Browsing "Crimes of War"

Victory Seals Union Theft and Destruction

The author below writes of the “well-dressed malingerer, the best educated, the most cunning, the most creative of the [Vietnam] generation, they live with their little secret: their citizenship came of age on a note of avoidance . . . which in turn bred a profound cynicism toward their responsibilities in a free society.”

This may be compared to the “well-dressed malingerers” of Northern society in the early 1860s who remained home, a few after tasting 90 days service, and realizing the resolve of their opponent seeking independence; then they avoided the draft with substitutes and paying for exemptions from physicians seeking extra income. They dug deep into their pockets as well for town, county, State and federal bounty money to pay the poor and recently-released criminals to take their place. They then applauded Lincoln for seizing dispossessed black Southern farmhands, and taught them to loot and burn Southern farms and towns, for “the Union.”

Victory Seals Union Theft and Destruction

“General Sherman had done the dirty work for the Union. To him had fallen the duty to break the spirit of the rebellion, to punish the rebels, whatever their sex or station. His unsparing, relentless hand had given the Union victory.

The dirty work of the Vietnam War was consigned to a small percentage of the Vietnam generation; the poor, the uneducated, and the youth who fought who were wounded, who died. Most of those who went to Vietnam, the studies show, saw moderate to heavy combat. It is only the glories of modern medical science and the speed of the helicopter that prevented the names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington from being etched in much smaller print.

If the cruel charge of substitution is valid against any group, it is valid for the sixteen million who avoided Vietnam illegally. By their avoidance, the country had, de facto, reverted to the practice of the Civil War, where a man could buy a substitute. Had it not been for this overall turpitude, a Lt. William Calley could never have been an officer in the US Army.

Sherman’s dirty work ended in victory, and the victory swept away in the North any preoccupation with the manner of victory. Victory sealed over for the Union veteran his memory of theft or wanton destruction in Dixie.

In Vietnam, defeat and atrocity are fused. The wanton violence of Sherman’s bummer and Westmoreland’s grunt differs as looting differs from stealing, but neither time nor morals are static. The patterns of behavior in both armies were encouraged by the official policy and extended the rules of permissible conduct in the same degree.

The burning of Columbia and the slaughter at My Lai were exceptional only in their dimensions. The formal order for civilized behavior contrasted with the informal message toward atrocity in precisely the same way.”

(Sherman’s March and Vietnam, James Reston, Jr., MacMillan Publishing Company, 1984, excerpt pp. 167-168; 170)

Fiends in Federal Uniform

Sherman demonstrated control over his troops when it suited him, and could also allow subordinates to wink at soldier outrages. At Sandersville, Georgia alone, residents were left with no food or water for days while Union soldiers shot all the hogs, cows and chickens they could not take with them, the ground strewn with food, and carpets drenched with syrup and then covered with meal.  The roads along Sherman’s route were lined with the carcasses of horses, hogs and cattle, wantonly shot down to starve out the people and prevent them from making crops.

Fiends in Federal Uniform

“[During Sherman’s march through Georgia] a German-born private enthused to his family, “we live like God in France.” A good deal of looting also took place, especially by the foraging parties who operated with little supervision. “If money, watches or jewelry was found it was inevitably confiscated, recalled a New York veteran after the war, adding that the rampant thievery had “a very demoralizing effect on the men.” Even men of good reputation began to steal. There were men in prisons all over the country, the old veteran believed, “who took their first lessons in thieving while acting as one of Sherman’s foragers.”

Plenty of men regretted the hardship they and their comrades visited on civilians. During the destruction of railroads preceding the march, an Ohio soldier, drafted into the army only weeks before, scrawled in his diary: “There is great destruction of property about here. Much of it unnecessary. It is a pity to see homes of comfort destroyed thus. I think of my own house and wife and I can estimate the feelings of the enemy when I think how I would feel if served thus.”

Colonel Orlando M. Poe . . . complained to his own diary of the damage wrought by vandals, to the great scandal of our Army, and marked detriment to its discipline.” As the army neared to coast, a captain came upon four houses set afire “by some dirty rascal from our army . . .”

Eight days into the Savannah campaign, Major Thomas Taylor of the 47th Ohio . . . came upon a family who had been abused by a renegade party of [Union] foragers. After stripping them of everything edible, the “bummers” had smashed jars and dishes, vandalized furniture, scattered clothing, cut open mattresses, and threatened to burn the house down around their ears if they did not leave.”

“Such an act of barbarity,” Taylor wrote, “I have never witnessed in the service, yet these fiends wore the Federal uniform.”

(The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians 1861-1865, Mark Grimsley, Cambridge University Press, 1995, excerpt pg. 197)

 

Letter from Gardner’s Corner, South Carolina

Col. Joseph Newton Brown led the Fourteenth South Carolina Volunteers in the Gregg-McGowan Brigade at Gettysburg, and later at Spotsylvania. At Gettysburg’s Seminary battle his regiment lost heavily from enemy artillery, losing over 200 in killed and wounded out of 475 carried into action.  After the war Col. Brown became Anderson, South Carolina’s first millionaire, who built an imposing home on three acres of land on North Main Street in 1890. It was demolished in August, 1953.

Letter from Gardner’s Corner, South Carolina, Nov. 11, 1861

“Dear Mother, We marched from Pocotaligo yesterday and arrived at dark. This place is a junction of two roads which the enemy must pass in going to Charleston if they land anywhere east of the Salt River Ferry. We are ordered to retreat from this point in case of an attack by an overwhelming force. We passed [some] poor fellows yesterday evening . . . [who] barely escaped from being taken prisoners and had to leave all their baggage, tents and provisions and in fact brought nothing but their muskets with them.

But the worst remains to be told. The terror stricken inhabitants have left their homes and property in the possession of the enemy. We met them all the way and with tears in their eyes they encouraged us to strike for their homes and fireside. The ladies would talk to the meanest looking private and tell him the enemy was in his front and to meet them as became Carolinians.  The richest and finest dressed lady would ask the soldier if he was willing to fight for her.

You cannot imagine the dreadful state of things existing here. Plantations are deserted and Negroes by hundreds wandering through the country without a master or anyone to tell them what to do or where to go. The railroad trains are all crowded with women and children and the men have shouldered their guns, leaving all things else to take care of themselves.

Beaufort is deserted by the inhabitants and the enemy occupies it at his pleasure. The Negroes were left in the town and as soon as the whites had departed they broke open the stores and groceries and are now reveling in drunkenness and disorder. One man left his little children and went to hunt a place for their safety and on his return found a drunken Negro beating one of them nearly to death. The promise of freedom will ruin many a one which the master has depended on as faithful.

Direct [your letters] to Pocotaligo, Beaufort District, S.C. My love to all. Trusting that the God of Sumter and Manassas will be with South Carolina’s sons in the conflict before us, we will put our reliance in Him. I will write as often as circumstances will permit.

Your affectionate son, Joseph N. Brown

(A Colonel at Gettysburg and Spotsylvania, Varina D. Brown, The State Company, 1931, pp. 39-40)

Jan 25, 2021 - Crimes of War, Lincoln Revealed, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Patriots, Southern Women    Comments Off on A Life-Giving Beverage

A Life-Giving Beverage

The Diary of Mrs. Judith Brockenbrough McGuire, 1862-1863 includes the following entry which notes the “dangerously wounded” condition of her nephew, identified only as “Major B.” She devoted herself to “B’s” care until his parents arrived, living on little sleep with pitchers of water, bowls and baskets readied for more wounded coming on the trains. Mrs. McGuire wrote of herself and other ladies caring for the wounded: “We cannot yield to private feelings now; they may surge up and rush through our hearts until they almost burst them, but they must not overwhelm us. We must do our duty to our country, and it can’t be done by nursing our own sorrows.”

A Life-Giving Beverage

“February 11, 1863: For ten days past I have been at the bedside of my patient in Richmond. The physicians for the third time despaired of his life; by the goodness of God he is again convalescent. Our wounded are suffering excessively for tonics, and I believe that many valuable lives are lost for the want of a few bottles of porter.

One day a surgeon standing by Mr. B’s bedside said to me, “He must sink in a day or two; he retains neither brandy nor milk, and his life is passing away for want of nourishment.”

In a state bordering on despair, I went out to houses and stores, to beg or buy porter; not a bottle was in town. At last a lady told me that a blockade runner, it was said, had brought ale, and it was at the medical purveyor’s. I went back to Mr. P’s instantly, and told my brother (B.’s father) of the rumor. To get a surgeon’s requisition and go off to the purveyor’s was the work of a moment.

In a short time he returned with a dozen bottles of India ale. It was administered cautiously at first, and when I found that he retained it, and feebly asked for more, tears of joy and thankfulness ran down my cheeks.

“Give him as much as he will take during the night,” was the order of the physician. The order was obeyed, and life seemed to return to his system; in twenty-four hours he had drunk four bottles; he began then to take milk, and I never witnessed anything like the reanimation of the whole man, physical and mental.

Our hospitals are now supplied with this life-giving beverage, and all have it who “absolutely require it” though great care is taken of it, for the supply is limited. Oh, how cruel it is that the Northern Government should have made medicines and the necessaries of life to the sick and wounded, contraband articles!”

(Diary of Mrs. McGuire; The Women of the South in War Times, Matthew Page Andrews, editor, The Norman Remington Company, 1920, pp. 174-175)

Lincoln’s General, Ben Butler

A prewar antiwar Democrat in the Massachusetts legislature who “regularly spoke out against the abolition of slavery”, Benjamin Butler of Massachusetts rose in rank from militia officer but only noted for his lack of military skill. Earning the title “Beast” at occupied New Orleans in 1862, his command there and elsewhere were marred “by financial and logistical dealings across enemy lines, some of which probably took place with his knowledge and to his financial benefit.”

Lincoln’s General, Ben Butler

“[Lincoln’s private secretary John] Hay had some characteristic references to another notoriety of that period – Benjamin F. Butler – whom he met at Point Lookout in January, 1864.

“In the dusk of the evening,” he writes, “Gen’l Butler came clattering into the room where Marston and I were sitting, followed by a couple of aides. We had some hasty talk about business: he told me how he was administering the oath at Norfolk; how popular that was growing; children cried for it; how he hated Jews; how heavily he laid his hand on them; ‘a nation that the Lord had been trying to make something of for three thousand years, and had so far utterly failed.’ ‘King John knew how to deal with them – fried them in swine’s fat.’

At Baltimore we took a special car and came home. I sat with the General all the way and talked with him about many matters . . . He says he can take an army within thirty miles of Richmond without any trouble; from that point the enemy can either be forced to fight in the open field south of the city, or submit to be starved into surrender . . . He gave me some very dramatic incidents of his recent action in Fortress Monroe, smoking out adventurers and confidence men, testing his detectives, and matters of that sort. He makes more business in that sleepy little Department [of the James] than anyone would have dreamed was in it.”

At that sort of work Butler undeniably excelled; at fighting, his achievements were restricted to the feats he boasted he could perform when the enemy was at an entirely safe distance.”

(The Life and Letters of John Hay, Volume I, William Roscoe Thayer, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1908, pp. 142-143)

No Quarter for Old Men and Beardless Boys

Marianna, Florida was a peaceful west Florida town of prewar Whigs who bitterly opposed their State’s secession. Aware of the theft and destruction Northern forces had visited upon other Florida towns, Marianna made ready to defend their homes. Though a disaster for the town, the old men and boys succeeded in causing sufficient casualties to thwart the enemy advance to Tallahassee, and force its retreat to Pensacola.

No Quarter for Old Men and Beardless Boys

“On the morning of the 25th of September, 1864, the usually quiet town of Marianna, in west Florida, of about 2,000 inhabitants, was in a state of great anxiety over the report that the “Yankees were coming.”

The church bells were rung, calling out all citizens to the court house, where a meeting was held and resolutions passed to repel the invaders. A few Confederate soldiers, then at home and on sick leave, formed the nucleus of an organization which was at once perfected. Grayheaded old men, boys under 16 years of age within the town and ten miles around, regardless of previous Union sentiment, arrived with shotguns and formed what they themselves called “The Cradle and Grave Militia company,” in all about 200, and partly mounted.  They elected Captain Norwood, a prominent Unionist, as their captain, and reported for duty . . . full of ardor and brave endeavor. [Their commander formed a defensive] line with its right at the boarding-house and the left resting at the Episcopal church.

[The enemy invader] consisted of a battalion of the Second Maine cavalry . . . and several companies of deserters, the so-called First regiment of Florida Troops, and two full companies of ferocious Louisiana Negroes, in all about 600 . . . [the enemy] detached a part of his command to flank the village, and advanced the main body directly toward the church.

An indiscriminate firing began from the Confederate front and rear, the old men and beardless boys fighting like enraged lions, disputing every inch of ground. The contest was fierce and deadly for half an hour, when [the enemy commander] ordered the church, boarding-house and a private residence opposite burned.

The militia kept their ground manfully between the two walls of flames. In the meantime the Federal flanking party gained the rear of the militia and commenced an indiscriminate slaughter, giving no quarter to anyone. The Negro companies in particular acted in a most fiendish manner. Old men and boys who offered to surrender were driven into the flames of the burning buildings; young lads who laid down their arms were cut to pieces; others picked up bodily by stalwart Negro soldiers and thrown into the seething, burning church.

The half-charred remains of several of the half-grown boys were afterward found in the ruins of the church. The Confederates scattered in every direction, every man for himself, pursued by the Maine cavalry who kept up a steady fire on them. The whole fight lasted about an hour . . . [the enemy] would return to Pensacola with their prisoners, contraband and plunder.

The day after the fight, Marianna presented a pitiable sight. The dead and wounded lay all about, and the wails and cries of mothers, wives and sisters could be heard in every direction. Women and children searched for father, son or brother in the ashes of the burnt buildings. Here and there a charred thigh or ghastly skull was disinterred from the debris.”

(Federal Incursion to Marianna, J.J. Dickison, Confederate Military History, Clement A. Evans, editor, Confederate Publishing Company, 1899, excerpts pp. 114-117)

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)

Unceasing Blows and Sheer Attrition

In early May 1864, Grant moved across the Rapidan River in Virginia to pass quickly through the Wilderness before giving battle. Instead, there he lost some 26,000 men in the dense thickets. On June 3rd Grant lost “more men in the eight minutes of hottest fighting than in any period of the war.”  Though this carnage intensified the peace movement in the North, Lincoln provided Grant with an endless supply of immigrants, substitutes and conscripted men to continue this fearful slaughter. Lincoln, despite ruling the North with near-dictatorial powers, was well-aware 1864 was an election year and victories at any cost were needed before November.

Unceasing Blows and Sheer Attrition

“With the spring of 1864, the war entered a new phase. Union victories in the West had cut deeply into the economic and military strength of the Confederacy.  They had done more, for they had associated the names of Grant and his lieutenants with a habit of mind which connoted aggressiveness, strategy on a large scale, and victory.

It was not that Grant was a supreme master of the “science of war,” nor even that he merited full credit for the victories under his command . . . It was rather that a situation had been reached where, with Northern recruiting, Confederate depletion, and Grant’s sledge-hammer blows, the essential conditions of Union triumph had been presented.

Almost immediately [after Grant’s elevation to lieutenant-general] the final grand strategy of the war began to unfold itself, a strategy by which Grant used his numerical superiority and plunged ruthlessly ahead in Virginia, losing an enormous number of men, but wearing out the Confederates by sheer attrition; while in the lower South Sherman attained unenviable laurels by destroying vast amounts of food and other supplies in his “march” through Georgia and the Carolinas.  

It was by these unceasing blows at the heart of the Confederacy that the war, which had dragged on indecisively for three years, was brought to an end in 1865.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction, James G. Randall, D.C. Heath and Company, 1937, excerpts pp. 539-543)

Barbarous Pillaging

In early February, 1865, Captain J.J. Dickison’s 145 Florida cavalrymen struck 400 black and white federal raiders at Station Number Four – forcing them to retreat toward Cedar Keys after a sharp three-hour engagement.  The next month a thousand-man Northern invasion force arrived at St. Marks, forcing Floridians to hastily organize a defense force of student cadets from the State Seminary, old men and a few companies of regular troops.  The ensuing battle at Natural Bridge, a Southern victory, was practically the closing conflict of the war in Florida. Capt. Dickison was known as Florida’s “Swamp Fox,” earning his name for swift and unexpected strikes against the enemy, as did Francis Marion of earlier fame. 

Barbarous Pillaging

“Forts Barrancas and Pickens were the only points in Florida west of the St. Johns which were held permanently [by Northern forces] after 1862.  Six miles from Barrancas is Pensacola. The town then was under federal guns. A force varying from 1,800 to 3,000 men was in garrison at Barrancas [and] the commandant was Brigadier-General Alexander Asboth, a native Hungarian who had served under Kossuth in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.

With him were several Slav and Magyar comrades in arms – younger men than he – who held commissions in the federal army. Three of them were popularly reputed to be the nephews of Louis Kossuth. A portion of Asboth’s force was black, recruited partly from Negroes in the vicinity.

When not engaged in the barbarous practice of pillaging, Asboth was an urbane, pleasant fellow with a great love for flowers and a keen interest in dogs and fine horses. He and his fellow Hungarians were hated, dreaded and condemned by the country people of that section [for being “furreners”, Yankees”.  Certainly Barrancas proved a thorn in the side of West Florida. From it, as from Jacksonville, raiders went forth to lay waste the exhausted country.

[From July 21-25 1864], General Asboth advances from Barrancas at the head of 1,100 men – blacks and whites. [His] ultimate goal is Baldwin County, Alabama, where spies report opportunity to profitably raid, burn and cut-off the small detachments of Confederate troops guarding the country. After a show of resistance . . . [Asboth] retires to Barrancas.

[From July 20-29], An expedition of 400 men from the 2nd US Colored Infantry and 2nd [US] Florida Cavalry [lands at St. Andrews bay], march forty-four miles into the interior, burn two bridges, one large grist mill, eighty bales of cotton, and a quantity of stores, and gathering up 115 Negroes and a few horses, they return to the coast.  They encounter no armed opposition.

[Sept. 23], they surprise the village of Eucheanna, plundering homes, gathering up horses and mules, and making prisoners of fifteen private citizens. From Euchaeana, the raiding column heads for Jackson County. Preparations are made at Marianna for resistance . . . Old men and boys are armed with what weapons they can secure – shot-guns and squirrel rifles. There about 300 old men and boys await the arrival of the federal column.

The raiders . . . sweep aside the barricade with artillery and follow this with a determined charge of the 2nd Maine Cavalry. The Confederate force breaks up . . . Some take refuge in the Episcopal church . . . and continue the fight from its windows. A torch is thrown against the church . . . It takes fire. As its occupants rush from the burning building they are shot down and fall amid the gravestones of the churchyard. Some of the boys are burned to death in the church.

Marianna is plundered. That night the federal column quits Marianna on its return march to Pensacola. The prisoners and moveable booty are carried along.

(The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida, W.W. Davis, Columbia University, 1913, excerpts pp. 307-312)

Radicals Versus the South

Radical Republicans of Lincoln’s party barely concealed their contempt for him and certainly favored having him out of the way in order to fully control punishment for the American South’s bid for political independence.

It was these Radicals, who, along with Lincoln, spurned any and all compromise efforts in early 1861 to settle differences peaceably, and drove the country into a war which ended a million lives and laid waste to the South.

Radicals Versus the American South

“While the war from one point of view might be considered tragic, Radicals believed that it furnished an opportunity to make America’s political system just. “If we fail to embrace” the opportunity, warned one Congressman, “the golden moment will have escaped for years, if not forever.”

After winning victory on the battlefield, Radicals were determined not to lose the peace. These two elements – the Radical belief that Reconstruction politics were an extension of wartime issues and the Radical determination not to lose the fruits of military victory – are crucial in understanding Radical motivation.

Lincoln’s assassination confirmed these ideas. “My God Gov.,” wrote a friend to ex-Governor Austin Blair . . . “Poor Lincoln a victim of his own goodness and leniency. Death to all Traitors.”

Another of Blair’s correspondents reacted similarly: “Poor old Abraham has yielded up his life at last . . . Let justice now be meted out to the remorseless villains who led the people into rebellion by a man of their own household [Andrew Johnson] – a man who knows and fully realizes the depth of their depravity & has no mawkish sympathy for them when conquered.”

[Michigan] Senator [Zachariah] Chandler reacted in a more calculating manner. “I believe that the Almighty continued Mr. Lincoln in office as long as he was useful,” Chandler wrote to his wife, “& then substituted a better man to finish the work.” Had Lincoln’s policy [of reconstruction] been carried out, he believed that Jefferson Davis and his followers would be back in the Senate; “but now,” gloated the senator, “their Chance to Stretch hemp are [sic] better than for the Senate . . .”

Needed in Washington, the grim Michigan Senator substituted someone else to accompany Lincoln’s remains to Springfield. “[Andrew] Johnson is right now,” he reported; “thinks just as we do & desires to carry out Radical measures & punish treason & traitors, but much depends on his Surroundings.”

A few days later Chandler described Johnson: “as Radical as I am & fully up to the mark. If he has good men around him there will be no danger in the future.”

(Radical Republican Motivation, George M. Blackburn, Journal of Negro History, Volume LIV, Number 2, April 1969, Carter G. Woodson, editor, excerpts pp. 112-113)

Pages:1234567...16»