Browsing "Looting the Conquered"

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)

Lt. Snelling Returns Home to Georgia

Webster’s Dictionary of 1828 defined a traitor as one who “betrays his allegiance to his country” and “who aids an enemy in conquering his country.” Lt. Snelling, described below, deserted his Georgia regiment and guided the enemy army through his home State.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lt. Snelling Returns Home to Georgia

“Sunday, November 20, 1864 was a day of unprecedented excitement in the capital of Georgia. Members of the legislature had already departed in haste for their homes. The governor and Statehouse officers were in flight, and many citizens of the town were following the example set by them. In the afternoon distant cannon fire was heard in the direction of Macon, some thirty miles away.

Just before sunset a small group of blue-coated cavalrymen were seen lingering on the outskirts of the town . . . They cut telegraph wires, seized a few horses, and then made a hurried exit. They were the first of more than thirty thousand enemy soldiers who were to enter Milledgeville within the next four days.

With flags unfurled, the band at the head of the column playing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and other martial airs . . . [the enemy army occupied the town and Sherman] learned that he was occupying a plantation belonging to General Howell Cobb and forthwith issued orders for its complete destruction.

On the same evening he ordered a special guard to protect the property of Andrew J. Banks whose farmhouse stood a short distance away. Banks, a North Carolinian by birth, was known to be of strong Unionist sentiment.

It is doubtful if Sherman’s intelligence channels had ever been more effective than on this particular occasion. His knowledge of the country which he had entered, and of the varying sentiments of the inhabitants, he owed largely to David R. Snelling, the twenty-six year-old cavalry lieutenant who commanded his escort. Snelling had been born a few miles from Cobb’s plantation and, until the war began, had always lived in the community to which he was now returning as a conquering enemy.

He had left the county early in 1862 as a member of Captain Richard Bonner’s company of the 57th Georgia Regiment. Never an enthusiastic rebel, he deserted at Bridgeport, Alabama, in July. Later he became a member of a Unionist regiment made up of defecting Southerners. He was now a first lieutenant in the 1st Alabama (Union) Cavalry and assigned to Sherman’s personal escort where his knowledge of the people and of the country through which they were marching made his services invaluable to the commanding general who kept him close by his side.

While [Sherman and Snelling] were seated around the [evening] fire, a Negro slave . . . recognized Snelling and greeted him as “Massa Dave.” According to [an observer], the slave fell on the floor, hugged the lieutenant around his knees, and expressed mixed feelings and astonishment and thankfulness at seeing his former master in the uniform of the invading army. The slave who greeted him had belonged [to David Lester, Snelling’s] uncle, in whose home the lieutenant had lived as an orphan since boyhood.

That evening Sherman granted . . . Snelling’s request to ride six miles ahead to visit his relatives at the Lester plantation. In his memoirs, the general noted that Snelling returned that night on a fresh horse from his uncle’s stable [and that the visit had been] social in nature. The David Lester plantation book, however, indicates that Snelling was accompanied on his visit by a squad of Federal cavalrymen and the group conducted a raid on the plantation, burned the ginhouse, and pillaged the premises.

Whether Snelling’s unusual conduct was an attempt to prove his loyalty to the Union army or the result of an old grudge he bore against his affluent uncle perhaps may never be determined.”

(Sherman at Milledgeville in 1864, James C. Bonner, Journal of Southern History, Volume XXII, Number 3, August, 1956, pp. 273, 275-277)

 

Industrial Machines and Political Machines

The triumph of Northern arms in 1865 ensured the political supremacy of the New England industrial elite over the agricultural South — the South that presided over the republic’s “classic years,” defended its political conservatism and produced most of the presidents. With the South in ruins, industrial interests with unlimited funds and government patronage had won the second American revolution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Industrial Machines and Political Machines

“What Charles Beard has called “the second American Revolution — the revolution that assured the triumph of the business enterprise — had been fought and largely won by 1877. In four great lines of endeavor — -manufacturing, extractive industries, transportation and finance — business marched from one swift triumph to another.

In 1860 about a billion dollars was invested in manufacturing plants which employed 1,500,000 workers; but in less than fifty years the investment had risen to 12 billions and the number of workers to 5,000,000.

A bloody and riotous year, violence was everywhere evident in the America of 1877. The great railroad strike of that year was the first significant industrial clash in American society. “Class hatred,” writes Denis Tilden Lynch, “was a new note in American life where all men were equal before the law. The South was in the turmoil of reconstruction, sand-lot rioters ruled in San Francisco; and 100,000 strikers and 4,000,000 unemployed surged in the streets of Northern cities.

At a cabinet meeting on July 22, 1877, the suggestion was advanced that a number of States should be placed under martial law.

Once triumphant, the industrial tycoons discovered that they could not function within the framework of the social and political ideals of the early Republic. To insure their triumph, a new social order had to be established; a new set of institutions had to be created of which the modern corporation was, perhaps, the most important . . . [and with] the Industrial machine came the political machine.

Dating from 1870, the “boss system” had become so thoroughly entrenched in American politics by 1877 that public life was everywhere discredited by the conduct of high officials. The simplicity of taste which had characterized the “classic” years of the early Republic gave way to a wild, garish, and irresponsible eclecticism. “The emergence of the millionaire,” writes Talbot Hamlin, “was as fatal to the artistic ideals of the Greek Revival as were the speed, the speculation and the exploitation that produced him.”

In one field after another, the wealth of the new millionaire was used to corrupt the tastes, the standards, and the traditions of the American people.”

(A Mask for Privilege, Carey McWilliams, Little, Brown & Company, 1948, pp 8-10)

Suppressing the Consent of the Governed

As described below, Americans in general seem unaware of the enormity of the Southern experience 1861-1865 and the aftermath of devastating defeat and subjugation. The author’s analogy brings needed perspective to an unnecessary war and death of a million Americans, counting military and civilian casualties.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Suppressing the Consent of the Governed

“Imagine America invaded by a foreign power, one that has quadruple the population and industrial base. Imagine that this enemy has free access to the world’s goods as well as an inexhaustible supply of cannon fodder from the proletariat of other countries, while America itself is tightly blockaded from the outside world.

New York and Cincinnati have been taken. For months, Boston and Chicago have been under constant siege, the civilian population driven from their homes. Enemy forces roam over large parts of the country burning the homes, tools and food of the noncombatants in a campaign of deliberate terrorism.

Nearly eighty-five percent of the nation’s able-bodied men (up to 50 years of age) have been called to arms. Battlefield casualties have run to 39 percent and deaths amount to half of that, far exceeding those from any other war.

On the other hand, the enemy, though its acts and domestic propaganda indicate otherwise, is telling the American population that it only wants peace and the restoration of the status quo antebellum. Lay down your arms and all will be as before. What would be our state of morale in such conditions? Americans have never suffered such misfortune, have they?

Alas, they have. This was the experience of the Southern people from 1861-1865 in their lost War for Independence.

How hard the Southerners struggled for independence from the American Empire has been, and continues to be, suppressed by a nationalist culture that can only wonder: How could any group possibly have dissented from the greatest government on earth? But a very large number of Americans did no consent that government (the regime, after all, was supposed to be founded on the consent of the governed).

They were willing to put their dissent on the line in a greater sacrifice than any large group of Americans has ever been called on to make. Until finally, as a disappointed Union officer quoted by [author Gary] Gallagher remarked: “The rebellion [was] worn out rather than suppressed.”

(An Honorable Defeat, Clyde Wilson, Chronicles, October 1998, pg. 28)

Uncle Gibb’s Liberators

The passage below describes the surrender and occupation of Smithville, now Southport, North Carolina in late January 1865 after Fort Fisher had fallen to Northern forces. The town’s public offices were plundered by the troops and those like Uncle Gibb suffered ill-treatment from soldiers who sought buried valuables.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Uncle Gibb’s Liberators

“Now Smithville [North Carolina] had relapsed into its state of quiet, but not the quiet of former days . . . Negroes however reaped a rich harvest in the shape of clothing from soldiers and blankets of which the forest was strewn.

A large assembly of Negro men, women and children had collected at the boat in order to greet their “saviors,” and to fall upon their necks and kiss them if such liberties should be allowed. [Northern] Captain [William] Cushing then addressed the sable crowd and informed them that they were free, that they were in all respects equal to the whites and would be so treated. In order to make that this was true he directed that they [the Negroes] should form a procession and give three cheers which they did saying, “God bless Massa Lincum, we’re free” and “Massa Lincum is cumin in a day or two to bring each of us a mule and deed for forty acres of land.”

The procession then started to move, and wild cheering for “Massa Lincum.” There were some small United States flags scattered among the crowds which they waved frantically in the air, crying “hallelujah, hallelujah.” The procession then moved through the garrison to Moore Street, a motley crowd dressed in every conceivable style bearing banners of anything that was bright color and they started down Moore Street amid cheering for “Massa Lincum.”

In the procession which had marched around town was “Uncle Gibb,” and in his posterity “Uncle Gibb” had been treated during his entire life as kindly as any white citizen in the town. He had a house to live in, plenty of food and clothes, and a horse and dray; and it was difficult to perceive how he had bettered his condition by freedom; but he soon found out as he was brought a prisoner into the [Northern army] Garrison for some alleged offense.

Here he was tied up by the thumbs to an oak tree which stood there, and hoisted till his toes barely touched the ground. This was done in full view of his own sister who was cooking in an adjoining kitchen, and who fainted and fell at the awful sight. We thus had an opportunity to find out whether the new friends of the colored race were any better than the old friends who had treated him with such kindness.

The ceremony attending the surrender [of Smithville] having been completed, the boat containing the plunder was dispatched back to the [USS] Monticello, and there being apparently nothing to do on shore, the sailors were given liberty and the officers proceeded to enjoy themselves.

The sailors spread themselves over the town, and proceeded first to inspect the public buildings. They broke open the court house and its offices, tore up such papers as they found lying around, among which happened to be the entire record of the Court of Equity and scattered them about the streets. They went to the Academy building in which was a Masonic Hall, and stole the jewels of the Order, and carried them to the ship.”

(Reminiscences, Dr. D.W. Curtis, Special Collections, W.M. Randall Library, UNCW, pp. 33-37)

Union Captain Murrey’s Toast

Northeastern North Carolina suffered enemy occupation early in the war – those that could left the area. The occupation troops had little consideration for the African race they were emancipating, and seemed to consider the people of North Carolina their subjects and whose land would become resorts for Northerners.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Union Captain Murrey’s Toast

“With their young men away at war, Washington and most of Beaufort County came under the heel of the Union Army. They found the town evacuated by its defenders and abandoned by about three-quarters of its inhabitants. All who could possibly leave, and find refuge with friends and relatives further inland, had done so.

The occupation force included units of the 24th Massachusetts Cavalry; 3rd New York Artillery; 3rd New York Cavalry; and some Marine artillery. Gunboats anchored across the river, off the town. Union forces continued to occupy Washington from the end of March 1862, until 20 April 1864.

On March 30, Captain Murrey, commander of the gunboat Commodore Hull, invited six of the older men who had remained in Washington, to dinner on his vessel. He is alleged to have gotten them drunk, then proposed a toast: “To the reconstruction of the Federal Union, a plantation in Georgia with a hundred niggers, and a summer residence in North Carolina.” It is recorded these men all drank with zest to this toast.

During this period, conditions in Washington were growing steadily worse. Older men who were compelled to remain with their business, had sent their wives and families away. Food was scarce. Though the freed Negroes who had collected in the town were given better food than the inhabitants could procure, bands of these Negroes roamed the streets at night, pillaging and stealing. Strong protests were made by the representatives of eastern North Carolina to President Davis, to return North Carolina troops from Virginia, to clear Union forces from their homes.”

(History of Beaufort County, C. Wingate Reed, Edwards & Broughton, 1962, pp. 184-188)