer wanton terrorism against civilians – theft and destruction of their food, housing, and tools. One egregious example was the burning and sack of Columbia – a city which had already surrendered and was full of women and children and wounded soldiers – a looting which marked the emancipation of black women by their wholesale rape.

Along with destruction went immense confiscation and theft, much of it under cover of a Confiscation Act which was enforced without ever being legally passed. The Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives simply declared the bill passed and adjourned. This high-handed legislative practice continued throughout the War and Reconstruction.

The Republican Governor of Indiana suspended the legislature and acted as dictator for two years. Republicans continually agitated for an open dictatorship under Fremont or some other trustworthy Radical; all of this is known but seldom acknowledged.

In addition to the Confiscation Act, for rebel property there was a mechanism for the government to collect taxes in the occupied regions of the South to finance the War. At last $100,000,000 in cotton (the most valuable commodity in North America) was seized — $30,000,000 more or less legally under the confiscation and tax acts, the rest sheer theft. The rest was stolen by Republican appointees.

A Secretary of the Treasury commented that he was sure a few of the tax agents he sent South were honest, but none remained so very long. We know, for instance, of that great war hero Admiral [David] Porter, who with General [Nathanial] Banks was badly beaten by vastly inferior Confederate forces in the Red River campaign, yet emerged from that campaign with $60,000 worth of stolen cotton for his personal profit.

The confiscation and theft continued in full force until at least 1868; they did not end with the hostilities.”

(State Rights Revisited: War, Reconstruction and the End of the Union, Clyde N. Wilson; Defending Dixie, Essays in Southern History and Culture, Foundation for American Education, 2006, excerpts pp. 142-143)

“It Was Lincoln Who Made War”

The author quoted below, US Navy Captain and Virginia-native Russell Quynn, was a veteran of both World Wars and a member of the Virginia bar since 1941. He writes that against the North, “the armies of the South at peak strength never exceeded 700,000 men,” and that “imported “Hessians” were used “by Lincoln to crush Americans of the South whose fathers had served in the armies of Washington, Jackson, Taylor, to make the nation, to found its renown.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

“It Was Lincoln Who Made War”

“Jefferson Davis, with his family, was captured in the Georgia pines on May 10, 1865, while en route to the Trans Mississippi, where he had hoped forces were still intact to continue the struggle Johnston and Beauregard had given up to Sherman at Durham, North Carolina . . . The odds now were ten to one; the North was being armed with Spencer-magazine repeating rifles, against the Confederates muzzle-loaders, to turn the war into mass murder.

During the four years of war the Northern armies had been replenished with large-scale inductions of more than 720,000 immigrant males from Europe; who were promised bounties and pensions that the South afterwards largely had to pay (see the Union Department of War records).

Charged with detestable crimes that, it was only too well known, he could not be guilty of, Davis was unable to obtain a hearing, and finally was released. A bail bond of $100,000 had been posted for him, oddly enough, by some of the men who had been his bitterest enemies – Horace Greeley, Gerrit Smith, Vanderbilt, and others among the twenty men who pledged $5,000 each in federal court.

Davis himself thought that “. . . by reiteration of such inappropriate terms as “rebellion” and treason,” and the asseveration that the South was levying war against the United States, those ignorant of the nature of the Union, and of the reserved powers of the States, have been led to believe that the Confederate States were in the condition of revolted provinces, and that the United States were forced to resort to arms for the preservation of their existence . . . The Union was formed for specific enumerated purposes, and the States had never surrendered their sovereignty . . . It was a palpable absurdity to apply to them, or to their citizens when obeying their mandates, the terms “rebellion” and “treason”; and, further, the Confederacy, so far from making war or seeking to destroy the United States, as soon as they had an official organ, strove earnestly by peaceful recognition, to equitably adjust all questions growing out of the separation from their late associates.”

It was Lincoln who “made war.” Still another perversion, Davis thought, “was the attempted arraignment of the men who formed the Confederacy, and who bore arms in its defense, as “instigators of a controversy leading to disunion.” Of course, it was a palpable absurdity, and but part of the unholy vengeance, which did not cease at the grave.”

(The Constitutions of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis: A Historical and Biographical Study in Contrasts, Russell H. Quynn, Exposition Press, 1959, excerpts pp. 126-128)

American Attilla

On the 18th of December1864 Lincoln’s general-in-chief Henry Halleck wrote Sherman: “Should you capture Charleston, I hope that by some accident the place may be destroyed; and if a little salt should be sown upon its site, it may prevent the growth of future crops of nullification and secession.” Ironically, secession was first threatened by New England at the time of the Louisiana Purchase and in its 1814 Hartford convention; nullification of federal law was the very basis of the North’s prewar Personal Liberty Laws. In late 1864 and early 1865, Sherman’s 65,000 man army triumphantly plundered and destroyed Georgia and South Carolina with virtually no opponents except old men, women and children. General Joe Wheeler had 5,000 cavalry to merely harass Sherman with. The following was reprinted from a May 1873 article in Southern Magazine.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

American Attilla

“To [Halleck’s letter] General Sherman replies, December 24: “This war differs from European wars in this particular – we are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people; and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies.

I will bear in mind your hint as to Charleston, and don’t think “salt” will be necessary. The truth is, the whole army is burning with an insatiable desire to wreak vengeance on South Carolina. I almost tremble for her fate, but feel that she deserves all that seems to be in store for her.”

On the 23rd he writes to General Kilpatrick: “Let the whole people know the war is now against them, because their armies flee before us and do not defend their country or frontier as they should. It is pretty nonsense for Wheeler and Beauregard and such vain heroes to talk of our warring against women and children. If they claim to be men, they should defend their women and children and prevent us reaching their homes.”

If, therefore, an army defending their country can prevent invaders from reaching their homes and families, the latter have a right to that protection; but if the invaders can break through and reach these homes, [they] are justified in destroying women and children. Certainly this is a great advance on the doctrine and practice of the Dark Ages.

Is it any wonder that after reading [this] we fervently echo General Sherman’s devout aspiration: “I do wish the fine race of men that people our Northern States should rule and determine the future destiny of America?”

(Gleanings from General Sherman’s Dispatches, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume XIII, William Jones, editor, 1885, Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1990, excerpts pp. 446-448)

A Tradition of Anti-Southern Hatred

In a fit of anti-South hatred, the radical Parson Brownlow of Tennessee told his pro-Lincoln audience that “we will crowd the rebels into the Gulf of Mexico and drown the entire race, as the devil did the hogs in the Sea of Galilee.” Abolitionist Wendell Phillips received cheers from his audience when he called for the near-extermination of American Southerners “and no peace until 347,000 men of the South are either hanged or exiled.” The blue clad soldiers of Sherman and Sheridan practiced wanton destruction of towns, cities and farms where they marched, slaughtering livestock indiscriminately, and leaving little of nothing for women and children – black or white — to eat.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Tradition of Anti-Southern Hatred

“Hatred of the South is not new, and examples of it are legion. Ralph Waldo Emerson declared, “If it costs ten years, and ten to twenty to recover the general prosperity, the destruction of the South is worth so much.” Prior to the War for Southern Independence, and Englishman stated that there was nothing Northerners “hate with so deep a hatred” as Southerners.

In 1862, Gen. Benjamin “Beast” Butler of Massachusetts added the lynch rope to the arsenal of weapons used against the South. A Southern youth made the mistake of removing the invaders flag from a building in occupied New Orleans. He paid dearly for his patriotic enthusiasm [as Butler] ordered the young Southerner hung by the neck until dead!

Such is the tradition of anti-Southern hatred, a tradition inherited and perpetuated by the liberal establishment. To perpetuate [the] liberal myth of history, the liberal establishment, like any other empire, requires a monopoly in the marketplace of ideas . . . [and] controls access to the media. The liberal propagandist rings the bell “slavery” and the masses respond with an outpouring of anti-Southern venom.

Imagine how embarrassing it would be for the liberal establishment if there were general knowledge that Massachusetts was the first colony to engage in the slave trade, that much of the capital used to build the industrial Northeast was amassed from profits of the New England slave trade, that it was primarily the Northern colonies which refused to allow a section in the US Constitution outlawing the slave trade, or that the thirteen stripes on the US flag represent thirteen slave-holding colonies, the majority of which were Northern colonies!”

(Driving Dixie Down – the Destruction of Southern Culture; Why Not Freedom! America’s Revolt Against Big Government, James & Ronald Kennedy, Pelican Publishing, 1995, excerpts pp. 367-369)

Constitutional Convention on the Battlefield

The war of 1861-1865 seemed a violent replay of the 1800 election between Federalist John Adams and Republican Thomas Jefferson – and settling the question of whether New England or Virginia would dominate and guide the country. Author Russell Kirk observed in 1953 that “The influence of the Virginia mind upon American politics expired in the Civil War,” and that it would take 100 years for the ideas of a limited central government and free market ideas to begin a recovery.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Constitutional Convention on the Battlefield

“Beginning with the modern civil-rights movement in the late 1950s, it became popular and “politically correct” to proclaim that the Civil War was fought for the purpose of abolishing slavery and therefore was a just and great war. This gave the civil-rights movement much of its momentum, but it also served to injure race relations severely, and further, to mask the immense and disastrous costs of the Civil War, which included the deaths of 620,000 soldiers.

The destruction of the South and its Jeffersonian ideals of a free market, a non-interventionist foreign policy, and a limited central government were replaced by the ideals of Hamilton, thereby completely transforming the American government created by its founders.

The Civil War was, in effect, a new constitutional convention held on the battlefield, and the original document was drastically amended by force in order to have a strong centralized federal government, which was closely allied with industry in the North.

Foreign policy would now become heavily influenced by the economic interests of big business rather than by any concern for the freedom of the individual. Domestic policies of regulation, subsidy and tariff would now benefit big business at the expense of small business and the general population.

Beginning with the end of the Civil War, the American mind and policy would become molded into the image of Hamilton rather than Jefferson.”

(The Costs of War: America’s Pyrrhic Victories, John V. Denson, editor, 1999, Transaction Publishers, 1999, excerpts pp. 27-28)

Bungling and Unprincipled Self-Seeking

As the invading Northern armies moved South, huge quantities of cotton were found and Yankee cotton-hunger “was fierce and insatiable.” Union officers could make a quick fortune seizing bales and shipping them northward to New England mills, the same ones who had themselves perpetuated slavery with dependence on Southern cotton.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Bungling and Unprincipled Self-Seeking

“The opening of the full length of the Mississippi by the capture of Vicksburg and Port Hudson augmented the illicit traffic from all river towns into the Confederacy. General [Stephen A.] Hurlbut, himself probably corrupt and certainly drunken, explained to his superiors [in Washington] the impossibility of imposing controls. “A perpetual flood of fraud, false-swearing, and contraband goods runs through the city,” he wrote. Even the pickets are bribed.

[US] Treasury agents were really no more culpable than Army officers, and old cotton-brokers no worse than Chicago commission-men; Yankees and foreigners could be equally unscrupulous.

Ben Butler, who had held command [at New Orleans] in 1862, believed in generous trade policies, and one recipient of his generosity was his brother, Andrew Jackson Butler. The operations of both the Butlers became highly complicated . . . When military expeditions were sent out ostensibly for the chastisement of guerillas, but with cotton also in view, and shallow-draft steamers began to scour the bayous with the same objectives, the situation became still more tangled.

[Secretary of the Treasury Salmon] Chase’s special agent, George S. Denison . . . found that a great deal of contraband material was being shipped to the Confederates in exchange for cotton, and that [Northern] military men of high rank who lent their cooperation were reaping large harvests.

It was clear, he wrote Chase, that Ben Butler “knows everything, controls everything, and should be held responsible for everything.”

On the Red River in the spring of 1864, the carnival of trade and speculation reached its height for a single campaign. General [Nathanial P.] Banks, who also had to carry the ignominy of defeat, suffered censure . . . Officer after officer, in testimony that runs for pages despite sharp questions put by Congressmen, charged that the Navy seized wagons and mules right and left, ranging far into the interior away from the Red River and branding cotton “C.S.A.” so that they with impunity then add “U.S.N.”

Porter went on to attack the Army, writing: “General Banks had come up in the steamer Black Hawk, loaded with cotton speculators, bagging, roping, champagne, and ice. The whole affair was cotton speculation . . .”

At times, in the aftermath of the Red River campaign, it seems that every participant was misrepresenting everyone else. The only definite certainty is that it was a time of bungling, lying, chicanery, corruption, and unprincipled self-seeking, all to the injury of the [Northern] war effort.”

 

(The War for the Union: the Organized War 1863-1864, Volume III, Allan Nevins, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971, excerpts pp. 355-361)

 

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)

 

A Constitution Inadequate to the Conduct of the War

As General Samuel G. French suggests below, presidential expedients not found in the United States Constitution were invented for initiating war against the South, and for the prosecution of that war. French believed that the New England-armed men in Kansas were responsible for firing the first shot of the war; others have postulated that the war began when the Star of the West left its New York moorings in early January 1861, carrying armed men below decks to South Carolina – when Fort Sumter’s guns were turned against the Americans it was built to protect.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Constitution Inadequate to the Conduct of the War

“Sherman — the fell destroyer — had burned the city of Jackson, Mississippi, and the ruins reminded me of Pompeii. In walking one of the streets I passed a canvas shanty, from which I was hailed by an Israelite with “Good morning General; come in.” He had been in the army and knew me; he had some goods and groceries for sale. When I was leaving, he asked: “General, cant I do something for you? Here are fifty dollars, just take them; maybe you can pay me back sometime.”

I thought the angel of mercy was smiling down on us . . . I thanked him kindly, and the day came when I had the pleasure of repaying the debt. The servants I had in Columbus had been nominally “confiscated” and set free; so they came to me, almost daily, begging me to take them back to the plantation in Mississippi. As I was not able to do this, I applied to some “bureau,” that had charge of the “refugees,” for transportation of these Negroes, and to my surprise it was granted. As soon as possible they were put on the cars and started for the plantation.

When we reached home we found most of the old servants there awaiting our arrival. To feed and clothe about a hundred of these people, and to plant a crop of cotton in the spring, clothing, provisions, mules, wagons, implements, harness, etc., had to be procured. To obtain funds to purchase the articles enumerated — to commence again — I went to Philadelphia and New York (by special permission of the government) in November.

. . . War is the most uncertain of all undertakings of a nation, and, like the tempest, cannot be controlled, and seldom or never ends as predicted. The North proclaimed that this “little rebellion” would end in sixty days!

It lasted four years, and ended as no one had foreseen. It had to suppress rebellions caused by people who entertained Southern opinions in New York, Chicago, Cincinnati and other cities; muzzle the press, prohibit free speech, banish prominent individuals, arrest men without warrant, and imprison them without charges made known to them; and violated nearly every resolution and pledge made in the beginning relating to the South; they cast aside constitutional law, and substituted martial law, under which the South became a scene of desolation and starvation.

My own opinion is that the first gun was fired, at the instigation of a number of prominent men North, by John Brown at Harper’s Ferry, and for which he was apotheosized and numbered among the saints.

Mr. Lincoln said: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. Our case is new. We must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save the country.”

These words indicate that the powers of the Constitution were inadequate to the conduct of the war, and henceforth the war must be conducted as occasion deemed expedient. In other words, the executive must be declared greater than the power that made it, or the creature greater than the Creator, and with dictatorial methods the war was conducted. Avaunt, Constitution, avaunt! We are fighting for the Union, for dominion over the Southern territory again, and so the Constitution was folded up, etc.”

(Two Wars, Samuel G. French, Confederate Veteran Press, 1901, excerpts, pp. 320-327)

 

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