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Fiends in Federal Uniform

Sherman demonstrated control over his troops when it suited him, and could also allow subordinates to wink at soldier outrages. At Sandersville, Georgia alone, residents were left with no food or water for days while Union soldiers shot all the hogs, cows and chickens they could not take with them, the ground strewn with food, and carpets drenched with syrup and then covered with meal.  The roads along Sherman’s route were lined with the carcasses of horses, hogs and cattle, wantonly shot down to starve out the people and prevent them from making crops.

Fiends in Federal Uniform

“[During Sherman’s march through Georgia] a German-born private enthused to his family, “we live like God in France.” A good deal of looting also took place, especially by the foraging parties who operated with little supervision. “If money, watches or jewelry was found it was inevitably confiscated, recalled a New York veteran after the war, adding that the rampant thievery had “a very demoralizing effect on the men.” Even men of good reputation began to steal. There were men in prisons all over the country, the old veteran believed, “who took their first lessons in thieving while acting as one of Sherman’s foragers.”

Plenty of men regretted the hardship they and their comrades visited on civilians. During the destruction of railroads preceding the march, an Ohio soldier, drafted into the army only weeks before, scrawled in his diary: “There is great destruction of property about here. Much of it unnecessary. It is a pity to see homes of comfort destroyed thus. I think of my own house and wife and I can estimate the feelings of the enemy when I think how I would feel if served thus.”

Colonel Orlando M. Poe . . . complained to his own diary of the damage wrought by vandals, to the great scandal of our Army, and marked detriment to its discipline.” As the army neared to coast, a captain came upon four houses set afire “by some dirty rascal from our army . . .”

Eight days into the Savannah campaign, Major Thomas Taylor of the 47th Ohio . . . came upon a family who had been abused by a renegade party of [Union] foragers. After stripping them of everything edible, the “bummers” had smashed jars and dishes, vandalized furniture, scattered clothing, cut open mattresses, and threatened to burn the house down around their ears if they did not leave.”

“Such an act of barbarity,” Taylor wrote, “I have never witnessed in the service, yet these fiends wore the Federal uniform.”

(The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians 1861-1865, Mark Grimsley, Cambridge University Press, 1995, excerpt pg. 197)

 

A War of Conquest, Not Philanthropy

Fearing slave rebellion from its highly concentrated black population, the South wanted free access to the Territories to lessen this; the North wanted to restrict black people to the South and open the Territories to white-only immigration. A great irony of history is the blame the American South receives for African slavery: the South did not bring the black man to America, British and New England slave ships did after purchasing their human cargoes from African chieftains.

A War of Conquest, Not Philanthropy

“The initial sympathy of the British people for the North because of the belief that the South had seceded to set up a slave state and that the North stood for freedom of the slave was soon to be destroyed, and a strong conviction arose that the freedom of the slave was not an issue in the war. One can hardly escape the logic of events which forced this conclusion upon the English mind.

During the winter of [early] 1861, it will be recalled, numerous compromises of the American troubles were discussed, the most important of which was the Crittenden compromises conceding a permanent share of the territories to slavery. The Economist upon hearing of such proposals spoke of the measures as iniquitous, and was not willing to believe that Lincoln would yield to them.

But the final disillusionment came when in his inaugural address Lincoln said: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where is exists . . . I believe I have no lawful right to do so and I have no intention to do so. “

This was, in truth, the death knell of British sympathy based upon the moral righteousness of the Northern cause. If freedom was not the cause, then what was it?

The Economist late in the summer of 1861 pronounced a little stronger upon the issue of the war: It was not for freeing the slave on the part of the North or preserving slavery on the part of the South, but was for dominion and power on the part of the one and the right of self-government on the part of the other.

After Lincoln’s message to Congress, which was as tender of the rights of slavery as had been in his inaugural, the Economist was completely convinced, if there had been any doubts, that Lincoln and the North would be more than glad to continue or restore the old Federal union on the basis of slavery and all its abuses if the South would only return.

The inevitable conclusion was that the war was “a war of conquest and not of philanthropy.”

(King Cotton Diplomacy: Foreign Relations of the Confederate States of America, Frank L. Owsley, University of Chicago Press, 1931, pp. 187-188)

Jan 17, 2021 - American Military Genius, Carnage, Lincoln's Blood Lust, Myth of Saving the Union, No Compromise, Pleading for Peace, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots, Uncategorized    Comments Off on “Not Since Hermann Destroyed the Roman Legions”

“Not Since Hermann Destroyed the Roman Legions”

The Wilderness battle was fought July 1-3, 1864: 104,000 Union troops versus 61,000 Southern. Once again the carnage was appalling and once again Lincoln had the opportunity to end the struggle against the South’s independence as the British did some eighty years earlier with the colonies. Several peace conferences committed to saving the lives of soldiers and civilians alike would end in failure as Lincoln stood firm in his conviction to rule all the American States, and nearly half in subjugation.

“Not Since Hermann Destroyed the Roman Legions”

“Before the close of the day Grant’s army was on the south side [of the Rapidan], four thousand wagons filled with forage and ammunition, beef-cattle, cavalry, artillery and infantry. This feat was so pleasing that Grant regarded it as a great success and “undoubtedly a surprise to Lee.” The ensuing night the Union army entrenched and camped in the Wilderness, that tangled forest in which Hooker had come to grief.

Now that Grant was busy with his operations, Lee had not been idle. He had observed the movements of the enemy from every angle and had made a report to his government. Yet the crushing numbers of the enemy gave him concern. He made no excuses, raised no questions and expressed no doubts, but he must have more troops.

By April 30 the federal plans had been foreseen by Lee, precisely as they had been worked out by General Grant, and he had prepared his line of defense. In the Wilderness, he would attack Grant’s army on its left flank and throw it back on the Rapidan. He would make a strategic offensive and concentrate his forces and shut Grant up in that dense jungle.

Of this strategy of Lee’s it must be said it was one of his boldest and most skillful. His proposed plan, experts declare, broke all modern precedent – it was to be a duel in the dark. Such an engagement had not been fought since Hermann destroyed the Roman legions in the forest of Teutoburg.

But Lee was not bound by rule. He practiced his own theory of the art of war and, in the coming campaign, was to furnish such an example of the use of natural features to neutralize a superior force as will always be a model. Grant’s telegraph lines were to be rendered useless, his artillery rendered useless, his artillery wholly ruled out, the guns, three hundred of them, to stand silent. Cavalry was to be still more useless.

Five times the federal charge was made and five times it failed. [The last days’ assault] lasted but sixty minutes, yet it was one of the most disastrous Union defeats of the war. Six thousand Union soldiers were killed or wounded in an hour, and Cold Harbor passed into history with Fredericksburg. The fatality among the Union officers was astounding; they literally went forward and led their men into battle and death.  The loss to Lee’s army was slight.”

(Robert E. Lee: A Biography, Robert W. Winston, William Morrow & Co., 1934, excerpts pp. 291-292; 306-307)

No Quarter for Old Men and Beardless Boys

Marianna, Florida was a peaceful west Florida town of prewar Whigs who bitterly opposed their State’s secession. Aware of the theft and destruction Northern forces had visited upon other Florida towns, Marianna made ready to defend their homes. Though a disaster for the town, the old men and boys succeeded in causing sufficient casualties to thwart the enemy advance to Tallahassee, and force its retreat to Pensacola.

No Quarter for Old Men and Beardless Boys

“On the morning of the 25th of September, 1864, the usually quiet town of Marianna, in west Florida, of about 2,000 inhabitants, was in a state of great anxiety over the report that the “Yankees were coming.”

The church bells were rung, calling out all citizens to the court house, where a meeting was held and resolutions passed to repel the invaders. A few Confederate soldiers, then at home and on sick leave, formed the nucleus of an organization which was at once perfected. Grayheaded old men, boys under 16 years of age within the town and ten miles around, regardless of previous Union sentiment, arrived with shotguns and formed what they themselves called “The Cradle and Grave Militia company,” in all about 200, and partly mounted.  They elected Captain Norwood, a prominent Unionist, as their captain, and reported for duty . . . full of ardor and brave endeavor. [Their commander formed a defensive] line with its right at the boarding-house and the left resting at the Episcopal church.

[The enemy invader] consisted of a battalion of the Second Maine cavalry . . . and several companies of deserters, the so-called First regiment of Florida Troops, and two full companies of ferocious Louisiana Negroes, in all about 600 . . . [the enemy] detached a part of his command to flank the village, and advanced the main body directly toward the church.

An indiscriminate firing began from the Confederate front and rear, the old men and beardless boys fighting like enraged lions, disputing every inch of ground. The contest was fierce and deadly for half an hour, when [the enemy commander] ordered the church, boarding-house and a private residence opposite burned.

The militia kept their ground manfully between the two walls of flames. In the meantime the Federal flanking party gained the rear of the militia and commenced an indiscriminate slaughter, giving no quarter to anyone. The Negro companies in particular acted in a most fiendish manner. Old men and boys who offered to surrender were driven into the flames of the burning buildings; young lads who laid down their arms were cut to pieces; others picked up bodily by stalwart Negro soldiers and thrown into the seething, burning church.

The half-charred remains of several of the half-grown boys were afterward found in the ruins of the church. The Confederates scattered in every direction, every man for himself, pursued by the Maine cavalry who kept up a steady fire on them. The whole fight lasted about an hour . . . [the enemy] would return to Pensacola with their prisoners, contraband and plunder.

The day after the fight, Marianna presented a pitiable sight. The dead and wounded lay all about, and the wails and cries of mothers, wives and sisters could be heard in every direction. Women and children searched for father, son or brother in the ashes of the burnt buildings. Here and there a charred thigh or ghastly skull was disinterred from the debris.”

(Federal Incursion to Marianna, J.J. Dickison, Confederate Military History, Clement A. Evans, editor, Confederate Publishing Company, 1899, excerpts pp. 114-117)

Merchant of Terror

To his brother John Sherman on October 1, 1862, General W.T. Sherman wrote:

“I rather think you now agree with me that this is no common war — that it was not going to end in a few months or a few years. For after eighteen months the enemy is actually united, armed and determined, with powerful forces well-handled, disciplined and commanded on the Potomac, the Ohio, the Missouri. I knew, and know yet, that the Northern people have to unlearn all their experiences of the past thirty years and be born again before they will see the truth.”

Property destruction was not the complete answer. Sherman was convinced of this, since the “guerilla” attacks continued even after the example offered in the fate meted out to Randolph. There was something lacking – an element to complete the new concept of war – if the part played by the people of the South was to be eliminated.  With acceptance of the fact that destruction of property was not the final answer, Sherman’s mind leaped the gap and seized on the solution – terrorism. 

He would so thoroughly inject the shock of fear into the South that it would lead to its complete demoralization. Such demoralization would work like a slow poison, resulting in the paralysis of the Confederate armies through wholesale desertions of men returned home to assure the safety of their families. More important, dread would so sicken the people of the South that they would clamor for cessation, and to obtain relief they would exert every pressure on their government to end the war.

Here then, in Memphis, was the mold made. The months ahead would see it filled in: it would harden into the completed philosophy of total war, employing a program of devastation and waste, the turning loose on the countryside of a horde of pillagers and looters who would do their work systematically and well.”

(Merchant of Terror: General Sherman and Total War, John Bennett Walters, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1973, excerpt pp. 65-66)

Lee’s Only Chance

Though Lincoln doubted that he would be reelected in 1864, and was heard to state that he hoped another Republican would replace him as he feared being imprisoned by a Democrat for his numerous unconstitutional acts, his Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana said “the whole power of the War Department was used to secure Lincoln’s re-election in 1864.” By that time there were far too many whose careers and wealth depended upon the powerful centralized government Lincoln had created, and which the Radical Republicans wanted to rule.

The starving, ragged soldiers of Lee and Johnston were the last remaining barriers to full Radical control of the destiny of the “nation conceived in liberty” declared at Gettysburg in November 1863.  

Lee’s Only Chance

“In Lee’s ranks there was less fear of Grant than of that grim enemy, hunger. George Cary Eggleston [A Rebel’s Recollections] reports the rigid economies in food which his men practiced; then he adds:

“Hunger to starving men is wholly unrelated to the desire for food as that is commonly understood and felt. It is a great agony of the whole body and the soul as well. It is unimaginable, all-pervading pain inflicted when the strength to endure pain is utterly gone. It is a great despairing cry of a wasting body – a cry of flesh and blood, marrow, nerves, bones, and faculties for strength with which to exist and to endure existence. It is a horror which, once suffered, leaves an impression that is never erased from memory, and to this day the old agony of that campaign comes back upon me at the mere thought of any living creature’s lacking the food it desires, even though its hunger be only the ordinary craving and the denial be necessary for the creature’s health.”

In the whole campaign from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor, the Union losses were 55,000, nearly as much as Lee’s whole army. Grant, however, could find new recruits; he was amply reinforced; and he had no embarrassment from the lack of food or equipment. As a defensive accomplishment in fighting off superior numbers, the campaign stands as a significant chapter in Confederate annals.

Confederate losses in the Wilderness campaign were proportionally heavier than those of Grant, behind whom stood the North with its numbers, wealth, organization, and equipment.  Lee’s chance of conquering the Northern armies had gone.  His only chance was in the doubtful hope that a stout and desperate defense, if continued long enough, would wear down the Northern will to fight, produce Lincoln’s defeat in the election of 1864, and by the sheer force of war weariness bring peace on terms acceptable to the South.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction, James G. Randall, D.C. Heath and Company, 1937, excerpts pp. 544-547)

Unceasing Blows and Sheer Attrition

In early May 1864, Grant moved across the Rapidan River in Virginia to pass quickly through the Wilderness before giving battle. Instead, there he lost some 26,000 men in the dense thickets. On June 3rd Grant lost “more men in the eight minutes of hottest fighting than in any period of the war.”  Though this carnage intensified the peace movement in the North, Lincoln provided Grant with an endless supply of immigrants, substitutes and conscripted men to continue this fearful slaughter. Lincoln, despite ruling the North with near-dictatorial powers, was well-aware 1864 was an election year and victories at any cost were needed before November.

Unceasing Blows and Sheer Attrition

“With the spring of 1864, the war entered a new phase. Union victories in the West had cut deeply into the economic and military strength of the Confederacy.  They had done more, for they had associated the names of Grant and his lieutenants with a habit of mind which connoted aggressiveness, strategy on a large scale, and victory.

It was not that Grant was a supreme master of the “science of war,” nor even that he merited full credit for the victories under his command . . . It was rather that a situation had been reached where, with Northern recruiting, Confederate depletion, and Grant’s sledge-hammer blows, the essential conditions of Union triumph had been presented.

Almost immediately [after Grant’s elevation to lieutenant-general] the final grand strategy of the war began to unfold itself, a strategy by which Grant used his numerical superiority and plunged ruthlessly ahead in Virginia, losing an enormous number of men, but wearing out the Confederates by sheer attrition; while in the lower South Sherman attained unenviable laurels by destroying vast amounts of food and other supplies in his “march” through Georgia and the Carolinas.  

It was by these unceasing blows at the heart of the Confederacy that the war, which had dragged on indecisively for three years, was brought to an end in 1865.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction, James G. Randall, D.C. Heath and Company, 1937, excerpts pp. 539-543)

The Carnage at Fredericksburg

The battle at Fredericksburg began at first light, December 13, 1862, and soon became a slaughter of Northern soldiers urged on against a near-impregnable barrier of musket and cannon-fire.  New York Times reporter William Swinton’s post-battle dispatch to the Times noted: “[The Federal soldiers] were literally mowed down. The bursting shells make great gaps in their ranks . . . flesh and blood could not endure it. They fell back shattered and broken, amid shouts and yells from the enemy.”  By nightfall, more than twelve thousand Union soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing.

This severe defeat of Northern forces at the end of a year that witnessed astronomical casualties on both sides, leaves us to question Lincoln’s motives for continuing his war.  After shelling and starving the women, children and old men of Vicksburg into submission, and the wounded, dead and maimed at Gettysburg, Lincoln unleashed Sherman, Sheridan and Grant upon Americans in the South in absolute total war – war against military and civilians.

The Carnage at Fredericksburg

“It was the first of six assaults, each more futile than the last. Federal artillery assayed a covering barrage; the euphemism “friendly fire” had not yet been invented, but according to [Cincinnati Commercial reporter Murat] Halstead, “at least half of the shells” fell into the Federal ranks, “killing more of our men than the enemy.”

A large number of Federal troops – wound or otherwise – were trapped on the battlefield. [London Times correspondent Francis] Lawley presented the view from the rebel lines:

“Such a scene . . . would baffle any mortal pen to describe. In addition to the agonized cries for water, and the groans of tortured and dying men, may be heard voices, constantly growing fainter and fainter, shouting out names and numbers of their regiments in hope that some of their comrades may be within hearing . . . Their bodies, which lie in dense masses, as thick as autumn leaves, within 40 yards of the muzzles of the Confederate guns, are best evidence of their bravery as well as to the desperate plight of their bitterly deceived commanders.”

Lawley, noting the large number of European mercenaries in the Federal army, offered a particular ethnocentric comment:

“It is not likely that the full details of this battle will be generally known in the North for weeks and weeks; but if, after the failure of this last and feeblest of all the Federal attempts to reach Richmond . . . the Irish and Germans are again tempted to embark on so hopeless a venture, then it is the conclusion irresistible that, in addition to all the shackles of despotism which they are alleged to have left behind them in Europe, they have left also that most valuable attribute of humanity, which is called common sense.”

“It became apparent to all observers,” the Cincinnati editor wrote, that the fortunes of the day on our side were desperate. It was manifestly absolutely impossible for our columns of unsupported infantry to carry the terrible heights.”

(Blue and Gray in Black & White: Newspapers in the Civil War, Brayton Harris, Brassey’s, 2000, excerpts pp. 224-225; 228)

Placing Party Above Peace

President James Buchanan well understood the limits of his authority and knew Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution – that waging war against any of the States united, and adhering to their enemies –constituted treason. As a former diplomat, he further saw the solution to the crisis in a Constitutional Convention of the States to properly settle differences between them. The Republican party, a purely sectional party which in no way represented Americans in the South, was now in power and sought to destroy Southern political and economic power by any means, including war.

Placing Party Above Peace

“On January 8, Buchanan sent to Congress a special message concerning relations with South Carolina. “The prospect of a bloodless settlement fades away,” he warned . . . “my province is to execute, not to make, the laws.” “We are in the midst of a great revolution . . . the Union must and shall be preserved by all constitutional means.”

Buchanan appealed again for the question to be “transferred from political assemblies to the ballot box” where the people would soon achieve a solution. “But in Heavens name, let the trial be made before we plunge into armed conflict upon the mere assumption that there is no other alternative.” From the beginning, concluded the president, no act of his should commence it, “nor even  . . . furnish an excuse for it by any act of this government.”

The inactivity of Congress convinced Buchanan that although the Republicans agreed with his policy and had nothing different to propose, they nonetheless did not wish a solution of the crisis during a Democratic Administration. He presumed that they would proceed with the same program once they came to power and thus take credit for a triumphant result, which, if Buchanan had achieved it, would annihilate their party. Lincoln’s repudiation of the use of armed force indicated that the new Administration would not pursue a course of coercion.

When on January 16 the Senate was asked to consider the least controversial point in the Crittenden plan, whether to initiate a constitutional convention, every Republican voted against letting the question even come to the floor.

Baron Stoeckl, Russian Minister in Washington, commented that the great Congressional leaders of the past had been replaced “by men undistinguished either by ability or reputation. Totally lacking in patriotism, they have but one purpose: the increase of the anti-slavery agitation . . . they preach war against the South and demand the extirpation of slavery by fire and iron.”

(President James Buchanan, A Biography, Philip S. Klein, American Political Biography Press, 1962, excerpt pp. 391-392)

On The Bare Hills, Men Without a Country

It is said that Grant at Appomattox offered rations and transportation home to Lee’s surrendered Americans, or to exile in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Many might have gladly avoided living under Northern rule, “but in distant homes were old men, helpless women and children, whose cry for help it was not hard to hear.” With all the destruction around them and carpetbaggers flowing Southward, “no one dreamed of what has followed.”

On the Bare Hills, Men Without a Country

“[The enemy] were proud of their success, were more willing to give than our men, in the soreness of defeat, and not a man of that grand army of a hundred and fifty thousand men but could, and, I believe, would testify, that on purely personal grounds, the few worn out, half-starved men that gathered around General Lee and his falling flag held the prouder position of the two. Had politicians left things alone, such feelings would have resulted in a very different condition of things.

“We stacked eight thousand stands of arms, all told: artillery, cavalry, infantry, stragglers, wagon rats and all the rest, from twelve to fifteen thousand men.

The United States troops, by their own estimate, were one hundred fifty thousand men, with a railroad connecting their rear with Washington, New York, Germany, France, Belgium, Africa – all the world, and the rest of mankind,” as General [Richard] Taylor comprehensively remarked, for their recruiting stations were all over the world, and the crusade against the South, under pressure of the “almighty dollar,” was as absolute and varied in its nationality as was that of “Peter the Hermit,” under pressure of religious zeal upon Jerusalem.

Those of us who took serious consideration of the state of affairs, felt that with our defeat we had absolutely lost our country – the one we held under the Constitution – as though we had been conquered and made a colony of by France or Russia. So far, it was all according to the order of things, and we stood on the bare hills, men without a country.”

(Dickison and His Men, Mary Elizabeth Dickison, Courier-Journal Printing, 1890, excerpt pp. 241-243)

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