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Several Views of the Fort Sumter Affair

Several Views of  the Fort Sumter Affair

“On the night of 26/27 December [1860], Major Robert Anderson . . . withdrew his small force from the unfinished Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter, the most defensible of the various posts scattered about the harbor, spiking the guns and burning the gun carriages at Moultrie. This surprise move greatly alarmed the public in South Carolina.

It was the first federal act that could be interpreted as overly hostile in intent, and it seemed to South Carolinians an act of bad faith, violating their understanding of a tacit agreement with Washington to maintain a status quo until a political settlement could be worked out by the delegates the State had sent there. Indeed, it was this act and not the firing on Fort Sumter that South Carolinians regarded as the commencement of hostilities.”

(Carolina Cavalier, Clyde N. Wilson, Chronicles Pres, 2002, page 137)

 

From Mr. Toombs, Secretary of State, CSA, April 24, 1861:

[to Hon. W.L. Yancy, P. Rost, Dudley Mann, Commissioners of the Confederate States]

“When you left this city [Montgomery] you were aware that Commissioners from this government had been sent to Washington with the view to open negotiations with the government of the United States for the peaceful settlement of all matters in controversy, and for the settlement of relations of amity and good will between the two countries.

They promptly made known to the Administration at Washington the object of their mission; gave the most explicit assurance that it was the earnest desire of the President, Congress, and the people of the Confederate States to preserve peace; that they had no demand to make which was not founded on the strictest justice, and that they had no wish to do any act to injure their late confederates, [and] they did not press their demand for a formal reception or a recognition of the independence of the Confederate States.

So long as moderation and forbearance were consistent with the honor and dignity of their government, they forebore from taking any steps which could possibly add to the difficulties by which the Cabinet of Mr. Lincoln was beset.

[They] received the most positive assurances from Mr. Seward that the policy of his government was peace; that Fort Sumter would be evacuated immediately; that Fort Pickens would soon be abandoned; that no measure was contemplated “to change the existing status of things prejudicially to the Confederate States;” and that, if any change were resolved upon, due notice would be given to the Commissioners.

Incredible as it may seem, it is nevertheless perfectly true that while the Government of the United States was thus addressing the Confederate States with words of conciliation and promises of peace, a large naval and military expedition was being fitted out by its order for the purpose of invading our soil and imposing on us an authority which we have forever repudiated, and which it was well known we would resist to the last extremity.

Having knowledge that a large fleet was expected hourly to arrive at Charleston harbor with orders to force and entrance and attempt to victual and reinforce the fortress, and that the troops of the Confederate States would be thus exposed to a double attack, General Beauregard had no alternative left but to dislodge the enemy and take possession of the fort, and thus command absolutely all the approaches to the port of Charleston, so that the entrance of a hostile fleet would be almost impossible.”

(Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, 1861-1865, J. D. Richardson, Editor, US Publishing Company, pp. 13-16)

 

Who Bears the Guilt?

“Perhaps a word should be inserted here as to which side was the aggressor in this historic conflict. Who bears the guilt of starting the war? The North has sought to lay this stigma upon the South since we fired the first shot.

But the courts (and common sense as well) have decreed that the aggressor is not the one who strikes the first blow, but the one who makes that blow necessary. The ground on which Fort Sumter stood had been lent to the Federal Government by the State of South Carolina for the erection of a fort to guard its chief harbor, but when South Carolina withdrew from the Union, the property automatically reverted to the State.

Morally and legally, the first blow was not struck at Charleston, but when this fleet with hostile intent weighed anchor in the harbor of New York. Hence the guilt of aggression lies at the door of the Federal government at Washington. (See Stephens History of the US, pp. 421-429)

(Some Things For Which the South Did Not Fight, Henry Tucker Graham, 1946)

Lincoln Launches His War Against the South

North Carolina retained strong Unionist sentiments until Lincoln’s provocations at Fort Sumter resulted in open warfare. Governor John W. Ellis was well aware of Constitutional limitations of presidential authority, and knew a president could not wage war against a State – an act of treason.  Read more about “A State Forced Out of the Union” at the North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial website, www.ncwbts150.com.   

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com   

 

Lincoln Launches His War Against the South

“In manipulating the Fort Sumter crisis to produce that “first shot,” Abe Lincoln had followed the advice of his long-time political friend, Orville Browning, of Illinois. Lincoln had first met Browning during brief service in the Illinois Militia, when they were both chasing after Black Hawk’s Native Americans. Well-educated, Browning practiced law in Quincy, Illinois, and was a Whig politician during the years that Lincoln was active in the Whig party. Then, like Lincoln, Browning became a major figure in the founding of the Illinois Republican party in 1856.

But Browning’s instruction about manipulating the Fort Sumter crisis to produce that most valuable “first shot” had been his most fearsome influence on Lincoln. Before the inauguration, Browning had written Lincoln: “In any conflict…between the [Federal] Government and the seceding States, it is very important that the [Secessionists] shall be [perceived] as the aggressors, and that they be kept constantly and palpable [allegedly] in the wrong. The first attempt…to furnish supplies or reinforcements to Sumter will induce [a military response] by South Carolina, and then the [Federal] Government will stand justified, before the entire [Federation], in repelling the aggression, and retaking the forts.”

Later that summer Lincoln would happily tell Browning, “The plan succeeded. They attacked Sumter – it fell, and thus, did more service than it otherwise could.”

Lieutenant [Gustavus] Fox was very discouraged by his failure to resupply Fort Sumter, and would soon write Abe Lincoln a letter of apology. To Fox, Lincoln would reply: “You and I both anticipated that the cause of the [Federation] would be advanced by making the attempt to provision Fort Sumter, even if it should fail; and it is no small consolation now to feel that our anticipation is justified by the results.”  Having in his hand his coveted “first shot,” Abe Lincoln lost no time in launching a war against the Confederacy. 

On the very next day, April 15, Lincoln issued an Executive Proclamation directing the Army and Navy to invade the Confederacy and force her States to submit to Federal authority. Lincoln cloaked his rhetoric in awkward language that avoided referring to the Confederacy by name, ignored the fact that seven States had seceded prior to his taking office, ignored Fort Sumter, alleged the existence of lawlessness and rebellion on the part of some of the people in seven States, and inferred that the northern States were somehow in harm’s way.

The Proclamation was set in legal language to circumvent the authority vested in the Federal House and Senate to declare war, and to suppress the notion that the Confederacy even existed. Instead of naming the Confederacy, he called his adversary, “combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings.”

In his proclamation Abe Lincoln had totally ignored the action of his fleet of warships and the Confederate eviction of the Federal regiment from Fort Sumter. To have done so would have required that he admit that 7 States had seceded and formed a new nation, that the States into which he was dispatching militiamen were actually members of a peaceful foreign nation.

(Abe Lincoln’s First Shot Strategy, excerpted from Bloodstains, an Epic History of the Politics that Produced the American Civil War,” Howard Ray White, 2011, pp. 38-43)

 

Lincoln’s Duplicity at Fort Sumter

The land ceded to the federal agent at Washington for forts, arsenals and yards by individual States were intended for the protection, not destruction, of the States they were located in. If a fort was to be used by that agent for a warlike purpose against a State, it is obvious that State would immediately eject the federal employees. Lincoln in early 1861 sent spies to Charleston to gather intelligence before he commenced war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln’s Duplicity at Fort Sumter

“There are many matters of interest and importance connected with the firing upon Fort Sumter which are not generally mentioned in our American histories. These are given in some detail in Dr. H.A. White’s “Life of Robert E. Lee.” Such information is essential to an understanding of the whole subject of the beginnings of the sectional conflict.

“. . . It will be an advantage for the South to go off,” said H.W. Beecher. After the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln there was a strong current opinion in the North that the Federal troops should be withdrawn from the Southern forts. President Lincoln’s “organ,” the National Republican, announced that the Cabinet meeting of March 9 had determined to surrender both Sumter and Pickens.

That [Major Robert] Anderson would be withdrawn from Sumter “was the universal opinion in Washington (Rhodes, U.S., vol. iii, p. 332). Welling, of the National Intelligencer, was requested by [William] Seward to communicate the Cabinet’s purpose to George W. Summers, member of the Virginia Convention (The Nation, Dec. 4, 1879). March 15 Secretary Seward unofficially notified the Confederate Commissioners, through Justice Campbell of the Supreme Court, that Sumter would be yielded at once to the Southern Confederacy.”

“. . . March 24 brought Colonel Ward H. Lamon of Washington to Fort Sumter. He obtained permission from Governor Pickens to visit Major Anderson upon the representation that he had come as “confidential agent of the President,” to make arrangements for the removal of the garrison. The impression produced upon Major Anderson by Lamon, as well as upon the officers and men of the garrison, was that the command was to be withdrawn.” Lamon informed Governor Pickens “that the President professed a desire to evacuate the work.” After Lamon’s return to Washington he sent a written message to Pickens, that he “hoped to return in a very few days to withdraw the command.”

(The Women of the South in War Times, Matthew Page Andrews, editor, Norman, Remington Company, 1920, pp. 59-60)

New England Rebels and Tyrants

Admiral Raphael Semmes wrote in the immediate postwar that “Constitutions are made for the protection of minorities,” that “they naturally cling to the guarantees and defences provided for them in the fundamental law; it is only when they become strong” and become majorities “that their principles and their virtues are really tested.” He was referring to New England which when in the minority was firmly for States’ rights, but in 1860 when it became the majority, became strongly nationalist and embarked on a path to subjugate the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New England Rebels and Tyrants

“The American Constitution died of a disease that was inherent in it. It was framed on false principles inasmuch as the attempt was made, through its means of binding together, in a republican form of government, two dissimilar peoples, with widely dissimilar interests.

Monarchical governments may accomplish this since they are founded by force, but republican governments never. The secession of the Southern States was a mere corollary of the American proposition of government; and the Northern States stultified themselves, the moment they started to resist it. The consent of the Southern States being wanted, there should have been an end of the question.

If the Northern States were not satisfied to let them go, but entertained, on the contrary, a desire to restrain them by force, this was a proof that those States had become tired of the republican form and desired to change it.

So loth was the South to abandon the Union that she made strenuous efforts to remain in it, even after Mr. Lincoln had been made president in 1860. In this election that dreaded sectional line against which President Washington had warned his countrymen in his Farewell Address, had at last been drawn . . . There had at last arisen a united North, against a untied South.

[Lincoln’s election] was purely geographical; it was tantamount to a denial of the co-equality of the Southern States with the Northern States, since it drove the former out of the common Territories. In both houses of Congress the Northern faction which had so recently triumphed in the election of their president, was arrayed in hostility to the South, and could not be moved [to compromise] an inch. Rebels, when in a minority, [New Englanders] had become tyrants now that they were in a majority.

Nothing remained to the South, but to raise the gauntlet which had been thrown at her feet. The federal government which had been established by our ancestors had failed of its object. Instead of binding the States together, in peace, and amity, it had, in the hands of one portion of the States, become an engine of oppression of the other portion. It so happened, that the slavery question was the issue which finally tore them asunder, but . . . this question was a mere means, to an end.

[That] end was empire . . . in this hemisphere, the drama which had so often been enacted in the other, of the more powerful nation crushing out the weaker.

The war between the American sections was but the prototype of many other wars, which have occurred among the human race. It had its origin in the unregenerated nature of man, who is only an intellectual wild beast, whose rapacity has never yet been restrained, by a sense of justice. The American people thought, when they framed the Constitution that they were to be an exception to mankind, in general.

History had instructed them that all other peoples, who had gone before them had torn up paper governments, when the paper was the only bulwark that protected such governments, but then they were the American people, and no such fate could await them.”

(Memoirs of Service Afloat During the War Between the States, Raphael Semmes, 1868, LSU Press, 1996, excerpts, pp. 53-70)

 

The Responsibility for Suffering Prisoners

Southern men held captive and starving in cold Northern prisons were surrounded by bountiful harvests and plentiful medicines while Northern prisoners shared the meager rations of their guards. Though the South had little medicine and scarce foodstuffs, a lower percentage of Northern prisoners died in the South than the reverse. Below are excerpts from the Joint Select Committee of the Confederate States Congress, investigating the conditions of prisoners after the US Congress issued a report condemning alleged Confederate mistreatment of Northern prisoners.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Responsibility for Suffering Prisoners

“[We] deem it proper at this time to make a preliminary report, founded on evidence recently taken, relating to the treatment of prisoners of war by both belligerents. This report is rendered especially important, by reason of persistent efforts lately made by the Government of the United States . . . to asperse the honor of the Confederate authorities, and to charge them with deliberate and willful cruelty to prisoners of war.

The candid reader of [Northern publications claiming Southern cruelties] will not fail to discover that, whether the statements they make are true or not, their spirit is not adapted to promote better feelings between the hostile powers. They are not intended for the humane purpose of ameliorating the condition of the unhappy prisoners held in captivity.

They are designed to inflame the evil passions of the North; to keep up the war spirit among their own people; to present the South as acting under the dominion of a spirit of cruelty, inhumanity and interested malice, and thus to vilify her people in the eyes of all on whom these publications can work.

They are justly characterized by the Hon. James M. Mason as belonging to that class of literature called the “sensational” – a style of writing prevalent for many years at the North, and which, beginning with the writers of newspaper narratives and cheap fiction, has gradually extended itself, until it is now the favored mode adopted by medical professors, judges of courts and reverend clergymen, and is even chosen as the proper style for a report by a committee of [the Northern] Congress.

The intent and spirit of this [Northern congressional] report may be gathered from the following extract: “The evidence proves, beyond all manner of doubt, a determination on the part of rebel authorities, deliberately and persistently practiced for a long time past, to subject those of our soldiers who have been so unfortunate to fall into their hands, to a system of treatment which has resulted in reducing many of those who have survived and been permitted to return to us, to a condition both physically and mentally, which no language we can use can adequately describe.”

The evidence proves that the rations furnished to prisoners of war in Richmond and on Belle Isle, have been never less than those furnished to the Confederate soldiers who guarded them, and have at some seasons been larger in quantity and better in quality than those furnished to Confederate troops in the field. How often the gallant men composing the Confederate army have been without meat, for even long intervals, your [US Congressional] committee does not deem it necessary to say.

Once and only once, for a few weeks, the prisoners were without meat, but a larger quantity of bread and vegetable food was in consequence supplied to them.

The scarcity of meat and of bread stuffs in the South in certain places has been the result of the savage policy of our enemies in burning barns, filled with wheat or corn, destroying agricultural implements, and driving off or wantonly butchering hogs or cattle. Yet amid all these privations, we have given to their prisoners the rations above mentioned.

But the question forces itself upon us why have these sufferings been so long continued? Why have not the prisoners of war been exchanged, and thus some of the darkest pages of history spared to the world. In the answer to this question must be found the test of responsibility for all the sufferings, sickness and heart-broken sorrow that have visited more than eighty thousand prisoners within the past two years. On this question, your committee can only say that that the Confederate authorities have always desired a prompt and fair exchange of prisoners.

Soon after [a] cartel was established, the policy of the enemy in seducing Negro slaves from their masters, arming them and putting white officers over them to lead them against us, gave rise to a few cases in which questions of crime under the internal laws of the Confederate States appeared. Whether men who encouraged insurrection and murder could be held entitled to the privileges of prisoners of war under the cartel, was a grave question.

But these cases were few in number, and ought not to have interrupted the general exchange. We were always ready and anxious to carry out the cartel in its true meaning . . . but the fortunes of war threw the larger number into the hands of our enemies. Then they refused further exchanges – and for twenty-two months this policy has continued.

Secretary Stanton, who has unjustly charged the Confederate authorities with inhumanity, is open to the charge of having done all in his power to prevent a fair exchange and thus prolong the sufferings [of Northern prisoners in the South]. [Gen. Benjamin Butler] has declared that in April 1864, the Federal Lieut. General Grant forbade him to deliver to the Rebels a single able-bodied man” . . .

These facts abundantly show that the responsibility of refusing to exchange prisoners of war rests with the Government of the United States, and the people who have sustained that government; and every sigh of captivity, every groan of suffering, every heart broken by hope deferred among these eighty thousand prisoners, will accuse them in the judgement of the just.

Their own savage warfare has wrought all the evil. They have blockaded our ports; have excluded from us food, clothing and medicines; have even declared medicines contraband of war, and have repeatedly destroyed the contents of drug stores and the supplies of private physicians in the country; have ravaged our country, burned our houses, and destroyed the growing crops and farming implements. These desolations have been repeated again and again in different parts of the South. Thousands of our families have been driven from their homes as helpless and destitute refugees.

While thus desolating our country, in violation of the usages of civilized warfare, they have refused to exchange prisoners; have forced us to keep fifty thousand of their men in captivity, and yet have attempted to attribute to us the sufferings and privations caused by their own acts. We cannot doubt that, in the view of civilization, we shall stand acquitted, while they must be condemned.”

(The Treatment of Prisoners During the War Between the States, compiled by the Secretary of the Southern Historical Society, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume One, excerpts, pp. 132- 148)

Death is Mercy to Secessionists

Sherman viewed Southerners as he later viewed American Indians, to be exterminated or banished to reservations as punishment for having resisted government power. They were subjects and merely temporary occupants of land belonging to his government whom they served. The revealing excerpts below are taken from “Reminiscences of Public Men in Alabama,” published in 1872.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Death is Mercy to Secessionists

Headquarters, Department of Tennessee, Vicksburg, January 1, 1863.

[To] Major R. M. Sawyer, AAG Army of Tennessee, Huntsville:

“Dear Sawyer — In my former letter I have answered all your questions save one, and that relates to the treatment of inhabitants known, or suspected to be, hostile or “secesh.”  The war which prevails in our land is essentially a war of races. The Southern people entered into a clear compact of government, but still maintained a species of separate interests, history and prejudices. These latter became stronger and stronger, till they have led to war, which has developed the fruits of the bitterest kind.

We of the North are, beyond all question, right in our lawful cause, but we are not bound to ignore the fact that the people of the South have prejudices that form part of their nature, and which they cannot throw off without an effort of reason or the slower process of natural change.

Now, the question arises, should we treat as absolute enemies all in the South who differ with us in opinions or prejudices . . . [and] kill or banish them? Or should we give them time to think and gradually change their conduct so as to conform to the new order of things which is slowly and gradually creeping into their country?

When men take arms to resist our rightful authority, we are compelled to use force because all reason and argument ceases when arms are resorted to.

If the people, or any of them, keep up a correspondence with parties in hostility, they are spies, and can be punished with death or minor punishment. These are well established principles of war, and the people of the South having appealed to war, are barred from appealing to our Constitution, which they have practically and publicly defied. They have appealed to war and must abide its rules and laws.

The United States, as a belligerent party claiming right in the soil as the ultimate sovereign, have a right to change the population, and it may be and it, both politic and best, that we should do so in certain districts. When the inhabitants persist too long in hostility, it may be both politic and right that we should banish them and appropriate their lands to a more loyal and useful population.

No man would deny that the United States would be benefited by dispossessing a single prejudiced, hard-headed and disloyal planter and substitute in his place a dozen or more patient, industrious, good families, even if they be of foreign birth.

It is all idle nonsense for these Southern planters to say that they made the South, that they own it, and that they can do as they please — even to break up our government, and to shut up the natural avenues of trade, intercourse and commerce.

We know, and they know if they are intelligent beings, that, as compared with the whole world they are but as five millions are to one thousand millions — that they did not create the land — that their only title to its use and enjoyment is the deed of the United States, and if they appeal to war they hold their all by a very insecure tenure.

For my part, I believe that this war is the result of false political doctrine, for which we are all as a people responsible, viz:  That any and every people has a right to self-government . . . In this belief, while I assert for our Government the highest military prerogatives, I am willing to bear in patience that political nonsense of . . . State Rights, freedom of conscience, freedom of press, and other such trash as have deluded the Southern people into war, anarchy, bloodshed, and the foulest crimes that have disgraced any time or any people.

I would advise the commanding officers at Huntsville and such other towns as are occupied by our troops, to assemble the inhabitants and explain to them these plain, self-evident propositions, and tell them that it is for them now to say whether they and their children shall inherit their share.

The Government of the United States has in North-Alabama any and all rights which they choose to enforce in war — to take their lives, their homes, their lands, their everything . . . and war is simply power unrestrained by constitution or compact. If they want eternal warfare, well and good; we will accept the issue and dispossess them, and put our friends in possession. Many, many people, with less pertinacity than the South, have been wiped out of national existence.

To those who submit to the rightful law and authority, all gentleness and forbearance; but to the petulant and persistent secessionists, why, death is mercy, and the quicker he or she is disposed of the better. Satan and the rebellious saints of heaven were allowed a continuance of existence in hell merely to swell their just punishment.”

W.T. Sherman, Major General Commanding

(Reminiscences of Public Men in Alabama, William Garrett, Plantation Printing Company’s Press, 1872, pp. 486-488)

 

Six Hundred Southern Officers at Morris Island

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Six Hundred Southern Officers at Morris Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Witness to Sorrow

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Witness to Sorrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yankee’s Issued Matches

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Yankee’s Issued Matches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sherman’s War of Terror

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

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sherman’s War of Terror

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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