Browsing "Crimes of War"

Lincoln’s Hessian Thieves

The father of the writer below, Dr. John D. Bellamy of Wilmington, sent his family 60 miles inland to refugee in safety from marauding Northern troops. Not only was his family terrorized by invading Northern “hirelings” in early 1865, but Dr. Bellamy’s home in Wilmington was occupied and looted after the fall of that city. His wife organized the local Soldiers Aid Society which cared for the wounded and produced clothing for Southern soldiers.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln’s Hessian Thieves

“My [planter/physician] father had two sons in Virginia, in the [Confederate] Army and Navy, and the next one to go was I. So during the winters of 1863 and 1864, and the early part of 1865, although he shod his Negroes with good shoes, he made me, and also my younger brother, go barefoot during the winters. He said it would toughen and harden us, and that when my time to go to Virginia, I would be able to stand the exposure of the battle fields; and the result was that I never had, from that day to this, any serious illness – owing much of my longevity to this enforced practice in my rearing.

I can recollect, while going out in winters with my feet bare, in the snow and ice that I always went on the side of the fence where the sun shone through the cracks of the rails and melted the snow! It was warmer!

With great vividness I remember, also, how in March 1865, after Sherman had burned Columbia . . . General Francis P. Blair, of Sherman’s army, came with his corps, consisting of General Hickenlouper’s Brigade and other troops, through Robeson County, where we were refugeeing. The corps that came immediately around our home consisted of Germans or Hickenlouper’s Brigade, who could speak very little English, and German officers were in command.

They were hirelings of the United States Government to assist in fighting the South, very much as the Hessians were hired during the Revolutionary War.

It had been rumored that my father was a very wealthy man, and immediately the Hessians drew their steel ramrods out of their muskets, and began to pierce the ground all around our home and other places on the premises, to find what treasure they could unearth.

They found the silver my oldest sister had buried under the steps. They also discovered a valued deposit in which was my father’s valued diploma from Jefferson College, of the University of Pennsylvania. [The bummers] had gone through our home and cut open the locked bureau drawers with axes and stolen every valuable they could find . . . .

[An officer,] with three or four Germans, came into our home . . . and demanded that my mother give them the contents of her safe, which contained milk, butter and other food. Of course she had to comply! Immediately, they started to drink the milk, and remarked, “Mrs. Bellamy, is this milk poisoned?” So, my mother drank a cup of milk, before they would drink the remainder.

They left us without food and penniless for nearly a week, after the troops continued their march to Fayetteville and Wilmington and through Bentonville. [While] a boy, two bummers seized me, held me, and took off a nice pair of shoes, which I had put on to prevent them from being stolen! I was left in my stocking feet, in the cold rain, in the back yard! And that Yankee had my shoes!

[Someone told the Yankees of a] certain lady living in the neighborhood had money and jewels, which she had hidden in the mattress of her bed. [They] found her sick in bed [and] asked for her money and she denied having it. They pulled her out, raised up the mattress, found her valuables, and took them! As a punishment, they knocked in the top of a hogshead of molasses, which they found in her barn, and dipped her, head and all, into the barrel!

(Memoirs of an Octogenarian, John D. Bellamy, Jr., Observer Publishing, 1941, pp. 23-25)

Lincoln's Army of Roughs and Jailbirds

The Hampton area of Virginia was evacuated by Gen. John B. Magruder’s forces in early August 1861; the region had become unstable after the enemy seized property and slaves, and by late July the Hampton-Fortress Monroe area had nearly 1000 blacks seized during enemy raids on upriver plantations. The intention was identical to Lord Dunmore’s in 1775 – deny Virginia its agricultural workers and arm them against their former owners.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s Army of Roughs and Jailbirds

“On Monday, May 27 [1861] . . . soon after breakfast, several boats were seen loaded with [Yankee] troops going up the river and being so near the land, it was apparent they intended to land at the wharves. One can imagine the great excitement created by the sight of the troops. War seemed to have come in the midst of perfect peace.

Very soon after, a squad of marines came to the house and advised father to go and ask protection of the commanding officer, who turned out to be General [Northcott] Phelps. They said many of the soldiers were the rough and jailbirds of Boston and would steal and destroy everything unless it was guarded.

General Phelps was the colonel of the 1st Vermont (Regiment) but on account of his West Point training had been made brigadier-general . . . There were three regiments landed: the 7th New York, all Germans, were stationed next to our house, all on our land; the 1st Vermont, and the Massachusetts, next to Captain Wilbern’s.

In order to conciliate the guard, we furnished them with food, but they were very suspicious, and I usually had to eat some of it to show that it was not poisoned.

Tuesday afternoon I went over to the [enemy] camp . . . and witnessed something of what war was. It seemed that the colonel of the Massachusetts Regiment was very mad because Phelps had been promoted over him and for this reason perhaps had given passes to a great many of his men to go out of the lines . . . At any rate, a large number had gone out of camp and plundered the whole neighborhood.

They seemed to have stripped the farms and houses of everything conceivable. I learned afterwards that the thieves, finding that they would be arrested, had left most of the plunder in the thickets outside the pickets, all of which was brought into camp, in the night.

As only two of the Vermonters were arrested, and very few of the Germans, the Massachusetts Regiment became very indignant and made many threats. I now saw what a soldier would do if unrestrained and in what he conceived an enemy’s country . . . there was fear of mutiny, for we were informed by our guard that the Vermont Regiment was expecting an attack, and if we heard any firing we would know it was between them and the Massachusetts Regiment.

The Negroes had not tried to protect anything from the pillaging of the soldiers . . . What furniture or other things they wanted had been carried away by them. A small safe that father had used in his store in Hampton . . . had been taken out in the yard and broken open. The valuables were all stolen and books and papers scattered about the yard.”

(When the Yankees Came, Civil War and Reconstruction on the Virginia Peninsula, George Benjamin West, Park Rouse, Jr., editor, The Dietz Press, 1977, excerpts, pp. 47-50)

Lincoln's Beast in New Orleans

Contemplating victory at New Orleans some 50 years prior, the British commander announced that his forces had come to “restore order, maintain public tranquility, and enforce peace and quiet under His Majesty’s laws.” The secessionists of that day were required to surrender their arms and suppress all flags except those of England. Full protection of person and property was held out to all who would renew the oath of allegiance to the British Crown and the band would play “Rule Britannia.” 

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa 1865.com

 

Lincoln’s Beast in New Orleans

“When the army transport Mississippi at noon on May 1 [1862] tied up to the wharf at the foot of Poydras Street, the New York Times correspondent on board reported:

 “I saw several instances of the bitter spirit of the rabble, and even of people whom one might have taken from their appearance to be respectable. The levee, for the whole length of the river front of the city, was constantly crowded by a turbulent throng and whenever a boat belonging to the fleet passed them, its occupants were jeered and hooted at . . . This wall of human beings stood there as enemies to bar our entry to the city.”

As the soldiers were disembarking, angry citizens had to be held back at point of bayonet. Voices from the mob called out “Picayune Butler,” “You’ll never see home again.” “Hallo, epaulets, lend us a picayune.”

 The picayune, Louisiana’s smallest coin in colonial days, had recently achieved minstrel-show fame in a jocular song about “the arrival of a mythical Picayune Butler at a mythical town for mythical purposes. General Butler, in his stateroom, hearing the outcries for “Picayune Butler,” paused in the composition of his proclamation to the citizens of New Orleans long enough to inquire if any of the bands could play the tune. As the music was unavailable, “Yankee Doodle” and “The Star Spangled Banner” were played instead.

At 5PM, Butler began his march through the downtown section of the city to the Custom House [with Massachusetts and Wisconsin troops]. Crowds on the pavements craned their necks. Here and there a throat screamed: “Where is the damned rascal?” “There he goes, God damn him!” “I see the old damned villain!” Others taunted the Federals with “Shiloh!” “Bull Run!” “Hurrah for Beauregard!” “Go home, you damned Yankees!”  

In his proclamation to the citizens of New Orleans Butler emphasized the peaceful intention behind the mailed fist. There would be martial law, but only for so long as it might be necessary, since the United States forces had come to “restore order, maintain public tranquility, and enforce peace and quiet under the laws and constitution of the United States.”

Secessionists were required to surrender their arms and suppress all flags except those of the United States. Full protection of person and property was held out to all who would renew the oath of allegiance.

Mayor John T. Monroe, summoned on May 2, made his way to [Butler’s headquarters] through packed, sullen streets and was received in the . . . Ladies Parlor.  Monroe, remembering Butler as a fellow Democrat in prewar days, greeted the General as “always a friend of the South.”

“Stop sir,” Butler interrupted, “Let me set you right on that point at once. I was always a friend of Southern rights but an enemy of Southern wrongs.”

The interview was interrupted by loud shouts in the streets of “hang the traitor,” and an aide rushed in. “General Williams orders me to say that he fears he may not be able to control the mob.”  “Give me compliments to General Williams,” directed Butler, “and tell him, if he finds he cannot control the mob, to open upon them with artillery.”

[Butler’s wife] Sarah Butler relished the experience, and described it to her sister:

“And what do you think about being among the first to enter New Orleans . . . Mr. Butler ordering the opening of the St. Charles, compelling a hackman at the point of a bayonet to drive us to the Hotel. We had no guard but an armed soldier on the box and another behind the carriage. A regiment was drawn up around the hotel and four howitzers on the corners. The band was stationed on the piazza, and they played with fiery energy all the national airs from Yankee Doodle to the Star Spangled Banner.” 

[Butler stated] . . . “if a shot is fired from any house, that house will never again cover a mortal’s head; and if I can discover the perpetrator of the deed, the place that now knows him shall know him no more forever. I have the power to suppress this unruly element in your midst, and I mean to use it.”

(Lincoln’s Scapegoat General, A Life of General Benjamin F. Butler, Richard West, Jr., Houghton Mifflin, 1965, pp. 131-135)

 

Destruction, Confiscation and Genocide

Ample evidence suggests that exterminating Southerners and repopulating their lands with New Englanders was desired by abolitionist radicals like Eli Thayer and Parson Brownlow. The latter wanted Negro troops under Ben Butler to drive Southern men, women and children into the Gulf of Mexico to clear the way for those loyal to Lincoln’s government to settle on confiscated Southern lands.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Destruction, Confiscation and Genocide

“For many [Southern] manufacturers, the personal and financial losses of the Civil War were truly overwhelming. At Roswell, Georgia, [Northern-born] Barrington King found upon his return from refugeeing farther South, away from Sherman’s destructive swath across that State, that “going towards the creek to see the destruction of our fine mills, all destroyed, the loss of two sons, another wounded, & one with a broken wrist, all caused by the late unnatural war, made me sad indeed.”

Duncan Murchison, the former proprietor of the Little River factory in Fayetteville, North Carolina, lamented, “the fortunes of war have snatched away nearly the whole of my property – my cotton factory, store house, ware-houses, turpentine distillery, with all the stock on hand, were burned by Genl Sherman’s army, and my grain, provisions and stock taken by the two contending armies.”

With six bullet wounds himself, William H. Young of Columbus’s [Georgia] burned Eagle factory also “suffered much and heavily in the recent war by the loss of children and property.”

Ralph Brinkley, who fled the Memphis Wolfe Creek mill upon the entrance of federal troops into Tennessee, wrote the president that he “suffered heavily by the war, and by the loss of two lovely children” and was weighted down with grief and affliction.” The psychological and economic trauma was made more acute by the uncertain political atmosphere in the North.

Eli Thayer, once a confidant of John Brown, wrote [President Andrew] Johnson that Confederate lands should quickly be confiscated and immigrants settled on them. The president at times seemed to endorse treason trials and massive confiscations.

Following the complete occupation of the former Confederacy in the summer of 1865, Secretary of the Treasury McCulloch approved extensive seizures of property that fell under the terms of [the Northern confiscation acts since 1861]. Secretary McCulloch, responsive to Andrew Johnson’s insistence that treason be made odious, ruled that State and locally-owned properties in the South were also alienated and liable for confiscation by virtue of their use in the rebellion.

In North Georgia, [Barrington] King observed, as did others across the South, that many freedmen were “leaving their masters’ plantations, crops ruined, no one to do the work – all flooding to the cities and towns, expecting to be supported by Govt.” Although accommodating to free labor, he believed that “without some law compelling the Negroes to work for wages, there will be trouble in another year, as the poor creatures expose themselves, become sickly & fast dying off.”

Then high mortality rate for freed people in the summer of 1865 convinced King and many managers that blacks could not survive without supervision.”

(Confederate Industry, Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War, Harold S. Wilson, University of Mississippi Press, 2002, excerpts, pp. 234-237; 252-253)

 

Propaganda to Sustain the Northern War Effort

Of German and English parentage, Lincoln’s chief of staff Henry W. Halleck married the granddaughter of Alexander Hamilton and in early 1861 was worth $500,000 from a career in railroads and banking. He predicted that the North “will become ultra anti-slavery, and I fear, in the course of the war will declare for emancipation and thus add the horrors of a servile war to that of a civil war.” While Halleck directed the propaganda war and often withheld casualty figures from the Northern press, Lincoln’s Secretary of State William H. Seward scoured Europe for mercenaries to fight against Americans struggling for independence.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Propaganda to Sustain the Northern War Effort

“Politically, Old Brains served Lincoln well. When the President decided to fire a general he had Halleck sign the order; thus the general’s supporters blamed Halleck for the dismissal. Lincoln liked to assume a pose of weakness and simplicity and to give the impression that others were controlling him. When friends enquired about a military move, Lincoln would say, “I wish not to control. That I now leave to General Halleck,” or “You must call on General Halleck, who commands.”

To Horatio G. Wright, commander of the [Northern] garrison at Louisville, Kentucky, Halleck clarified the issue: “The Government seems determined to apply the guillotine to all unsuccessful generals.” Ruefully he added: “It seems rather hard to do this where a general is not in fault, but perhaps with us now, as in the French revolution some harsh measures are required.” Halleck’s realization demonstrated his growing insight of the necessary interrelation of war and politics in a democracy.

[Halleck] struggled for efficiency against [an] entrenched and powerful enemy, the [Republican] politicians, who wanted to include the army in the spoils system.

Writing to a civilian who was active in army reforms, Francis Lieber, Halleck expressed a fear that the governors would build up a “northern States rights party that would eventually overpower all Federal authority.” He had cautioned Lincoln, but “no heed [was] given to the warning,” and now “approaching danger is already visible.”

Since the North was in legalistic confusion during the war, there were other areas where Halleck needed [Prussian liberal Francis Lieber]. The government’s official policy that the Southern States had not withdrawn from the Union, meant that the Confederate armies were mere rebellious mobs and were therefore not protected by established rules of civilized warfare.

But Union generals could not slaughter every captured Confederate, or their own men would receive similar treatment when they were seized. The Northern populace needed a heavy diet of propaganda to sustain their fighting spirit and the government had to cater to them. The Confederacy’s inadequate prison camps . . . were the soup de jour on the propagandists’ menu.

Halleck contributed his share of atrocity stories. In his annual report for 1863, he said that the North treated Rebel prisoners with “consideration and kindness,” while the Confederates stripped Union officers of blankets, shoes even in winter, confined them in “damp and loathsome prisons,” fed them on “damaged provisions, or actually starved [them] to death.”

Others were murdered “by their inhuman keepers,” and the “horrors of Belle Isle and Libby Prison exceed even those of “British [floating prison] Hulks” or the “Black Hole of Calcutta.” Southerners [he claimed] applauded these “barbarous” acts as a “means of reducing the Yankee rank.” Laws of war justified retaliation and the “present case seems to call for the exercise of this extreme right,” he concluded.

[Halleck’s] General Orders No. 100 were entitled] “Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field,” [and] Southerners denounced it for legalizing crime [committed by Northern forces]. [Lieber, like Clausewitz] believed that total war could not and should not be limited [and] said that restrictions on violence – such as General Orders 100 – were “hardly worth mentioning.”

(Halleck, Lincoln’s Chief of Staff, Stephen E. Ambrose, LSU Press, 1990 (original 1962), pp. 65; 88; 102; 104; 128-131)

Lincoln's Indian Affairs

William P. Dole was Lincoln’s hand-picked Commissioner of Indian Affairs, appointed to office on March 8, 1861. Dole “had made the necessary bargains that swung the votes of the Pennsylvania and Indiana delegations to Lincoln,” and thus won the new president’s first federal appointment. As Republican party railroad support and homesteading policy was attracting white settlers to the West, many tribal lands and previous Indian treaties got in the way of progress.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s Indian Affairs

“Dole began working closely with [Wisconsin Republican] Senator James R. Doolittle, chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, to conclude treaties with all Indian tribes not yet covered by binding agreements. Nearly every treaty contained the Indian Bureau’s careful description of tribal lands, along with an equally careful disclaimer inserted by senators to eliminate any possibility that the treaty might be interpreted as a recognition of Indian title to the land.

When a few Southern tribes joined the Confederacy, Dole began to press for confiscation of their lands in present Oklahoma so that other tribes might be settled on them after the war. This idea had a great deal of appeal, since it seemed to solve the problem of where to put the Indians of Kansas and Nebraska whose land was coveted by white settlers and speculators.

[Episcopal] Bishop Henry B. Whipple had called for an end to whiskey smuggling on the reservation . . . [and] During the fall of 1862. Bishop Whipple visited Lincoln to plead for mercy for the 303 Indian warriors sentenced to death by [General John Pope’s] military court for their part in the Sioux uprising.

Dole interpreted Pope’s [draconian resettlement] proposal to mean that the general wanted to herd all Indians together in one vast reserve where white civilization could not intrude. He . . . wondered just how Pope proposed to bring hostile warriors onto his reservation without involving the nation in a bloody Indian war.

Something very much like Pope’s policy was being tried in New Mexico with disastrous results. During 1862 and 1863, the army moved several thousand Navajos and Mescalero Apaches onto a reservation . . . both groups rebelled at the harsh surroundings and the strict control imposed by the military. Indians fled from the reservation faster than troops could find them and return them to captivity.

[It was] a military operation that brought Dole’s tenure to an end. Colonel John M. Chivington and his volunteer militiamen massacred a sleeping camp of Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians at Sand Creek, Colorado Territory, in late November 1864.   An outraged Congress immediately demanded the removal of the army officers, Indian agents and politicians who were in any way involved in the events leading up to the episode.

Lincoln tried to save the career of old his friend from Illinois, but a few weeks after Lincoln’s assassination President Andrew Johnson removed Dole without much ceremony.”

(The Commissioners of Indian Affairs, 1824-1977, Kvasnicka & Viola, editors, University of Nebraska Press, 1979, pp. 91-95)

 

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.org

 

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.”

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

How Sunday's Were Kept

The passage below describes how Sunday was kept in Wilmington, North Carolina about a century ago, when religious faith commanded better attention than today. The painting that captivated Emma (below) was of the burial of Captain William Latane, the only casualty of Stuart’s ride around McClellan’s army in the Spring of 1862. His body was seized by the enemy, who refused to allow a clergyman to pass through their lines to officiate at the burial. The lady holding the Bible described below was Mrs. Willoughby Newton, who read the funeral service.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

How Sundays Were Kept

“Preparations for Sunday started on Saturday in our house; the kitchen was a-hustle with the making of cake, bread, puddings and pies. My Mother did not believe in making her servant cook anything on Sunday that could be prepared the day before. We children were made to study our Sunday School lessons and the catechism and to take a more thorough and inspected hot bath than on other days.

In our home we generally got up on Sundays an hour later than week days. We were always eager for our breakfast as we knew we would have salt mackerel and hominy. The mackerel had been soaked overnight and when cooked was served with cut up hard boiled eggs and butter poured on top.

And that was real butter — no substitute — we did not know there was such a commodity. The hominy had been cooked and stirred for an hour. There were biscuits and coffee and cambric tea for the children. And in season we had canteloupes and oranges—fruit juices were unknown.

After a leisurely meal the family dispersed until Church time, some to read the papers. We smaller children generally followed Mama to look at her garden, for my mother always had flowers in bloom, regardless of season, and Sunday morning was always the time to show them off and talk about them.

If there was time before church we would run next door to speak to Grandpa Worth, but only for a minute because we had to be at Church on time and we walked . . . as there were few pavements we had to pick the best side to walk on, for we had our Sunday-go-to-meeting shoes to keep clean.

After Sunday dinner the older members of the family had their naps and woe to any of us that played the piano or gramophone during those hours. Then we had to get ready for Sunday School at four o’clock.

By the time we reached home it was almost 5:00 p.m. But as we sat listening to our elders talking about things we were not interested in, we had one unfailing source of wonder. We sat facing a picture which has been almost a part of our lives. I have it to this day in a place of honor in my living room — “The Burial of Latane.”

It told us a story of a young Confederate officer’s burial. Weeping young women stood there. There was the grave digger leaning on his spade ready. There was no clergyman to read the service. A dignified woman dressed in black held an open book and was ready to do what she could for service. Two lovely children stood near and the faithful colored servants were in the background. We read much into the picture and have always loved it.”

(A Goodly Heritage, Emma Woodward MacMillan, Wilmington Printing Company, 1961, pp. 9- 14)

New Weapons and the Unnecessary Carnage

The South should have fought a defensive war that would bleed the enemy in massed assaults, though time and the North’s increasingly large army of bounty-enriched foreigners, paid substitutes and freedmen meant eventual exhaustion. The question remains of why Lincoln continued the unnecessary slaughter rather than peacefully allow the South’s desire for political independence.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

New Weapons and the Unnecessary Carnage

“The engine of change was technological modification. An advance of weaponry overthrew the efficacy and then the moral meaning of the tactics soldiers wished to employ, robbing of significance the gestures they had been determined to make. Civil War muzzle-loaders . . . were no longer smoothbore but rifled [and charging] columns could be brought under fire much earlier, at a half-mile’s distance, and a much higher toll exacted. Even with the persistence of poor firing instruction and wretched firing discipline, rifling strengthened the hand of the defense decisively.

The futility of the frontal attack, with each regiment advancing on a two-company front, should have been apparent as early as [Sharpsburg] . . . in those ranks of dead ranged as neatly as if on parade. Three months later Burnside attacked Lee’s men on the heights of Fredericksburg at a cost of 12, 653 casualties against their opponents 5,309.

At Gettysburg it was Lee who sent . . . 15,000 in Pickett’s charge, perhaps half returned. At Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864 . . . Grant ordered frontal attacks that in less than sixty minutes cost the Army of the Potomac 7,000 killed and wounded against the Confederates’ 1,300 casualties. There the principal charges could be sustained only twelve to twenty minutes.

Ironically, Sherman’s first opponent, Joseph E. Johnston, was perhaps the only defensive adept in either army, and it was he who repulsed Sherman’s charges while yielding ground before Sherman’s otherwise masterly campaign of probing operations and flanking movements. But on July 17, 1864, Jefferson Davis relieved Johnston of his command and installed in his place, John Bell Hood, whose devotion to the attack was unsurpassed in either army. Sherman was pleased: “I inferred that the change of command means “fight.” This is just what he wanted. As [Jacob D.] Cox put it:

“We . . . regarded the removal of Johnston as equivalent to a victory for us. Three months of sharp work convinced us that a change from Johnston’s methods to those which Hood was likely to employ was . . . to have our enemy grasp the hot end of the poke . . . we were confident that . . . a succession of attacks would soon destroy the Confederate army.”

Sherman was willing to wait for those attacks. At Peachtree Creek Hood lost between 5,000 and 6,000 in killed, wounded and missing to Sherman’s 1,800; at Decatur, as many as 10,000, against Union losses of 3,700; at Ezra Church 5,000 against 600. Describing for Sherman that last combat, soldiers of the 15th Corps assured him it had been “the easiest thing in the world; that, in fact, it was a common slaughter of the enemy.” [Sherman] saw more clearly than others that the charge had become defeat.”

(Embattled Courage, the Experience of Combat in the Civil War, Gerald F. Linderman, Free Press, 1987, pp. 135-137)

Northern Destruction and Rebel Trophies

Anyone who scratches the surface of the Northern war upon the South cannot avoid the obvious question of why those Americans who sought a more perfect union with the consent of the governed, and in full compliance with Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, were to suffer wanton destruction, defeat and virtual enslavement for the very same act initiated by their forefathers in 1776.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Northern Destruction and Rebel Trophies

“The Civil War was not worth its cost. It freed the slaves, upset a social and an economic order, strengthened the powers of the national government, and riveted tighter upon the South a colonial status under which it had long suffered. What good the war produced would have come with time in an orderly way; the bad would not have come at all.

Its immediate effects on the South were glaring and poignant; those more fundamental were less evident and long-drawn out. The war generation bore the brunt, and it was they who had to grapple hardest with the new problems.

As the war had been fought almost entirely in the South, here its destructions were wrought. What invasion feeds upon is the same everywhere – towns and cities, lines of railways, bridges and fences, forests and fields, factories and homes, livestock and granaries, and personal belongings.

Of all the Federal officers General Sherman was most proficient in carrying the rigors of war to the people, and for this Southerners set him upon a permanent pinnacle dedicated to Civil War ruthlessness, and often gave him credit for the destructions of other commanders. The lone chimneys – Sherman’s sentinels – reared themselves as conspicuous landmarks along the sixty-mile wide swath he cut across Georgia and up through South Carolina . . .

A Northerner who had travelled through the South declared that Sherman had not left a building on the railway from Macon to Savannah, and two years after the war Sherman . . . recalled to his veterans what had happened:

“Look to the South, and you who went with me through that land can best say if they too have not been fearfully punished.  Mourning in every household, desolation written in broad characters across the whole face of their country, cities in ashes and fields laid waste, their commerce gone, their system of labor annihilated and destroyed. Ruin, poverty and distress everywhere, and now pestilence adding to the very cap sheaf to their stack of misery; her proud men begging for pardon and appealing for permission to raise food for their children; her five million slaves free, and their value lost to their former masters forever.”

[Sherman] did his worst in South Carolina and left conditions there which a loyal Northern witness averred no pen could describe. Fearing he would be thought to be sentimentalizing, he added, “Yet that treatment was what the haughty little State needed.” Philip H. Sheridan’s ravages of the Shenandoah Valley and four years of other warfare in Virginia made the Old Dominion a fearful sufferer. Tennessee and Mississippi lay in ruins wherever armies had marched. Alabama claimed destructions amounting to $300,000,000 and the cane planters alone in Louisiana suffered losses set at $100,000,000. Total material destruction throughout the South has been estimated in billions of dollars [William W. Davis, The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida, 1913, pg. 319].

Later, plundered belongings turned up in Northern pawnshops, and Southerners long charged that “the houses of volunteer officers, and chaplains especially, in almost every New England and Northern village” were filled “with stolen plate, pictures, books and even wearing apparel, and, in fact, everything from a piano to a pap-spoon, which, . . . [were] proudly displayed as “rebel trophies,” or “confiscated property.”

A group signing themselves “Many Southern Ladies” published in Northern papers a plea asking for the return of their property and directed it to “the families of lawyers, ministers, captains, colonels, generals, professors in colleges . . . [and to] thousands of privates in the army, and chaplains and governors of States.”