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This Sad Life in Vicksburg

The author below was Mary Ann Loughborough, the New York City-born wife of Colonel James Loughborough, assistant adjutant general to Major General Sterling Price. In mid-April 1863, Mary was visiting Vicksburg just as the enemy fleet had run past the defensive batteries on the Mississippi River and began subjecting the city to intense and indiscriminate bombardment.  For protection from this shelling, civilians dug caves in the clay hills which Vicksburg was built upon.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

How Sad This Life in Vicksburg

“Even the very animals seemed to share the general fear of a sudden and frightful death. The dogs would be seen in the midst of the noise to gallop up the street, and then to return, as if fear had maddened them. On hearing the descent of a shell, they would dart aside – then, as it exploded, sit down and howl in the most pitiful manner.

In the midst of other miserable thoughts, it came to my mind one day that these dogs’ hunger might become as much dreaded as wolves. The horses . . . would frequently strain the halter to its full length, rearing high in the air, with a loud snort of terror as a shell would explode near. I could hear them in the night cry out in the midst of the uproar, ending in a low, plaintive whinny of fear.

Sitting in [my] cave one evening, I heard the most heartrending screams and moans. I was told that a mother had taken a child into a cave about a hundred yards from us; and having laid it on its little bed, as the poor woman believed, in safety, she took her seat near the entrance of the cave.

A mortar shell came rushing through the air and fell with much force, entering the earth above the sleeping child – cutting through into the cave – oh! Most horrible sight to the mother – crushing in the upper part of the little sleeping head, and taking away the young innocent life without a look or word of passing love to be treasured in the mother’s heart.

I sat near the square of moonlight, silent and sorrowful, hearing the sobs and cries – hearing the moans of a mother for her dead child – the child that a few moments since lived to caress and love – speaking the tender words that endear so much the tie of mother and child.

How very sad this life in Vicksburg! – how little security we can feel, with so many around us seeing the morning light that will never more see the night! How blightingly the hand of warfare lay upon the town!

The moans of pain came slowly and more indistinct, until all was silent; and the bereaved mother slept, I hope – slept to find, on waking, a dull pressure of pain at her heart, and in the first collection of faculties will wonder what it is. Then her care for her child will return, and the new sorrow will again come to her – gone, forever gone!”

(My Cave Life in Vicksburg, By a Lady, Broadfoot Publishing Company, 1989 (original D. Appleton & Company, 1864), excerpts, pp. 71-75)

Grant Opens the Northwest to Cheap Water Freight

The bombardment of Vicksburg, Mississippi by Grant in mid-1863 took an enormous toll on the civilians in the city. From the book “My Cave Life in Vicksburg” (D. Appleton & Company, 1864), the author writes: “I was told a Negro woman, in walking through the yard, had been struck by a fragment of a shell, and instantly killed. The screams of the women of Vicksburg were the saddest I have ever heard. I cannot attempt to describe the thrill of pity, mingled with fear that pierced my soul, as suddenly vibrating through the air would come these shrieks – these pitiful moans! – sometimes almost simultaneously with the explosion of a shell.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Grant Opens the Northwest to Cheaper Water Freight

“It was the twenty-fifth of May, three days after the assault on Vicksburg. Federal dead between the lines were “swelling to the stature of giants” and were making the air so unbearable that Confederates had sent out the request [to the enemy] that they be buried.

Under a white flag soldiers threw dirt on late comrades, while in the midst Sherman and a Confederate officer sat on a log. To all appearance, Sherman was callous toward death.

The spectacle of Vicksburg’s bombardment delighted Sherman’s artistic eye. On clear nights he saw pickets sitting on their rifle-pit embankments, staring at the grandest pyrotechnics they had ever beheld – thin red trails of light, sparkling like comets’ tails, soaring into the sky to halt, then curve downward to vanish among the housetops of the dark city. After a pause, a jarring concussion would come on the wind.

From land and river Union siege guns and navy mortars were throwing shells with burning fuses. Privates of the Twelfth Wisconsin said that their Negro cooks lay so flat during a bombardment that soldiers mistook them for rubber blankets and carried them to camp over their shoulders at the day’s end.

Surrender came on July 4 [1863], Grant paroling 31,600 wasted Confederates in the knowledge that the great majority, sick of the war, would go home never to shoulder arms again. Up North, men were declaring that they had always had faith in Grant, the Northwest was happy because the Wall Street railroaders were now due to get their com-uppance – the cheap water freights could soon be resumed.”

(Sherman, Fighting Prophet, Lloyd Lewis, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1932, excerpts pp. 284-287; 291)

Grant’s New Kind of War

At Vicksburg, Grant initiated a concept of total war and annihilation against Americans in the South which caused Sherman to worship him. The endless streams of paid substitutes and immigrant recruits sent by Lincoln to fill his constantly depleted ranks far surpassed the small citizen armies of the South who fought with their homes behind them.  Grant may have learned this from British Col. Banastre Tarelton, and saw sheer brutality against soldier and civilian alike as an effective manner in which to subjugate the South. Monitoring both Grant, Sherman and Sheridan destructive campaigns was a young Spanish attache, Captain Varleriano Weyler, who in the mid-1890s became known as “Butcher” Weyler for herding Cuban women and children into concentration camps and burning the countryside.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Grant’s New Kind of War

“What Sherman could not see was that Grant had, in those silent months before Vicksburg, evolved a new psychology for the Federal armies. At [Fort] Donelson the seed of the new idea had started to grow when he had noted that if two fighters were exhausted the first to revive would be the victor.

Lying at the foot of Vicksburg’s cliffs, Grant had come to the irrevocable belief that, in the end, triumph would come to that army which never counted its dead, never licked its wounds, never gave its adversary breathing space, never remembered the past nor shrank from the future – the army which dismissed old rules and ignored rebuffs – the army which held implicit faith in a simple and eternal offensive.

As he prodded his men . . . , Sherman’s eyes began to open, [and] the old military world of West Point [seemed] to spin around beneath him and disappear. This was a new kind of war – and Grant was making his own rules as he went along. Here was an army caring not a whipstitch for a base of supplies. From field, barn, smokehouse, and cellar they were extracting epicurean meals.

When they squatted on their haunches at noon, they fried ham, bacon, pork chops, beefsteak . . . they rolled blankets around bottles of wine and whiskey lifted from baronial sideboards. What was a base of supplies to them? They were not professional soldiers. They were western pioneers – a new generation of pioneers loose in a new country with rifles and axes.  Had their fathers or grandfathers given a damn about a base of supplies when they had crossed the Ohio long ago to enter the wilderness?

While his men built a new bridge over the Big Black River, he lay down in a Negro’s cabin to snatch a few moments of sleep. It was midnight . . . [and] Grant had just ridden up. Twenty-five years later Sherman recalled the scene in detail:

“I rushed out bareheaded and taking him by the hand said, “General Grant, I want to congratulate you on the success of your plan. And it’s your plan, too, by heaven, and nobody else’s. For nobody else believe in it.”

It was as near to hero-worship as Sherman would come in a lifetime that held no heroes.”

(Sherman, Fighting Prophet, Lloyd Lewis, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1932, excerpts pp. 273-274)

Resistance Fighters Against the Industrial Machine

William B. Elliott was a resident of Pasquotank County in northeastern North Carolina who enlisted at the age of 20, on May 4th, 1861. Captured by enemy forces at Roanoke Island in early 1862, he was exchanged in August of that year. William joined the small local resistance force fighting against enemy troops from New York, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and local black men seized for Northern service.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Resistance Fighters Against the Industrial Machine

“After William was exchanged in August, 1862, he renewed former friendships. While doing so, he learned of another resistance unit being formed in adjacent, and occupied, Camden County. Residents of counties bordering on the northern shores of Albemarle Sound, had been living under the shadow of Union occupation since mid-summer of 1861. In Camden County, there was Captain Willis B. Sanderlin, who commanded on of these shadowy partisan units.

In the middle of May [1863], the occupation forces again felt the sting from the valiant guerilla defenders [when the] Union steamers, Emily and Arrow, were captured by partisans at Currituck Sound, on May 15, 1863.

Every army of occupation has attempted to suppress civilians by acts of depredation. Not only were crops, livestock, and personal property confiscated, but also Federal wrath was directed at civilians themselves. [A North Carolina House of Representatives committee investigated enemy outrages and noted the depredations] of Brig. General Edward A. Wild, commanding all Negro soldiers, who occupied Camden and Pasquotank counties.

A citizen, Daniel Bright, was hung, by the roadside just north of Elizabeth City. Bright was a former soldier of the Sixty-second Georgia Regiment, with authority of Governor Vance to raise a company in Pasquotank for local defense. [The partisans] captured two of General Wild’s Negro soldiers . . . [and one], was hung as reprisal for the hanging of Daniel Bright.

Federal retaliation was directed against Mrs. Elizabeth Weeks, wife of Private Pender Weeks, and Mrs. Phoebe Munden, wife of Lt. W.J. Munden, of Captain John T. Elliott’s company. Both were taken hostage, abused, humiliated, and physically mistreated in public, then taken to Norfolk for imprisonment.

Dwellings in both counties were burned [by the enemy] . . . An aged gentleman of 70 years, Gregory, was taken hostage, all his property burned, and while a prisoner he suffered a seizure . . . endured great pain, dying a few days later.

Meager Confederate defensive forces, coupled with insufficient arms and provisions, matched against the Union industrial machine, would, had the truth been known, portend the future.

As October and November [1863] passed, all Union activity increased [and] Federal units scoured the countryside in search of horses, carts, fuel, forage, and contrabands. The Federals were becoming increasingly outraged for their inability to exterminate the guerillas.

[An official report stated that] ”General Benjamin Butler intends to exterminate all guerillas east of . . . Chowan River . . . and will use every means . . . to do so.” The General well emphasized the Union resolve, with warning for residents to: “give information against them (the guerillas) to the military . . . by assisting them (the guerillas) on their way with food and . . . transportation, you can save yourselves . . . the necessity of visitations from the Negro troops.”

(A Tarheel Confederate and His Family, Robert Garrison Elliott, RGE Publications, 1989, excerpts, pp. 14-26; 32)

 

Lincoln Feared Re-election Loss

Rudolf Mathias Schleiden was Minister to the US from the Bremen Republic from 1853 through the War Between the States. He reported to his government on February 26 [1861] that “like a thief in the night, the future President arrived here [Washington] on the morning of the 23rd.” Schleiden offered to mediate the coming conflict, but met indifference and resistance at Washington.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln Feared Re-election Loss

“Immediately upon arriving in Richmond, Schleiden wrote to Vice President [Alexander H.] Stephens asking for an interview, to which the latter replied that he would be happy to see him immediately. During the course of a confidential talk which lasted for three hours Stephens declared that he believed all attempts to settle peacefully the differences between the two sections were futile.

“The actions of Seward and Lincoln had filled the South with suspicion,” Stephens said, “but neither the Government at Montgomery nor the authorities of Virginia contemplated an attack on Washington. Public opinion was embittered against the United States because of its strengthening of Fort Pickens and Fort Monroe, and the destruction of the arsenal at Harpers Ferry, and the navy yard at Norfolk . . . ”

In a formal letter written after the conference Schleiden asked for a frank statement of the terms which the South would be ready to grant and accept for the purpose of securing the maintenance peace and gaining time for reflection. To this letter Stephens replied, stating that the Government of the Confederacy had resorted to every honorable means to avoid war, and that if the United States had any desire to adjust amicably the question at issue it should indicate a willingness in some authoritative way to the South.

However, he added . . . ”it seems to be their policy to wage a war for the recapture of former possessions looking to the ultimate coercion and subjugation of the people of the Confederate States to their power and domain. With such an object on their part persevered in, no power on earth can arrest or prevent a most bloody conflict.”

The reelection of Lincoln was almost unanimously predicted by the diplomatic corps in January 1864. In February Schleiden mentioned in a dispatch that Lincoln said to Judge Thomas, of Massachusetts, that he would be satisfied if his successor was elected from the Republican Party. If that did not take place the President feared that he would spend the rest of his life in jail for repeated violations of the Constitution. About this time [Salmon P.] Chase remarked to Schleiden that the war would never end so long as Lincoln was president.”

(Rudolf Schleiden and the Visit to Richmond, April 25, 1861, Ralph Haswell Lutz, American Historical Association Annual Report, 1915, Washington, 1917, pp. 212-216)

Mar 26, 2017 - America Transformed, Carnage, Foreign Viewpoints, Lincoln's Blood Lust, Lincoln's Revolutionary Legacy    Comments Off on A Northern Tomb at Fredericksburg

A Northern Tomb at Fredericksburg

Prussian Major Heros von Borcke accompanied Gen. JEB Stuart as the latter observed Northern soldiers burying their dead after Burnside’s disaster at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Von Borcke expressed shock at the rough manner in which Northern soldiers handled their dead, watching corpses being tossed into a nearby abandoned ice house pit “until the solid mass of human flesh had reached near the surface, when a covering of logs, chalk and mud closed the mouth of this vast and awful tomb.” To the Prussian officer, it seemed as if the Federal were more interested in doing the job quickly than doing it well. Had he been appalled at the carnage in late 1862 as Americans slaughtered each other, Lincoln might have called for an armistice and peaceful settlement of the conflict.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Northern Tomb at Fredericksburg

“On December 15, 1862, two days after Fredericksburg, [Gen. Ambrose] Burnside, his units having crossed back across the Rappahannock, asked Lee’s permission to remove his dead from the battlefield. The manner in which they performed their duties caused many of Lee’s soldiers to believe that what they were seeing before their eyes revealed another seamy side of the Yankee character, by their treating their fallen comrades, “these brave soldiers,” as one Gray observer termed them, like so many lumps of inert matter, dumping them into common graves “without even a blanket or words of prayer.”

Different in appearance but representing the same lack of feeling was an abandoned ice house, which the grave diggers converted into a “vast and awful tomb.” (Opened months later it revealed within a ghastly “hecatomb of skeletons.”)

These acts of desecration completed, the bulk of the Northerners disappeared, their pickets on the north side of the river about the only evidence of their presence nearby.”

(wha hae wi [Pender] . . . bled, A.L. Diket, Vantage Press, 1979, excerpt, pg. 106)

 

 

Total War Comes to France

Otto von Bismarck saw Lincoln’s war as one of unification and centralization, as he had accomplished with the German states; Bismarck also promoted the purchase of US government bonds to support Lincoln’s war. In 1870, the Northern general who visited total war on the Shenandoah Valley and its people was an official observer of Bismarck’s war on France, and undoubtedly influenced the war against civilians. The “francs-tireurs” noted below were French partisans who were shot if caught.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Total War Comes to France

“Moreover as the war dragged on into the winter and fancs-tireur activity grew, the Germans learned an ever-deeper hatred of the nation which was in their eyes prolonging the struggle so uselessly, and by such underhand means. “The War,” wrote a German officer campaigning on the Loire in November, “is gradually acquiring a hideous character. Murder and burning is now the order of the day on both sides, and one cannot beg Almighty God finally to make an end to it.”

“We are learning to hate them more every day, wrote another, a sane and civilized man who watched with horror the deterioration which bitterness and brutality were working among his troops. “I can assure you that it is also in the interests of the civilization of our own people that such a racial struggle should be brought to an end. Atrocious attacks are avenged by atrocities which remind one of the Thirty Years’ War.”

The discipline which during the summer had forced the German troops to respect civilian property was gradually relaxed.

“At first we were forbidden with the severest penalties, to burn vine-posts in bivouacs, and woe to him who used unthreshed corn for his palliasse. Child-like innocence! Now no one asks whether you are using garden fences . . . no Frenchman can any longer lay claim to property or means of livelihood.”

Thus throughout the autumn and winter of 1870 the terrorism of the francs-tireurs and the reprisals of the Germans spiraled down to new depths of savagery. If the French refused to admit military defeat, then other means must be found to break their will.

The same problem had confronted the United States in dealing with the Confederacy six years earlier, and Sherman had solved it by his relentless march through the South. [General Helmuth von] Moltke had believed war to consist in the movement of armies; but General Sheridan, who was observing the war from German headquarters, pointed out that this was only the first requirement of victory. [He stated:]

“The proper strategy [he declared after Sedan] consists in inflicting as telling blows as possible on the enemy’s army, then in causing the inhabitants so much suffering that they must long for peace, and force the government to demand it. The people must be left nothing but their eyes to weep with over the war.”

Bismarck took this advice more seriously than did Moltke. The more Frenchmen who suffered from the war, he pointed out, the greater would be the number who would long for peace at any price. “It will come to this, that we will have shoot down every male inhabitant.” Every village, he demanded, in which an act of treachery had been committed, should be burned to the ground and all male inhabitants hanged. To show mercy was “culpable laziness in killing.”

(The Franco-Prussian War: The German Invasion of France, 1870-71; Michael Howard, Routledge, 1989 (original 1961), excerpts, pp. 379-380)

No Southern Terms of Reunion

Unofficial peace overtures of mid-1864 coming through leading citizens of the North to Confederate commissioners in Toronto and Niagara Falls led to much speculation, but all saw that the obstacle to peace was in Lincoln himself. Lincoln would not agree to self-government for the South and continued his war to crush independence for his fellow Americans.  Below, Confederate Commissioner Clement C. Clay reports to Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

No Southern Terms of Reunion

“We never proposed, suggested or intimated any terms of peace, to any person, that did not embrace the independence of the Confederate States. We have not dispelled the fond delusion of most of those with whom we have conversed, that some kind of common government might at some time hereafter be re-established. But we have not induced or encouraged this idea.

On the contrary, when obliged to answer the question – “Will the Southern States consent to reunion?” – I have answered:

“Not now.  You have shed so much of their best blood, have desolated so many homes, inflicted so much injury, caused so much physical and mental agony, and have threatened and attempted such irreparable wrongs, without justification or excuse, as they believe, that they would now prefer extermination to your embraces as friends and fellow citizens of the same government.

You must wait till the blood of our slaughtered people has exhaled from the soil, till the homes which you have destroyed have been rebuilt, till our badges of mourning have been laid aside, and the memorials of our wrongs are no longer visible on every hand, before you propose to rebuild a joint and common government.”

If we can credit the assertions of both peace and war Democrats, uttered to us in person or through the presses of the United States, our correspondence with Mr. [Horace] Greeley has been promotive of our wishes. It has impressed all but fanatical Abolitionists with the opinion that there can be no peace while Mr. Lincoln presides at the head of the Government of the United States.

All concede that we will not accept his terms . . . They see that he can reach peace only through the subjugation of the South . . . through the seas of their own blood as well as ours; through anarchy and moral chaos – all of which is more repulsive and intolerable than even the separation and independence of the South. “

(Correspondence of Confederate State Department, Hon. C.C. Clay, Jr. to Hon. J.P. Benjamin, August 11, 1864; Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume VII, Broadfoot Publishing, 1990, excerpt, pp. 335-336)

Power, Plunder and Extended Rule

Lincoln’s continued military defeats caused Radical Republicans to oppose his reelection, until Gen. George B. McClellan became the Democratic presidential nominee in 1864. As Charles Sumner put it privately, “Lincoln’s reelection would be a disaster, but McClellan’s damnation.” After winning their war against the South, Republicans extended their rule over the new empire beyond the turn of the century, except for the two terms of Democrat Grover Cleveland. For further reading on Lincoln’s opponents within his party see: Ward Hill Lamon’s “Recollections of Abraham Lincoln, 1847-1865,” published in 1895.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Power, Plunder and Extended Rule

“Surgeon [Francis Marion] Robertson equates the Union logic of war with that which was being espoused by a set of Union opponents of President Abraham Lincoln’s conduct of the war.

Following the long series of Federal military disasters leading up to and including their defeats in the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville in 1863, there arose a movement within the Army and Federal Congress that reached a fever pitch in its call to displace President Lincoln, in effect, by the appointment of a dictator to direct the war effort.

Members of Congress called for appointing a vigilant “committee on the conduct of the war” to watch and supervise Lincoln’s movements and decisions. Supporters of this cabal included (a), political activists who sought increased military victories and preservation of their personal and party power, (b), commercial zealots who desired spoliation and plunder of the South, and (c), religious abolitionists whose sympathy for the slave had degenerated into envenomed hostility toward his owner.

These aggressive enemies of Lincoln in the North and within his own party summed up the logic of war in the comprehensive formula, “Power, plunder and extended rule.”

This phrase summarized the vindictive motivation that the seceding Southerners both expected and feared from the Union, if they should lose the war. The collection of attitudes has later been described by historians as the Radical Republican philosophies.

So Lincoln, faced with fire in both his front and rear, finally concluded that he must assert himself. Lincoln exclaimed, “This state of things shall continue no longer. I will show them at the other end of the Avenue whether I am President or not!” From soon after this moment, “his opponents and would-be masters were now, for the most part, silenced; but they hated him all the more cordially.”

In the end, after the Southern surrender and Lincoln’s assassination, the worst apprehensions of white Southerners about “power, plunder and extended rule” at the hands of the Republican North and the carpetbaggers would largely come true.”

(Resisting Sherman, A Confederate Surgeon’s Journal and the Civil War in the Carolinas, 1865, Thomas Heard Robertson, Jr., editor, Savas-Beatie, 2015, pg. 64)

Sherman’s New Notion of Total War

There is little question that Sherman operated against American civilians in the South with the full approval of Lincoln and Grant, who must also share the responsibility for visiting total war upon defenseless men, women and children. This executive approval of war against civilians was not lost on the young Spanish attache to the Northern army, Valeriano Weyler, who became known in mid-1890s Cuba as General “Butcher” Weyler. To discourage Cuban freedom fighters, Weyler herded their women and children into concentration camps after burning their homes.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sherman’s New Notion of Total War

“Major-General [Henry W.] Halleck, Sherman’s overall commander-in-chief, was an accepted authority of his day on the rules governing the intercourse of nations and the laws of war. Sherman had attended West Point with Halleck, and certainly curiosity if not actual interest on the subject would have prompted him to look into Halleck’s “International Law.”

It was said of Sherman that he was in the habit of “starting new notions constantly in his own brain, and following them up, no matter how far or whither they led.” On October 4 [1862] he reported to General Grant that two more steamboats had been fired upon – the attacks being described by Sherman as wanton and cruel – and he informed Grant of the new notion that had occurred to him:

“I caused Randolph [Mississippi] to be destroyed, and have given notice that a repetition will justify measures of retaliation, such as loading boats with their captive guerillas as targets (I always have a lot on hand), and expelling families from the comforts of Memphis, whose husbands and brothers go to make up the guerillas. I will watch Randolph closely, and if anything occurs there again I will send a brigade by land back of Randolph and clean out the country.”

From this modest beginning – the experiments to discover the effectiveness of the practical application of his concepts of total war – the destruction of property, the holding of hostages and now the improper exposure of prisoners to the fire of their own forces, would not be enlarged on in the weeks ahead and their effects carefully noted.

Whether Sherman himself ever entertained any doubts or hesitations as to the course to which he had committed himself cannot be stated accurately, but it is noteworthy that during this period no mention is made in his correspondence of the rules of war, nor does he suggest that his actions were not in accord with them.

There are threads of justification woven into his letters and his orders for extreme severity and barbarism; and a definite impression is left that many of these were included with one eye on posterity and the hope of ultimate vindication.”

(Merchant of Terror: General Sherman and Total War; John Bennett Walters, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1973, excerpt, pp. 68-69)

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