Browsing "Crimes of War"

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)

 

Uncle Gibb’s Liberators

The passage below describes the surrender and occupation of Smithville, now Southport, North Carolina in late January 1865 after Fort Fisher had fallen to Northern forces. The town’s public offices were plundered by the troops and those like Uncle Gibb suffered ill-treatment from soldiers who sought buried valuables.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Uncle Gibb’s Liberators

“Now Smithville [North Carolina] had relapsed into its state of quiet, but not the quiet of former days . . . Negroes however reaped a rich harvest in the shape of clothing from soldiers and blankets of which the forest was strewn.

A large assembly of Negro men, women and children had collected at the boat in order to greet their “saviors,” and to fall upon their necks and kiss them if such liberties should be allowed. [Northern] Captain [William] Cushing then addressed the sable crowd and informed them that they were free, that they were in all respects equal to the whites and would be so treated. In order to make that this was true he directed that they [the Negroes] should form a procession and give three cheers which they did saying, “God bless Massa Lincum, we’re free” and “Massa Lincum is cumin in a day or two to bring each of us a mule and deed for forty acres of land.”

The procession then started to move, and wild cheering for “Massa Lincum.” There were some small United States flags scattered among the crowds which they waved frantically in the air, crying “hallelujah, hallelujah.” The procession then moved through the garrison to Moore Street, a motley crowd dressed in every conceivable style bearing banners of anything that was bright color and they started down Moore Street amid cheering for “Massa Lincum.”

In the procession which had marched around town was “Uncle Gibb,” and in his posterity “Uncle Gibb” had been treated during his entire life as kindly as any white citizen in the town. He had a house to live in, plenty of food and clothes, and a horse and dray; and it was difficult to perceive how he had bettered his condition by freedom; but he soon found out as he was brought a prisoner into the [Northern army] Garrison for some alleged offense.

Here he was tied up by the thumbs to an oak tree which stood there, and hoisted till his toes barely touched the ground. This was done in full view of his own sister who was cooking in an adjoining kitchen, and who fainted and fell at the awful sight. We thus had an opportunity to find out whether the new friends of the colored race were any better than the old friends who had treated him with such kindness.

The ceremony attending the surrender [of Smithville] having been completed, the boat containing the plunder was dispatched back to the [USS] Monticello, and there being apparently nothing to do on shore, the sailors were given liberty and the officers proceeded to enjoy themselves.

The sailors spread themselves over the town, and proceeded first to inspect the public buildings. They broke open the court house and its offices, tore up such papers as they found lying around, among which happened to be the entire record of the Court of Equity and scattered them about the streets. They went to the Academy building in which was a Masonic Hall, and stole the jewels of the Order, and carried them to the ship.”

(Reminiscences, Dr. D.W. Curtis, Special Collections, W.M. Randall Library, UNCW, pp. 33-37)

An Inhuman and Barbarous Act

Fully aware of the sufferings of Northern prisoners in the South due to the blockade, President Jefferson Davis in the summer of 1864 sent commissioners to Washington to bring US surgeons to the Southern camps to dispense medicine. No reply was ever received and Lincoln refused to meet the commissioners, leading Davis to wonder if Federal were prisoners left to suffer, and afterward photographed “to aid in firing the popular heart of the North?”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

An Inhuman and Barbarous Act

“The South had been dependent upon the outside world for medicine of all kinds, except “home remedies” used by many of its people. Of all imported, none was so necessary in the South as quinine, since malaria was prevalent over most of the region.

As if striking at the most vulnerable spot in the Confederacy, the United States, immediately upon the outbreak of war, placed medicine on the contraband list. Few war measures caused feeling to run so high in both the North and the South, for many felt this to be an inhuman, barbarous act.

When the American Medical Association met in New York in 1864, some doctors decided that they would try to get the restrictions regarding medicine going into the Confederacy lifted in the name of humanity, but their motion to that effect was tabled “indefinitely.” And the restrictions were not removed for the duration of the war. A poem urging the continuance of the contraband principle was widely circulated in the Northern newspapers as follows:

“No more quinine – let ‘em shake; No more Spaldings pills – let their heads aches; No morphine – let ‘em lie awake: No mercury for the rebels take though fever all their vitals bake;

No nitre drops, their heat to slake; No splinters though their necks they break, And, above all, no Southern rake, Shall have his ‘wine for stomacks sake,’ Till full apology make.”

From the adoption of Federal restrictions, there was never sufficient medicine to relieve the sickness and suffering in the Confederacy.

Medicines and surgical equipment were captured from time to time, but this became increasingly rare as the course of the war turned against the Confederates. And when such supplies were captured, they were diverted to military channels and had no effect on the supply of medicines for civilians.

The second source of supply, through running the blockade, proved far more successful. Small in bulk and high in price, medicine became part of the cargo of nearly every blockade runner. Land blockade-running was more interesting than running of the water blockade. Drugs were sent down the [Mississippi] river originally from Paducah, Kentucky, or Cairo, Illinois, by Northern speculators or traders and were sent ashore into the Confederacy at night.

During the late winter and early spring of 1862, a story was widely circulated that some of the quinine sent into Tennessee and Arkansas in this manner was poisoned; heated editorials and warnings followed. The quinine was believed to contain strychnine, and the people were cautioned against its use.”

(Ersatz in the Confederacy, Shortages and Substitutes on the Southern Homefront, Mary Elizabeth Massey, University of South Carolina Press, 1952, excerpts, pp. 115-117)

Reconstruction, the Most Shameful Period of Our History

The following is an excerpt from an 1892 address by Lt. Col. Alfred Moore Waddell to the Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina. He served as a United States Congress 1871-1879.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Reconstruction, the Most Shameful Period of Our History

“[Reconstruction] constitutes the one indelible and appalling disgrace of the American people — the one chapter of their history which contains no redeeming feature to relieve it from the endless execration of the civilized world.

A distinguished orator from a Northern State declared in Congress in 1872 that one-third of the boundaries of this Republic had been filled “with all the curses and calamities ever recorded in the annals of the worst governments known on the pages of history,” and attacking the [radical Republican] authors of these calamities, he exclaimed,

“From turret to foundation you tore down the governments of eleven States. You left not one stone upon another. You rent all their local laws and machinery into fragments, and trampled upon their ruins. Not a vestige of their former construction remained.”

And again he said:

“A more sweeping and universal exclusion from all the benefits, rights, trusts, honors, enjoyments, liberties, and control of government was never enacted against a whole people, without respect to age or sex, in the annals of the human race. The disgraceful disabilities imposed against the Jews for nearly eighteen hundred years by the blind and bigoted nations of the earth were never more complete or appalling.”

Those old enough to remember that most shameful period of our history will readily recall the degradation, the crimes against civilization, and the terrorism which then prevailed, and how, amidst the general dismay, the faint-hearted stood helpless and silent before the arbitrary and reckless power exercised over them.”

(The Life and Character of William L. Saunders, address to the Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina, Tuesday, May 31, 1892, Col. Alfred Moore Waddell of Wilmington)

The War Against Civilians

Lee’s grand army departed Gettysburg “dog-tired and hungry.” Poorly fed, they have existed on bread, berries and green apples with the horses eating only grass, and only after arriving at Culpepper did the men enjoy a cooked meal and the horses found loose corn. Of the battle at Gettysburg, Lee tells President Davis not to blame his men, that he alone is to blame “in perhaps expecting too much of [his army’s] prowess and valor.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The War Against Civilians

“August 4 [1863]: Culpepper civilians are apprehensive again. [General JEB] Stuart has not even enough men to protect them from the Federal raiders who seem to cross the Rappahannock at will. Sally Armstrong’s family is still plagued by the blue devils.

“Nothing but Yankees from morning to night,” she protested on July 29, “no signs of them leaving yet.” She hears of how horribly the Federals have been treating people in Fauquier County, and lives “in dread of having the infantry come over and pillage.” “Great anxiety we live in . . . our neighbors . . . have had almost every mouthful taken from them.”

[Nearby enemy regiments have] emboldened Culpepper slaves to dash toward Union lines all along the river, from Kelly’s Ford to Waterloo. On one evening alone, about forty “children of Ham,” as [the enemy commander] calls them, moved within his picket lines . . . . Many of the boys and men will be hired by Federal officers as body servants, although some officers refuse under any circumstances to hire “wretched niggers.”

Most have been mere field hands as slaves, complains one [Northern officer], and therefore are ignorant of the duties of a personal servant. “To this ignorance,” he elaborates, “must be added the natural laziness, lying, and dirt of the Negro, which surpasses anything an ordinary white man is capable of.” Not [all Northern troops] agree with this assessment . . . A member of the 20th New York Militia admires “the thousands” of contraband blacks laboring in [General] Meade’s camps as cooks, teamsters and servants . . . he informs his mother. He believes the blacks “as a class” exhibit more “native sense” than the majority of white Southerners.

[Meade] makes no move [and many sense] that Meade is not yet comfortable as the army’s commander. Word has it that he nearly gave up the fight at Gettysburg after the second day, and he now seems overly deliberate and cautious.

Meanwhile, Culpepper’s civilians hunker down. Captain Charles Francis Adams, Jr., commanding the Union picket force on the Hazel River . . . knows that these people hate him and his men, but he understands the reason. He has witnessed daily “acts of pillage and outrage on the poor and defenceless” that make his “hair stand on end,” and cause him to “loathe all war.” [His] Soldiers, usually under cover of darkness, break into homes, rifle closets and drawers, take what they like, and abuse and threaten their victims. Some citizens are too terrified to sleep.

“Poor Virginia!” laments Captain Adams. “Her fighting men have been slaughtered; her old men have been ruined; her women and children are starving and outraged; her servants have run away or been stolen; her fields have been desolated; her towns have been depopulated.”

“The horrors of war are not all to be found in the battle-field,” he laments, “and every army pillages and outrages to a terrible extent.”

“What shall I write for these times?” [Sally] asks her diary. “Yankees doing all conceivable wickedness.” “If God did not rule we would die in despair. He only can help us.”

(Seasons of War, The Ordeal of a Confederate Community, 1861-1865, Daniel E. Sutherland, LSU Press, 1995, excerpts, pp. 269-276)

War is Not Hell Unless a Devil Wages It

War is Not Hell Unless a Devil Wages It

“Petition to the Postmaster General by the Citizens of Texas:

We, the citizens of Huntsville, Tex., respectfully petition the Postmaster General to place on sale in this State no stamps or postal cards bearing the likeness of W.T. Sherman. We are loyal citizens, we love our country, we wish to forget the past differences and bitterness; but there are two things which no true Southerner will ever forget or cease to teach his children to remember. These are the deeds of W.T. Sherman and the period of Reconstruction.

There were enough brave and chivalrous Union generals in the Civil War to furnish subjects for stamps, and we object to the face of a ruffian who made war on women and children being placed among the faces or Washington, Franklin, Jefferson . . . and other honorable men and forced upon our children when we have done nothing to deserve insult.

Sherman observed the laws of civilized warfare only when he had a hostile army to fear. When Hood was defeated the people were helpless and defenseless, he set his bummers upon them and boasted of it. Union armies were not bad unless they had bad leaders. Among civilized people war is not hell unless a devil wages it.

If this man’s face is forced before us in this way, we shall be forced to teach in public those lessons in history which we teach by the fireside, even if those with goods to sell preach that all should be forgotten.

If W.T. Sherman’s face must be held up to view, send it to those who love his character and celebrate his victory in song, but not to those whose homes he robbed, whose daughters he insulted, whose sons he murdered, and whose cities and homes he burned.”

(Sherman’s Picture on US Postage Stamps, Confederate Veteran, June, 1911, pg. 272)

 

 

Cuba Libre Si, Southern Libre No

Thirty-three years after Appomattox the United States Congress, still dominated by Republicans, resolved that the oppressed and invaded Cuban people “are, and of right ought to be, free and independent.” A further irony is that Captain-General Valeriano “Butcher” Weyler, who instituted the cruel “reconcentrado” policy in Cuba, was a young Spanish attache in Washington observing the War Between the States, and especially, Sherman’s brutal tactics to subjugate Americans.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Cuba Libre Si, Southern Libre No

“When the civil war in Cuba began in 1895 the old methods of resistance were adopted by the insurgents, and although 200,000 Spanish troops were sent to Cuba the revolt was not suppressed. Small bands struck at Spanish detachments, raided from the swamps the plantations of the cane growers, or levied contributions on property owners. They had the sympathy of the poorer men in general, from whom they received supplies or recruits.

To put down this form of resistance demanded more enterprising soldiers than Spain’s. General [Valeriano] Weyler, the Captain-General, undertook to overcome it with a decree of reconcentration. In 1896 he ordered all Cubans living outside of garrison towns to move within such towns or be treated as rebels. The inhabitants, forced to leave their homes, were huddled together in narrow spaces in towns and, provided with little food, many died from malnutrition.

[President William] McKinley, less inclined than [his predecessor Grover] Cleveland to oppose the public [sentiment], took a more earnest attitude with Spain. [On] June 27, 1897 he protested to Madrid against the harsh policy adopted by [General Weyler] and against reconcentration in particular.

Spain replied that the situation was not as bad as represented and that reconcentration was no worse than the devastation in the Civil War by [Northern Generals] Sheridan and Hunter in the Shenandoah Valley and by Sherman in Georgia.

[On] April 11 [1898] the President laid before Congress the whole Cuban question . . . Congress took a week to debate and on April 19 adopted resolutions declaring that the right of the people Cuba “are, and of right ought to be, free and independent” and empowering the President to use force to carry these resolutions into effect.”

(Expansion and Reform, 1889-1926, John Spencer Bassett, Kennikat Press, 1971 (original 1926), pp. 71-72; 76)

 

Washington College Was Not Spared

Liberty Hall Academy in Lexington, Virginia, was the recipient in 1796 of James River canal stock gift from General George Washington – and the grateful school trustees changed the name to Washington College in 1813. Almost immediately after Robert E. Lee’s death in 1870, the school became known as “Washington and Lee College.” Northern soldiers desecrated the college named for Washington in 1864, smashing windows and scribbling obscenities on the walls.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Washington College Was Not Spared

“But no one could hide the scars of the recent struggle. “The whole country from the Blue Ridge to the North Mountain has been made untenable for a rebel army,” Sheridan had informed Washington. If a crow wanted to fly across the area, he would have to carry rations. Trees were down. Fields were gutted. Fences, mills, barns, bridges, crops and stock had been destroyed. Instead of wheat, corn, and barley, the fields were overrun with briars, nettles and weeds.

The fields could be improved in a season; the people’s tempers and bitterness not for generations. Sectional antagonism went back far before the war. “We do not set any claims to public spirit in the matter of internal improvement,” a Rockbridge County historian admitted as early as 1852, “and are shamefully content to let all the glory that appertains there go to the go-ahead Yankees.” When the Yankees laid waste to the Shenandoah Valley, Virginians turned from sarcasm to denunciation.

People did not quickly forget the fate of towns like Scottsville, where every shop, mill and store was burned. Canal locks were dismantled. Records and books were wantonly scattered. The little town lay in its blackened pall, a returning soldier wrote “like a mourner hopelessly weeping.” If the small towns were bad, the cities were worse.

The closest major city to Lexington was Lynchburg, a transportation and manufacturing center fifty-four miles to the southeast. In 1865, life there was paralyzed. Stores were vacant. The tobacco business was ruined. Property everywhere declined in value. The occupying soldiers were a rowdy, rough and drunken set. Robberies occurred nightly.

Sixteen months before General Lee came to Lexington alone, [Northern] General David Hunter had come – with an army. His orders were to . . . destroy all supplies and burn all houses within five miles of the spot where resistance occurred . . . on June 6, 1864, Hunter took Staunton and headed for Lexington . . . crossed the bridge and burned the Virginia Military Institute, and looted the area.

Annie Broun echoed the native’s reaction in the helpless undefended town: “Can I say “God forgive him?” Were it possible for human lips to raise his name heavenward, angels would thrust the foul thing down again. The curses of thousands will follow him through all time, and brand upon the name Hunter infamy, infamy.”

Atop the bluff near the river stood the charred and blackened ruins of the “West Point of the South” – Virginia Military Institute. Along the streets were piles of rubble and brick. At the edge of town stood Washington College, desecrated and silent. Planks were nailed over smashed windows. Obscenities were scribbled on the walls.”

(Lee After the War, Marshall W. Fishwick, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1963, pp. 67-77)

The Responsibility for Suffering Prisoners

Southern men held captive and starving in cold Northern prisons were surrounded by bountiful harvests and plentiful medicines while Northern prisoners shared the meager rations of their guards. Though the South had little medicine and scarce foodstuffs, a lower percentage of Northern prisoners died in the South than the reverse. Below are excerpts from the Joint Select Committee of the Confederate States Congress, investigating the conditions of prisoners after the US Congress issued a report condemning alleged Confederate mistreatment of Northern prisoners.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Responsibility for Suffering Prisoners

“[We] deem it proper at this time to make a preliminary report, founded on evidence recently taken, relating to the treatment of prisoners of war by both belligerents. This report is rendered especially important, by reason of persistent efforts lately made by the Government of the United States . . . to asperse the honor of the Confederate authorities, and to charge them with deliberate and willful cruelty to prisoners of war.

The candid reader of [Northern publications claiming Southern cruelties] will not fail to discover that, whether the statements they make are true or not, their spirit is not adapted to promote better feelings between the hostile powers. They are not intended for the humane purpose of ameliorating the condition of the unhappy prisoners held in captivity.

They are designed to inflame the evil passions of the North; to keep up the war spirit among their own people; to present the South as acting under the dominion of a spirit of cruelty, inhumanity and interested malice, and thus to vilify her people in the eyes of all on whom these publications can work.

They are justly characterized by the Hon. James M. Mason as belonging to that class of literature called the “sensational” – a style of writing prevalent for many years at the North, and which, beginning with the writers of newspaper narratives and cheap fiction, has gradually extended itself, until it is now the favored mode adopted by medical professors, judges of courts and reverend clergymen, and is even chosen as the proper style for a report by a committee of [the Northern] Congress.

The intent and spirit of this [Northern congressional] report may be gathered from the following extract: “The evidence proves, beyond all manner of doubt, a determination on the part of rebel authorities, deliberately and persistently practiced for a long time past, to subject those of our soldiers who have been so unfortunate to fall into their hands, to a system of treatment which has resulted in reducing many of those who have survived and been permitted to return to us, to a condition both physically and mentally, which no language we can use can adequately describe.”

The evidence proves that the rations furnished to prisoners of war in Richmond and on Belle Isle, have been never less than those furnished to the Confederate soldiers who guarded them, and have at some seasons been larger in quantity and better in quality than those furnished to Confederate troops in the field. How often the gallant men composing the Confederate army have been without meat, for even long intervals, your [US Congressional] committee does not deem it necessary to say.

Once and only once, for a few weeks, the prisoners were without meat, but a larger quantity of bread and vegetable food was in consequence supplied to them.

The scarcity of meat and of bread stuffs in the South in certain places has been the result of the savage policy of our enemies in burning barns, filled with wheat or corn, destroying agricultural implements, and driving off or wantonly butchering hogs or cattle. Yet amid all these privations, we have given to their prisoners the rations above mentioned.

But the question forces itself upon us why have these sufferings been so long continued? Why have not the prisoners of war been exchanged, and thus some of the darkest pages of history spared to the world. In the answer to this question must be found the test of responsibility for all the sufferings, sickness and heart-broken sorrow that have visited more than eighty thousand prisoners within the past two years. On this question, your committee can only say that that the Confederate authorities have always desired a prompt and fair exchange of prisoners.

Soon after [a] cartel was established, the policy of the enemy in seducing Negro slaves from their masters, arming them and putting white officers over them to lead them against us, gave rise to a few cases in which questions of crime under the internal laws of the Confederate States appeared. Whether men who encouraged insurrection and murder could be held entitled to the privileges of prisoners of war under the cartel, was a grave question.

But these cases were few in number, and ought not to have interrupted the general exchange. We were always ready and anxious to carry out the cartel in its true meaning . . . but the fortunes of war threw the larger number into the hands of our enemies. Then they refused further exchanges – and for twenty-two months this policy has continued.

Secretary Stanton, who has unjustly charged the Confederate authorities with inhumanity, is open to the charge of having done all in his power to prevent a fair exchange and thus prolong the sufferings [of Northern prisoners in the South]. [Gen. Benjamin Butler] has declared that in April 1864, the Federal Lieut. General Grant forbade him to deliver to the Rebels a single able-bodied man” . . .

These facts abundantly show that the responsibility of refusing to exchange prisoners of war rests with the Government of the United States, and the people who have sustained that government; and every sigh of captivity, every groan of suffering, every heart broken by hope deferred among these eighty thousand prisoners, will accuse them in the judgement of the just.

Their own savage warfare has wrought all the evil. They have blockaded our ports; have excluded from us food, clothing and medicines; have even declared medicines contraband of war, and have repeatedly destroyed the contents of drug stores and the supplies of private physicians in the country; have ravaged our country, burned our houses, and destroyed the growing crops and farming implements. These desolations have been repeated again and again in different parts of the South. Thousands of our families have been driven from their homes as helpless and destitute refugees.

While thus desolating our country, in violation of the usages of civilized warfare, they have refused to exchange prisoners; have forced us to keep fifty thousand of their men in captivity, and yet have attempted to attribute to us the sufferings and privations caused by their own acts. We cannot doubt that, in the view of civilization, we shall stand acquitted, while they must be condemned.”

(The Treatment of Prisoners During the War Between the States, compiled by the Secretary of the Southern Historical Society, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume One, excerpts, pp. 132- 148)

Death is Mercy to Secessionists

Sherman viewed Southerners as he later viewed American Indians, to be exterminated or banished to reservations as punishment for having resisted government power. They were subjects and merely temporary occupants of land belonging to his government whom they served. The revealing excerpts below are taken from “Reminiscences of Public Men in Alabama,” published in 1872.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Death is Mercy to Secessionists

Headquarters, Department of Tennessee, Vicksburg, January 1, 1863.

[To] Major R. M. Sawyer, AAG Army of Tennessee, Huntsville:

“Dear Sawyer — In my former letter I have answered all your questions save one, and that relates to the treatment of inhabitants known, or suspected to be, hostile or “secesh.”  The war which prevails in our land is essentially a war of races. The Southern people entered into a clear compact of government, but still maintained a species of separate interests, history and prejudices. These latter became stronger and stronger, till they have led to war, which has developed the fruits of the bitterest kind.

We of the North are, beyond all question, right in our lawful cause, but we are not bound to ignore the fact that the people of the South have prejudices that form part of their nature, and which they cannot throw off without an effort of reason or the slower process of natural change.

Now, the question arises, should we treat as absolute enemies all in the South who differ with us in opinions or prejudices . . . [and] kill or banish them? Or should we give them time to think and gradually change their conduct so as to conform to the new order of things which is slowly and gradually creeping into their country?

When men take arms to resist our rightful authority, we are compelled to use force because all reason and argument ceases when arms are resorted to.

If the people, or any of them, keep up a correspondence with parties in hostility, they are spies, and can be punished with death or minor punishment. These are well established principles of war, and the people of the South having appealed to war, are barred from appealing to our Constitution, which they have practically and publicly defied. They have appealed to war and must abide its rules and laws.

The United States, as a belligerent party claiming right in the soil as the ultimate sovereign, have a right to change the population, and it may be and it, both politic and best, that we should do so in certain districts. When the inhabitants persist too long in hostility, it may be both politic and right that we should banish them and appropriate their lands to a more loyal and useful population.

No man would deny that the United States would be benefited by dispossessing a single prejudiced, hard-headed and disloyal planter and substitute in his place a dozen or more patient, industrious, good families, even if they be of foreign birth.

It is all idle nonsense for these Southern planters to say that they made the South, that they own it, and that they can do as they please — even to break up our government, and to shut up the natural avenues of trade, intercourse and commerce.

We know, and they know if they are intelligent beings, that, as compared with the whole world they are but as five millions are to one thousand millions — that they did not create the land — that their only title to its use and enjoyment is the deed of the United States, and if they appeal to war they hold their all by a very insecure tenure.

For my part, I believe that this war is the result of false political doctrine, for which we are all as a people responsible, viz:  That any and every people has a right to self-government . . . In this belief, while I assert for our Government the highest military prerogatives, I am willing to bear in patience that political nonsense of . . . State Rights, freedom of conscience, freedom of press, and other such trash as have deluded the Southern people into war, anarchy, bloodshed, and the foulest crimes that have disgraced any time or any people.

I would advise the commanding officers at Huntsville and such other towns as are occupied by our troops, to assemble the inhabitants and explain to them these plain, self-evident propositions, and tell them that it is for them now to say whether they and their children shall inherit their share.

The Government of the United States has in North-Alabama any and all rights which they choose to enforce in war — to take their lives, their homes, their lands, their everything . . . and war is simply power unrestrained by constitution or compact. If they want eternal warfare, well and good; we will accept the issue and dispossess them, and put our friends in possession. Many, many people, with less pertinacity than the South, have been wiped out of national existence.

To those who submit to the rightful law and authority, all gentleness and forbearance; but to the petulant and persistent secessionists, why, death is mercy, and the quicker he or she is disposed of the better. Satan and the rebellious saints of heaven were allowed a continuance of existence in hell merely to swell their just punishment.”

W.T. Sherman, Major General Commanding

(Reminiscences of Public Men in Alabama, William Garrett, Plantation Printing Company’s Press, 1872, pp. 486-488)