Browsing "Lincoln’s Hessians"

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.org

 

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)

For Lincoln and the Fatherland

By 1864 a full 25% of Northern military machine was composed of German immigrants, many attracted by land and enlistment bounty monies with the Irish not far behind.  Some German newspaper editors argued that large units of foreigners was “a means of winning recognition for their nationality”  — as they marched against Americans in the South fighting for political independence and a more perfect union.  The diary entry below reveals immigrant views toward the black man.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

For Lincoln and the Fatherland

“On the 18th of June 1864 we arrived at the line of entrenchment in front of Petersburg. Here we had to stay in the trenches 48 hours and then be back in the rear 48 hours. This was nearly ½ mile back of the front. But there was a trench cut out from here to the front, for it was not safe to show yourself above the ground unless a man was drunk (While we lay there we drew a good dram of whiskey every morning).

A drunken man went outside the trench all the way to the front. The bullets flew all around him but none touched him. We stayed at this place till July 30th, during which time we lost a good many men, mostly by sharp shooters and some by mortar shells. One of our men was sitting by a tree with his plate on his lap eating when a sharpshooter shot him through the head. He fell over and was dead.

We had dug holes where we slept in and sat most of the time. When we were back in the rear, one fellow was lying in his hole when a mortar shell fell in the hole and exploded (My hole was about 100 feet away from his). It tore all the flesh off his leg below the knee and I guess he lost his leg.

We had port holes in the breastworks where we could shoot through without being seen by the enemy in front of us. That morning these two fellows were watching through a port hole and whenever a Johnny would show his head above their breastworks they would shoot at him. But they had not done that very long when a sharpshooter shot Elias Iran through the head and killed him. We carried him back to the rear and buried him. But before we got through they brought out the other fellow, Fred Ziehl, shot this same way.

We had a big fort on our left. It was built of pine logs and dirt. In this fort was a big gun, which threw a shell of over 62 pounds. They shot three or four of them into Petersburg every morning. We called it the Petersburg Express.

Opposite this fort the Rebs had a fort which was undermined by the 48th Pennsylvania Regiment. This fort was to be blown up on the 30th of July. Just as the sun was rising I felt the ground shaking under me. I jumped up and saw pieces of the Reb’s fort coming down in the air. Then the cannonading commenced. Then our Major (Mapes) said, “Forward boys! Every darn one of you!”

There was a regiment of Nigger troops to our left. The Rebs drove them back. They had brought up artillery in front of us and were shooting grape and canister at us. We got orders to fall back so they would not cut us off from our line. I said, “Boys, it is no use getting out of here for we will never get back to our line,” as the bullets were coming like hail. But they all started back and I was the last man in the ditch, so I concluded I would risk it too. As I went back I saw men in front of me falling and I expected any minute I’d get hit, but I got back to our line without a scratch.

When I got back to our trenches they were jammed full of Niggers, mostly bare headed and nearly scared to death and crowding for the rear. But the officers finally got them stopped and drove them back to the front.

[On the third day after the battle] There was a white flag put up on each side, and there was no shooting allowed. What I saw on the battlefield I will not forget as long as I live. The weather was hot and the dead were all black. The only way to tell a white man from a Nigger was by their hair and features. They were so badly decayed. We white soldiers were ordered to dig a ditch six or seven feet wide and four feet deep and the niggers were ordered to carry the bodies together and wrap them in a blanket and lay them side by side in the ditch and then we would cover them. They told us afterward our side lost 3000 in that battle.

After our 30 days, that we had agreed to serve as infantry, were up, we were asked to serve 30 days more. Some of the boys refused and deserted and we never heard of them afterwards. The next day when I got to the regiment they had lost 90 men, taken prisoner by some Rebel cavalry.”

(Gustave Milleville’s Civil War Diary, Part 2, Der Brief, Historical Society of North German Settlements in Western New York, July/August 2011, pp. 7-8)

Enlistment Bounties to Fill the Ranks

German immigrants became a staple of Lincoln’s army, comprising a full 25% of it by 1864. They made poor Jeffersonian Republicans as author Ella Lonn (Foreigners in the Union Army & Navy) relates that “many German had gone through the hard school of revolution in Europe [and thus] were opposed to the idea of “States’ rights.” The bounty system of the North gained recruits seeking money rather than patriotism which encouraged bounty-jumping; they fought men in the South defending their homes and country.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org   The Great American Political Divide

 

Enlistment Bounties to Fill the Ranks

“I was born on the 16th day of November 1843 in Germany in the province of Brandenburg, district of Potsdam, Kreis (county) Prenzlau in the Uckermark. I emigrated with my parents (Philipp and Auguste Albertine Schultze Milleville) to this country in the year of 1847 and landed in Buffalo on the Fourth of July, 1847. My parents settled in Niagara County, N.Y. in the Town of Wheatfield in a German settlement called Neu Bergholz.

When I was 13-1/2 years old I was confirmed by Rev. Heinrich von Rohr. I was home till I was 16 years old, then I started to learn the tailor trade with a man by the name of Friedrich Parchart. I served my three years apprenticeship with him. All the cash money I had during the three years was 75 cents which I got from a political candidate for taking a letter to August Wolf at Wallmow.

In the spring of 1862 I went to the city of Buffalo to work at my trade, but there was a poor show for a country Jake. Then I got a job . . . but the boss was a drunkard. He would work all day Sunday, and Sunday night he would go to a saloon and sometimes he would not come home till Tuesday morning and his family would have to suffer. Of course, I did not stay there long.

Then I got a job at 32 Main Street by Jacob Metzger. There I stayed till I enlisted on the 20th day of January 1864. I got $300.00 Government Bounty, $75.00 State Bounty and $110.00 County Bounty. Of the Government Bounty, we got $50.00 every six months. The State and County Bounty we got right away. I enlisted in Co. I, 2nd New York Mounted Rifles. After I had been there a few days a fellow came and asked me to loan him my overcoat, he wanted to go to the city to buy tobacco. But he forgot to come back. I guess he was a Bounty jumper.”

(Civil War Diary of Gustave Herman Henry Milleville, Eugene Camann Collection, Historical Society of North German Settlements in Western New York, May-June 2011, pp. 7-8)

German Soldiers and High Bounties

The generous enlistment bounties given Northern soldiers gave rise to the opinion that they were motivated by money and not concern for the black man. The average German immigrant was not an abolitionist, but greatly feared freed blacks flooding northward to compete with them for employment. German revolutionaries like August Willich below continued their European social-democratic crusade with Lincoln’s armies and viewed the aristocratic planters of the South with the same contempt as they did the Prussian aristocrats back home. After the war, Willich returned to Berlin and possibly due to his new familiarity with American monarchy, offered his veteran military services to Wilhelm I, King of Prussia.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

German Soldiers and High Bounties

“Besides the hardships, [letter writer] Z commented on “the various orders regarding re-enlistment.” Enlistments for soldiers who joined the army for three years in 1861 would soon be expiring, so the army offered incentives to encourage these men to reenlist for the duration of the war. Soldiers were offered a cash bounty of $400 (payable in installments), a thirty-day furlough, free transportation home, and the privilege of calling themselves “veteran volunteers.” Soldiers in regiments in which at least 75 percent of the eligible men reenlisted were able to remain with their original unit, and Veteran Volunteer was added to the regiment’s designation.

Interestingly, Colonel [Frank] Erdelmeyer wrote to Governor Morton [of Indiana] on January 9, 1864, and informed him that “three-fourths of the 32nd Regt. have reenlisted [in] the service as Veteran Vols.,” but informed him, “if the regiment would have to remain in our present position and in these pitiful and miserable circumstances in which we have been for the last three months, until the end of February or March without being re-mustered (which can only be done at Chattanooga), the men would then sooner wait five months longer and likely refuse to reenlist, as the main impulse is, to be relieved for a few days from the hardships of a Winter Campaign and not from the high Bounty.”

General [August] Willich was severely wounded in the right arm and side by a Rebel sharpshooter on May 15 . . . One soldier recalled, “he was suffering severe pain, but he loved “his poys” as he called them, and as they crowded about him he exhorted in broken English to do their duty as well without him as if he were present.”

(August Willich’s Gallant Dutchmen, Civil War Letters from the 32nd Indiana Infantry, Joseph R. Reinhart, Kent State Press, 2006, pp. 167-171)

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