Browsing "Crimes of War"

Sherman’s Brand of Pillaging

The writer(s) of “Lincoln, as the South Should Know Him,” below, were comparing Sherman’s atrocities to the German invasion of Belgium in 1914. The latter may have been more British propaganda aimed at drawing the US into the war, but the point was made that Kaiser Wilhelm’s troops were kind soul’s when compared to Sherman’s bummers. And the point is well made that the commanders, Sherman and Lincoln, were ultimately responsible for the behavior and criminality of the army.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sherman’s Brand of Pillaging

“One of [General Joe] Wheeler’s scouts, observing Sherman’s advance, reported that during one night, and from one point, he counted over one hundred burning homes. And as to the looting, a letter written by a Federal officer, and found at Camden, S.C., and after the enemy had passed, and given in the Southern Woman’s Magazine, runs as follows:

“We have had a glorious time in this State. The chivalry have been stripped of their valuables. Gold watches, silver pitchers, cups, spoons, forks, etc., are as common in camp as blackberries. Of rings, earrings, and breastpins I have a quart. I am not joking – I have at least a quart of jewelry for you and the girls, and some A1 diamond pins and rings among them. Don’t show this letter out of the family.”

Sherman long desired burning Columbia, in the most solemn manner calling his God to witness as to his truthfulness. When, after the overwhelming evidence that he did burn it was adduced, he unblushingly admitted the fact, and that he had lied on Wade Hampton with the purpose of rendering him unpopular, and thereby weakening his cause. But a mere lie shines white against the black ground of Sherman’s character.

The necessities of war demanded that Sherman live off the country he traversed. Those elastic necessities may have been stretched to demand that he destroy even the pitiful stint of food that the South had left; that he wrest the last morsel from the mouth of the mother and babe, lest, perchance, some crumb thereof reach and nourish the men at the front.

But what necessity of war, except that brand that Sherman fathered and sponsored, demanded that the torch follow the pillager, that every home be burned, and famishing mother and babe be turned out in midwinter to die of cold and exposure?

It is a maxim of war, as it is of common sense, that the higher the rank the greater the fame or blame for any given act. Above the perpetrator stood the commander of the army. Sherman; above Sherman stood the commander-in-chief of all the Federal armies, Abraham Lincoln. If Lincoln ever discountenanced Sherman and his methods, he never gave word to it, and he was a man of many words.”

(Lincoln As the South Should Know Him, Manly’s Battery Chapter, Children of the Confederacy, Raleigh, North Carolina, 1915?, excerpts, pp. 2-8)

Unleashed Brutes in North Carolina

Below, a young Massachusetts corporal writes of the “justness and greatness of their cause” as he and his regiment invade a formerly peaceful North Carolina, and wage war against old men, women and children, in what the North falsely believed to be the “heroic spirit of the fathers of the Revolution.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Unleashed Brutes in North Carolina

“In The Country of the Enemy” (A Diary)

Dec. 22, 1862:

At one point the column was confronted by a spunky secesh female, who, with the heavy wooden rake, stood guard over her winter’s store of sweet potatoes. Her eyes flashed defiance, but so long as she stood upon the defensive no molestation was offered her. When . . . she changed her tactics and slapped a cavalry officer in the face, gone were her sweet potatoes and other stores in the twinkling of an eye. (page 102)

Feb 8th, 1863:

On our way back to New Bern, when in my last, I gave currency to the rumor that the object of our expedition to Plymouth was accomplished. But yesterday noon an order from headquarters addressed to our right wing, directing us to put ourselves in light marching order, with 24 hours rations of hard tack in our haversacks . . . told us something was (a) foot. We noted suspiciously the twinkle in the eye of the quartermaster, but fell in at the word of command, and were soon marching out of Plymouth on the “Long Acre Road.”

Leaving the Washington road on our right . . . we found ourselves repeating the old familiar tramp, tramp through the mud and sand and water of North Carolina, past weather-stained but comfortable looking homesteads; past small plantations, through pine woods, through creeks and over bridges.

We were not long in ascertaining the fact that we were on a foraging expedition, and if history should call it a reconnaissance, the misnomer will never restock the stables and storehouses, the bee-hives and hen-roosts, that night depleted along the road of Long Acre.  We received an early hint that we were going to capture a lot of bacon twelve miles out of Plymouth, but if the residents along the road this side that point managed to save their own bacon and things, they certainly had reason to bless their stars.

If it would not be considered unsoldierly and sentimental, your correspondent might feel inclined to deprecate this business of foraging, as it is carried on. It is pitiful to see homes once, perhaps, famed for their hospitality, entered and robbed; even if the robbers respect the code of war. It is not less hard for women and children to be deprived of the means of subsistence because their husbands and sons and brothers are shooting at us from the bush. But war is a great, a terrible, an undiscriminating monster, and no earthly power may stay the ravages of the unleashed brute.

At last (about half-past ten o’clock) we halted, and were happy to be informed that the object of the expedition was accomplished. The column was near a house. After making somewhat particular inquiries we were informed that we had captured a dozen barrels of pork, and that the chaplain, as a temperance measure, had resolutely knocked in the head of a barrel of sweet cider, but not, however, until a few enterprising fellows had filled their canteens with the delicious beverage.

We were now ready to countermarch, and five o’clock this morning found us again at Plymouth, after a night march of twenty-five miles.

New Bern, Feb. 17, 1863:

We are visited occasionally at New Bern by friends from Boston. [Rev. Dr. Lothrop, who] . . . preached to the regiment on the 15th. He favored us with an admirable discourse from the words, “keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” We need frequent reminders of the justness and greatness of our cause to keep our hearts warmly engaged in a service so full of sacrifice as this. I fear we have too little of the martyr-spirit which saves a people, and that the North must make up in numbers and treasure what it lacks in the heroic spirit of the fathers of the Revolution.”

“In The Country of the Enemy,” Diary of a Massachusetts Corporal, University Press of Florida, 1999, pp. 129-131

Terms of the Conqueror

Duress accomplished passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution; the people of the South who deeply understood that the States controlled their own domestic institutions were forced to submit to overwhelming military power. The Fourteenth Amendment was unconstitutionally-enacted, not ratified, and considered yet another term of the conqueror.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Terms of the Conqueror

“Who drove the South to these extremities? The very men who accuse her of treason. When she accepted the contest, to which she was thus virtually invited in terms of contumelious threat and reproach, she was threatened with being wiped out and annihilated by the superior forces of her antagonist, with whom it was vain and foolish to contend, so unequal were the strength and resources of the two parties. It is true that the South parted in bitterness, but it was in sadness of spirit also. She did not wish it – certainly, Virginia did not desire it – if she could maintain her rights within the Union.

The South at last fell from physical exhaustion – the want of food, clothes, and the munitions of war; she yielded to no superiority of valor or of skill, but to the mere avoirdupois of numbers. Physically, she was unable to stand up under such a weight of human beings, gathered from whenever they could be called by appeals to their passions or bought by promise to supply their necessities.

It is said that after the battle of the Second Cold Harbor, where Grant so foolishly assailed Lee in his lines, and where his dead was piled in thousands after his unsuccessful attack, the northern leaders were ready to have proposed peace , but were prevented by some favorable news from the southwest.

They did not propose peace except upon terms of unconditional submission. When the South was forced to accept those terms to obtain it, the North was not afraid to avow its purposes and carry them out. Slavery was abolished without compensation, and slaves were awarded equal rights with their masters in government.

It was the fear of these results which drove the South into the war. Experience proved that this fear was reasonable. The war was alleged as the excuse for such proceedings; but can any man doubt that the North would have done the same thing if all constitutional restraints upon the power of the majority had been peaceably removed.

It is sought to be excused, I know, by assuming that these things were done with the assent of the South. That these [Thirteen and Fourteenth] constitutional amendments represent the well-considered opinion of any respectable party in the South, there is none so infatuated as to believe. They were accepted as the terms of the conqueror, and so let them be considered by all who desire to know the true history of their origin.”

(Southern Historical Society Papers, Origin of the Late War, Hon. R.M.T. Hunter, Volume I, excerpts, pp. 11-12)

Terror, Looting and Banishment in Tennessee

The General Payne (Paine) below was an Ohio lawyer and prewar friend of Abraham Lincoln. He was formally reprimanded for brutality toward civilians in Kentucky, and known to have allowed Southern prisoners to ride away on old horses and chasing them down to be killed.    Mrs. T.J. Latham later became president of the Tennessee Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy and State Agent for the Jefferson Davis Monument Fund. She also raised funds for the Nathan Bedford Forrest Monument.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Terror, Looting and Banishment in Tennessee

“Mrs. Latham was married at her home in Memphis just at the beginning of the war to T.J. Latham, a young attorney and Unionist of Dresden, Tenn., their home till the close of war.

Dresden was debatable ground, subject to raids by “bushwhackers” and “guerillas,” one week by one side, and the next week by the other. These incursions, frequent and without notice, were sometimes to arrest “disloyal” citizens and always to secure every good horse, or any moveable article they could make available.

From these harassing surroundings, Mr. Latham sought refuge by making Paducah his home, but passing much of his time in New York. The notorious Gen. [Eleazer A.] Payne was in charge at Paducah, and soon became a terror to every one suspected of being a Southern sympathizer. Soon after the famous Forrest raid into Paducah, Payne’s reign became much more oppressive and unbearable. Nero in his prime did not exceed him in heartless cruelty.

The couple with whom Mr. and Mrs. Latham boarded also came from Dresden. They were highly estimable people and had a son in the army. [The gentleman] was quite old and feeble, and under excitement subject to apoplectic attacks. Payne had him arrested. [His wife] fainted and he became alarmingly excited, appealing to Mrs. Latham to go with him, fearing, he said, that Payne’s Negroes would shoot him.

She went, and the first sight that confronted her at headquarters was a lovely woman at on her knees at Payne’s feet, praying for the release of her son, who was arrested the day before while plowing in the field a few miles from the city. Being refused, she asked what in deepest anguish: “What will you do with him?”

“Have him shot before midnight, Madam, for harboring his brother, who is a Forrest Rebel,” and executed his threat.

Mrs. Latham was more fortunate, securing the release of her friend; but Gen. Payne then, addressing her, said he would pardon her and furnish carriage and the best white escort, if she would return to her home in Dresden and point out the Rebels.

Instantly she replied: “Never! Sooner than betray my country and three brothers in the army, I would die!”

Turning savagely to Mrs. Latham, he said: “You will hear from me soon, and T.J. Latham though now in New York, will be attended to. He is a fine Union man to have the impudence to visit Gen. [Napoleon] Dana, at Memphis, my commanding officer; and, with others, induce him to annul my order that no person having sons or brothers in the Southern army should engage in business of any kind in the Paducah district. I will teach him a lesson in loyalty he will remember.”

Next morning a lieutenant went to Mrs. Latham’s and ordered her to get ready, as Gen. Payne had banished her with about ten other women to Canada. He advised her that he had selected Negro soldiers as a guard. The white captain wired for meals for his “prisoners.” At Detroit the militia was ordered out to insure the safe transportation of a dozen women and children prisoners across to Windsor. On landing, John [Hunt] Morgan and many of his men and others gave them a joyous greeting, and at the hotel they sang Dixie war songs till a late hour.

Thence Mrs. Latham went to New York to join her husband. Mrs. Payne advised [her husband and others] of Payne’s despotic rule, and it was soon known to “honest old Abe” and Gen. Grant. A committee of investigation and a court-martial soon followed, with the speedy relief of Paducah of the most obnoxious and cruel tyrant.

In [Gen. Payne’s] desk were found letters [to his subordinates] saying: “Don’t send any more pianos or plated silver or pictures; all the kin are supplied. But you can send bed linen and solid silverware.”

(United Daughters of the Confederacy, Annual Convention at Montgomery, Alabama; Confederate Veteran, December, 1900, pp. 522-523)

 

Appalling the Horde of Genghis Khan

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, www.Circa1865.com

 

Appalling the Horde of Genghis Khan

“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)

The Old Hate

Sherman’s soldiers spared little from looting and destruction in North Carolina as they had done in Georgia and South Carolina. After the conflict, wartime Governor Zebulon Vance wrote: “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.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Old Hate

“Long before you ever came into North Carolina, your name was a terror to us; news of your march through Georgia and South Carolina had preceded you. “Massa Harold” (my great-grandfather) had expected you to have horns and hoofs; he must have been surprised when you appeared on a neighboring plantation as an ordinary man of forty-five with a head of unruly red hair and a shaggy beard.

But your soldiers were hungry, and they scouted the country-side for food. That is why they came to our house. (No, it was not one of those story-book mansions with white columns; it was only a two-room log cabin. There had been better days for the family, but that is another story.)

On that morning in March of 1865 when your “bummers” rode up to our gate, “Ole Mammy” (my great-grandmother, then a woman of forty-seven) was standing in the yard. Beside her stood a young woman of eighteen (Aunt Fed), a boy of nine (Uncle Richard), and a little girl of six (Aunt Queen), and a Negro slave (“Aunt Bessie”) . . . and Frank (my grandfather, then aged thirteen) were down in the swamp with an old horse and a cow. (Three older sons had been taken prisoners at the fall of Fort Fisher just the month before.)

Your men found the cow; she would not be quiet and so ended in your pot. (She was dry anyhow.) Frank came up to the house and found your men digging in a ditch for a keg of gold which “Aunt Bessie” had told them was buried there. (People still come and dig for that treasure, but ‘ther aint nare been one.”) Thanks for cleaning out the ditch.

And we got the feathers picked up and the bed ticks sewed back together. Thus far, we were about even; you got the cow, and we kept the horse; you cleaned out the ditch and made us clean up the house. But the thing that made us mad was that pot of chicken stew.

Frank remembered it well. It was the last chicken they had. “Old Mammy” had saved it for an emergency. When she heard that you were over on the Faison Plantation, she knew that the emergency had come. She had hoped her family would have it eaten before you came, but it was still in the pot when she heard that dreaded cry, “Yankees, Yankees; the Yankees are coming.”

And everyone had to hurry to his place. At first your soldiers were nice enough, but after all that digging they were short on manners. They ransacked the house, and not finding the gold, they spied the small pot on the hearth. Now, if your men had drawn up a chair and had said grace like Christians ought to do and had eaten the stew, it might have passed without being recorded. But no, your men were mad and poured out stew on the floor and then stepped on the pieces of chicken. This was too much for that hungry thirteen year old boy; he darted up from his stool with fire in his eyes. “God damn you dirty rascals.”

(A Southerner’s Apology to General Sherman, A Reticule by Dr. James H. Blackmore, Flashes of Duplin’s History and Government, Faison and Pearl McGowen, Edwards & Broughton, 1971, pp. 243-244)

Leaving Poor Women Their Tears and Their Memory

Gen. Samuel G. French was New Jersey-born and living in Mississippi when the war commenced; he assumed command of North Carolina’s Cape Fear District in March, 1862 and fortified the city against attack from the sea. His adjutant from then through the end of the war was Captain Charles D. Myers, a native of New York City and successful prewar merchant in Wilmington. French possessed a dim view of Sherman’s abilities as a military officer.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Leaving Poor Women Their Tears and Their Memory

“The much-vaunted “march to the sea” was a pleasure excursion, through a well-cultivated country . . . Sherman boastfully writes that he “destroyed two hundred sixty-five miles of railroad, carried off ten thousand mules, and countless slaves; that he did damage to the amount of $100,000,000. Of this, his army got $20,000,000, and the $80,000,000 was waste,” as they went “looting” through Georgia.

But not content with this, when “this cruel war was over,” he presented the delectable spectacle of “how we went thieving through Georgia” at the grand review of his army in Washington, by mounting his bummers on mules laden with chickens, ducks, geese, lambs, pigs and other farm productions, unblushingly displayed, to cover up the concealed money, jewelry and plate taken from the helpless women – to delight the President, to edify the loyal people, to gratify the hatred of the populace to the South, to popularize the thirst for plundering made by his troops, to be an object lesson to the present generation, to instill a broader view of moral right, to heighten modest sensibilities, to refine the delicate tastes of young ladies, to humiliate a conquered people; or wherefore was this unwise “Punch and Judy” show given?

During the revolutionary war, when the British fleet ascended the Potomac river, one ship sailed up to Mount Vernon – the residence of the arch rebel, Washington – and made a requisition for provisions which his agent filled. The English commander must have been a gentleman because he did not burn the dwelling, insult the family, nor commit robbery!!!

Gen. Bradley T. Johnston, in his life of General J.E. Johnston, quotes that, “Abubekr in the year 634 gave his chiefs of the army of Syria orders as follows: Remember that you are always in the presence of God, on the verge of death, and in the assurance of judgment and the hope of paradise. When you fight the battles of the Lord acquit yourselves like men, without turning your backs; but let not your victory be stained with the blood of women and children. Destroy no palm tree, nor burn any fields of corn . . . nor do any mischief to cattle, only such as you kill to eat . . .”

It is not I who charge Sherman with destroying cornfields, cutting down fruit trees, or “driving off one cow and one pig;” he himself boasts as having done it. If he did take “one cow and one pig,” he kindly left the poor women their tears and their memory.”

(Two Wars, The Autobiography & Diary of Gen. Samuel G. French, CSA, Confederate Veteran, 1901, pp. 264-266)

Sherman’s Progressive Soldiers at Smithfield

It is said the path Sherman’s “bummers” cut through North Carolina left a trail devoid of roosters, which no longer crowed in the morning because they didn’t exist. One Northern general wrote that his foragers were in truth “highwaymen, with all of their cruelty and ferocity and none of their courage; their victims are usually old men, women and children, and Negroes whom they rob and maltreat without mercy, firing dwellings and outbuildings filled with grain . . . These men are a disgrace to the name of soldier and country.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sherman’s Progressive Soldiers at Smithfield

[Northern Chaplain John J. Hight’s Diary] Wednesday, April 12 [1865]:

“This has been a morning of most wonderful excitement and enthusiasm. A dispatch has been read to each Regiment, from General Sherman, announcing the capture of [Gen. Robert E.] Lee’s entire army by General Grant. Such a serenade of bands Smithfield [North Carolina] has never had before, and will never have again. The troops move rapidly across the Neuse [River] . . . the design is to push on towards Raleigh and bring [Gen. Joseph E.] Johnston to an engagement, if possible.

We yesterday passed a house where there had been skirmishing. The woman declared that the shooting almost scared her to death. “Was it infantry or cavalry?” inquired someone.

I took a walk about the town. The Masonic and Odd Fellows’ Halls have been rifled. In the latter there is a skeleton, in a coffin. Saw an old dismounted gun lying near the riverbank. It must date back to as early as the Revolution.

At the court house I noticed the shelves, in the offices, are emptied of their contents on the floor. The archives of [Johnston] county lie in confusion amongst the dirt. Many of the documents date back to old colonial times, when legal proceedings were done in the King’s name.

The churches are [broken] open, and the books scattered about the pews. At the graveyard I noticed the graves of a number of rebels, bearing ominous dates – about the time of the Bentonville fight. In the same yard there is blood, seemingly where one of our soldiers was killed yesterday.

[Sherman’s] aide-de-camp, Major Henry Hitchcock provides more details: “At Smithfield, on the morning of the 12th [of April] . . . Even in Smithfield the public stocks “went up” – visibly; for some of “the boys” set fire to them.” I refer to the wooden stocks, near the jail, a comfortable institution for the improvement of criminals which the “conservative Old North State has retained from colonial times.

Another Sherman aide-de-camp, Major Nichols, adds . . . “The court house and jail stand in the public square, and that relic of the past, the public stocks, stood by the side of the jail until our progressive soldiers cut down the machine and burned it.”

(Smithfield, As Seen by Sherman’s Soldiers, Don Wharton, 1977, Smithfield Herald Publishing Company, excerpts, pp. 8-11)

Highwaymen in North Carolina

Though it is claimed that Sherman did not sack and burn North Carolina as he did South Carolina, there is scant evidence that the former did not suffer as did the latter. In the bummer’s path were helpless women, children and old men – whose scarce food supplies, valuables and farm animals were made off with by soldiers in blue.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Highwaymen in North Carolina

“[T]he “corn-crib” and “fodder-stack” commandoes could look back upon a plentiful harvest between Fayetteville and Goldsboro. Meat and meal had been found in abundance. So skillfully had [Sherman’s] “bummers” covered this region that the rooster no longer crowed in the morning because he no longer existed. Had the rooster escaped with his life, there would have been no fence rail for him to stand on.

[General J.D. Morgan said] “I have some men in my command . . . who have mistaken the name and meaning of the term foragers, and have become under that name highwaymen, with all of their cruelty and ferocity and none of their courage; their victims are usually old men, women and children, and Negroes whom the rob and maltreat without mercy, firing dwelling and outhouses even when filled with grain . . . These men are a disgrace to the name of soldier and the country . . . ”

Elizabeth Collier, an eighteen year-old girl of Everittsville, [North Carolina] entered in her diary:

“On Monday morning, the 20th [March], the first foraging party made their appearance at Everittsville. They asked for flour and seeing we were disposed not to give it, made a rush in the house and took it himself—the cowardly creature even pointed his gun at us – helpless women. Looking out, we soon saw that poor little Everittsville was filled with Yankees and they were plundering the houses . . . everything outside was destroyed – all provisions taken – fences knocked down – horse, cows, carriages, and buggies stolen, and everything else the witches could lay their hands on – even to the servants clothes.”

(The Civil War in North Carolina, John G. Barrett, UNC Press, 1963, pp. 346-347)

Drafting Able-Bodies Slaves

Northern incursions into coastal areas would either carry away slaves to cripple Southern agricultural production, or impress male slaves into Northern military service. Massachusetts led the North in counting slave recruits against their troop quotas, thus leaving many white citizens free to remain home during the war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Drafting Able-Bodies Slaves

“When [General] David Hunter returned to [South Carolina’s Sea] islands on January 20, 1863 . . . he brought with him James Montgomery, the man who would become the colonel of the Second [Union] South Carolina Regiment. Montgomery had gone to Kansas with John Brown and afterward became one of the most prominent leaders among the Jayhawkers. Like Brown, he sought to use the slaves to free slaves; and again, like Brown, his preferred tactic was the Kansas-style raid — swift, terrifying, and devastating, taking all that could be carried, and burning all that was left behind. Perfected in practice, the raid became the professional trademark of “Mon’gomery’s boys” and, to some extent that of the Negro soldier in South Carolina.

On March 10, he landed in Jacksonville [Florida] along with [Col. Thomas W.] Higginson’s command and led a foray seventy-five miles inland, returning laden with booty and a large number of potential soldiers — lately slaves. In May and June, raids up the Ashepoo and Combahee rivers in South Carolina and an attack on the village of Darien, Georgia supplied more recruits. Meanwhile, Hunter issued an order drafting all able-bodied Negro men remaining on the plantations. Others were seized in the night by squads of Negro soldiers. On one plantation on St. Helena, Betsey’s husband was thus taken, leaving her with ten children and a “heart most broke.”

Those who attempted to evade the draft were roughly treated. Josh, who had fled to the marshes, was tracked to his hiding place and when he again tried to elude his pursuers was shot down and captured. Negro civilians suffered under the draft and resented the manner of its enforcement . . . ”the draft is either taking or frightening off most of the men,” lamented one of the [Northern missionary] superintendents at the end of March, 1863.

During [the] early history [of Negro impressments] the new regiments were plagued by desertions which were freely excused on the ground of ignorance . . . Private William Span, having been recaptured on his eighth or ninth defection, was brought before the colonel in his tent. Montgomery asked Span if he wished to offer and excuse. Span said no. “Then,” declared the colonel, “you will be shot at half-past nine this morning.”

(After Slavery, The Negro in South Carolina During Reconstruction, Joel Williamson, UNC Press, 1965, pp. 17- 20)

 

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