Browsing "Crimes of War"

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)

 

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)

Pillaging and Flattening American towns

Referring to his prewar employment and residence in Louisiana, the Macon [Georgia] Telegraph called the destructive Sherman “Judas Iscariot, a betrayer, a creature of depravity, a demon of a thousand fiends.” As for Sherman’s misunderstanding of treason, it is clearly defined in Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution as “levying War against them [the united States], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Sherman, by order of his commander, Lincoln, waged war against the united States.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Pillaging and Flattening American Towns

“Officially, Sherman’s orders to his officers were against capricious violence and destruction on his army’s sweep through South Carolina. But the true desires of their leader filtered back to Sherman’s men as they slogged through the swamps under the dripping moss of the live oaks in South Carolina Low Country. Sherman issued few, if any, restraining orders to the troops.

South Carolina is where treason began, and there, Sherman swore, was where it would end. And so, to Sherman’s implied commands, the troops responded with a greater vengeance than they had in Georgia.

Villages in Sherman’s path through the Low Country were virtually obliterated: Hardeeville, Purysburg, Robertville, Lawtonville, Allendale. At least one brigade – often two or more a day – marched through, pillaging and flattening the towns and the lands between mid-January and early February 1865.

The forces commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Edward S. Solomon of the 82nd Illinois Infantry of Operations seem to have been particularly effective in razing the hometowns of the Willingham and Lawton families.

In a postscript to a report that Colonel H. Case of the 129th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, First Brigade, Third Division, Twentieth Corps, had made . . . reported that a forage party near Camden “has captured at last a portion of the assets of the Bank of South Carolina and the Bank of Camden and also a quantity of jewelry and silver plate” and that “the safes were delivered to the Provost Marshal of the Twentieth Corps.”

Shortly after Lee’s surrender, a correspondent of the New York Times wrote, “I hazard nothing in saying that three-fifths [in value] of the personal property we passed through were taken by Sherman’s Army.”

(Kith and Kin, a Portrait of a Southern Family, Carolyn L. Harrell, Mercer University Press, 1984, excerpts pp. 135-138)

 

Questions Solved Only by War

Sherman was unable to understand that the South was fighting a defensive war to maintain its independence, and had no desire to alter the governance of the Northern States. Sherman wrote the following in late 1863 to his superior, noting that he saw no need for civil compromises to soften the war against the women and children in his path, and that “the South has done her worst [in its struggle for independence], and now is the time for us to pile on blows thick and fast.” Sherman could not see the humanity suffering in his midst, only faceless enemies obstructing his employer’s will.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Questions Only Solved by War

“For such a people, [Sherman wrote], “a civil government now . . . would be simply ridiculous.” The interests of the United States “demand the continuance of the simple military rule after all the organized armies of the South are dispersed, conquered and subjugated.” The only real issue, he wrote, was, “Can we whip the South?”

[Sherman continued] “Another great and important natural truth is still in contest, and can only be solved by war. Numerical majorities by vote have always been our great arbiter. The South, though numerically inferior, contend they can whip the Northern superiority of numbers, and therefore by natural law contend that they are not bound to submit.

This issue is the only real one . . . War alone can decide it.

I would banish all minor questions, assert the broad doctrine that a nation has the right, and also the physical power to penetrate every part of our national domain, and that we will do it – that we will do in our own time and in our own way . . . that we will remove and destroy every obstacle, if need be, take every life, every acre of land . . . that we will not cease till this end is attained . . . I would not coax them or even meet them halfway but make them so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it . . .”

(Sherman, Fighting Prophet, Lloyd Lewis, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1932, excerpts pp. 307-308)

Sherman’s Legacy in Korea

Though MacArthur recognized that American use of chemical weapons against Chinese and North Korean forces would open the door to retaliation, it was “requested [that] sufficient quantities to be shipped immediately in the event use of gas is approved [by Washington].” The destruction of huge irrigation dams in northern Korea was considered “barbaric” as it not only destroyed rice to starve the population, but also drowned countless thousands of old men, women and children.  The Truman administration censored reporters to keep civilian deaths and atrocities from the American public, as did Lincoln in his day.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sherman’s Legacy in Korea

“The United States came closest to using atomic weapons in early April 1951, precisely the time that Truman removed McArthur. It is now clear that Truman removed MacArthur not simply because of his repeated insubordination, but because he wanted a reliable commander on the scene if Washington decided to use nuclear weapons: that is, Truman traded McArthur for his atomic policies.

Perhaps the most daunting and terrible project, however, was Operation Hudson Harbor. It appears to have been part of a larger project involving “overt exploitation in Korea by the Department of Defense and covert exploitation by the Central Intelligence Agency of the possible use of novel weapons.”

The project sought to establish the capability of the use of atomic weapons on the battlefield, and in pursuit of this goal lone B-29 bombers were lifted from Okinawa in September and October 1951 and sent over North Korea on simulated atomic bombing runs . . .

The record also shows that massive use of chemical weapons against Sino-North Korean forces was considered. In penciled diary notes written on December 16, [General Matthew] Ridgeway referred cryptically to a subcommittee on “clandestine introduction [of] wea[pon]s of mass destruction and unconventional warfare.

[The] air war nonetheless leveled North Korea and killed millions before the war ended. From early November 1950 on, MacArthur ordered that a wasteland be created between the front and the Chinese border, destroying from the air every “installation, factory, city, and village” over thousands of square miles of North Korean territory.

On November 8, seventy B-29’s dropped 550 tons of incendiary bombs on Sinuiju, “removing [it] from . . . the map”; a week later Hoeryong was hit with napalm “to burn out the place” . . . this was all before the major Sino-North Korean offensive.

A bit later George Barrett of the New York Times found a macabre tribute to the totality of modern war” in a village north of Anyang:

“The inhabitants throughout the village and in the fields were caught and killed and kept the exact postures they held when the napalm struck – a man about to get on his bicycle, fifty boys and girls playing in an orphanage . . .”

[Secretary of State Dean] Acheson wanted censorship authorities notified about this kind of “sensationalized reporting,” so it could be stopped.

By 1952 just about everything in northern and central Korea was completely leveled. What was left of the population survived in caves, the North Koreans created an entire life underground, in complexes of dwellings, schools, hospitals and factories . . . [and such attacks only stiffened enemy resistance].

The Americans did go right ahead and in the final act of this barbaric war hit huge irrigation dams that provided water for 75 percent of the North’s food production. “The subsequent flash flood scooped clean 27 miles of the valley below , and he plunging flood waters wiped out [supply routes, etc.] . . . The Westerner can little conceive the awesome meaning which the loss of [rice] has for the Asian – starvation and slow death.”

(Korea’s Place in the Sun, a Modern History, Bruce Cumings, W.W. Norton & Company, 1997, excerpts, pp. 291-295)

Ministering Angels Arrive in the Philippines

The Treaty of Paris submitted to the Senate for ratification in 1899 passed with barely the two-thirds majority required, though the prospect of commercial exploitation in Asia carried the day for Republicans. President William McKinley told Congress in his message asking for ratification that turning the Philippines over to our commercial rivals “would be bad business.” Senator Hoar of Massachusetts had forgotten his region’s treatment of the Pequot tribe who were sold into slavery and his State’s part in subjugating Southern States in the 1860s. The brutal methods used to subdue Filipino’s resisting occupation were familiar to the American South, which remembered Sherman’s visit.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Ministering Angels Arrive in the Philippines

“The Treaty of Paris gave the United States sovereignty over the Philippines, but it could not come into force until the Senate ratified it. Opponents denounced the treaty as an imperialist grab of distant land and shamed American ideals and overextended American power.

Senator George Frisbee Hoar of Massachusetts warned that it would turn the United States into “a vulgar, commonplace empire founded upon physical force, controlling subject races and vassal states, in which one class must forever rule and the other classes must forever obey.”

Supporters countered with three arguments: that it would be ludicrous to recognize Filipino independence since there was no such thing as a Filipino nation; that it was America’s duty to civilize the backward Filipinos; and that possession of the archipelago would bring incalculable commercial and strategic advantages.

As this debate was reaching its climax, in what the New York World called “an amazing coincidence,” news came that Filipino insurgents had attacked American positions in Manila. It later turned out that there had indeed been a skirmish but that an American private had fired the first shot. That was not clear at the time, however, and probably would not have mattered anyway.

Several senators declared that they now felt obligated to vote for the treaty as a sign of support for beleaguered soldiers on the other side of the globe. “We come as ministering angels, not as despots,” Senator Knute Nelson of Minnesota assured his colleagues.

In September, 1901, a band of Rebels . . . fiercely set upon [American soldiers at Balangiga], stabbing and hacking them to death. Of the seventy-four men who had been posted in Balangiga, only twenty survived, most with multiple stab wounds. News of the “Balangiga Massacre” was quickly flashed back to the United States [and it] stunned a nation that was only beginning to realize what kind of war was being fought in the Philippines.

American commanders on the islands . . . ordered Colonel Jacob Smith, who had participated in the Wounded Knee massacre in the Dakota Territory a decade before, to proceed to Samar and do whatever was necessary to subdue the rebels. Smith arrived . . . and ordered his men to kill everyone over the age of ten and turn the island’s interior into “a howling wilderness.”

“I want no prisoners,” he told them. “I wish you to kill and burn. The more you kill and the more you burn, the better it will please me.”

(Overthrow, America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, Stephen Kinzer, Times Books, 2006, excerpts pp. 49-53)

Gen. Hill Writes to Gen. Foster, 1863

Gen. Daniel H. Hill, in a letter to a Union general.

GOLDSBOROUGH, N. C., March 24, 1863.

Maj. Gen. J.G. FOSTER, Federal Army.

SIR: Two communications have been referred to me as the successor of Gen. French. The prisoners from Swindell’s company and the Seventh North Carolina are true prisoners of war and if not paroled I will retaliate five-fold.

In regard to your first communication touching the burning of Plymouth you seem to have forgotten two things. You forget, sir, that you are a Yankee and that Plymouth is a Southern town.

It is no business of yours if we choose to burn one of our own towns. A meddling Yankee troubles himself about every body’s matters except his own and repents of everybody’s sins except his own. We are a different people. Should the Yankees burn a Union village in Connecticut or a cod-fish town in Massachusetts we would not meddle with them but rather bid them God-speed in their work of purifying the atmosphere.

Your second act of forgetfulness consists in your not remembering that you are the most atrocious house-burner as yet unsung in the wide universe.

Let me remind you of the fact that you have made two raids when you were weary of debauching in your Negro harem and when you knew that your forces outnumbered the Confederates five to one. Your whole line of march has been marked by burning churches, school-houses, private residences, barns, stables, gin-houses, Negro cabins, fences in the row, &c.

Your men have plundered the country of all that it contained and wantonly destroyed what they could not carry off.

Before you started on your freebooting expedition toward Tarborough you addressed your soldiers in the town of Washington and told them that you were going to take them to a rich country full of plunder. With such a hint to your thieves it is not wonderful that your raid was characterized by rapine, pillage, arson and murder.

Learning last December that there was but a single weak brigade on this line you tore yourself from the arms of sable beauty and moved out with 15,000 men on a grand marauding foray. You partially burned Kinston and entirely destroyed the village of White Hall.

The elegant mansion of the planter and the hut of the poor farmer and fisherman were alike consumed by your brigands. How matchless is the impudence which in view of this wholesale arson can complain of the burning of Plymouth in the heat of action!

But there is another species of effrontery which New England itself cannot excel. When you return to your harem from one of these Union-restoring excursions you write to your Government the deliberate lie that you have discovered a large and increasing Union sentiment in this State.

No one knows better than yourself that there is not a respectable man in North Carolina in any condition of life who is not utterly and irrevocably opposed to union with your hated and hateful people.  A few wealthy men have meanly and falsely professed Union sentiments to save their property and a few ignorant fishermen have joined your ranks but to betray you when the opportunity offers. No one knows better than yourself that our people are true as steel and that our poorer classes have excelled the wealthy in their devotion to our cause.

You knowingly and willfully lie when you speak of a Union sentiment in this brave, noble and patriotic State. Wherever the trained and disciplined soldiers of North Carolina have met the Federal forces you have been scattered as leaves before the hurricane.

In conclusion let me inform you that I will receive no more white flags from you except the one which covers your surrender of the scene of your lust, your debauchery and your crimes. No one dislikes New England more cordially than I do, but there are thousands of honorable men even there who abhor your career fully as much as I do.

Sincerely and truly, your enemy,

D.H. HILL, Maj. Gen., C.S. Army

 

 

The Twilight of the Confederacy

The infamous “Wilson Raid” into Alabama and the burning of Tuscaloosa in early April 1865 had no impact whatsoever on the outcome of the war, as by March the Southern Confederacy had been all but overrun and Lee was exhausted in Virginia. Opposing Wilson’s 14,000 well-armed and equipped troopers were Nathan Bedford Forrest’s ill-equipped and scattered cavalry numbering 5,000.

Chaplain Basil Manly of Alabama was the brother of Charles Manly, the last Whig governor of North Carolina and serving 1849 to 1851. The cruel act of destroying barns and farm implements as well as killing or carrying away livestock was intended to hasten the onset of starvation among Southern civilians.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Twilight of the Confederacy

“In the spring of 1865, the Yankees returned to Alabama. By this point, not even the South’s most feared cavalryman, Nathan Bedford Forrest, could stop the 14,000 Federal horsemen under Major General James H. Wilson. As Forrest tried to stay between the Yankees and Selma, Wilson ordered one of his subordinates . . . to take the city of Tuscaloosa, to divert some of the Confederates 6,000 troops.

[The enemy’s] 2,000 cavalrymen swept aside the few militiamen who tried to stop them, captured the town and, while pillaging the area “burned the buildings used for public purposes at the university,” including the library, from which only a few items were saved.

The Yankees also “took away all the horse and mules they could find. They camped in our streets, that night, and next morning they proceeded to burn the foundry and factory, the miter sheds, and the bridge across the river.”

The Federals left the city just ahead of the Confederate cavalry sent to intercept them, having successfully diverted Forrest, who was soon defeated by the twenty-seven-year-old Wilson. Wilson’s victory over the notorious Forrest would have made him a hero two years earlier, but was simply a mop-up operation in the spring of 1865.

On May 23, a “body of Yankees under Col. Marsh, which have been here about a week, took their departure. The soldiers “took all the good horses and mules they could get; without compensation. Corn, meat, etc., they took from private parties, at pleasure . . .” The Northern troops were said “to be from Illinois,” and [Basil] Manly had heard that “they took a Negro out, just before they left, who had stolen a [Northern] captain’s horse, etc., and shot him.”

In the spring of 1866, [North Carolina] Governor [Charles] Manly [1795-1871] wrote to a family friend, describing what had happened the year before. His plantation, Ingleside, [near Raleigh], to which he retired in the late 1850s, was destroyed by “Sherman’s Devils.” Coming onto the property, the Yankee troops “tore the House all to pieces, broke down the plastering and ceiling, all the doors and windows, stole all the furniture, all my books and papers and the old grain omnibus with all its contents – took every mule, horse, cow, sheep and poultry, all my corn fodder and hay, burnt up fences and destroyed [my] farming tools.”

Worse still, “a great part of this villainy was perpetrated after the surrender” of the Confederacy, but, as Governor Manly complained, “no redress could be obtained.”

(Chaplain of the Confederacy, Basil Manly and Baptist Life in the Old South, A. James Fuller, LSU Press, 2000, excerpts, pp. 304-306)

 

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