Browsing "Targeting Civilians"

Fort McHenry's Guns Turned on Baltimore

The commandant of historic Fort McHenry in 1861 simply followed orders from his superiors to turn his guns on Maryland citizens, though military officers are sworn to defend the United States Constitution and know when not to obey orders contrary to that document.  The land was ceded by Maryland and the fort was constructed to defend Baltimore from its enemies.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Fort McHenry’s Guns Turned on Baltimore

“On Saturday, April 20, Captain John C. Robinson, now a Major-General, then in command of Fort McHenry, which stands at the entrance to the harbor, wrote to Colonel L. Thomas, Adjutant-General of the United States Army, that he would probably be attacked that night [by Baltimore citizens], but he believed he could hold the fort.

[Robinson stated] that about nine o’clock on the evening of the 20th, Police Commissioner Davis called at the fort, bringing a letter dated eight o’clock of the same evening, from Charles Howard, the president of the board . . . that from rumors that had reached the board, they were apprehensive that the commander of the fort might be annoyed by lawless and disorderly characters approaching the walls of the fort, and they proposed to send a guard of perhaps two hundred men to station themselves on Whetstone Point, of course beyond the outer limits of the fort . . . a detachment of the regular militia of the State, then called out pursuant to law, and actually in the service of the State.

“. . . then the following conversation occurred:

Commandant: I am aware sir, that we are to be attacked to-night. I received notice of it before sundown. If you go outside with me you will see we are prepared for it. As for the Maryland Guards, they cannot come here. I am acquainted with some of those gentlemen, and know what their sentiments are.

Commissioner Davis: Why Captain, we are anxious to avoid a collision.

Commandant: So am I sir. If you wish to avoid a collision, place your city military anywhere between the city and that chapel on the road, but if they come this side of it, I shall fire on them.

Commissioner Davis: You would fire into the city of Baltimore?

Commandant: I should be sorry to do so, sir, but if it becomes necessary in order to hold this fort, I shall not hesitate for one moment.

Commissioner Davis (excitedly): I assure you Captain Robinson, if there is a woman or child killed in that city, there will not be one of you left alive here, sir.

Commandant: Very well, sir, I will take the chances. Now, I assure you Mr. Davis, if your Baltimore mob comes down here to-night, you will not have another mob in Baltimore for ten years to come, sir.”

His interview was not, however, confined to Captain Robinson, but included other officers of the fort . . . A junior officer threatened, in case of an attack, to direct fire of a cannon on the Washington monument, which stands in the heart of the city, and to this threat Mr. Davis replied with heat, “If you do that, and if a woman or child is killed, there will be nothing left of you but your brass buttons to tell who you are.”

(Baltimore on the 19th of April, 1861, George William Brown, Johns Hopkins Press, 2001, pp. 67- 69)

Americans Treated as Enemies

Enemy soldiers in the South sent revealing letters home which contained views shaped by official army policies, and censors allowed those which portrayed events in a government-approved light. The writer does note that Negro hands have left the farms, more the result of seizure than liberation; the desperate plea for more recruits reflects the lack of Northern enlistments after the carnage of mid-July 1862.  By this time Lincoln’s radicalized regime embarked on a total war strategy agaisnt Americans that would target civilians as well as armies.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865

 

Americans Treated as Enemies

“Camp Rufus King, July 22, 1862. The following letter we cut from the [Buffalo, New York] Courier:

“The South is paying dearly for this unnatural war upon the country. Famine and pestilence must soon follow on its desolating track. Seed time and harvest have passed, and the planter finds his barns empty. The standing grain has rotted in the field for the want of hands to gather it in.

Oh ye who live in the quiet of your peaceful homes, with all the comforts of life within your reach, and know little of the horrors of war, strengthen our ranks if you would have us stand between you and an earnest, determined foe. Rely not with too much confidence on the ability of the army to beat back the hordes that are arrayed against us. Every able-bodied man in the South is in arms, and they are terribly in earnest.

Not so with us. Our policy, hitherto, has been to conciliate rather than destroy our foe, and as we advance, looking upon the inhabitants as friends and allies until they prove themselves to be enemies. We have been deluded into the belief that there is a strong Union sentiment in the revolted States. It may be so, but it is very slow in manifesting itself.

Few indeed, have the courage to come out boldly and sustain the Government, while the vast majority [does] not hesitate to proclaim their preference for the Southern Confederacy. The [Southern] masses are ignorant to a degree that is startling to a Northerner. It knows little that transpires in the world beyond its immediate circle. It believes implicitly all that is told by the leading spirits of the neighborhood.

The very dialect of the mass betrays its ignorance – differing in no respect from that used by the slaves. And yet these men are told that the Northern mechanic and laboring man ranks no higher in the scale of civilization than the Negro, and that it is the yoke of these Northern mechanics and laborers that they are fighting to throw off.

Our policy of conducting the war is to be changed. It is time. We are in the enemy’s country, and those who inhabit it should be treated as enemies until they yield prompt obedience to the Government.”

(Chronicles of the Twenty-first Regiment, New York State Volunteers: Embracing a Full History of The Regiment, J. Harrison Mills, Regimental Veterans Association, Buffalo, 1887, pp. 201-202)

"Oh Momma, I Am So Hungry"

Sherman saw the Southern people themselves as a legitimate target of his army. He rationalized in a letter to Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon Chase, that “When one nation is at war with another, all the people of the one are enemies of the other [and] the rules are plain and easy of understanding. The Government of the United States may now safely proceed on the proper rule that all in the South are enemies of all in the North.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

“Oh Momma, I Am So Hungry . . . “

“Some time after her trip to Jonesboro [Georgia, Mary A.H. Gay] wrote, late in 1864:

“We had spent the preceding day in picking out grains of corn from cracks and crevices in bureau drawers, and other improvised troughs for Federal horses, as well as in gathering up what was scattered on the ground. In this way by diligent and persevering work, about a half bushel was obtained from the now deserted camping ground of Garrard’s cavalry, and this corn was thoroughly washed and dried, and carried by me and Telitha to a poor little mill (which had escaped conflagration, because too humble to attract attention), and ground into coarse meal.”

Returning from the mill one day, Miss Gay saw her mother running to meet her to tell her that Mrs. Benedict, one of her neighbors, and the latter’s little children were in an actual state of starvation. Mrs. Benedict’s husband was in the Confederate Army and she and her children had been supported by refugees driven from their own section by the further invasion of the Federal Armies. Miss Gay at once cooked what little food she had and prepared to divide it with the starving family.

“On the doorsteps,” she wrote, “sat the young mother, beautiful in desolation, with a baby in her arms, and on either side of her a little one, piteously crying for something to eat. “Oh mamma, I want something to eat so bad. Oh mamma, I am so hungry – give me something to eat.” Thus the children were begging for what the mother had not to give. She could only give them soothing words.”

(In Sherman’s Path, The Women of the South in War Times, Matthew Page Andrews, pp. 307-308)

Working the Freedmen to Death

Contrary to the myth that slaves were liberated rather than taken away from plantations to deny the South farm workers, Northern army officers in blue impressed them for hard labor and rarely if ever paid them. A middle-Tennessean put it this way, the “Negroes will run to [the Yankees] from good homes of kind masters & bear more oppression than they ever knew before, get no pay & yet love the Yankee for his meanness.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Working the Freedmen to Death

“Blacks were especially mistreated during the first eighteen months of Union rule [in occupied Tennessee], when Confederate forces threatened the city [of Nashville] most seriously and before [Andrew] Johnson’s policy toward slavery in Tennessee had been clarified. The most pressing need of the occupation forces was the construction of defensive works around the perimeter of the city, and enterprise which required large amounts of labor. Under the guise of military necessity, [Northern] army officials often ruthlessly impressed blacks to work on the fortifications.

The first impressment took place in August 1862, when [General Don Carlos] Buell’s chief of staff directed the post commander “to call in regular form upon slave owners for hands to work, and put as many on the works as can be employed.” The call went out for one thousand slaves . . .”, while the length of service and the manner and terms of payment were to be determined at the pleasure of the government.

The second impressments in October 1862 was more general in nature. Nashville’s commanding officer ordered the city patrols to “impress into service every Negro you can find in the Streets of this City who cannot prove that he is owned by any person loyal to the government of the United States and residing in and about the City.”  Military patrols simply began arresting as many black men as they could.

A third major impressment took place in August and September of 1863 when Union authorities needed twenty-five hundred men to work on the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad, which was being built under Johnson’s direction. By now the military had developed sophisticated impressment techniques.

For instance, patrols would wait until Sunday morning and then raid the crowded black churches. And the troopers did not hesitate to use violence and threats. During one church raid, they shot and killed a black man and threatened others with a similar fate if they tried to escape.

This inhumane treatment the forced laborers received from the army only compounded the brutality of their impressments. Between August 1862 and April 1863, the amount due blacks [and their owners] for work on the fortifications was $85,858.50, but of this sum only $13,648 was paid.

Furthermore, although the army employed fewer than three thousand black men during this time, between six and eight hundred of them died — an extraordinary mortality rate caused by inadequate shelter and insufficient diet provided by the army. The only kindness the army seems to have exhibited was to provide free coffins for those who died during their ordeal.”

(Treason Must Be Made Odious, Peter Maslowski, KTO Press, 1978,  pp. 99-101)

Captain Beall Executed by the Hypocritical Dix

Captain John Yates Beall, a Southern officer, was captured at the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge in December of 1864 after attempts to capture the USS Michigan on Lake Erie, free Confederate prisoners held at Johnson’s Island, and rescue seven imprisoned Southern generals near Buffalo. For taking the brutal war to the Northern border of the United States in retaliation for Sherman’s and others crimes in his country, he was hung as a “guerilla” on February 24, 1865.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Captain Beall Executed by the Hypocritical Dix

“Mounting the platform, the prisoner takes his seat upon the chair immediately under the fatal rope. The adjutant of the post commences to read the charges, specifications and the orders of General Dix for his execution.

Beall, little dreaming of the test to which he is to be subjected, rises respectfully when the reading is commenced . . . When he hears himself designated as a citizen of the “insurgent State of Virginia” his smile grows intensely sad and significant; he sees now the men before him no longer as his own murderers only, but as the executioners of a sovereign State – his own beloved Virginia, and he smiles not in derision, but in protest and remonstrance.

Again when they denounce his heroic attempt to rescue from a vault the souls of three thousand fellow-soldiers, “piracy,” he smiles; but when the accuse him of an attempt as a “guerilla” to “destroy the lives and property of peaceable, and unoffending inhabitants of said State” (New York), he ceases to smile, and mournfully shakes his head in denial. But finally, when the adjutant reaches the concluding passages of the order of General Dix . . . Beall laughs outright . . .”

The reporters do not understand the joke; the truth is, Beall hears this homily upon the proprieties of war coming from a Federal officer; he hears it, whose home is in the valley of the Shenandoah! There rises up before him his own homestead, its desolated fields, its level forests, the ash heaps which now mark the positions of its once beautiful, and cottage-like out-houses; and the thousand other vestiges of rural beauty despoiled by the brutality of the Federal soldiers, in its unrestrained career of pillage, plunder, wholesale robbery, and wanton destruction.

He hears the protests of his helpless mother, and her appeals for protection heeded only by the God of the widow and fatherless. He remembers the deep burning insults which Federal officers have heaped, in their language, upon his own sisters. He hears in the hypocritical cant of General Dix that officer’s own self-condemnation; and knows that every breath which the commanding general draws is in default of the penalty which he attaches to the violation of the laws of civilized warfare.

He hears a sermon on the “rule which govern sovereign States in the conduct of hostilities with each other,” by the man who, through his unlicensed, ill-disciplined, unrestrained, and unpunished soldiery, laid in ashes William and Mary College, an institution whose associations were hallowed by the literary nurture of the fathers of the Republic, and whose vulnerable walls were whitened by the frosts of a century.

A general who, after an arduous campaign, succeeded in capturing a lunatic asylum, and who is said to have tendered to its patients the oath of loyalty to the United States, and who is known to have treated its refractory and unfortunate inmates with cruelty and inhumanity.

Turning upon the officer of the day, he speaks in a calm, firm voice. “I protest against the execution of this sentence. It is a murder! I die in the service and defense of my country!  Thus died in the thirty-first year of his age, on the scaffold, John Yates Beall.”

(Confederate Operations in Canada and New York, John W. Headley, Neale Publishing Company, 1906, pp. 365-366)

Sherman's Escaped Fiends from the Lower Regions

After terrorizing the civilian population of Georgia and South Carolina, the enemy entered North Carolina in early March 1865 to bring the same to its women and children living in their path. Houses were ransacked for anything of value, livestock was taken or killed, and the defenseless were left to starve.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Sherman’s Escaped Fiends from the Lower Regions

“General Sherman was traveling with the Fifteenth Corps on March 8 [1865] when it crossed the line into North Carolina, and that evening both the General and the corps went into camp near Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church, a region his soldiers thought looked “Real northern-like. Small farms and nice white, tidy dwellings.”

General Sherman, still riding with the Fifteenth Corps, took refuge on the night of March 9 from a “terrible storm of rain” in a little Presbyterian church called Bethel. Refusing a bit of carpet one of his staff had improvised into a bed on the pulpit platform, the General stretched himself out on one of the wooden pews for the night. Not far from Bethel Church, at the meeting hall of the Richmond Temperance and Literary Society, could be found another reminder of Sherman’s visit. J.M. Johnson, secretary of the society, entering in the minutes, April 22, 1865:

“After a considerable interruption, caused by the unwelcome visit of Sherman’s thieves, the Society meets again. And, of course, when God’s own house is outraged by the Yankee brutes, temples of morality and science will not be respected.  We find the ornaments of our fair little Hall shattered and ruined; our book shelves empty; the grove strewn with fragments of valuable, precious volumes; the speeches and productions of members who are sleeping in their silent graves, torn and trampled in the mire, “as pearls before the swine.”

“Ye illiterate beasts! Ye children of vice! Ye have not yet demoralized us, Today we marshal our little band again; and with three cheers for Temperance and literature, unfurl our triumphant banner to the breeze.”

A resident of the village of Philadelphus [Robeson county], after passing through “the ordeal of brutal, inhuman and merciless Yankeeism,” wrote: “They visited us in torrents,” and acted like “escaped fiends from the lower regions . . . ”

(The Civil War in North Carolina, John G. Barrett, UNC Press, 1963, pp. 301-302)

 

Butcher Weyler, Sherman's Understudy

The yellow-journalism American press railed at Spain’s decision to assign “Butcher” Weyler to solve the problem of Cubans seeking independence, though forgetting that it was Lincoln’s own General William T. Sherman who had taught Weyler how to carry total war to an American people seeking independence.  The New York papers in 1864-65 did not describe Sherman as “a butcher, rapist and a Torqemada of torture.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Butcher Weyler, Sherman’s Understudy

“In the circumstances, one can pity General Valeriano Weyler, who had been sent to Cuba by the Queen Regent of Spain with orders to put down the rebellion. He arrived to find himself described by New York newspapers as a butcher, rapist, and a Torquemada of torture.

A fifty-nine-year-old professional soldier, short and broad-shouldered, Weyler as a young officer had been a military attaché at the Spanish legation in Washington during the Civil War, and as an observer had accompanied Sherman on his march through Georgia. He had admired Sherman, but his liking for things American was dwindling.

He read things in the American papers he could scarcely credit. Miss Nellie Bly, the World reporter who had gone around the world in seventy-two days, announced that she planned to recruit a regiment of volunteers, officered by women, to fight for Cuban independence.

“The Cubans are fighting us openly,” Weyler said. “The Americans are fighting us secretly . . . The American newspapers are responsible. They poison everything with falsehood.”

The Spanish government in Cuba had been autocratic, but not oppressive. The rebellion was in large part inspired by revolutionists in New York, encouraged by unrest caused by economic depression and poverty. It had gained strength because of a ruthless rebel decree that all Cubans who did not aid them would be considered allies of Spain and enemies of the “republic,” causing many citizens to help the insurgents out of fear.

Weyler, like the majority of Spaniards, believed that the rebels would long since have been crushed but for the incitement of the New York press, and the arms, men and supplies sent by filibuster ships that slipped into Cuba.

Weyler commanded some 80,000 Spanish soldiers whose presence in Cuba was bleeding Spain white. Yet they could not achieve a finished fight because the rebels invariably dodged them. The rebel strategy was to burn sugar plantations and towns, wreck railroads and flee, always avoiding pitched battles. The hatred between the contending parties had grown so bitter that when men were captured by either side, hangings and disembowelments were common.

Amid such incidents . . . Weyler employed the stern measures expected of him. To neutralize the thousands of Cubans in the interior who were secretly aiding and supplying the rebels while posing as loyal citizens, he issued a “reconcentration” order. This required all citizens . . . to leave their villages and move within Spanish lines.

Spanish forces then proceeded to clear the interior of supplies, applying a “scorched earth” program to starve out the rebels. This brought great suffering and privation to the reconcentrados, or uprooted families, many of whom were near starvation themselves. But the measure, along with renewed Spanish military activity, proved effective and the insurgents for a time lost ground.”

(Citizen Hearst, W.A. Swanberg, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1961, pp. 118-119)

Bismarck Receives Sheridan's Lesson on Total War

Bismarck’s Reich supported Lincoln in his war against the American South as the German consolidator promoted Northern war bonds to his countrymen. Bismarck might have been ruthless while fighting foreigners, but Sherman and Sheridan were fighting ruthlessly to deny Americans self-government.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Bismarck Receives Sheridan’s Lesson on Total 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 of penalties, to burn vine-posts in bivouacs, and woe to him who used un-threshed corn for his palliasse. Child-like innocence! Now no one asks whether you are using garden fencing or the doors of houses or wagons for fuel . . . 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 [French partisan] 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 used to break their will. The same problem had confronted the United States in dealing with the Confederacy six years earlier, and [General] Sherman had solved it by his relentless march through the South.

[Chief of Prussian General Staff] Moltke had believed war to consist in the movement of armies; but General [Philip] Sheridan, who was observing the war from German headquarters, pointed out that this was only the first requirement of victory.

“The proper strategy [he declared after Sedan] consists of inflicting as telling blows as possible on the enemy’s army, and 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 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.” [Bismarck’s wife suggested] that all Frenchmen should be “shot and stabbed to death, down to the little babies,” and the German press abounded in similar ideas.

Nor did the French lag behind in urging suitable torments for the invaders. Each nation came to believe that it was upholding civilization against a race of barbarians which could only be bullied into submission by brute force.”

(The Franco-Prussian War, Michael Howard, Routledge Press, 1961, pp. 380-381)

Principles of International Justice Left in Ruins

In his 1944 book, Bombing Vindicated, former Principal Secretary of the Air Ministry J.M. Spaight, revealed that on May 11, 1940 the British government had commenced unrestricted bombing of German cities, known as “The Splendid Decision,” to which the Germans responded in kind. Spaight traces this decision to 1936 when Bomber Command was organized, with “the whole raison d’ etre of Bomber Command was to bomb Germany should she be our enemy.”  Visiting Germany as a military observer during the Franco-Prussian War, General Philip Sheridan, known for his brutal devastation of Americans in the Shenandoah Valley, was surprised that the Germans did not starve and torch their French enemies.  By 1940, they had learned Sheridan’s lesson.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Principles of International Justice Left in Ruins

“Nothing better illustrates how hell may be paved by good intentions which crumble than the war-crimes trials themselves. No doubt many who supported them were motivated by primitive Mongol demands for the massacre of defeated enemies, by “scientific” Marxian precepts which called for the liquidation of elements that could not be assimilated into a proletarian and totalitarian society, and by a purely vindictive desire for revenge.

On the other hand, many sincerely believed that the trial and punishment of men, many of whom had certainly been guilty of ordering or permitting unspeakable and boundless cruelties, would both reduce the prospect of future wars and make any that did take place more humane and restrained. During the Second World war, even Germany and Russia, despite their mass butcheries in the war in the East, refrained from using such lethal weapons, already in plentiful reserve, as poison gas and disease germs, for fear of possible retaliation.

The war-trials, by making it crystal clear that the losers will, henceforth, be subjected to such trials, regarded as aggressors whether they were or not (it was not emphasized at Nurnberg that England and France declared war on Germany), and be hanged or subjected to long prison terms, whether guilty as charged or not, made it inevitable that all the restraints that survived the Second world war would be thrown to the winds in the third – as even the limited war in Korea has demonstrated.

Since nothing worse can happen to a national war leader than to be disgraced, tortured and hanged, if defeated, there is no logical psychological reason for failing to throw in everything which may promise victory, however lethal and barbarous.

By 1952, the only belief of the early post-war years which still survived more or less unshaken was the belief that the Second World War had at least resulted in the establishment of new international standards of justice. As we have seen, as late as March 1951, the then British attorney-general, Sir Hartley Shawcross, was able, without making himself ridiculous, to put forward a moving appeal that what he called the principles of international justice established at Nurnberg should not be undermined for purposes of political expediency.

This comforting belief remained unshaken until it was reported in July 1952, that the Chinese Communists had indicated an intention to subject in due course certain of their prisoners of war captured in the Korean campaign to war-trials carried out “in accordance with the principles established by the international military tribunals of Nurnberg and Tokyo.”

In thousands of homes on both sides of the Atlantic the matter ceased to be an academic problem whether certain more or less worthy or unworthy foreigners had been unjustly condemned a few years before.

The anxious relatives of the British and American soldiers, sailors and airmen serving in Korea – and of those in the armed forces who might later be called upon to serve in Korea – had no difficulty in foreseeing what would be the result of war-trials carried out “in accordance with the Nurnberg principles.” All the illusions on this subject instantly vanished.

What may be regarded as the obituary notice of the Nurnberg war-trials was pronounced by Ex-Lord Chancellor Maugham in a letter to the London Times of July 25, 1952. “The Nurnberg Tribunal,” declared Lord Maugham, “never purported to lay down “principles” for all mankind.”

Perhaps it was always an unreasonable hope that the British Air Ministry’s “Splendid Decision” of May 11, 1940, would result in the establishment of any principles. The eighteen Whitley bombers which left England on that memorable spring night, in what now seems the remote past, did not set forth to establish principles.

The bombs which they dropped in the darkness on the countryside of Westphalia may, indeed, by chance have hit railway installations. Perhaps it is best to regard this historic air raid as a symbolic act, unconnected with corpses or debris, which left behind it in ruins nothing more substantial than the principles of civilized warfare that had been established in Europe for over two hundred years.

Similarly, the war-trials which were the outcome of that perhaps equally splendid decision taken at the Tehran Conference in 1943, did not, as we are now informed, lead to the establishment of any new principles of justice. Perhaps some day it may become generally agreed that, without establishing any new principles of justice, the war-trials actually left in ruins the principles of justice which had been accepted without question by all civilized peoples for many centuries.

Indiscriminate bombing invincibly linked warfare with barbaric military practices and ghastly mortality. All this would be intensified by the extensive use of guided missiles in later wars. The war-crimes trials at Nurnberg, Tokyo and elsewhere linked postwar procedures with juristic barbarism and made mandatory the utilization of the most savage methods of warfare in order to avert defeat and judicial lynching.”

(Advance to Barbarism, F.J.P. Veale, C.C. Nelson Publishing Company, 1953, pp. 293-297)

Sherman's Civilian Enemies

Sherman personalized American civilians in the South as his enemy — he branded their acts of self-defense as “cowardly” and deserving of swift retaliation — in effect denying that the South had the right to resist an invasion of its own country. While Sherman’s mental health is held in question by many, he was in truth only carrying out the orders of his master, Lincoln.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Sherman’s Civilian Enemies

“Article 44 [of US Army General Orders No. 100] . . . specified that “All wanton violence committed against persons in the invaded country, all destruction of property not commanded by the authorized officer, all robbery, all pillage or sacking, even after taking a place by main force, all rape, wounding, maiming, or killing of such inhabitants, are prohibited under penalty of death, or other such severe punishment as may seem adequate for the gravity of the offense.”

Paradoxically, it was . . . Union general, William Tecumseh Sherman, [who] gradually evolved his own personal philosophy of war along line which were clearly at variance with the official pronouncements, and in his practical application of that philosophy became one of the first of the modern generals to revert to the idea of the use of force against the civilian population of the enemy.

On the eve of the Civil War, Sherman could look back upon a career of dependence, frustrations, and failures. “I am doomed to be a vagabond, and shall no longer struggle against my fate,” he wrote his wife from Kansas in 1859. As he travelled northward in late February, 1861, to face once more the prospect of renewed dependence upon his father-in-law, his brooding over the ghosts of his own failures became mingled with gloomy forebodings concerning the future of the nation itself.

Passing from the South, where it seemed to him that the people showed a unanimity of purpose and a fierce, earnest determination in their hurried organization for action, into Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, where he found no apparent signs of preparation . . . he began to develop the deep conviction that he was one of the few people who understood the real state of affairs. It was only a short step from there to resentment against those who seemed unwilling to heed his warning or advice.

Convinced that Washington’s failure to act promptly on his requests [as a brigadier in Kentucky] was due either to indifference to the situation or to a willingness to sacrifice him, he developed a state of nervous tension in which his irritability and his unreasonable treatment of those about him antagonized the newspaper correspondents and led some . . . to publish stories questioning his sanity.

[He was relieved of command and] It was during this period of inactivity that the full import of these charges of insanity began to bear in upon him and to create in his mind an agonizing sense of humiliation. [He wrote his brother John] “that I do think I should have committed suicide were it not for my children. I do not think I can ever again be entrusted with a command.”

Two months later . . . he wrote to his brother that the civilian population of the South would have to be reckoned with in the months of war ahead . . . “the country is full of Secessionists, and it takes all [of a Northern] command to watch them.” Having become convinced that [telegraph] destruction was being accomplished by civilians rather than military personnel, he found it easy to judge the whole South on the basis of what he saw . . . Here was a manifestation of his tendency to arrive at generalizations by leaping over wide gaps of fact and reason and to proceed on the basis of his inspirations and convictions with the utmost faith in the soundness of his conclusions.

In this case his generalization led him to visualize the people themselves as a significant factor in the conduct of the war and to think in terms of a campaign against them as well as against their armies. [Writing to the Secretary of the Treasury], “When one nation is at war with another,” he said, “all the people of the one are enemies of the other: then the rules are plain and easy of understanding.”

[He continued]: “The Government of the United States may now safely proceed on the proper rule that all in the South are enemies of all in the North; and not only are they unfriendly, but all who can procure arms now bear them as organized regiments or as guerrillas.”

Sherman’s disposition to consider all resistance as treacherous acts of the civilian population prepared the way for the next steps in the development of his attitude on the conduct of the war.”

(General William T. Sherman and Total War, John Bennett Walters, Journal of Southern History, Volume XIV, No. 4, November, 1948, pp. 448-450, 454-455, 457-460,