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This Sad Life in Vicksburg

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

How Sad This Life in Vicksburg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grant Opens the Northwest to Cheap Water Freight

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Grant Opens the Northwest to Cheaper Water Freight

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grant’s New Kind of War

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Grant’s New Kind of War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self-Sacrifice at the Front

By mid-1864, the State of Virginia had been overrun for several years by armies and crops confiscated, devastated or burned by the enemy, and civilians especially suffered greatly.  Daniel Sutherland writes in Seasons of War (1995) of enemy troops reverting “to their old habits of living off the civilian population, still justified, by [Northern General John] Pope’s orders.  If the new wave of brigandage has been less extensive than the first orgy, that is only because less remains to be stolen or vandalized.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Self-Sacrifice at the Front

“One noteworthy example of the self-sacrifice of our soldiers is remembered with especial pride.

On June 15 and 17, 1864, the women and children of Richmond had been suffering for food, and the Thirtieth Virginia [Regiment] sent them one day’s rations of flour, pork, bacon and veal, not from their abundance, but by going without the day’s ration themselves.

“Yet,” said a journal of that time, “despatches from General Lee show that nearly every regiment in his army has re-enlisted for the war.”

On April 30th, when we were threatened on every side, and encompassed so perfectly that we could only hope for a miracle to overcome our foes, Mr. Davis’s health declined from loss of sleep so that he forgot to eat, and I resumed the practice of carrying him something at one-o’clock.”

(Jefferson Davis, Varina Howell Davis, Belford Company, 1890, Vol. II, excerpt, page 496)

The War Against North Carolina Civilians

After Sherman’s 65,000-man army entered North Carolina in early March, 1865, eighteen-year-old Janie Smith wrote friend Janie Robeson of nearby Bladen County and described the invasion of her home in Lebanon, North Carolina. This was near the battle of Averasboro, where Lt. Gen. William Hardee’s 10,000 man army former garrison troops stopped the battle-hardened veterans of Sherman’s left wing. All of Janie’s brothers were in Confederate service.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The War Against North Carolina Civilians

“Where home used to be. April 12, 1865:

Your precious letter, my dear Janie, was received night before last, and the pleasure that it afforded me, and indeed the whole family, I leave for you to imagine, [and I am thankful] when I hear that my friends are left with the necessities of life, and unpolluted by the touch of Sherman’s Hell-hounds.

My experience since we parted has indeed been sad . . . Our own army came first and enjoyed the cream of the country and left but little for the enemy . . . [and] such an army of patriots fighting for their hearthstones is not to be conquered by such fiends incarnate as fill the ranks of Sherman’s army. Our political sky does seem darkened with a fearful cloud, but when compared with the situation of our fore-fathers, I can but take courage.

[At] about four o’clock the Yankees came charging, yelling and howling. They just knocked down all such like mad cattle. Right into the house, breaking open bureau drawers of all kinds faster than I could unlock. They cursed us for having hid everything and made bold threats if certain things were not brought to light, but all to no effect. They took Pa’s hat and stuck him pretty badly with a bayonet to make him disclose something . . . The Negroes are bitterly prejudiced to his minions. They were treated, if possible, worse than the white people, all their provisions taken and their clothes destroyed and some carried off.

They left no living thing in Smithville but the people. One old hen played sick and thus saved her neck, but lost all of her children. The Yankees would run all over the yard to catch the little things to squeeze to death.

Every nook and corner of the premises was searched and the things that they didn’t use were burned or torn into strings. No house but the blacksmith shop was burned, but into the flames they threw every tool, plow, etc., that was on the place. The battlefield does not compare with [the Yankees] in point of stench.

I don’t believe they have been washed since the day they were born. I was too angry to eat or sleep . . . Gen. Slocum with two other hyenas of his rank, rode up with his body-guard and introduced themselves with great pomp, but I never noticed them at all.

Sis Susan was sick in bed and they searched the very pillows that she was lying on, and keeping up such a noise, tearing up and breaking to pieces, that the Generals couldn’t hear themselves talk, but not a time did they try to prevent it. They got all of my stockings and some of our collars and handkerchiefs. If I ever see a Yankee woman, I intend to whip her and take the clothes off her very back.”

(Janie Smith’s Letter (excerpts), Mrs. Thomas H. Webb Collection, NC Division of Archives & History)

Treason in Wartime North Carolina

The traitors and misfits who terrorized North Carolinians during the war, called “Buffaloes,” were a by-product of the Northern invader. General Pickett and Hoke, during their attempts to liberate northeastern North Carolina in 1863-64, dealt severely with local men who aided and abetted the enemy. The Fort Branch mentioned below, was named in honor of Brigadier-General Lawrence O’Bryan Branch, a native of nearby Enfield, NC who was killed in action at Sharpsburg in mid-1862.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Treason in Wartime North Carolina

“The Tenth North Carolina Regiment was encamped near Fort Branch (about five miles east of Hamilton on the Roanoke River), and was awaiting the Federals, in December 1864. A force of Federals . . . were known to be advancing from Plymouth, reaching the vicinity of Fort Branch in the night of December 11.

“The enemy, piloted by some buffaloes (traitors) crossed the creek below (the east) and took our troops at the bridge in the rear. We had turned off from the main road from Tarboro to Williamston in order to come in by Hamilton to reinforce from the rear our troops at Butler’s Bridge.”

The term buffaloes, commonly referred to renegade bands in eastern North Carolina, composed of armed Negroes, native Union bushwhackers, and criminally-intentioned local misfits. They preyed on the prosperous and poor alike, relying on brutality for their success.”

(A Tarheel Confederate and His Family, Robert Garrison Elliott, RGE Publications, 1989, excerpts, pp. 51; 60)

 

Resistance Fighters Against the Industrial Machine

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Resistance Fighters Against the Industrial Machine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

South Carolina Injected with a Foreign Poison

Newspaper editor William Watts Ball of South Carolina could painted a vivid picture of life in the postwar South, and railed at the “foreign poison of democracy” injected into his State by Northern radicals. The Founders’ erected barriers to democracy in their Constitution; historian Charles Beard tells us that “When the Constitution was framed, no respectable person called himself or herself a democrat.” John C. Calhoun’s greatest fear was that democracy in the United States would evolve into a class warfare system with taxpayers perpetually looted by the tax consuming class. Alexis de Tocqueville also noted the evil powers of this “strange new democratic monster with its tyranny of public opinion and numerical majority dwelling in perpetual self-applause.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

South Carolina Injected with a Foreign Poison

“The State That Forgot” is a historical sketch of South Carolina from colonial days to the turn of the twentieth century, generously adorned with “local color” and autobiographical anecdotes. But the heart is [W.W.] Ball’s political philosophy; everything else is embellishment. South Carolina had surrendered to democracy, he said, and as surrender implies defeat, so had she induced her own decline when rule by the aristocracy gave way to rule by the masses. Ball traced the democratic curse back to Reconstruction:

“My political thesis is that the Federal Government, by means of armed forces, placed South Carolina on the operating table in 1867, that in 1868 the Carpetbaggers made an incision in its body, and, by the constitution they adopted, injected into it the deadly and foreign poison of democracy, which, after causing the loathsome ulcers of Reconstruction, subtly spread through the bloodstream of the white people and killed for ever in it the inherited corpuscles of political and social health.”

“The new constitution,” said Ball, was a long step but not a plunge in democracy.” The State had not spurned the colonial constitution fashioned along semi-feudal lines by John Locke. “A more “numerous democracy” had been made but a “too numerous democracy” had been avoided.

South Carolina, however, was forced to scrap that constitution and devise another which would better satisfy the [Northern Republican] Radicals who had taken control of the federal Reconstruction program. Accordingly, a convention composed almost entirely of carpetbaggers, scalawags, and Negroes fashioned the constitution of 1868. Ball appraised the new constitution with these words:

“The finished product of the convention was a document copied from constitutions of Northern States . . . [T]hus at last the rash of democracy was spread by law, backed by bayonets, over the body of South Carolina . . .”

(Damned Upcountryman: William Watts Ball, John D. Stark, Duke University Press, 1968, pp. 144-146)

Total War Comes to France

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Total War Comes to France

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Southern Terms of Reunion

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

No Southern Terms of Reunion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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