Browsing "Crimes of War"
Dec 19, 2014 - Crimes of War    No Comments

The Roar of Flames in Jacksonville

The burning and looting of Southern towns and cities during the war was not isolated and limited to Sherman. The spectacle of Northern soldiers plundering the homes and cities of Americans in the South astonished even news reporters accompanying the invading forces.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

The Roar of Flames in Jacksonville

“. . . on March 28, 1863, [the Northern commander] received orders to evacuate Jacksonville and terminate the East Florida operation. At 8 AM on the morning of March 28, as the troops began boarding their transports, first one, then another, and finally a third column of smoke rose from the city [and] . . . Some of the troops began rioting, plundering, vandalizing, and setting the town on fire with torches.

On the day before, there had been warning that this might occur. That day, the New York Tribune correspondent reported: “The beautiful little cottage used as the Catholic parsonage, together with the church, was fired by some of the soldiers, and in a short time burned to the ground.”

The soldiers had plundered the church of any items of value and destroyed the organ, abandoning the building ahead of the flames, “celebrating the occasion by blowing through an organ pipe.” Now it was happening . . . before the horrified eyes of the reporter. From the deck of his ship, he reported the ugly scene before him:

“I am writing now from the deck of a fine transport ship, the Boston. From this upper deck the scene presented to the spectator is one of fearful magnificence. On every side, from every quarter of the city, dense clouds of black smoke and flame are bursting through the mansions and warehouses.

The whole city, mansions, warehouses, trees, shrubbery, and orange groves; all that refined taste and art through many years have made beautiful and attractive, are being lapped up and devoured by this howling fiery blast . . . Is not this war — vindictive, unrelenting war? Have we not gotten up to the European standard?”

There were other witnesses . . . Inside the city, Dr. Alfred Walton [reported]:

“Before we were ready to embark the [Northern soldiers] began to set fire to the city . . . On my way down I ran into . . . a church and groping through the smoke and fire I took from the altar a large gilt-bound prayer book with the inscription on the cover, “St. John’s Episcopal Church, Jacksonville.” Farther down on Market Street I entered a building that appeared to be some kind of office and from a table or desk I took a manuscript map of the city of Jacksonville.

Farther down I saw some Negro soldiers setting fires and from their songs and shouting they appeared to be having a good time [Davis, History of Jacksonville, p. 132].”

Calvin Rogers . . . pinpointed how and where he believed the fires had been started:

“One fire was set by soldiers of the 8th Maine . . . Another by the 6th Connecticut . . . a third fire was kindled by a mulatto soldier of Col. Montgomery’s Regiment, named Isaac Smith . . . ”

“The sight and roar of the flames, and the rolling clouds of smoke, brought home to the impressionable minds of the black soldiers all their favorite imagery of the Judgment Day, Col. [Thomas] Higginson observed . . . excited by the spectacle and sang and exhorted without ceasing.”

(Jacksonville’s Ordeal by Fire, Martin & Schafer, Florida Publishing Company, 1984, pp. 161-163)

 

Abolitionists Drunk on the Fumes of Blood

Abolitionist hatred of Americans in the South seemed boundless with people like Wendell Phillips desiring their near-extermination, and Parson Brownlow preaching 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.” The South was only asking for political independence.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Abolitionists Drunk on the Fumes of Blood

“Wendell Phillips, who, before the blood began to flow, eloquently declared that the South was in the right, that Lincoln had no right to send armed men to coerce her, after battles begun seemed to become drunk on the fumes of blood and mad for more than battlefields afforded. In a speech delivered in [Henry Ward] Beecher’s church, to a large and presumably a Christian congregation, Phillips made the following remarkable declaration:

“I do not believe in battles ending this war. You may plant a fort in every district of the South, you may take possession of her capitals and hold them with your armies, but you have not begun to subdue her people. I know it seems something like absolute barbarian conquest, I allow it, but I do not believe there will be any peace until 347,000 men of the South are either hanged or exiled (Cheers).”

Why the precise number, 347,000, does not appear. If the hanging at one fell swoop of 347,000 men and women seemed to Phillips something like barbarian conquest, it would be interesting to know what would have appeared truly barbarian. History records some crimes of such stupendous magnitude, even to this day men shudder at their mention.”

(Facts and Falsehoods, Concerning the War on the South, George Edmonds, Spence Hall Lamb, 1904, pp. 235-236)

Dec 8, 2014 - Crimes of War    No Comments

Sherman's War Against Civilians

It was North Carolina Governor Zeb Vance’s opinion that Sherman “was a despoiler when there was no need to despoil and one who came very close to being a monster.” Lincoln had unleashed a conqueror and scourge upon Americans in the South; Davis and Lee remained firm in their belief that war should be confined to hostile armies fighting to a conclusion, and not waged upon defenseless civilians.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Sherman’s War Against Civilians

“Vance’s ideas of warfare were obtained from his earlier reading of Chancellor [James] Kent, one of the idols of his erudite Professor [David] Swain at Chapel Hill. In dealing with Sherman and Lee, he cited Kent’s commentary on plunder and depredations on private property. Kent said such conduct had been condemned by the wise and virtuous of all ages and usually was severely punished by “commanders of disciplined troops who had studied war as a science, and are animated by a sense of duty or love of fame.”

Kent said, as Vance cited him, that when a commander went beyond these limits wantonly, and seized private property or destroyed dwellings or public buildings for civil use, when it was not clearly indispensible for the purposes of war, he was sure “to be held up to the general scorn and detestation of the world.”

Vance mentioned also that Kent was studied by Sherman at West Point. He cited Major-General Henry W. Halleck in similar vein on the usage respecting private property, and brought out much evidence, like a lawyer presenting his case, capping it with similar or more severe quotations from the code prepared by the government to control the armies of the United States.

The propriety of Sherman’s military methods will always be debated, as will be, perhaps, the question of their efficacy in the broad picture of war. They kept alive pockets of bitterness in three States for more than a century. If they hastened the end of active war, they delayed the return of true cordiality. The British Field Marshall Montgomery of World War II appeared to doubt their military value when he compared Sherman’s activities to Sir Redvers Henry Bullers, commander of the British forces in South Africa, in burning the homes of the Boers, for which the Boer women, left homeless, never forgave the British.

Sherman probably could have won his campaign as easily by fighting the weakened Confederate armies without wanton devastation of the country, or, as Vance charged, the slaughter of animals unneeded for food, and without making his name perhaps permanently abhorred, especially by the women in a large area of the country, as Buller’s was with the Boers.”

(Zeb Vance, Champion of Personal Freedom, Glenn Tucker, Bobbs-Merrill, 1965, pp. 376-377)

Dec 6, 2014 - Crimes of War    No Comments

Sherman's Horde of Thieves and Plunderers

Wartime Governor Zeb Vance of North Carolina compared the “gentler invasion of Cornwallis in 1781” with Sherman’s hordes in 1865, noting Cornwallis’s order from Beattie’s Ford, January 28, 1781: “It is needless to point out to the officers the necessity of preserving the strictest discipline, and of preventing the oppressed people from suffering violence at the hands of whom they are taught to look to for protection . . . “

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Sherman’s Horde of Thieves and Plunderers

“Vance considered it apparent to every intelligent observer as 1865 dawned that the Confederacy was doomed. Lee was holding Richmond with what he described as “a mere skirmish line.” In twenty miles of trenches, Grant faced him with 180,000 men. Savannah had fallen and while the South still held Wilmington and Charleston, their loss was inevitable.

Sherman with 75,000 troops was preparing for the “home-stretch toward Richmond,” driving the scattered Confederate detachments – not more than 22,000 – before him. Enemy cavalry overran the interior of the Confederacy. “Nowhere,” Vance continued, “was there a gleam of hope; nowhere had there come to us any inspiring success. Everything spoke of misfortune and failure.”

Vance was most critical of the conduct of Sherman’s army and the “stragglers and desperadoes following in its wake.” He was severe in his castigation of the Federal commander.

“When a general organizes a corps of thieves and plunderers as a part of his invading army, and licenses beforehand their outrages, he and all who countenance, aid or abet, invite the execration of mankind. This peculiar arm of the military service, it is charged and believed, was instituted by General Sherman in his invasion of the Southern States. Certain it is that the operations of his “Bummer Corps” were as regular and un-rebuked, if not as much commended for their efficiency, as any other division of his army, and their atrocities were often justified or excused on the ground that “such is war.”

Vance in his denunciation of Sherman was not able to look ahead to wars in which supposedly enlightened nations would make civilians their main target, devastate entire cities to break down morale and the will to resist, and degenerate warfare to a barbarity that would have appalled the horde of Genghis Khan.”

[Vance continued:] “The whole policy and conduct of the British commander was such to indicate unmistakably that he did not consider the burning of private houses, the stealing of private property, and the outraging of helpless, private citizens as “War,” but as robbery and arson. I venture to say that up to the period when that great march [Sherman’s] taught us the contrary, no humane general or civilized people in Christendom believed that “such is war.”

(Zeb Vance, Champion of Personal Freedom, Glenn Tucker, Bobbs-Merrill, 1965, pp. 374-376)

Dec 1, 2014 - Crimes of War    No Comments

Victim of Looters in Kentucky

Brigadier-General Humphrey Marshall was a nephew of abolitionist James Birney and served as a colonel of the First Kentucky cavalry in the Mexican War. He served as a United States Congressman, United States Minister to China, and endeavored to have Kentucky remain neutral in the sectional controversy of 1860-1861.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Victim of Looters in Kentucky:

Diary entry, June 29, [1863]:

“General Humphrey Marshall, with whom I had a long conversation tonight, told me that the Yankees stole his library (which he estimated to be worth $12,000) and sold it at auction in Cincinnati, sending him a copy of the notice of sale; also that they arrested one of his sons on his riding horse at the village of Warsaw and whipped the horse to death in the street, because it was his!

(Inside the Confederate Government, The Diary of Robert Garlick Hill Kean, LSU Press, 1993, page 77)

Nov 29, 2014 - Crimes of War    No Comments

Lincoln's Soldiers Licensed for Any Crime

The 1840 Lafayette County Courthouse in Oxford, Mississippi was burned by Northern Gen. A.J. “Whiskey” Smith in August 1864, dispatched there by Sherman.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Lincoln’s Soldiers Licensed for Any Crime

“The [Democrat Convention] elected Major-General George McClellan, Lincoln’s indecisive former general, as their candidate for president in November [1864]. Clement Vallandigham’s delegates forced the convention to accept a platform of peace with the South.

A few days after the Convention convened, the stalemate around Atlanta ended [as] Sherman advanced through the smoke into a ruined city. “Atlanta is ours and fairly won,” wired Sherman to the War Department. Vallandigham and his peace Democrats saw their platform crack [and] . . . The way to the Southern heartland lay open.

On August 22 . . . a federal force under General [A.J.]“Whiskey” Smith entered . . . Oxford, Mississippi. For the better part of the month Oxford had changed hands in vicious fighting. [Nathan Bedford] Forrest held it until forced to withdraw on August 22 after two days of street fighting. That morning a large force of [Smith’s] black and white troops occupied the town.

In a one-day orgy of looting, thirty-four stores and businesses were burned. Five homes . . . were put to the torch. Smith supervised the carnage, refusing to allow anyone to remove anything of value from their homes. [Confederate Commissioner to Canada Jacob] Thompson’s wife, Kate, salvaged the one thing she valued above all else, a photograph of their only son, Macon, before he was badly disfigured in an accident. As she clutched the photo on the lawn, a Union soldier grabbed it and threw it into the blaze.

In the official report to the Confederate War Department some days later, the commandant at Oxford wrote: “General Smith’s conduct and that of his staff was brutal in the extreme, they having been made mad with whiskey. The soldiers were licensed for any crime – robbery, rape, theft and burning.”

(Dixie and the Dominion, Canada, the Confederacy, and the War for the Union, Adam Mayers, Dundurn Group, 2003, pp. 61-62)

 

Nov 26, 2014 - Crimes of War    No Comments

No Relieving the Andersonville Suffering

Failure met the 1863 humanitarian mission of Vice President Alexander H. Stephens, and the overtures of General Lee toward Grant for the exchange of prisoners which would relieve their suffering at Andersonville. President Jefferson Davis himself paroled a delegation of Andersonville prisoners in vain to personally ask Lincoln to intervene.

Bernhard Thuersam, Cicra1865

 

No Relieving the Andersonville Suffering

“I am certainly no admirer of Jefferson Davis or the late Confederacy, but in justice to him and that the truth may be known, I would state that I was a prisoner of war for twelve months, and was in Andersonville when the delegation of prisoners spoken of by Jefferson Davis left there to plead our cause to with the authorities at Washington; and nobody can tell, unless it be a shipwrecked and famished mariner, who sees a vessel approaching and then passing on without rendering aid, what fond hopes were raised, and how hope sickened into despair waiting for the answer that never came.

In my opinion, and that of a good many others, a good part of the responsibility for the horrors of Anderson rests with General U.S. Grant, who refused to make a fair exchange of prisoners.

Henry M. Brennan, Late Private, Second Pennsylvania Cavalry”

(Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume I, page 318)

Nov 17, 2014 - Crimes of War    No Comments

Colonizing the American South de Novo

Sherman’s strategy of subduing the American South included starvation and wanton destruction to dissuade them from independence. Before beginning his Meridian, Mississippi campaign in early 1864, he wrote his wife, “We will take all provisions, and God help the starving families.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Colonizing the American South de Novo

“Copied from the “Washington Evening Star”:

United States Commissioner A.J. Williams, of Cleveland, Ohio, a member of the Loyal Legion, recently gave out for publication the following letter written by Gen. Sherman to his brother, Senator John Sherman, in 1862.

Memphis, Tenn., Aug. 13, 1862

My Dear Brother,

“ . . . At last I got here and found the city contributing gold, arms, powder, salt and everything the enemy wanted. It was a smart trick on their part thus to give up Memphis that the desire of gain to our Northern merchants should supply them with the things needed in war. I have one man under sentence of death for smuggling arms across the lines, and hope Mr. Lincoln will approve it.

But the mercenary spirit of our people is too much and my orders are reversed and I am ordered to encourage the trade in cotton, and all orders prohibiting gold, silver and notes to be paid for it are annulled by orders from Washington. But what are the lives of our soldiers to the profits of the merchants?

After a whole year of bungling, the country has at last discovered that we want more men. Now 1,300,000 men are required when 700,000 was deemed absurd before.

Of course I will approve the confiscation act, and would be willing to revolutionize the government so as to amend that Article of the Constitution which forbids the forfeiture of land to the heirs. My full belief is, we must colonize the country de novo, beginning with Kentucky and Tennessee, and should remove 4,000,000 of our people at once south of the Ohio River, taking the farms and plantations of the Rebels.

I deplore the war as much as ever, but if the thing has to be done, let the means be adequate.

Don’t expect to overrun such a country or subdue such a people in one, two or five years. It is the task of half a century. We must colonize and settle as we go South . . . enemies must be killed or transported to some other country.

Your affectionate brother, W.T. Sherman”

(Gen. Sherman’s Colonization Scheme, His Comment on Men and Measures in August 1862, Confederate Veteran, November 1896, pg. 37)

Nov 17, 2014 - Crimes of War    No Comments

Setting Stark Starvation Loose Upon the Land

Many noted Sherman’s mental instability early in the war, and while in command at Memphis he was greatly disturbed by Southern cavalry attacks on his forces there.  While unable to thwart these constant attacks, he would take his anger out on defensless Southern civilians while rationalizing that they were responsible for his dilemma.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Setting Stark Starvation Loose Upon the Land

“Fort Sumter was fired upon, and now the sulking Achilles came out to fight; and with him blood and iron would play a part from the very beginning. In May [1861] he declared: “the greatest difficulty in the problem now before the country is not to conquer, but so conquer to impress upon the real men of the South a respect for their conquerors.” As the war got under way Sherman became hypnotized by it . . . and refused to be diverted by those who would minimize the task or mollify it by soft considerations of the claims of humanity or too close adherence to the rule book.

As condemnation of his prodigality in the use of men began to come in, he replied that the war could not be fought with breath, but that hundreds of thousands of lives must perish, and he added, “Indeed do I wish I had been killed long since.”   [He] began “to regard the death and mangling of a couple thousand men as a small affair, a kind of morning dash – and it may be well that we become so hardened.”

[In 1862 he wrote] the Secretary of the Treasury, “The Government of the United States may now safely proceed on the proper rule that all the South are enemies of all in the North.”

As to the large number of people who were being arrested [for disloyalty] in Kentucky, he would send them “to the Dry Tortugas, or Brazil, every one of those men, women and children, and encourage a new breed.”

“To secure the navigation of the Mississippi River [to Northern shipping] I would slay millions. On that point I am not only insane, but mad.” For every shot fired at a [Northern] river steamer he would return “a thousand 30-pound Parrotts into every helpless town on Red, Ouchita, Yazoo, or wherever a boat can float or a soldier march.”

But for no reason beyond the fact that the South was opposing the North, he would set stark starvation loose upon the land. Before beginning his Meridian campaign early in 1864, he wrote his wife, “We will take all provisions, and God help the starving families.”

[In 1863 he insisted] on war, pure and simple, with no admixture of civil compromises . . . [and] considered it unwise at that time “or for years to come” to give the Southern people “any civil government in which the local people have much to say . . . All the Southern States will need a pure military Government for years after resistance has ceased.”

By the summer of 1864 . . . [Sherman] offered this advice to General Sheridan, who might find it useful in the Shenandoah Valley: “I am satisfied, and have been all the time, that the problem of this war consists in the awful fact that the present class of men who rule the South must be killed outright rather than in the conquest of territory . . . Therefore I shall expect you on any and all occasions to make bloody results.”

He wrote Grant his well-known article of faith, “Unless we can repopulate Georgia it is useless to occupy it; but the utter destruction of roads, houses and people will cripple their military resources . . . After he had reached Savannah he wrote to Halleck, “We are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people, and we must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies.”

When he found himself on one of Howell Cobb’s plantations in Georgia, he instructed his army “to spare nothing,” and on the march through South Carolina, one chilly night he consumed in the blazing fireplace the furniture of “one of those splendid South Carolina estates where the proprietors had formerly dispensed hospitality that distinguished the regime of that proud State.”

His first disagreement with the Radical reconstructionists grew out of his long-standing attitude toward the Negro. He had spurned abolitionism in 1861, and during the war he had shown his contempt for Negro soldiers. He wrote in May, 1865, “. . . I do not favor the scheme of declaring the Negroes of the South, now free, to be loyal voters, whereby politicians may manufacture just so much more pliable electioneering material . . . they are no friends of the Negro who seek to complicate him with new prejudices.”

Sherman set down as an article of faith, “The white men of this country will control it, and the negro, in mass, will occupy the subordinate place as a race.”

[His postwar belief regarding Radical Reconstruction is summed up with] “The South is ruined and appeals to our pity. To ride the people down with persecutions and military exactions would be like slashing away at the crew of a sinking ship.”

(Sherman and the South, E. Merton Coulter, North Carolina Historical Review, Volume VIII, Number 1, January 1931, excerpts, pp. 46-53)

Nov 16, 2014 - Crimes of War    No Comments

The Minds of Adolf and Josef Sherman

William Sherman publicly expressed his views on official Northern war policy, claiming that the rules of civilized warfare would be observed by his forces. Despite the assurances, his theory of collective responsibility led him to “the wreaking of vengeance upon a town because it happened to be near the scene” of a recent attack on his command. His total war theory “placed in his hands a weapon, simple in its application, to strike back at his enemy with telling blows.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

The Minds of Adolf and Josef Sherman

“[Sherman wrote Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P.] Chase [in August 1862], not only to set the government straight as to where its cotton policy was leading, but also to clear up his own thinking about the war. [He] summed up to the Secretary:

“This is no trifle when one nation is at war with another, all the people of one are enemies of the other; then the rules are plain and easy of understanding.” He assured Chase that at the outset of the war there was apparently no understanding of such a simple matter, and he continued:

“The Government of the United States may now safely proceed on the proper rule that all men in the South are enemies of all in the North; and not only are they unfriendly, but all who can procure arms now bear them as organized regiments, or as guerillas. There is not a garrison in Tennessee where a man can go beyond the sight of the flagstaff without being shot or captured.”

Thus did Sherman strip war of all the rules of conduct voluntarily subscribed to by the nations of the civilized nations of the nineteenth century and set up a single very simple one – that all of the people of the South were enemies of those in the North, and the Union armies might therefore proceed on the “proper” rule that no line was to be drawn between the military forces of the South and the noncombatant civilian population.

Sherman here stated, in simple language, the basic principle upon which the waging of total war rests and upon what efforts to justify it are founded.

Sherman [described] his helplessness [before Southern cavalry raids on his forces] in a report to General Grant as early as August 1862. He pointed out the difficulty of coming to grips with the enemy . . . The elusiveness of Southern units brought from Sherman a characteristic recourse to generalization, as he assured Grant: “All the people are now guerillas, and they have a perfect understanding.”

[Sherman] wrote his brother in September: “It’s about time the North understood the truth. That the entire South, man, woman and child, is against us, armed and determined.”

It was evident that this time that Sherman was determined to consider the resistance encountered . . . as the treacherous acts of the civilian populace. He was to shut out any thought that his troubles were caused by Confederate cavalry. It mattered not that he had not investigated or weighed the evidence to establish the truth of the proposition – he had convinced himself that it was true, and that was what he would act upon.

Sherman had been searching around for some means of crippling those he was coming to hate, and as early as July 31 [1862], a few days after he took command at Memphis, he wrote to his wife . . . “We are now in the enemy’s country, and I act accordingly. The North may fall into bankruptcy and anarchy first, but if they can hold on, the war will soon assume a turn to extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the people.”

[His brother Senator] John Sherman had written the General shortly before the Union army occupied Corinth . . . “However delay, defeat or a much longer continuation in the barbarity of rebel warfare will prepare the public mind in the North for a warfare that will not scruple to avail itself of every means of subjection.”

(Merchant of Terror, General Sherman and Total War, John Bennett Walters, Bobbs-Merrill, 1973, pp. 57-61)

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