Browsing "Lincoln’s Grand Army"

Reconstruction, the Most Shameful Period of Our History

The following is an excerpt from an 1892 address by Lt. Col. Alfred Moore Waddell to the Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina. He served as a United States Congress 1871-1879.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Reconstruction, the Most Shameful Period of Our History

“[Reconstruction] constitutes the one indelible and appalling disgrace of the American people — the one chapter of their history which contains no redeeming feature to relieve it from the endless execration of the civilized world.

A distinguished orator from a Northern State declared in Congress in 1872 that one-third of the boundaries of this Republic had been filled “with all the curses and calamities ever recorded in the annals of the worst governments known on the pages of history,” and attacking the [radical Republican] authors of these calamities, he exclaimed,

“From turret to foundation you tore down the governments of eleven States. You left not one stone upon another. You rent all their local laws and machinery into fragments, and trampled upon their ruins. Not a vestige of their former construction remained.”

And again he said:

“A more sweeping and universal exclusion from all the benefits, rights, trusts, honors, enjoyments, liberties, and control of government was never enacted against a whole people, without respect to age or sex, in the annals of the human race. The disgraceful disabilities imposed against the Jews for nearly eighteen hundred years by the blind and bigoted nations of the earth were never more complete or appalling.”

Those old enough to remember that most shameful period of our history will readily recall the degradation, the crimes against civilization, and the terrorism which then prevailed, and how, amidst the general dismay, the faint-hearted stood helpless and silent before the arbitrary and reckless power exercised over them.”

(The Life and Character of William L. Saunders, address to the Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina, Tuesday, May 31, 1892, Col. Alfred Moore Waddell of Wilmington)

The War Against Civilians

Lee’s grand army departed Gettysburg “dog-tired and hungry.” Poorly fed, they have existed on bread, berries and green apples with the horses eating only grass, and only after arriving at Culpepper did the men enjoy a cooked meal and the horses found loose corn. Of the battle at Gettysburg, Lee tells President Davis not to blame his men, that he alone is to blame “in perhaps expecting too much of [his army’s] prowess and valor.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The War Against Civilians

“August 4 [1863]: Culpepper civilians are apprehensive again. [General JEB] Stuart has not even enough men to protect them from the Federal raiders who seem to cross the Rappahannock at will. Sally Armstrong’s family is still plagued by the blue devils.

“Nothing but Yankees from morning to night,” she protested on July 29, “no signs of them leaving yet.” She hears of how horribly the Federals have been treating people in Fauquier County, and lives “in dread of having the infantry come over and pillage.” “Great anxiety we live in . . . our neighbors . . . have had almost every mouthful taken from them.”

[Nearby enemy regiments have] emboldened Culpepper slaves to dash toward Union lines all along the river, from Kelly’s Ford to Waterloo. On one evening alone, about forty “children of Ham,” as [the enemy commander] calls them, moved within his picket lines . . . . Many of the boys and men will be hired by Federal officers as body servants, although some officers refuse under any circumstances to hire “wretched niggers.”

Most have been mere field hands as slaves, complains one [Northern officer], and therefore are ignorant of the duties of a personal servant. “To this ignorance,” he elaborates, “must be added the natural laziness, lying, and dirt of the Negro, which surpasses anything an ordinary white man is capable of.” Not [all Northern troops] agree with this assessment . . . A member of the 20th New York Militia admires “the thousands” of contraband blacks laboring in [General] Meade’s camps as cooks, teamsters and servants . . . he informs his mother. He believes the blacks “as a class” exhibit more “native sense” than the majority of white Southerners.

[Meade] makes no move [and many sense] that Meade is not yet comfortable as the army’s commander. Word has it that he nearly gave up the fight at Gettysburg after the second day, and he now seems overly deliberate and cautious.

Meanwhile, Culpepper’s civilians hunker down. Captain Charles Francis Adams, Jr., commanding the Union picket force on the Hazel River . . . knows that these people hate him and his men, but he understands the reason. He has witnessed daily “acts of pillage and outrage on the poor and defenceless” that make his “hair stand on end,” and cause him to “loathe all war.” [His] Soldiers, usually under cover of darkness, break into homes, rifle closets and drawers, take what they like, and abuse and threaten their victims. Some citizens are too terrified to sleep.

“Poor Virginia!” laments Captain Adams. “Her fighting men have been slaughtered; her old men have been ruined; her women and children are starving and outraged; her servants have run away or been stolen; her fields have been desolated; her towns have been depopulated.”

“The horrors of war are not all to be found in the battle-field,” he laments, “and every army pillages and outrages to a terrible extent.”

“What shall I write for these times?” [Sally] asks her diary. “Yankees doing all conceivable wickedness.” “If God did not rule we would die in despair. He only can help us.”

(Seasons of War, The Ordeal of a Confederate Community, 1861-1865, Daniel E. Sutherland, LSU Press, 1995, excerpts, pp. 269-276)

War is Not Hell Unless a Devil Wages It

War is Not Hell Unless a Devil Wages It

“Petition to the Postmaster General by the Citizens of Texas:

We, the citizens of Huntsville, Tex., respectfully petition the Postmaster General to place on sale in this State no stamps or postal cards bearing the likeness of W.T. Sherman. We are loyal citizens, we love our country, we wish to forget the past differences and bitterness; but there are two things which no true Southerner will ever forget or cease to teach his children to remember. These are the deeds of W.T. Sherman and the period of Reconstruction.

There were enough brave and chivalrous Union generals in the Civil War to furnish subjects for stamps, and we object to the face of a ruffian who made war on women and children being placed among the faces or Washington, Franklin, Jefferson . . . and other honorable men and forced upon our children when we have done nothing to deserve insult.

Sherman observed the laws of civilized warfare only when he had a hostile army to fear. When Hood was defeated the people were helpless and defenseless, he set his bummers upon them and boasted of it. Union armies were not bad unless they had bad leaders. Among civilized people war is not hell unless a devil wages it.

If this man’s face is forced before us in this way, we shall be forced to teach in public those lessons in history which we teach by the fireside, even if those with goods to sell preach that all should be forgotten.

If W.T. Sherman’s face must be held up to view, send it to those who love his character and celebrate his victory in song, but not to those whose homes he robbed, whose daughters he insulted, whose sons he murdered, and whose cities and homes he burned.”

(Sherman’s Picture on US Postage Stamps, Confederate Veteran, June, 1911, pg. 272)

 

 

The North’s Powerful Pension Attorney Lobby

The North’s war pensions were costly – from 1866 to 1917 the total disbursement for pensions was over $5 billion – though including the negligible amount for the Indian and Spanish Wars. It is said to be the “largest expenditure for pensions of any sort in the history of the world.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The North’s Powerful Pension Attorney Lobby

“Disability pensions for [Northern] Civil War soldiers were authorized on a liberal scale by acts passed in Congress in 1862, 1864, 1865, 1872 and 1873. In 1872, [James A.] Garfield said in the House that the expenditure for pensions, then standing at $27,000,000, had reached its peak, would remain stationary for a few years and then decline.

His prediction might have proved correct but for the activities of the pension attorneys.

These men were numerous in Washington. They helped a soldier file his claim and received a fee fixed by the government. When the claim was good they rendered proper services. But as the good claims became fewer, some attorneys took up bad claims many of which were rejected by the Commissioner of Pensions.

Then grew up the habit of referring such claims, approved by a lenient committee, to Congress as private bills, where they usually passed without inquiry on the floor of either house. In carrying out this process the pension attorneys became a powerful and persistent lobby.

They went further than mere private bills and sought to get laws passed for more liberal pensions. To carry their schemes through they established newspapers and appealed to the soldier vote. They had a strong influence in the Grand Army of the Republic, composed of officers and soldiers of the Civil War.

Their first striking success was in 1879 when the Arrears-Pension Act was passed . . . [and] gave [a lump sum to] any pensioner the arrears from death or discharge to the time a pension was applied for. Under the stimulus of the attorneys the act was passed with the strong support of each party.

Under it the pension bill rose from $27,000,000 in 1878 to $56,000,000 in 1880; and the number of applicants increased from 44,587 to 141,466 in the same period. The pension attorneys were rewarded for their efforts by this vast increase in business, though the legal fee did not exceed $10 for each claim.

When [Democrat Grover] Cleveland was President he adopted the plan of examining carefully the private pension bills sent him for signature. Many of them he signed, and many he vetoed after satisfying himself they were unwarranted. Against him the pension attorneys opened their powerful batteries and reminded the public he was elected by the votes of former Confederate soldiers.

Cleveland did not modify his course and when the lobby got Congress to pass a bill in 1887 to allow pensions to all [Northern] soldiers dependent on their own labor and not able to earn a living he vetoed that bill also. For his entire pension policy he was severely arraigned in [the election of] 1888 and the assault was a strong factor in his defeat.

[Republican] President [Benjamin] Harrison took office pledged to a liberal pension policy. In his first annual message . . . Harrison urged the passage of a dependent pension law [and] Congress complied . . . In its second year of operation, when it was fully acting, the total expenditure for pensions had increased by $68,000,000 a year, and in the course of seventeen years by a total of $1,058,000,000. It was passed as a political measure, with an eye to the old soldier vote.”

(Expansion and Reform, 1889-1926, John Spencer Bassett, Kennikat Press, 1971 (original 1926), pp. 18-21)

Washington College Was Not Spared

Liberty Hall Academy in Lexington, Virginia, was the recipient in 1796 of James River canal stock gift from General George Washington – and the grateful school trustees changed the name to Washington College in 1813. Almost immediately after Robert E. Lee’s death in 1870, the school became known as “Washington and Lee College.” Northern soldiers desecrated the college named for Washington in 1864, smashing windows and scribbling obscenities on the walls.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Washington College Was Not Spared

“But no one could hide the scars of the recent struggle. “The whole country from the Blue Ridge to the North Mountain has been made untenable for a rebel army,” Sheridan had informed Washington. If a crow wanted to fly across the area, he would have to carry rations. Trees were down. Fields were gutted. Fences, mills, barns, bridges, crops and stock had been destroyed. Instead of wheat, corn, and barley, the fields were overrun with briars, nettles and weeds.

The fields could be improved in a season; the people’s tempers and bitterness not for generations. Sectional antagonism went back far before the war. “We do not set any claims to public spirit in the matter of internal improvement,” a Rockbridge County historian admitted as early as 1852, “and are shamefully content to let all the glory that appertains there go to the go-ahead Yankees.” When the Yankees laid waste to the Shenandoah Valley, Virginians turned from sarcasm to denunciation.

People did not quickly forget the fate of towns like Scottsville, where every shop, mill and store was burned. Canal locks were dismantled. Records and books were wantonly scattered. The little town lay in its blackened pall, a returning soldier wrote “like a mourner hopelessly weeping.” If the small towns were bad, the cities were worse.

The closest major city to Lexington was Lynchburg, a transportation and manufacturing center fifty-four miles to the southeast. In 1865, life there was paralyzed. Stores were vacant. The tobacco business was ruined. Property everywhere declined in value. The occupying soldiers were a rowdy, rough and drunken set. Robberies occurred nightly.

Sixteen months before General Lee came to Lexington alone, [Northern] General David Hunter had come – with an army. His orders were to . . . destroy all supplies and burn all houses within five miles of the spot where resistance occurred . . . on June 6, 1864, Hunter took Staunton and headed for Lexington . . . crossed the bridge and burned the Virginia Military Institute, and looted the area.

Annie Broun echoed the native’s reaction in the helpless undefended town: “Can I say “God forgive him?” Were it possible for human lips to raise his name heavenward, angels would thrust the foul thing down again. The curses of thousands will follow him through all time, and brand upon the name Hunter infamy, infamy.”

Atop the bluff near the river stood the charred and blackened ruins of the “West Point of the South” – Virginia Military Institute. Along the streets were piles of rubble and brick. At the edge of town stood Washington College, desecrated and silent. Planks were nailed over smashed windows. Obscenities were scribbled on the walls.”

(Lee After the War, Marshall W. Fishwick, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1963, pp. 67-77)

Lincoln’s Desperate Search for Troops

By June 1862 Lincoln found enlistments near nonexistent, and it was time to find new sources of recruits as Northern men resisted war service.  Bounty money was offered to help solve this, and the Homestead Act had the dark purpose of attracting foreign-born troops promised bounties and public land to subjugate Americans seeking political self-determination.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln’s Desperate Search for Troops

“The summer of 1862 brought more gloom to the Union cause. Stonewall Jackson’s heroics in the Shenandoah Valley were followed by McClellan’s withdrawal from his lines before Richmond . . . and the North’s setbacks in the field weighed heavily on the secretary of state. [Seward] had [earlier] watched the Army of the Potomac embark at Alexandria; he had considered it united and unbeatable.

In June of 1862 following the collapse of McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign, Lincoln had sent Seward to New York to stimulate recruiting. The secretary carried with him a confidential letter, explaining the danger and noting that the capital itself was once again in danger under the threat from the rebels. Seward, in New York City, contemplated issuing a new call form the president for volunteers.

On reflection, however, he concluded that for Lincoln to initiate the call would have overtones of panic. Instead he prevailed on most of the Northern governors to request that Lincoln issue a new call for volunteers. The upshot was that Lincoln, seemingly in response to appeals from the Northern governors, was able to issue a proclamation calling for an additional three hundred thousand men.

Seward continued his proselytizing on his return to Washington. He persuaded Secretary of War Stanton to offer new recruits an immediate bounty of twenty-five dollars when their regiments were mustered into service.

Congress had just enacted the Homestead Act, providing that any citizen or alien could acquire title to 160 acres of public land by residing on and cultivating the land for a period of five years. This was just the sort of stimulus to immigration that Seward would have favored under any conditions, but now it included a vital military dimension as well.

He sent copies of the legislation to US envoys with the covering memorandum calling the Homestead Act “one of the most important steps ever taken by any government toward a practical recognition of the universal brotherhood of nations.”

The resulting publicity assured a continuing flow of military manpower to the North from Ireland and northern Europe. John Bigelow, the US consul in Paris, would write that Seward’s circular was important for “the light I throws on the mysterious repletion of our army during the four years of war, while it was . . . being so fearfully depleted by firearms, disease and desertion.”

In addition to his military problems, Lincoln had to deal with the touchy question of war aims. Publicly he continued to argue against general emancipation, telling Horace Greeley in his famous letter of August 1862 that if he could save the Union without freeing a single slave he would do it.

Indeed, Lincoln had no authority to confiscate “property” in the North, and no ability to enforce any Federal edict in territory controlled by the Confederacy. [But as] commander in chief, Lincoln argued that he could surely seize slaves belonging to the enemy just as he could capture their railroads.

[Seward thought issuing the] proclamation following a string of defeats on the battlefield . . . would hint of desperation – “the Government stretching forth its hands to Ethiopia, instead of Ethiopia stretching forth her hands to the Government.” He feared a slave uprising would turn the war for the Union into a class war . . . and that emancipation would destroy the South’s economy, raising the specter of intervention boy Britain or France to protect its supply of raw cotton.”

(William Henry Seward, Lincoln’s Right Hand, John M. Taylor, Harper Collins, 1991, pp. 200-202)

Lincoln’s Cry of Military Necessity

The population and vast resources of the Northern States in 1861 made the claim of “military necessity” by Lincoln fall on many deaf ears. By late 1862 the military situation was critical and Lincoln withheld Northern casualty numbers at Fredericksburg from the public. Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation — patterned after that of Lord Dunmore in 1775 and Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane in 1814 – was to encourage insurrection and race war behind Southern lines, and put black men in blue uniforms as white Northern soldiers resisted enlistment.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln’s Cry of Military Necessity

“On January 1, 1863, another proclamation was issued by the President of the United States declaring the emancipation [of slaves] to be absolute within the Confederate States, with the exception of a few districts. The closing words of the proclamation were these:

“And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God.”

Let us test the existence of the military necessity here spoken of by a few facts.

The white male population of the Northern States was then 13,690,364. The white male population of the Confederate States was 5,449,463. The number of troops which the United States had called to the field exceeded one million men. The number of troops which the Confederate government had then in the field was less than four hundred thousand men.

The United States government had a navy which was only third in rank in the world. The Confederate government had a navy which at the time consisted of a single small ship on the ocean. The people of the United States had a commerce afloat all over the world. The people of the Confederate States had not a single port open to commerce.

The people of the United States were the rivals of the greatest nations of the world in all kinds of manufactures. The people of the Confederate States had few manufactures, and those were of articles of inferior importance.

The government of the United States possessed the treasury of a union of eighty years with its vast resources. The Confederate States had to create a treasury by the development of financial resources. The ambassadors and representatives of the former were welcomed at every court in the world. The representatives of the latter were not recognized anywhere.

Thus the consummation of the original antislavery purposes was verbally reached; even that achievement was attended with disunion, bloodshed, and war.

It is thus seen what the United States government did, and our view of this subject would not be complete if we should omit to present their solemn declarations of that which they intended to do. In his proclamation of April 15, 1861, calling for seventy-five thousand men, the President of the United States government said:

“In any event, the utmost care will be observed, consistently with the objects aforesaid, to avoid any devastation, and destruction or interference with property, or any disturbance of peaceful citizens in any part of the country.”

On July 22, 1861, Congress passed a resolution relative to the war, from which the following is an extract:

“That this war is not waged on our part in any spirit of oppression, or for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, or purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those [Confederate] States; but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution, and to preserve the Union with all the dignity, equality, and rights of the several States unimpaired; and that, as soon as these objects are accomplished, the war ought to cease.”

(The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Jefferson Davis, Volume II, D. Appleton & Company, 1881, pp. 187-189)

 

 

Sheridan Hastens the Indians’ Demise

Grant, Sherman and Sheridan applied the same hard hand of war used on the American South to the Plains Indians. Sheridan endorsed the slaughter of western buffalo herds as a way to subjugate the Indians and break their will to fight – the same as he had done earlier in the Shenandoah Valley. Notably, one of the most successful western hunters was “New England Yankee Josiah W. Mooar, who killed nearly 21,000 buffalo in three years . . .”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sheridan Hastens the Indians’ Demise

“At the same time they were going hungry [on reservations], the Indians watched with impotent disgust as growing numbers of white hunters set up their forked rifle sticks on ancestral hunting grounds and slew the animals in staggering numbers with their .50 caliber Sharps buffalo guns.

In 1872-73 alone, 1,250,000 hides were shipped east to fashionable furriers. By the end of 1874, an estimated 4,373,730 buffalo had been slain, of which a grand total of 150,000 had been taken by the Indians.

The hunters’ intrusion on tribal lands was patently illegal, but the army did little to stop it. Despite the Medicine Lodge Treaty, which had outlawed white intrusion on Indian land, the unofficial attitude of the government toward the hunters was one of de facto cooperation.

Secretary Columbus Delano, whose department was charged with looking out for the Indian’s welfare, stated bluntly in his annual report, “I would not seriously regret the total disappearance of the buffalo from our western prairies, in its effects upon the Indians, regarding it as a means of hastening their sense of dependence upon the products of the soil.”

Sheridan, who had rather less confidence in the farming capabilities of the Indians, nevertheless looked upon the slaughter of the buffalo as an effective means of subjugating the tribes and breaking their wills.

When the Texas legislature briefly considered passing a bill outlawing buffalo poaching on native lands, Sheridan made a personal appearance before the lawmakers in Austin. Rather than penalize the hunters, he said, the legislature ought to give them each a medal, engraved with a dead buffalo on one side and a discouraged-looking Indian on the other.

In an attempt to keep closer watch on the wide-ranging Sioux, Sheridan received permission from Grant in late 1873 to mount an expedition into the Black Hills to scout locations for a new fort in the area. Custer and the Seventh Cavalry spent the better part of eight weeks exploring the sacred territory. As usual, Custer turned the expedition into a combination picnic, big-game hunt, and public relations extravaganza, sending back glowing reports of the region’s vast animal and mineral resources.

Injudiciously, he also fanned the flames of public greed by claiming, with some exaggeration, that pieces of gold could be plucked up from the very ground one walked on. At the first mention of gold, hundreds, then thousands, of ears pricked up. It was, after all, the Gilded Age, and fortune-making was the national sport.

[Though the 1868 treaty with the Sioux] “virtually deeds this portion of the Black Hills to the Sioux,” [Sheridan suggested] that miners and homesteaders try their luck further west in the unceded lands of Wyoming and Montana. The Sioux had hunting rights there, too, but Sheridan hoped to nullify these rights by encouraging the further depopulation of buffalo and other game. When there was nothing left to hunt, he reasoned, the Indians would have no more hunting rights to lose. Needless to say, the Sioux were unamused by this line of reasoning.”

(Sheridan: The Life and Times of General Phil Sheridan, Roy Morris, Jr., Crown Publishers, 1992, pp. 342-343; 348-349)

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)

 

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