Browsing "Crimes of War"

Six Hundred Southern Officers at Morris Island

Imprisoned Southern officers were transported to Morris Island near Fort Sumter as used as a human shield in front of Northern batteries indiscriminately shelling Charleston in mid-1864. Those who did not perish from the ordeal would later suffer serious intestinal disorders or early death from their near starvation by the enemy.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Six Hundred Southern Officers at Morris Island

“After weary months in Washington, during which time I was shown many kindnesses and attentions from Southern sympathizers, I was carried to Fort Delaware prison. After a lapse of some time I was drawn in with the lot of six hundred officers to be carried to “Morris Island,” to be placed under the fire of our own guns at Charleston. We were crowded in the dark hole of the vessel, only equal to the “Black Hole of Calcutta,” and packed on shelves like goods in a store, without any light or air, except that driven down a shaft by wind-sails.

On our arrival we were put in a “stockade pen,” between “Fort Wagner and Fort Gregg,” and guarded by a Negro regiment. For forty-five days we sat upon the sands and witnessed the burning fuses from bombs, larger than nail-kegs continuously fired night and day by our men at the forts. If they overshot the one or undershot the other they’d hit us. But that God marks the sparrow’s fall, protected us.

On the eve of our leaving for “Hilton Head,” the Negroes on guard fired into some of us. I saw three fall either killed or wounded; they were hurriedly moved out. I never learned their fate.

Three of our number got the cabin maid to steal life preservers from the cabins and quietly slid over-board where sharks were as thick as minnows. Two were exhausted from thirst and lack of food and were captured on PinckneyIsland; the third reached Charleston.

They gave us absolutely nothing at all to eat for forty-five days but a little rotten corn meal filled with black bugs, without salt or anyway to cook it. Our comrades were dying by squads daily, the dead house was filled all the time with the corpses. Scores of cats would enter through holes and prey upon the dead.”

Lt. Col. C.B. Christian, Walker’s Ford, Amherst County, Virginia

(Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. XXXVII, R.A. Brock, editor, 1909, pp. 241-242)

Witness to Sorrow

Though opposed to his State’s secession, South Carolinian William J. Grayson saw the true face of the Northern-dominated union as Lincoln’s army murdered and plundered his neighbors. In like manner, North Carolina Unionist Edward Stanly, Lincoln’s proconsul in occupied New Bern, lost faith in the conquerors as he witnessed Northern troopships returning north laden with stolen furniture, artwork and jewelry.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Witness to Sorrow

“For this calamity, this crime of War between North and South, Northern people are chiefly chargeable. The cupidity and intermeddling spirit of New England were the main causes of dissention. Her greedy tariff exaction, her perpetual irritating interference with Negro slavery in the Southern States, her avaricious monopolists & political priests sowed the seed of which we are reaping the natural harvest.

If ever a people destroyed their own prosperity it is the people of New England. They are accustomed to call the brain of New England the brain of the Union — it is the brain of a lunatic who cuts his own throat. No chain of cause and effect in all history is more clearly traceable than the destruction of the Federal Union by Northern folly and madness.

If they succeed in the war they will be the rulers over insurgent provinces ready at the first opportunity to renew the contest. The restoration of the union is an impossibility. There must succeed to it another government with standing armies, enormous taxes and despotic power beneath whose influence Northern liberty will wither and perish. In the early part of November [1861] the Northern government began a series of predatory expeditions on the Southern coast. The first under Sherman and Dupont disembarked at Port Royal. They presented to the world a striking evidence of the ease with which men strain at gnats and swallow camels.

They were prosecuting as felons in New York the captured privateersmen of the South, and were seizing all the cotton and other property of widows, children and noncombatants on the islands of South Carolina, contrary to every usage of civilized war.

The robbery has been approved and applauded throughout the Northern States. They talk with exultation of cultivating the plantations of Port Royal on Federal account as a sort of financial appendage to the Washington government. The rights of the owners are disregarded.

To the people of St. Helena parish and the adjoining country the disaster was incalculable. They lost everything; houses, plantations, Negroes, furniture, clothing. They became fugitives. Northern men engaged formerly in surveying the coast served as guides for the marauding parties. With their wives and children they had spent months in the families of the planters, had eaten dinners and drank wine, and now they acted as pioneers of plunder to the scenes of the feast.

They were better able to discover the stores of old Madeira from having frequently joined the owners in drinking it. Their first question asked of the servants on entering a house from which their cannon had driven the owner was — “where is the wine kept?”

There was something indescribably mean in the conduct of these parties but very characteristic of the people whose officers they were. They are a thrifty race, not scrupulous about the means if their end be attained. Our worthy friends of Massachusetts treat us (as) they did the Indians, witches, Quakers, Baptists and other heretics of earlier times. There are many pious Christians but not a voice is heard in favor of peace. So far as we can judge from their acquiescence in Sewardism, they have fallen into the strange delusion that Christian Charity is consistent with rape, rapine and murder.

They pray and preach not for peace, but for the more earnest prosecution of a bloody war and the enactment of general confiscation acts. They [Northerners] exulted . . . a manifest judgment of Providence on the home of rebels and traitors. They believed that Heaven had put the torch to Southern homesteads to avenge the abolition party and support the cause.”

(Witness to Sorrow, the Antebellum Autobiography of William J. Grayson. University of South Carolina Press, 1990, pp 185-201)

Heathen Vandals Sack St. Paul’s Church

The army of the Confederacy had many German soldiers serving in its ranks, and in particular, Captain Christian Cornehlson’s German Volunteers of Wilmington, North Carolina. This unit, eventually comprising 102 officers and men, were all German-born except for 30. The non-German-born 30 included men of German parentage from other European countries. The wives of these soldiers served with Mrs. Derosset’s Soldiers’ Aid Society, making uniforms, powder bags and bandages – and attending the wounded.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Heathen Vandals Sack St. Paul’s Church

“During the decade 1840 to 1850 quite a large number of German settlers came to Wilmington, N.C., and within the next few years the German population of the city had become sufficiently numerous that they were able to organize themselves into a military company under the name of “The German Volunteers.” Fifty-seven officers and men comprised the company.

During the War Between the States these German volunteers, who in the good old days before the war reflected so much credit upon themselves and upon our city, were among the first to volunteer for the defense of the State, and, and Company A of the Eighteenth North Carolina Regiment, they “bore a record of which one might be proud.”

The Lutheran Synod of North Carolina, learning of the presence of a considerable population of German people in Wilmington, decided that Wilmington might be a fruitful field for missionary activity. With enough Germans to organize a military company of their own, there should be enough Lutherans among them to organize a church.

[The] organization of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Wilmington, N.C., was effected on Monday, May 31, 1858 [and] Rev. John H. Mengert [of Evansville, Indiana] accepted the call to the field in Wilmington, moving with his family on December 23, 1858.

[The intense sectionalism of 1860 erupted into war] and the effect of this great cataclysm upon the young congregation was most distressing and almost disastrous. When at last the war neared its close and the victorious forces from the North occupied Wilmington, St. Paul’s church edifice was used for military purposes, even the troops’ horses being stabled therein.

Great damage was done to the building and grounds; joists, pews and reading desk were used as fuel in the soldiers’ camp fires, while the beautiful steeple, blackened by smoke, then resembled a huge chimney. With little regard for the sacred character of the building, the soldiers disfigured the inside walls with all sorts of inscriptions.”

(History of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Wilmington, North Carolina, 1858-1958, Jackson & Bell Company, 1958, pp. 5-6, 12-13)

Yankee’s Issued Matches

The hatred of the North engendered by Sherman’s devastation in Georgia and the Carolina’s would not easily subside. In 1898 President William McKinley, himself a Northern major during the war, visited Atlanta in December 1898 for a Peace Jubilee. McKinley wore a Confederate badge on his lapel and declared in an address to the Georgia legislature that “Confederate graves were “graves of honor” and it was the duty of the United States government to keep them green.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Yankee’s Issued Matches

“When word [of Sherman’s invasion of South Carolina] reached the plantations of the Low County, terror bordering on panic swept the towns and countryside . . . and with only old men, women, children and a few slaves who had not deserted left on the lands, [all] lay vulnerable before the invaders.

Some of the families moved farther north, ostensibly out of Sherman’s path. Three families who lived in the area south of Allendale fled to the plantation of Dr. Benjamin William Lawton. An occupied house was less subject to being burn; deserted houses, left vacant, were usually torched.

But the three families who set up housekeeping in the basement of Dr. Lawton’s house in Allendale were no safer than they might have been in their own homes. Sherman’s forces routed out the families, and set fire to the house of that signer of the Ordinance of Secession, Dr. Benjamin W. Lawton. All Lawton’s possessions dissolved in flames.

Lawton’s wife, Josephine, was warned [of this] and hastily took her children and house servants to Gaffney, South Carolina, where they were given haven by friends . . . There Josephine’s seventh child was born. In early 1865 another Lawton, Dr. James Stoney . . . returned [from Georgia] to find his house in ashes.

At least one Lawton home escaped destruction by fire. Major-General High Judson Kilpatrick . . . ordered his men to keep their issue of matches in their pockets while he occupied Rose Lawn, the home of Reverend and Mrs. Joseph A. Lawton in Allendale, as his headquarters during the days of battle and destruction in the area.

With his mistress said to have been ensconced in a large front bedroom – she accompanied [Kilpatrick] from one headquarters to another in his sweep from Savannah to Columbia – he delegated a small back room to the elderly owners. To the godly couple who had to stand by while the woman of “ill-repute” occupied their bedchamber, this must surely have added basest insult to dastardly injury.

[South Carolina] lay in ruins, and the Southern cities of Richmond, Atlanta, Charleston and Columbia were blackened rubble. Sherman’s men under [Kilpatrick] had used their issues of matches to fire countless towns, villages, plantations, farms, and railroads; open fields and pine forests were reduced to shambles.”

(Kith and Kin, A Portrait of a Southern Family, 1630-1934, Carolyn L. Harrell, pp. 209-212)

Britain’s Splendid Decision

Though lost in their effective propaganda against Germany in WWII, it was the British who commenced the indiscriminate bombing of civilians on May 11, 1940, as they “dispatched eighteen Whitley bombers against railway installations in western Germany, breaching what had been regarded by many as a fundamental rule of civilized warfare, that hostilities must only be waged against the enemy forces.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Britain’s Splendid Decision

“During the war, the Nazi Party punished severely – often by death – any written or spoken violation of the “Parole Endsieg,” of that “word” or “slogan” of confidence in “the final victory.” Germany, however, was not the only nation with a “Parole Endsieg,” nor with prohibitions against the expression of anything contrary to it. Although the British did not resort to severe punishment of violations, Great Britain did have its own “Parole Endsieg,” its own words that would contribute to final victory.

Part of that propaganda was the widespread dissemination of the belief that Germany had initiated the bombing of cites and civilians well behind the lines of combat at the front. Indeed, it was this belief that made the metaphor of the of the reversed newsreel – of German bombers that had initiated the bombing war over civilian targets receding as the Allied bombers increased their attacks over German cities – work most completely as effective metaphor and propaganda.

It was not until April 1944, when J.M. Spaight, former principal secretary of the British Air ministry, was permitted to publish his book, “Bombing Vindicated,” that the British and Allied public in general learned that it was Britain and not Germany that had initiated “the strategic bombing offensive” – the large-scale bombing of civilian targets. Spaight writes:

“Because we were doubtful about the psychological effect of propagandist distortion of the truth that it was we [British] who started the strategic bombing offensive, we have shrunk from giving our great decision of May 11, 1940, the publicity it deserved. That, surely, was a mistake. It was a splendid decision. It was as heroic, as self-sacrificing, as Russia’s decision to adopt her policy of “scorched earth” [against Germany]. “

Some would argue that Hitler followed [the rule of not bombing noncombatants] by using the Luftwaffe against cities only in support of ground forces already at the gates of those cities.

Although it might be argued that communications and arms manufacturing centers had always been considered legitimate targets in warfare, Spaight’s statement and the fact that British bombardment was not in support of any invading or retreating ground force seems to indicate that some in Britain thought they were breaking new ground with such attacks from the air.

Thus, what Britain’s “splendid decision” had also achieved was to introduce a new kind of terrorism into an already terrible war: the Allied airmen, who ostensibly were trying to hit factories to slow down munitions production, but who more often hit civilian homes, came to be known to the German civilians who had to suffer that indiscriminate area bombing as Der Terrorflieger, or “terror fliers.”

(Wolfsangel, A German City on Trial, 1945-48, Augusto Nigro, Brassey’s Inc., 2000, pp. 3-5)

Yankee Chaplain Caught Looting

The plantation of Josiah Collins, Somerset Place, on Lake Phelps had been looted by invading Northerners who occupied northeastern North Carolina. After Plymouth, North Carolina was liberated by General Robert F. Hoke in April 1864, the misdeeds of the invader came to light.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Yankee Chaplain Caught Looting

“Many years after the war, Dr. Joseph G.D. Hamilton happened to run across Hoke and his son-in-law at a restaurant in Raleigh. As the men sat together on the porch before dinner, Hoke rested quietly, gazing off in the distance.

In a tone designed not to arouse the reticent old soldier, Hamilton began to relate a newspaper story about an event that had occurred after the surrender of Plymouth. A Federal chaplain who had been denied officer’s privileges and “his” library called on Hoke, who responded favorably to his pleas.

After the chaplain left, the general noticed two large wooden boxes. When he enquired about the contents, a soldier responded, “They are the books of that Yankee chaplain.”

Hoke noticed that the top of one of the boxes was broken, so he removed a book. It bore the bookplate of Josiah Collins of nearby Somerset Place in Washington County. When the boxes were torn open, it was seen that all the books were likewise marked.

The chaplain was immediately summoned to Hoke’s headquarters, where the general dressed him down and stripped him of all privileges.”

(General Robert F. Hoke, Lee’s Modest General, Daniel W. Barefoot, John F. Blair, 1996, page 153)

 

 

Fire Bombing Japanese Civilians

Despite military press releases and public statements that the US was not indiscriminately bombing civilian populations, the fact was that the nighttime incendiary bombing of Japanese cities was a weapon of area destruction, not precision bombing of industrial targets. The incendiary raids “destroyed homes, hospitals and schools, as well as factories, and killed lots of people, mainly women, children, and old men.”  The waging of war upon defenseless civilians is perhaps the most lasting legacy of Lincoln and W.T. Sherman.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circ1865.com

 

Fire Bombing Japanese Civilians

“General [Hap] Arnold needed results. [Gen.] Larry Norstad had made that very clear. In effect he said: “You go ahead and get [bombing] results, or you’ll be fired.”

. . . Let’s see: we could load [the bombers] with E-46 clusters. Drop them to explode at about two thousand feet, say, or twenty-five hundred. Then each of those would release thirty-eight of the M-69 incendiary bombs . . . Could use both napalm and phosphorous. Those napalm M-47’s. They say that ninety percent of the structures in Tokyo are built of wood [and all sources] say that the same. Very flimsy construction.

Bringing those [B-29’s] all the way down from thirty thousand feet to about nine or even five thousand. A lot of people will tell me that flesh and blood can’t stand it. So if we go in low – at night, singly, not in formation – I think we’ll surprise the Japs. At least for a short period of time . . . But if this first attack is successful, we’ll run another, right quick. Say, twenty-four hours afterward. Two days at the most. And then maybe another.

With at least three hundred planes we can get a good concentration. No matter how you slice it, you’re going to kill an awful lot of civilians. Thousands and thousands . . . We’re at war with Japan. We were attacked by Japan. Do you want to kill Japanese, or would you rather have Americans killed? Crank her up, let’s go.

Drafts from the Tokyo fires bounced our planes into the sky like ping-pong balls. A B-29 coming in after the flames were really on the tear would get caught in one of those searing updrafts. According to the Tokyo fire chief, the situation was out of control within thirty minutes. It was like an explosive forest fire in a dry pine woods. The racing flames engulfed ninety-five fire engines and killed on hundred and twenty-five firemen . . . [and] burning up nearly sixteen square miles of the world’s largest city.

If it hadn’t been for that big river curving through the metropolitan area, a lot more of the city would have gone. About a fourth of all the buildings in Tokyo went up in smoke that night anyway. More than two hundred and sixty seven thousand buildings. No other air attack of the war, either in Japan or in Europe, was so destructive of life and property.

Let’s go back and consult Major Boyle for the final time, and hear what he has to say in his Air Force [magazine] article: “The ten-day fire blitz of Japan was a turning point. The panic-stricken [survivors] began an exodus from the major cities . . . “

(Mission with LeMay, My Story; Gen. Curtis E. LeMay with MacKinlay Kantor, excerpts, pp. 347; 352-355)

Sherman’s War of Terror

Despite claiming malice toward none and charity for all, the following is what Abraham Lincoln authorized and unleashed upon the American South. Young Jane Dickinson Cowan lived in Sherman’s path near Laurinburg, North Carolina, and later wrote: “My mother had a spoon in which she was mixing medicine for her sick children snatched from her, and she was obliged to mix it in her hand and put it into their mouths with her finger. They pulled the rings from her fingers as she was holding in her lap, and kicked the cradle in which the other one was lying, with the remark, “That one is dead already.”

The unnecessary killing of the animals was most assuredly done to starve the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sherman’s War of Terror

“Like most Northerners, William T. Sherman profoundly misunderstood Southern “Unionism.” Upon entering North Carolina he issued an order to Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick that the cavalry chief “deal as moderately, and fairly by North Carolinians as possible, and fan the flame of discord already subsisting between them and their proud cousins of South Carolina.

Sherman’s admonition to deal “moderately” was generally ignored, and he must have quickly realized that these people were not about to embrace his Union. “Poor North Carolina will have a hard time,” the general wrote privately after a month in the State, “for we sweep the country like a swarm of locusts. Thousands of people may perish, but they now realize that war means something else than vain glory and boasting.”

Monroe and Wadesboro were among the first to “have a hard time” at the hands of Kilpatrick’s troopers. Episcopal bishop of North Carolina, Thomas Atkinson, was threatened with death if he did not give up his watch, horse and possessions. Another Anson County man was robbed of his watch and money, and the next band of Federals to arrive at his home demanded the very same items [and] killed him when he could not produce them.

At a nearby home Yankees chopped furniture to pieces with an axe and scattered feathers from pillows on a bedroom floor and then poured buckets of molasses and stirred thoroughly. Ten wagons filled with unlucky refugees were overtaken and their possessions captured.

Anson County native Esther Alden grieved about the suffering of her neighbors as well over what the Yankees did to the animals:

“It is like some horrid nightmare. When I shut my eyes I see nothing but creatures and human beings in agony. The poor suffering horses! Some fortunately dead and out of their misery, others groaning in death pains, some with disabled limbs freely hobbling about to glean a blade of grass; the cows and oxen slaughtered and left to rot! I counted eight beautiful calves lying dead in one pen; many times we saw two or three lying dead side by side!”

In Fayetteville the Yankees destroyed one thousand horses and mules they had no use for. There were two killing grounds: one a field on the bank of the Cape Fear River, the other a corral in town. It took hours to kill them all. Trying to run, some of the terrified animals plunged into the river. Most were left where they fell, with no effort made by the Federals to dispose of the carcasses as the troops abandoned the town.

A dozen miles outside Fayetteville, at the home of Duncan Murchison, Kilpatrick’s cavalrymen charged into the bedroom of a small girl desperately sick with typhoid. They were looking for items to steal but found nothing . . . Seventy year-old Mr. Murchison was dragged to the swamp and assaulted while vandals destroyed furniture, slashed family portraits, and poured molasses into the piano. The little girl died while the troopers were still in her home. Federal horses left a little uneaten corn on the ground, for that was all the family had to live on after the invaders moved on.”

(War Crimes Against Southern Civilians, Walter Brian Cisco, Pelican Publishing Company, 2007, pp. 163-165)

If Southerners Had Behaved Themselves . . .

One of the myths of the Northern invasion of the American South is that Sherman did not wreak the destruction on North Carolina as he and his vandals had in South Carolina. Homes in the Old North State were looted indiscriminately and livestock shot to deny noncombatants food for themselves and their children.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

If Southerners Had Behaved Themselves . . .

. . . [T]he Yankees came by the hundreds and destroyed everything that we possessed — every living thing. After they had taken everything out of the house—our clothes, shoes, hats, and even my children’s clothes — my husband was made to take off his boots which a yankee tried on. The shoes would not fit, so the soldier cut them to pieces. They even destroyed the medicine we had.

In the cellar, they took six barrels of lard, honey and preserves — and what they did not want, they let the Negroes come in and take. They took 16 horses, one mule, all of the oxen, every cow, every plough, even the hoes, and four vehicles. The soldiers filled them with meat and pulled them to camp which was not far from our home. They would kill the hogs in the fields, cut them in halves with the hair on. Not a turkey, duck or chicken was left.

My mother in law . . . was very old and frail and in bed. They went in her bedroom and cursed her. They took all our books and threw them in the woods. I had my silver and jewelry buried in the swamp for two months.

We went to Faison Depot and bought an old horse that we cleaned up, fed and dosed, but which died after a week’s care. Then the boys went again and bought an ox. They made something like a plough which they used to finish the crop with. Our knives were pieces of hoop iron sharpened, and our forks were made of cane — but it was enough for the little we had to eat.

All of which I have written was the last year and month of the sad, sad war (March and April, 1865). It is as fresh in my memory and all its horrors as if it were just a few weeks ago. It will never be erased from my memory as long as life shall last.

I do not and cannot with truth say I have forgotten or that I have forgiven them. They destroyed what they could of the new house and took every key and put them in the turpentine boxes. Such disappointment cannot be imagined. My children would cry for bread, but there was none. A yankee took a piece out of his bag and bit it, and said: “If you had behaved yourselves this would not have happened.”

(Story in Sampson Independent, February 1960; The Heritage of Sampson County (NC), Volume I, Oscar Bizzell, editor, pp. 253-254)

Confiscating Symbols of American Patrioitism

The graves of Raleigh’s Southern dead were not safe from Sherman’s army of thieves in 1865; the Northern commander of that city was no better as he ordered the graves removed lest the remains be thrown into the street. Also, anyone possessing symbols of the late Confederate States risked confiscation and arrest.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Confiscating Symbols of American Patriotism

“The Ladies Association of Wake County was formed in 1865, when it was necessary to remove from the grounds of Pettigrew Hospital the remains of the Confederate soldiers buried there. It was but a short while after the Federals took possession of Raleigh before the Mayor was notified that they admired the spot where rested the Confederate dead, and ordered that they be removed at once, or they would be thrown out in the country road.

A town meeting was called, and the association formed, [with] Mrs. [Gen.] L. O’B. Branch being made president . . . A resting-place was selected for the re-interment of the beloved dead, and, with the help of the young men and boys of the town, the work was successfully accomplished. The graves were comparatively few at first, but none were safe from Sherman’s “bummers,” as there were scarcely a new-made grave anywhere but what was opened by these men, in search of treasures; so it was a sacred trust, most religiously kept by the young men and women, to visit these graves almost daily to see that they were kept in order.

The association grew in numbers and the interest increased. Many Confederate dead from the country were moved to this spot, and the grounds were laid off and improved by [Sergeant] Hamilton, a soldier of the Confederate army who lost both eyes from a wound.

After the death of Gen. Jackson the 10th of May was selected as Memorial Day, when the citizens were to repair to the cemetery to participate in the services there. To raise funds to care for the Confederate dead and erect a monument to their memory, every legitimate means was resorted to by the association.

This was not done without risk, as it was reported that contraband articles were for sale, such as Confederate flags, a strand of General Lee’s hair, pictures of President Davis or any Confederate general: so there would be the sudden appearance of a bluecoat with orders to search the room for these contraband articles.”

(Women of North Carolina, Confederate Veteran Magazine, May 1898, page 227)