Browsing "Crimes of War"

Bitter Road to Forced Reunion

A very popular book in the North, Sherman’s (1875) Memoirs went far to further exacerbate sectional hatred as he condemned the South and “took an almost lustful pride in describing the tremendous power his hand had wielded in spreading terror and destruction.”

Bernhard Thuersam, wwwcirca1865.org

 

Bitter Road to Forced Reunion

“If the [Southern] prisons constituted a Northern grievance the South likewise had its hurtful memories [of the war]. While Northerners blamed the evil genius of slavery for the war, Southerners [like Major T.G. Barker speaking in Charleston in 1870:] pointed the finger of responsibility to “those men who preached the irrepressible conflict to the Northern people” and “helped to bring on that unlawful and unholy invasion of the South.”

The South felt that it had been betrayed. [The Southern Review in 1867 said:] “Assuredly the subjected portions of this imperial republic (so called), with the bitter experience they have of outraged honour, justice, and humanity, on the part of those once their associates and friends, can never again by any possibility trust that vast engine of tyranny, a consolidated popular Union, nor derive from it one ray of hope for their own welfare, or for the happiness of mankind.”

It was to this “deep spirit of hate and oppression toward the Southern people,” and not to the necessities of war, that the South attributed the vast destruction of its property.

The ineradicable sense of injury felt by the South took concrete form in condemning the ravages committed by General Sherman’s army in Georgia and South Carolina. “No tongue will ever tell, no pen can record the horrors of that march,” wrote an intimate associate of General Joseph E. Johnston whose surrender to Sherman is sometimes pictured as a love feast.

“Ten generations of women will transmit, in whispers to their daughters, traditions of unspeakable things.” The hurt was accentuated by Northern pride in the achievement. The South resented the arrogant and jeering tone of the song, “Marching Through Georgia,” and bridled when Northern orators described Sherman’s army going through the conquered land “lie a plow of God.” Sherman personified all that the South had suffered.

The most contentious bone . . . was the destruction of Columbia. Sherman’s own defense was to blame General Wade Hampton . . . [and] the charge was made deliberately in Sherman’s official report. “I did it,” he later wrote, “to shake the faith of his people in him, for he was, in my opinion, a braggart, and professed to be the special champion of South Carolina.”

[The South] cherished a hateful image of the martyred Lincoln . . . who carried out in action his prophesy of war and destruction. He and his Cabinet, wrote the Southern Review, had a “perfect comprehension of the passions, prejudices, susceptibilities, vices and virtues . . . of the people upon whom they had to practice. They knew every quiver of the popular pulse . . . They were masters of every artifice that could mystify and mislead, and of every trick that could excite hope, or confidence, or rage . . . They filled their armies, established their financial system, controlled the press, and silenced opposition, by the same ingenious and bold imposture.”

The South sneered at a North which observed the Fourth of July and “at the same time denounced as damnable heresy the doctrines of the Declaration of Independence.” When Chicago was destroyed by fire in 1871 it was considered . . . [a] demonstration of Divine vengeance,” because it had been in Chicago that “the rowdy Lincoln, the prime agent of our woes, was nominated.” [After the death of] General Custer in the massacre of 1876, it was remembered in Virginia that the gallant martyr of the Little Big Horn was also the Custer who had executed seven captured Confederates of Mosby’s command without treating them as prisoners of war.”

(The Road to Reunion, Paul Buck, Little, Brown and Company, 1937, pp. 48-49; 52-55)

Blaine Keeps Waving the Bloody Shirt

On January 10, 1876 in the United States Senate, Georgia Senator Benjamin H. Hill replied to bloody-shirt waving James Blaine’s contention that Northern soldiers were tortured in Southern prisons.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Blaine Keeps Waving the Bloody Shirt

“In 1876, eleven years after the South surrendered, Mr. James G. Blaine of Maine, stood up in Congress and poured out “a lot of hate-born lies as malignant as human tongue ever uttered or human brain ever concocted:”

“Mr. [Jefferson] Davis,” cried Mr. Blaine, “was the author, knowingly, deliberately, guiltily, and willfully, of the gigantic murders and crimes at Andersonville. And I here before God, measuring my words, knowing their full intent and import, declare that neither the deeds of the Duke of Alva in the Low Country, nor the massacre of St. Bartholomew, nor the thumb screws, and the other engines of torture of the Inquisition, begin to compare in atrocity with the hideous crimes of Andersonville.”

Mr. Hill’s reply: “If nine percent of the [Northern] men in Southern prisons were starved to death by Mr. Jefferson Davis, who tortured to death the twelve percent of the Southern men in Northern prisons?” (See Secretary Stanton’s statistics).

(Truths of History, Mildred Lewis Rutherford, Southern Lion Books, 1998, pp. 100)

The Postwar Radical Inquisition

To destroy President Andrew Johnson’s postwar program, the Joint Committee on Reconstruction was established by Congress in early December 1865, chaired by the sinister and vindictive Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania who made no secret of his aim to firmly plant Republican political control in the South, which he considered conquered territory. General Robert E. Lee was interrogated for two hours by the Committee on 17 February 1866.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

The Postwar Radical Inquisition:

“[Radical Republican] Senator Jacob M. Howard [of Michigan] resumed his questions . . . “While you were in command at Richmond, did you know of the cruelties practiced toward the union prisoners at Libby Prison and Belle Isle?”

[Lee answered] “I never knew that any cruelty was practiced, and I have no reason to believe that it was practiced. I can believe, and have reasons to believe, that privations may have been experienced among the prisoners. I know that provisions and shelter could not be provided for them.”

[Howard] “Were you not aware that men were dying from cold and starvation?”

Aware? Was I aware? The questions must have bitten like strong acid. In those vivid and unspoken images that crowded through Lee’s mind that moment and on other days, what did he see, what did he feel? The historian cannot rightly draw upon reverie; but to think that the real marrow of the hearing got into the stenographer’s notes is to be more naïve than one might want to be.

When the opportunity arose, Lee said quietly, “I had no control over the prisoners, once they had been sent to Richmond. I never gave an order about it . . . No report was ever made to me about them. There was no call for any to be made to me. Prisoners suffered from the want of ability on the part of the Confederate States to supply their wants. As far as I could, I did everything in my power to relieve them, and urged the formation of a cartel.

Pushed further, Lee told of specific proposals made to Grant, and of the work of his Christian Committee. “Orders were that the whole field should be treated alike . . . We took in Federal wounded as well as ours on every field.”

Weeks later the Joint Report of the Committee would lash out at the South . . . “The Rebels heaped every imaginable insult and injury upon our nation . . . They fought for four years with the most determined and malignant spirit . . . and are today unrepentant and unpardoned.” [The editor of the Lexington, Virginia Gazette wrote that the] “devilish iniquity and malignant wickedness” of the Committee’s report he found “so monstrous that no Southern man can read it without invoking the righteous indignation of heaven.” How long was the South to suffer from such wretched injustice and perfidy?

Signs of rebellion began to crop up again. Confederate flags were peddled openly in a dozen cities and were called “sacred souvenirs” by Alabama Governor Parsons. “Stonewall Jackson” soup” and “Confederate hash” appeared on hotel menus. In Richmond, a magazine called The Land We Love began to glorify the “Lost Cause.”

Open conflicts between racial groups spread. Three days of rioting in Memphis, beginning on April 30, left forty-six Negroes dead and scores of homes, churches and schools burned. Summer riots in New Orleans saw sensational and unsavory actions go unchecked. Murder degenerated into massacre. “The hands of the rebel are again red with loyal blood,” proclaimed the New York Tribune.”

(Lee After the War, The Greatest Period in the Life of a Great American, Marshall W. Fishwick, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1963, excerpts, pp. 122-126)

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)

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