Browsing "Looting the Conquered"

Tariffs and War Pensions of the North

Author Walter Webb asserted that “The North reduced to the vanishing point the economic power of the South . . . the armies had taken much, but their damage was small in comparison with that which the politicians wrought later.” The only thing the North failed to do after the war is destroy the spiritual power and pride of the South, even after marital law, enfranchising their former slaves into rulers, and revolutionizing the Southern social structure. As Webb further relates, “This is the supreme act of degradation, one that has no parallel in world history. This was the Second American Revolution.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Tariffs & War Pensions of the North

“The North did not stop with settling old sectional disputes in its favor. Since 1861 it has, through control of the government, legislated for itself subsidies, pensions, privileges, and bonuses which would, if totaled, make the government expenditures of recent years seem less appalling. The most lucrative bounty that the North has conferred upon itself, largely at the expense of the other two sections, is the high protective tariff. It is true that the protective tariff was not a new problem, but one that has been long disputed in Congress.

When the tariff bill of 1828 was under consideration, a Massachusetts manufacturer, Abbott Lawrence, wrote Daniel Webster sagely about the amendments. Lawrence thought the bill improved as to woolens and some thought the bill now good enough.

“I must say,” wrote Webster’s political and economic advisor, “I think it would do much good, and that New England would reap great harvest by having the bill adopted as it now is . . . This bill if adopted as amended will keep the South and the West in debt to New England the next hundred years.”

Since the Civil War the tariff wall has been built higher and higher, not so much for a nation as around and for the benefit of a section. For seventy-five years, and more, the tariff [cornucopias] hung over the North, showering it with thousands of blessings and billions of dollars, bringing it without doubt the greatest gift that any modern government ever bestowed on one group of people at the expense of other groups.

Abbott Lawrence was right. His hundred years has passed, and almost a decade to boot, and the South and West are still in debt to the North, more deeply than they were in 1828. Less remunerative, but no less partial to the North and equally prejudicial to the South and the West, were the federal Civil War pensions.

The pension system was put into effect in 1862, about the time the first bandages were removed. After hostilities ceased pensions grew in number and in amount and in a manner most gratifying to recipients and incidental beneficiaries. No need to dwell on the frauds, lying, broomstick wives, attorneys, and perjurers.

The Grand Army of the Republic was powerful at the polls, where it won a far larger percentage of victories than it won against the armies of Lee. No politician dared deny the soldier who had saved the Union a lifelong government subsidy which was paid impartially to the pauper and the millionaire.

By 1875, the government was giving Northern soldiers $29,000,000 annually. This had jumped to $60 million in 1879, to $89 million in 1889, to $159 million in 1893, and to $180 million in 1912. The peak was not reached until 1923, when the veterans received the sum of $238,924,872.

(Divided We Stand, The Crisis of a Frontierless Democracy, Walter Prescott Webb, Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., 1937, pp. 19-20)

 

The South to Receive a Proper Education

After conquering and humiliating the South, the North’s next step was to re-educate the rising generations of Southern youth while herding the freedmen into the Republican Party to ensure political supremacy in the conquered region. The South’s history had to be rewritten; “its history was tainted by slavery and must be abjured,” and Southern children must learn to speak of “our Puritan fathers.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The South to Receive a Proper Education

“For ten years the South, already ruined by the loss of nearly $2 billion invested in its laborers, with its lands worthless, its cattle and stock gone, its houses burned, was turned over to the three millions of slaves, some of whom could still remember the taste of human flesh and the bulk of them hardly three generations removed from cannibalism. These half-savage blacks were armed.

Their passions were roused against their former masters by savage political leaders like Thaddeus Stevens [of Pennsylvania], who advocated the confiscation of all Southern lands for the benefit of the Negroes, and extermination, if need be, of the Southern white population; and like Charles Sumner [of Massachusetts], whose chief regret had been that his skin was not black.”

Not only were the blacks armed, they were upheld and incited by garrisons of Northern soldiers; by Freedmen’s Bureau officials, and by Northern ministers of the gospel, and at length they were given the ballot while their former masters were disarmed and, to a large extent, disenfranchised.

For ten years, ex-slaves, led by carpetbaggers and scalawags, continued the pillages of war, combing the South for anything left by the invading armies, levying taxes, selling empires of plantations under the auction hammer, dragooning the Southern population, and visiting upon them the ultimate humiliations.

After the South had been conquered by war and humiliated and impoverished with peace, there appeared still to remain something which made the South different – something intangible, incomprehensible, in the realm of the spirit.

That too must be invaded and destroyed; So there commenced a second war of conquest, the conquest of the Southern mind, calculated to remake every Southern opinion, to impose the Northern way of life and thought upon the South, write “error” across the pages of Southern history which were out of keeping with the Northern legend, and set the rising and unborn generations upon stools of everlasting repentance.

Francis Wayland, former president of Brown University, regarded the South as “the new missionary ground for the national school-teacher,” and President Hill of Harvard looked forward to the task for the North “of spreading knowledge and culture over the regions that sat in darkness.”

The older generations, the hardened campaigners under Lee and Jackson, were too tough-minded to re-educate. They must be ignored. The North must “treat them as Western farmers do the stumps in their clearings, work around them and let them rot out,” but the rising and future generations were to receive a proper education in Northern tradition.”

(The Irrepressible Conflict, Frank Lawrence Owsley; I’ll Take My Stand, The South and the Agrarian Tradition by Twelve Southerners, LSU Press, 1977 (original 1930), pp. 62-63)

For the Love of the Dear Old Homeland

Sherman’s strength at Bentonville was initially 58,000 versus Johnston’s aggregate of about 20,000 men. On the way to reinforce Sherman were the 45,000 troops of Schofield, Terry and Cox, advancing from Goldsboro, New Bern and Wilmington — for a total of 103,000 versus 20,000. The author below erroneously suggests a much larger figure for Sherman’s total forces.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

For the Love of the Dear Old Homeland

“On March 7, 1865 General William T. Sherman and his army of mercenaries from Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland and Prussia was well as the northern United States, many of whom could not speak English, crossed the North Carolina State line. Behind them lay the smoking ruins of sacked Georgia and South Carolina cities, homeless widows and orphans and death by starvation.

At Laurel Hill, NC, Sherman halted to refresh his troops, and from here he wired Gen. Schofield in Wilmington that he would be in Goldsboro, NC [on] March 20, 1865. On March 12th Sherman and his army of barbarians reached Fayetteville.

After plundering the residential section, it was then burned. Also destroyed were four cotton mills, the churches, banks, courthouse and warehouses. Sherman then moved on looting and burning. Any item that could not be carried, including furniture, carpets and farm equipment, was destroyed. Even the cabins of the slaves were robbed by the Yankees.

Following the fall of Wilmington, by the 7th of March General Robert Hoke and his small division of [mostly North Carolina] brigades were near Kinston, NC. On the 8th, Gen. Hoke and the division of [Daniel H.] Hill attacked the corps of Gen. Cox consisting of 13,056 Federal troops. The battle was a great victory for the Confederates with a loss to Cox of 1257 men.

General Joseph E. Johnston attacked Gen. Sherman at the hamlet of Bentonville on the 19th of March, inflicting a signal repulse. Brigade after brigade of Federals were crushed, and but for the gallant charge of the Federals under Fearing the center would have been entirely destroyed.

After this defeat Gen. Sherman was unwilling to suffer another, so he waited for Gen. Schofield to join him, and this combined force consisted of over 160,000 troops. The Confederate corps of Gen. D.H. Hill numbered 2,687 men.

When Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his army of half-starved veterans at Appomattox, Virginia, General Johnston was also forced to surrender, April 26, 1865, near Durham Station, NC, and the War for Southern Independence came to a close.

In regards to the Confederate soldiers of 1861-1865, Judge [Joseph de] Roulhac Hamilton wrote:

“How splendid and great they were in their modest, patient, earnest love of country! How strong they were in their young manhood, and pure they were in their faith, and constant they were in their principles. How they bore suffering and hardship, and how their lives were ready at the call of duty! Suffering they bore, duty they performed, and death they faced and met, all for the love of the dear old homeland; all this for the glory and honor of North Carolina.

And they were faithful unto thee, guard thou their names and fame, grand old mother of us all. If thy sons in the coming times shall learn the lesson of their heroism their lives inspired and their lives declared, then not one drop of blood was shed in vain.”

[General Robert F. Hoke’s said (excerpted) in a farewell address to his men:]

“The fortunes of war have turned the scale against us. The proud banners which you have waved so gloriously over many a field are to be furled at last; but they are not disgraced, my comrades. History will bear witness to your valor and succeeding generations will point with admiration to your grand struggle for constitutional freedom.

You have yielded to overwhelming numbers, not to superior valor. You are paroled prisoners, not slaves. The love of liberty, which led you into this contest, burns as brightly in your hearts as ever. Cherish it. Associate it with the history of your past. Transmit it to your children. Teach them the rights of freedom, and teach them to maintain them.

Teach them that the proudest day in all your proud career was that on which you enlisted as Southern soldiers, entering that holy brotherhood whose ties are now sealed by the blood of your compatriots who have fallen, and whose history is coeval with the brilliant record of the past four years.”

(Land of the Golden River, Volume 2, Lewis Philip Hall, Hall’s Enterprises, 1980, pp. 101-103)

 

Appalling the Horde of Genghis Khan

Wartime Governor Zeb Vance of North Carolina compared the “gentler invasion of Cornwallis in 1781” with Sherman’s hordes in 1865, noting Cornwallis’s order from Beattie’s Ford, January 28, 1781: “It is needless to point out to the officers the necessity of preserving the strictest discipline, and of preventing the oppressed people from suffering violence at the hands of whom they are taught to look to for protection . . . ”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Appalling the Horde of Genghis Khan

“Vance considered it apparent to every intelligent observer as 1865 dawned that the Confederacy was doomed. Lee was holding Richmond with what he described as “a mere skirmish line.” In twenty miles of trenches, Grant faced him with 180,000 men. Savannah had fallen and while the south still held Wilmington and Charleston, their loss was inevitable.

Sherman with 75,000 troops was preparing for the “home-stretch toward Richmond,” driving the scattered Confederate detachments – not more than 22,000 – before him. Enemy cavalry overran the interior of the Confederacy. “Nowhere,” Vance continued, “was there a gleam of hope; nowhere had there come to us any inspiring success. Everything spoke of misfortune and failure.”

Vance was most critical of the conduct of Sherman’s army and the “stragglers and desperadoes following in its wake.” He was severe in his castigation of the Federal commander.

“When a general organizes a corps of thieves and plunderers as a part of his invading army, and licenses beforehand their outrages, he and all who countenance, aid or abet, invite the execration of mankind. This peculiar arm of the military service, it is charged and believed, was instituted by General Sherman in his invasion of the Southern States.

Certain it is that the operations of his “Bummer Corps” were as regular and un-rebuked, if not as much commended for their efficiency, as any other division of his army, and their atrocities were often justified or excused on the ground that “such is war.”

Vance in his denunciation of Sherman was not able to look ahead to wars in which supposedly enlightened nations would make civilians their main target, devastate entire cities to break down morale and the will to resist, and degenerate warfare to a barbarity that would have appalled the horde of Genghis Khan.”

[Vance continued:] “The whole policy and conduct of the British commander was such to indicate unmistakably that he did not consider the burning of private houses, the stealing of private property, and the outraging of helpless, private citizens as “War,” but as robbery and arson. I venture to say that up to the period when that great march [Sherman’s] taught us the contrary, no humane general or civilized people in Christendom believed that “such is war.”

(Zeb Vance, Champion of Personal Freedom, Glenn Tucker, Bobbs-Merrill, 1965, pp. 374-376)

The Old Hate

Sherman’s soldiers spared little from looting and destruction in North Carolina as they had done in Georgia and South Carolina. After the conflict, wartime Governor Zebulon Vance wrote: “When a general organizes a corps of thieves and plunderers as a part of his invading army, and licenses beforehand their outrages, he and all who countenance, aid or abet, invite the execration of mankind. This peculiar arm of the military service, it is charged and believed, was instituted by General Sherman in his invasion of the Southern States. Certain it is that the operations of his “Bummer Corps” were as regular and un-rebuked, if not as much commended for their efficiency, as any other division of his army, and their atrocities were often justified or excused on the ground that “such is war.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Old Hate

“Long before you ever came into North Carolina, your name was a terror to us; news of your march through Georgia and South Carolina had preceded you. “Massa Harold” (my great-grandfather) had expected you to have horns and hoofs; he must have been surprised when you appeared on a neighboring plantation as an ordinary man of forty-five with a head of unruly red hair and a shaggy beard.

But your soldiers were hungry, and they scouted the country-side for food. That is why they came to our house. (No, it was not one of those story-book mansions with white columns; it was only a two-room log cabin. There had been better days for the family, but that is another story.)

On that morning in March of 1865 when your “bummers” rode up to our gate, “Ole Mammy” (my great-grandmother, then a woman of forty-seven) was standing in the yard. Beside her stood a young woman of eighteen (Aunt Fed), a boy of nine (Uncle Richard), and a little girl of six (Aunt Queen), and a Negro slave (“Aunt Bessie”) . . . and Frank (my grandfather, then aged thirteen) were down in the swamp with an old horse and a cow. (Three older sons had been taken prisoners at the fall of Fort Fisher just the month before.)

Your men found the cow; she would not be quiet and so ended in your pot. (She was dry anyhow.) Frank came up to the house and found your men digging in a ditch for a keg of gold which “Aunt Bessie” had told them was buried there. (People still come and dig for that treasure, but ‘ther aint nare been one.”) Thanks for cleaning out the ditch.

And we got the feathers picked up and the bed ticks sewed back together. Thus far, we were about even; you got the cow, and we kept the horse; you cleaned out the ditch and made us clean up the house. But the thing that made us mad was that pot of chicken stew.

Frank remembered it well. It was the last chicken they had. “Old Mammy” had saved it for an emergency. When she heard that you were over on the Faison Plantation, she knew that the emergency had come. She had hoped her family would have it eaten before you came, but it was still in the pot when she heard that dreaded cry, “Yankees, Yankees; the Yankees are coming.”

And everyone had to hurry to his place. At first your soldiers were nice enough, but after all that digging they were short on manners. They ransacked the house, and not finding the gold, they spied the small pot on the hearth. Now, if your men had drawn up a chair and had said grace like Christians ought to do and had eaten the stew, it might have passed without being recorded. But no, your men were mad and poured out stew on the floor and then stepped on the pieces of chicken. This was too much for that hungry thirteen year old boy; he darted up from his stool with fire in his eyes. “God damn you dirty rascals.”

(A Southerner’s Apology to General Sherman, A Reticule by Dr. James H. Blackmore, Flashes of Duplin’s History and Government, Faison and Pearl McGowen, Edwards & Broughton, 1971, pp. 243-244)

The North’s Union League Created the Klan

To paraphrase Southern leaders during Reconstruction hearings in Congress, if they would disband the northern Union and Loyal Leagues that set black against white in the South, the Klan would disappear from the face of the earth. It is clear from literature of the day that the disarmed South saw the Klan as a defensive measure against the Union League; the Klansmen flew no flag.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The North’s Union League Created the Klan

“The nocturnal secrecy of the gatherings, the weird initiation ceremonies, the emblems of virtue and religion, the songs, the appeal to such patriotic shibboleths as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Flag, and the Union, the glittering platitudes in the interest of social uplift — all these characteristics of the League had an irresistible appeal to a ceremony-loving, singing, moralistic and loyal race.

That the purposes of the order, when reduced to the practical, meant that the Negro had become the emotional and intellectual slaves of the white Radical did not dull the Negro’s enthusiasm, he was accustomed to be a slave to the white man” [South Carolina During Reconstruction, Simkins & Woody, page 7].

The Union League gave the freedmen their first experience in parliamentary law and debating . . . [they] were active in the meetings, joining in the debate and prone to heckle the speakers with questions and points of order. Observers frequently reported the presence of rifles at political rallies, usually stacked in a clump of bushes behind the speaker’s platform, sometimes the womenfolk left to guard them.

In the autumn of 1867, a League chapter made up mostly of blacks, but with a white president named Bryce, was holding a meeting with its usual armed sentries on the perimeter. When a poor white named Smith tried to enter the meeting, shots were fired; there followed a general alarm and, subsequently, a melee with a white debating club nearby. The Negroes rushed out; Smith fled, hotly pursued to the schoolhouse; the members of the debating club broke up in a panic and endeavored to escape; a second pistol was fired and a boy of fourteen named Hunnicutt, the son of a respectable [white] citizen, fell dead.

[Northern officer John W. De Forest wrote]: “The Negroes, unaware apparently that they had done anything wrong, believing, on the contrary, that they were re-establishing public order and enforcing justice, commenced patrolling the neighborhood, entering every house and arresting numbers of citizens. They marched in double file, pistol in belt and gun at the shoulder, keeping step to the “hup, hup!” of a fellow called Lame Sam, who acted as drill sergeant and commander. By noon of the next day they had the country for miles around in their power, and the majority of the male whites under their guard.”

(Black Over White, Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina During Reconstruction, Thomas Holt, University of Illinois Press, 1977, pp. 29-32)

Leaving Poor Women Their Tears and Their Memory

Gen. Samuel G. French was New Jersey-born and living in Mississippi when the war commenced; he assumed command of North Carolina’s Cape Fear District in March, 1862 and fortified the city against attack from the sea. His adjutant from then through the end of the war was Captain Charles D. Myers, a native of New York City and successful prewar merchant in Wilmington. French possessed a dim view of Sherman’s abilities as a military officer.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Leaving Poor Women Their Tears and Their Memory

“The much-vaunted “march to the sea” was a pleasure excursion, through a well-cultivated country . . . Sherman boastfully writes that he “destroyed two hundred sixty-five miles of railroad, carried off ten thousand mules, and countless slaves; that he did damage to the amount of $100,000,000. Of this, his army got $20,000,000, and the $80,000,000 was waste,” as they went “looting” through Georgia.

But not content with this, when “this cruel war was over,” he presented the delectable spectacle of “how we went thieving through Georgia” at the grand review of his army in Washington, by mounting his bummers on mules laden with chickens, ducks, geese, lambs, pigs and other farm productions, unblushingly displayed, to cover up the concealed money, jewelry and plate taken from the helpless women – to delight the President, to edify the loyal people, to gratify the hatred of the populace to the South, to popularize the thirst for plundering made by his troops, to be an object lesson to the present generation, to instill a broader view of moral right, to heighten modest sensibilities, to refine the delicate tastes of young ladies, to humiliate a conquered people; or wherefore was this unwise “Punch and Judy” show given?

During the revolutionary war, when the British fleet ascended the Potomac river, one ship sailed up to Mount Vernon – the residence of the arch rebel, Washington – and made a requisition for provisions which his agent filled. The English commander must have been a gentleman because he did not burn the dwelling, insult the family, nor commit robbery!!!

Gen. Bradley T. Johnston, in his life of General J.E. Johnston, quotes that, “Abubekr in the year 634 gave his chiefs of the army of Syria orders as follows: Remember that you are always in the presence of God, on the verge of death, and in the assurance of judgment and the hope of paradise. When you fight the battles of the Lord acquit yourselves like men, without turning your backs; but let not your victory be stained with the blood of women and children. Destroy no palm tree, nor burn any fields of corn . . . nor do any mischief to cattle, only such as you kill to eat . . .”

It is not I who charge Sherman with destroying cornfields, cutting down fruit trees, or “driving off one cow and one pig;” he himself boasts as having done it. If he did take “one cow and one pig,” he kindly left the poor women their tears and their memory.”

(Two Wars, The Autobiography & Diary of Gen. Samuel G. French, CSA, Confederate Veteran, 1901, pp. 264-266)

Sherman’s Progressive Soldiers at Smithfield

It is said the path Sherman’s “bummers” cut through North Carolina left a trail devoid of roosters, which no longer crowed in the morning because they didn’t exist. One Northern general wrote that his foragers were in truth “highwaymen, with all of their cruelty and ferocity and none of their courage; their victims are usually old men, women and children, and Negroes whom they rob and maltreat without mercy, firing dwellings and outbuildings filled with grain . . . These men are a disgrace to the name of soldier and country.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sherman’s Progressive Soldiers at Smithfield

[Northern Chaplain John J. Hight’s Diary] Wednesday, April 12 [1865]:

“This has been a morning of most wonderful excitement and enthusiasm. A dispatch has been read to each Regiment, from General Sherman, announcing the capture of [Gen. Robert E.] Lee’s entire army by General Grant. Such a serenade of bands Smithfield [North Carolina] has never had before, and will never have again. The troops move rapidly across the Neuse [River] . . . the design is to push on towards Raleigh and bring [Gen. Joseph E.] Johnston to an engagement, if possible.

We yesterday passed a house where there had been skirmishing. The woman declared that the shooting almost scared her to death. “Was it infantry or cavalry?” inquired someone.

I took a walk about the town. The Masonic and Odd Fellows’ Halls have been rifled. In the latter there is a skeleton, in a coffin. Saw an old dismounted gun lying near the riverbank. It must date back to as early as the Revolution.

At the court house I noticed the shelves, in the offices, are emptied of their contents on the floor. The archives of [Johnston] county lie in confusion amongst the dirt. Many of the documents date back to old colonial times, when legal proceedings were done in the King’s name.

The churches are [broken] open, and the books scattered about the pews. At the graveyard I noticed the graves of a number of rebels, bearing ominous dates – about the time of the Bentonville fight. In the same yard there is blood, seemingly where one of our soldiers was killed yesterday.

[Sherman’s] aide-de-camp, Major Henry Hitchcock provides more details: “At Smithfield, on the morning of the 12th [of April] . . . Even in Smithfield the public stocks “went up” – visibly; for some of “the boys” set fire to them.” I refer to the wooden stocks, near the jail, a comfortable institution for the improvement of criminals which the “conservative Old North State has retained from colonial times.

Another Sherman aide-de-camp, Major Nichols, adds . . . “The court house and jail stand in the public square, and that relic of the past, the public stocks, stood by the side of the jail until our progressive soldiers cut down the machine and burned it.”

(Smithfield, As Seen by Sherman’s Soldiers, Don Wharton, 1977, Smithfield Herald Publishing Company, excerpts, pp. 8-11)

Highwaymen in North Carolina

Though it is claimed that Sherman did not sack and burn North Carolina as he did South Carolina, there is scant evidence that the former did not suffer as did the latter. In the bummer’s path were helpless women, children and old men – whose scarce food supplies, valuables and farm animals were made off with by soldiers in blue.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Highwaymen in North Carolina

“[T]he “corn-crib” and “fodder-stack” commandoes could look back upon a plentiful harvest between Fayetteville and Goldsboro. Meat and meal had been found in abundance. So skillfully had [Sherman’s] “bummers” covered this region that the rooster no longer crowed in the morning because he no longer existed. Had the rooster escaped with his life, there would have been no fence rail for him to stand on.

[General J.D. Morgan said] “I have some men in my command . . . who have mistaken the name and meaning of the term foragers, and have become under that name highwaymen, with all of their cruelty and ferocity and none of their courage; their victims are usually old men, women and children, and Negroes whom the rob and maltreat without mercy, firing dwelling and outhouses even when filled with grain . . . These men are a disgrace to the name of soldier and the country . . . ”

Elizabeth Collier, an eighteen year-old girl of Everittsville, [North Carolina] entered in her diary:

“On Monday morning, the 20th [March], the first foraging party made their appearance at Everittsville. They asked for flour and seeing we were disposed not to give it, made a rush in the house and took it himself—the cowardly creature even pointed his gun at us – helpless women. Looking out, we soon saw that poor little Everittsville was filled with Yankees and they were plundering the houses . . . everything outside was destroyed – all provisions taken – fences knocked down – horse, cows, carriages, and buggies stolen, and everything else the witches could lay their hands on – even to the servants clothes.”

(The Civil War in North Carolina, John G. Barrett, UNC Press, 1963, pp. 346-347)

Experimenting with Government Social Programs

Former Alabama Governor George Wallace recalled: “My father used to tell me that poverty and illiteracy in the South resulted from the way in which we were treated after the war when they burned the schools down, burned the railroads, just desecrated the South. We are just now overcoming the effects of that tyranny and of the iniquitous Thaddeus Stevens [the Radical Republican leader in Congress], who wanted nothing but vengeance.” Wallace felt himself as one of the South’s “rural proletariat,” and committed himself to “rid the region of what he considered a Northern-imposed inferiority.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Experimenting with Government Social Programs

“Most Southerners of the [postwar] – and their progeny, including George Wallace – viewed the period of military occupation as cruelly harsh . . . [but] for Southerners, “the unforgiveable reality was not that military rule was unbearably strict or unreasonably long but that it had been imposed at all; what mattered was that the bayonets had glittered among a people who had complied, whatever their reluctance and misgivings, with the Lincoln program for Reconstruction, only to find that the rules had changed as the political winds shifted.

Military rule (but not military occupation) ended in most States in 1868. By then, however, the federal Reconstruction Acts had placed the South’s political structure firmly under the control of [Republican] Radicals who, in practice if not in law, hand-picked governors, legislators, judges, tax collectors, and postmasters.

Many of the jobs were lucrative political plums that lent themselves to graft and payoffs. Legislators were bribed to sell railroad holdings to speculators for next to nothing. An Alabama editor of the time complained that “inside the State capitol and outside of it, bribes were offered and accepted at noonday and without hesitation or shame,” which helped “to drive capital from the State, paralyze industry, demoralize labor, and force the [best] citizens to flee Alabama as a pestilence, seeking relief and repose in the wilds of the distant West.”

Bribes and frauds notwithstanding, Reconstructions greatest dollar cost to the South came from enormous (and frequently wasteful) legislative spending on new programs fostered by the novel and, for the time, somewhat extraordinary notion that social responsibility was a function of the government.

These programs involved not only the establishment of free public school systems for white and black children but also the construction of insane asylums, hospitals, roads, and bridges. Despite extravagances and often misused funds, America’s first integrated governments – [Southern] legislatures comprising blacks, carpetbaggers and scalawags – were experimenting with social programs that State governments in the North had never before financed.

But these largely noble experiments were undertaken at the expense – financially and psychologically – of Southern white landowners, who saw the American republic’s traditional rights and values being overturned by what seemed to them a motley collection of blacks, Northern usurpers and Southern traitors.

In formal as in common speech . . . “the United States are” became “the United States is.” But to Southerners, the end of the war – the War Between the States, as most Southerners would refer to it for at least the next 125 years – meant encroaching federalism and government involvement in theretofore private sectors.

Thenceforth, at least well into the heyday of George Wallace, Alabamians would distrust and often detest the federal government, or at best, view it with deep misgivings.

In Barbour County, the defeated whites told their children and grandchildren horror stories of Reconstruction that would burn into their memories: black constables “paraded the streets,” administering “powers of sovereignty” over whites; federal troops carried off or killed farm animals, burned cotton, and plundered stores and homes; once-wealthy families were reduced to penury; local leaders were arrested on trumped-up charges; most whites were prohibited from voting in local and State elections while blacks, induced by threats, money or liquor, were permitted to vote two or three times each for candidates sympathetic to the Radicals.”

(George Wallace, American Populist, Stephan Lesher, Addison-Wesley, 1994, pp. 10-12)