Browsing "Targeting Civilians"

Sherman’s New Notion of Total War

There is little question that Sherman operated against American civilians in the South with the full approval of Lincoln and Grant, who must also share the responsibility for visiting total war upon defenseless men, women and children. This executive approval of war against civilians was not lost on the young Spanish attache to the Northern army, Valeriano Weyler, who became known in mid-1890s Cuba as General “Butcher” Weyler. To discourage Cuban freedom fighters, Weyler herded their women and children into concentration camps after burning their homes.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sherman’s New Notion of Total War

“Major-General [Henry W.] Halleck, Sherman’s overall commander-in-chief, was an accepted authority of his day on the rules governing the intercourse of nations and the laws of war. Sherman had attended West Point with Halleck, and certainly curiosity if not actual interest on the subject would have prompted him to look into Halleck’s “International Law.”

It was said of Sherman that he was in the habit of “starting new notions constantly in his own brain, and following them up, no matter how far or whither they led.” On October 4 [1862] he reported to General Grant that two more steamboats had been fired upon – the attacks being described by Sherman as wanton and cruel – and he informed Grant of the new notion that had occurred to him:

“I caused Randolph [Mississippi] to be destroyed, and have given notice that a repetition will justify measures of retaliation, such as loading boats with their captive guerillas as targets (I always have a lot on hand), and expelling families from the comforts of Memphis, whose husbands and brothers go to make up the guerillas. I will watch Randolph closely, and if anything occurs there again I will send a brigade by land back of Randolph and clean out the country.”

From this modest beginning – the experiments to discover the effectiveness of the practical application of his concepts of total war – the destruction of property, the holding of hostages and now the improper exposure of prisoners to the fire of their own forces, would not be enlarged on in the weeks ahead and their effects carefully noted.

Whether Sherman himself ever entertained any doubts or hesitations as to the course to which he had committed himself cannot be stated accurately, but it is noteworthy that during this period no mention is made in his correspondence of the rules of war, nor does he suggest that his actions were not in accord with them.

There are threads of justification woven into his letters and his orders for extreme severity and barbarism; and a definite impression is left that many of these were included with one eye on posterity and the hope of ultimate vindication.”

(Merchant of Terror: General Sherman and Total War; John Bennett Walters, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1973, excerpt, pp. 68-69)

From William Sherman to William Calley

As of April 24, 1863, the Northern armies were officially guided by Francis Lieber’s General Orders 100, Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field, which prohibited robbery, sacking, pillage rape, wounding maiming or killing of the South’s inhabitants. Observance of these instructions seemed to be the exception rather than the rule.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

From William Sherman to William Calley

“Paradoxically . . . Union General William Tecumseh Sherman [gradually] evolved his own personal philosophy of war along lines which were clearly at variance with the official pronouncements [of the North’s and in his practical application of that philosophy became one of the first of the modern generals to revert to the use of military force against the civilian population of the enemy.

While this represents only a part of the present concept of total war, its significance lies in Sherman’s demonstration of the effectiveness of a plan of action which would destroy the enemy’s economic system and terrify and demoralize the civilian population.

Sherman’s conduct, reflected in the actions of his men, demonstrated a strange hatred – one without parallel even in World War II. Even as brutal as the Japanese were to prisoners and to civilians who came under their bayonets, there was no demand in United States newspapers for the burning, sacking and pillaging of towns. Nor was there any public sentiment for the humiliation of civilians.

No efforts are made here to show that Sherman’s program pf terror was original with him. It is evident that he was willing to proceed in the face of official pronouncements to the contrary to apply the terrifying force of an uncontrolled soldiery against noncombatants.

It is likewise evident that he would not dared do so without the tacit approval of Abraham Lincoln and General Grant. Sherman pleaded that he could no control his troops in the face of their righteous indignation against those who would rebel against a benign government. The pages of recent history reveal that this plea was reiterated by both Japanese and German generals as the mounted the steps of scaffolds to which they were condemned by international tribunals.

There were extreme and unnecessary cruelties involving civilians in the Korean action. However, it was in the highly dramatic court martial of Lt. [William] Calley that the army undertook to point up the brutal attack upon civilians in the village of My Lai, South Vietnam.

The nation and the world was shocked at the pictures and detailed accounts of witnesses which placed upon the consciences of people everywhere the details of the massacre of the inhabitants, including women and children, of My Lai.

There can be little doubt that Sherman’s actions toward a proud and almost defenseless people left a heritage of hate which lasted far longer than it might otherwise have lasted.”

(Merchant of Terror: General Sherman and Total War; John Bennett Walters, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1973, excerpt, pp. xxii-xxiii)

The Unspoken Significance of Fort Fisher’s Fall in 1865

Fort Fisher, January 2017

This weekend the Fort Fisher historic site near Kure Beach, North Carolina observes the 152nd anniversary of the second Northern attack that succeeded in capturing the fort after a massive bombardment of 50,000 shells which killed or wounded 500 or so mostly-North Carolinians who fought valiantly from traverse to traverse before capitulating. Those taken prisoner by the enemy were shipped northward to frigid prisons in New Jersey and New York – the latter infamously referred to as a death camp.

Many people visiting Fort Fisher note that it can be an eerie experience – like walking the fields of Appomattox and sensing the death-knell of liberty and independence it is known for.

The State employees of the historic site will hold events of blue-clad troops splashing ashore to free North Carolinians from the yoke of independence and self-government, as well as waving the US flag from the top of captured cannon traverses. The red, white and blue flags of the North Carolinians will be minimized if shown at all. Rather than note that most of the defenders were North Carolina farmers from surrounding counties, the fort and media will refer to them as merely “Confederates.”

Often noted during these observances is the enemy soldier who fell out of ranks to visit his mother’s home — as his brother was fighting to defend his country in a grey uniform.  And few seem to comprehend that this wayward North Carolinian in blue is the very definition of treason, of aiding, abetting and going over to the enemy.

Also, what is usually not discussed at events like this are the sectional differences of that era and multitude of reasons why the South was invaded, and the important aftermath of that battle for the fort. What really happened in mid-January 152 years ago was the ending of an American struggle for freedom and independence, the consent of the governed to rule themselves, and the equivalent of Washington surrendering to British forces at Yorktown.

What happened after the fort fell is very important to remember, especially as one looks at the blue-clad reenactors splashing ashore waving their flag on what was then foreign soil to them. What was their true purpose?

After the fort was overwhelmed and silenced, the 10,000-man enemy army marched toward Wilmington in two columns and after some spirited skirmishes, captured the city, imposed martial law, seized private property, and forced citizens to swear allegiance to a foreign government in order to conduct their businesses.

When the enemy departed Wilmington, they moved to join other enemy forces coming into North Carolina from South Carolina and from occupied New Bern. At Bentonville the combined enemy outnumbered Southern forces 4 to 1 — who fought them to a standstill – they then moved on to capture Raleigh, arrest and imprison the governor, and impose military rule on North Carolina. Think of the French capitulation to Germany in 1940.

After the surrender of Southern forces in May, 1865 at Bennett Place, the “reconstruction” of the South lasted until 1877 – some say it never ended — though without armies and without as much gunfire. North Carolina endured rule by a new State constitution imported by a military consul appointed from Washington, and corrupt local men who sought employment with the late enemy. The new imported constitution settled the secession issue for good by stating that North Carolina will never again seek independence or political freedom from the United States Government.

Understandably, July 4, 1865 in occupied Wilmington was a muted affair, celebrated only by locals collaborating with the enemy and newly-freed blacks who were unaware that they had only changed masters.  Blue-clad sentries still patrolled the streets to ensure the rebellion did not re-ignite; then came the vultures known as “carpetbaggers.”

Former Governor Zebulon Vance described the aftermath of war in North Carolina in 1890:

“The carnival of corruption and fraud, the trampling down of decency, the rioting in the overthrow of the traditions of a proud people, the chaos of hell on earth which took place beggars the descriptive powers of plain history . . . I believe a committee of Congress, who took some testimony on this subject, estimated in 1871 the amount of plunder which was extracted from the Southern people in about 5 short years — some $300 millions of dollars in the shape of increased debt alone, to say nothing of the indirect damage inflicted by the many ways of corruption and misrule which cannot be estimated in money.”

The fall of Fort Fisher and ultimate surrender at Bennett Place led to the carnival of corruption that Vance illuminated. We should remember what occurred at Fort Fisher in mid-January 1865 for what it was and what it led to — the ending of an American struggle for freedom and independence, the consent of the governed to rule themselves. This is the sad fact that we should observe, and be cognizant of when gazing at the great earthen fortress.

Bernhard Thuersam

 

 

Reconstructing People in the American Image

In the same way victorious Northern armies were followed by political adventurers and reformers backed by Union bayonets in the American South, the multitude of Washington-directed foreign interventions to date have been justified with the intention of spreading what is said to be American democracy, though the founders never intended this nor does the word “democracy” appear in the United States Constitution. In 1821, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams stated that “[America] does not go in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom of freedom and independence to all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.” A wise policy that was discarded after 1865. The French intervention in Vietnam mentioned below was financed with American tax dollars.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Reconstructing People in the American Image

“The policies we see today in Washington, DC reflect [a strategy of] the Federal Government [molding and reconstructing] societies at will with no regard for the population’s history, culture or values. Our ongoing meddling in Bosnia, where our advertised intention of forging a multiethnic society out of feuding Croatians, Serbs, and Moslems has only fenced people into a gladiators arena despite their clear preference to go about peaceably building their own communities in their own way.

Only continues military occupation by the United States working through the United Nations keeps this artificial political creation together, taking up the role formerly played by the Ottoman Turks, the Austrians, and [Marshal] Tito.

The United States have a long history of using force to erect and try to hold together artificial regimes. The most costly instance of such interference – so far – was he United States support for South Vietnam. As with every intervention since the War for Southern Independence, the advertised justification was to spread the American idea of freedom throughout the world.

Americans saw no need to ask the Vietnamese if they agreed to having their nation reconstructed in the American image, but the American government believed that their ideas applied to everybody. The Vietnamese, tightly organized and highly motivated to defend their way of life, managed to defeat a superior French force backed by American B-26 bombers.

Once the French decided they had had enough, American forces took up the fight. The assumption that the Vietnamese, like everyone else in the world, secretly wanted to adopt an American identity, led by Washington, DC into a self-manufactured disaster.

Assuming that all differences in world cultures are accidental mistakes and that force is necessary to impose a beneficial order upon uncomprehending and ungrateful recipients, advocates for armed intervention lull themselves to sleep at night with the assurance they have murdered no one but uneducable obstructionists.

By 1967, the US Air Force had dropped more than 1.5 million tons of bombs on the Vietnamese, more than the total dropped on the whole of Europe in World War II. The stimulus did not work, leaving the experts in the Pentagon groping for an answer.

“We anticipated that they would respond like reasonable people,” said one Defense Department official. Instead of responding reasonably, the Vietnamese responded like people, and won.”

(Confederates in the Boardroom: How Principles of Confederation are Rejuvenating Business and Challenging Bureaucracy; Michael C. Tuggle, Traveller Press, 2004, excerpt, pp. 52-55)

Our Inhuman Foe

Though Northern General David Birney was born in Alabama, his Kentucky abolitionist father moved the family to Philadelphia where he was educated and indoctrinated. A thoroughly political general who rose through the ranks by self-promotion and connections, his career was dotted with discipline issues and courts martial. He was described as a “pale, Puritanical figure, with a demeanor of unmovable coldness . . .” He ordered the indiscriminate bombardment of women, children and old men in mid-1864 Petersburg, which offered no military targets.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Our Inhuman Foe

“The war against the civilian population of the Cockade City began in earnest on June 16. The 10th Massachusetts Battery took an advanced position near the Hare House Hill, from which, one artilleryman later recalled, the “spires of Petersburg were now in full view, though distant, perhaps, two miles.”

Two days of bitter fighting remained before the Union leaders would admit failure in their attempt to storm Petersburg, but the targeting of noncombatants did not wait that long. “By order of Gen. Birney we gave our pieces ample elevation and fired the first shots known to have been thrown into the city,” cannoneer John D. Billings noted.

“What a night was the last,” Fanny Waddell wrote the next morning. “Our inhuman foe without a single warning opened their guns upon us, shelling a city full of defenseless women, children and old men.” The bombardment that began on June 16 lasted well into the early hours of June 17.

“I lay quietly until nearly one o’clock listening the bursting of the shells when one exploded so near that the light flashed in my face,” Mrs. Waddell recollected. Ah! The bitterness of that night will never pass from our hearts and memories.”

The correspondent for the Savannah Republican reported on June 19 that a “number of shells have exploded in the streets [of Petersburg], but thus far only eleven persons have been hurt, including one old Negro woman killed.”

An officer visiting Petersburg shortly after this report was filed thought that everything seemed “exceedingly depressing. The streets were almost deserted, and the destructive work of the shells was visible on every hand. Here a chimney was knocked off, here a handsome residence was deserted, with great rents in its walls, and the windows shattered by explosion; here stood a church tower mutilated, the church yard filled with new-made graves.”

Large numbers of civilians fled the Petersburg battle zone within days of Grant’s approach. James Albright, a Virginia artilleryman, wrote in his diary on June 20, “The vandals are still throwing shells into the city, and it is very distressing to see the poor women and children leaving. It is hard on all; but to see the poor women with the children on one arm and their little budgets on the other seeking a safe place – is enough to move the hardest heart.”

The civilian exodus was accelerated by rumors that the Yankees planned to celebrate the Fourth of July with “a furious bombardment of the City.” Another Petersburg diarist noted that during one bombardment “pieces of shell [were] rattling like hail about our house.” There were so many burning structures that one Southern artilleryman angrily declared that the “Yankees appear[ed] to be throwing incendiary shells into the city – as some five buildings were on fire at the same time.”

At least one Union battery did use Petersburg to test its homemade incendiary shells. These were concocted by Major Jacob Roemer and thrown into the city in late July, doing “a great deal of damage there.” Another heavy Union bombardment on July 28 started a number of blazes, all noted by Union observers.

To add to the fire hazard, the Union artillery would concentrate its shelling on the burning structures, so that the air around the men battling the flames would be filled with a “perfect storm of shot and shell.”

(The Last Citadel, Petersburg, Virginia, June 1864-April 1865, Noah Andre Trudeau, Little, Brown and Company, 1991, excerpts pp. 91-92; 95-96)

Suppose a Triumphant Confederate Government

The writer below left New York for South Carolina in November, 1870 for a position as a law clerk for a US Attorney and State Senator David Corbin, a New York native and fellow carpetbagger. Expecting to see “orange groves and palms” upon his arrival, the writer instead gazed upon blackened ruins “rudely shattered by a conquering foe.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Suppose a Triumphant Confederate Government

“Ten years after the secession of South Carolina and less than six after the close of the consequent Civil War between the States, I became a South Carolina “carpetbagger.” That is, I migrated from our “Empire” to the “Palmetto” State.

What I say [about carpetbaggers and scalawags] is said in no caviling temper. Whether to the debit or credit side, it must go to the account not of South Carolina nature in particular, but of human nature in general. No doubt the inhabitants of every other community in the world would in similar circumstances have acted as South Carolinians did. Take Massachusetts, for instance, the State which in those days and for two generations before was cross-matched with South Carolina in the harness of American politics.

Suppose the Confederacy had triumphed in the Civil War. Suppose it had not been satisfied with establishing secession of the Southern States, but had forcibly annexed the other States to the Confederacy under provisional governments subordinate to the Confederate authorities at Richmond. Suppose that in pursuit of this policy the Confederacy had placed Southern troops in Massachusetts, established bureaus in aid of foreign-born factory hands, unseated Massachusetts officials, and disenfranchised all voters of that aristocratic Commonwealth of New England who rejected an oath of allegiance they abhorred.

Suppose that in consequence Southern “fire eaters” and Massachusetts factory-hands had together got control of the State and local governments, had repealed laws for making foreign-born factory hands stay at home of nights and otherwise to “know their place,” and were criminally looting the treasury and recklessly piling State and county debts mountain high.

Suppose also that the same uncongenial folk were administering national functions under the patronage of a triumphant Confederate government at Richmond – the post offices, custom houses, internal revenue offices and all the rest. And suppose that this had been forcibly maintained by detachments of the victorious Confederate army, some of the garrisons being composed of troops recruited from alien-born factory hands.

Suppose moreover that there had been sad memories in Boston, as there were in fact in Charleston, of a mournful occasion less than ten years before, when the dead bodies of native young men of Brahmin breed to a number equaling 1 in 100 of the entire population of the city had lain upon a Boston wharf, battlefield victims of that same Confederate army now profoundly victorious. And suppose that weeds had but recently grown in Tremont Street as rank as in an unfarmed field, because it had been in range of Confederate shells under a daily bombardment for two years.

I am imagining those conditions in no criticism of Federal post-war policies with reference to the South nor as any slur upon the factory hands of New England, but for the purpose of creating the state of mind capable of understanding the South Carolina of 1871 by contrasting what in either place would at the time have been regarded as “upper“ and “lowest” class. If my suppositions do not reach the imagination, try to picture a conquest of your own State by Canada, and fill in the picture with circumstances analogous to those in which South Carolina was plunged at the time of which I write.”

(A “Carpetbagger” in South Carolina, Louis F. Post; Journal of Negro History, Carter G. Woodson, editor, Volume 10, January 1925, excerpts, pp. 11-12)

For What are They Waging War?

Jefferson Davis referred to Lincoln’s proclamation of emancipation in early 1863 as affording “our whole people the complete and crowning proof of the true nature of the designs of the party which elevated to power the present occupant of the Presidential chair at Washington and which sought to conceal its purpose . . .” Davis, like others familiar with the United States Constitution, saw that only the individual States could emancipate, not the government created by the States. And waging war upon the States was an act of treason under that same Constitution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

For What are They Waging War?

January 5, 1863

“Friends and Fellow Citizens . . .

I am happy to be welcomed on my return to the Capital of our Confederacy – the last hope, as I believe, for the perpetuation of that system of government which our forefathers founded – the asylum of the oppressed and the home of true representative liberty.

Anticipating the overthrow of that Government which you had inherited, you assumed the right, as you fathers had done before you, to declare yourselves independent, and nobly have you advocated the assertion which you have made. You have shown yourselves in no respect to be degenerate sons of your fathers.

Men who were bound to you by the compact which their fathers and themselves had entered into the secure to you the rights and principles not only guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence, but rights which Virginia wisely and plainly reserved in her recognition of the government in which she took a part, now come to you with their hands steeped in blood, robbing the widow, destroying houses, seizing the grey-haired father, and incarcerating him in prison because he will not be a traitor to the principles of his fathers and the land that gave him birth.

Every crime which could characterize the course of demons has marked the course of the invader. The Northern portion of Virginia has been ruthlessly desolated – the people not only deprived of the means of subsistence, but their household property destroyed, and every indignity which the base imagination of a merciless foe could suggest inflicted, without regard to age, sex or condition.

In like manner their step has been marked in every portion of the Confederacy they have invaded.

They have murdered prisoners of war; they have destroyed the means of subsistence of families, they have plundered the defenceless, and exerted their most malignant ingenuity to bring to the deepest destitution those who only offence is that their husbands and sons are fighting for their homes and their liberties. Every crime conceivable, from the burning of defenceless towns to the stealing of our silver forks, and spoons, has marked their career.

It is in keeping, however, with the character of the people that seeks dominion over you, claim to be your masters, to try to reduce you to subjection – give up to a brutal soldiery your towns to sack, your homes to pillage and incite servile insurrection.

They have come to disturb our social organizations on the plea that it is military necessity. For what are they waging war? They say to preserve the Union.

Can they preserve the Union by destroying the social existence of a portion of the South? Do they hope to reconstruct the Union by striking at everything which is dear to man? BY showing them so utterly disgraced that if the question was proposed to you whether you would combine with hyenas or Yankees, I trust every Virginian would say, give me the hyenas.”

(Jefferson Davis, the Essential Writings, William J. Cooper, Jr., editor, Modern Library, 2003, excerpts, pp. 285-287)

 

No Dissent in Lincolnian America

Lincoln erroneously saw Unionist Clement Vallandigham as aiding the Confederacy when the former Ohio congressman was actually aiding the Union and preserving the integrity of the United States Constitution in his dissent on Lincoln’s unconstitutional acts. Joseph Holt, Lincoln’s Judge Advocate General, was a Kentuckian and Secretary of War during James Buchanan’s administration and warm to the Radical Republicans taking power. It was he who authorized the ill-fated Star of the West expedition to resupply Fort Sumter in early January, 1861, as well as later prosecuting former Ohio Congressman Vallandigham for alleged treason for his dissent.  The latter is called a “Copperhead,” which was not a Southern supporter, but a Unionist who opposed Lincoln’s draconian methods.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

No Dissent in Lincolnian America

“In early 1863, a military commission prosecuted and convicted Clement Vallandigham, a former congressman, of treason. There is a consensus that this trial ranks among the most important in American history. The twentieth century’s leading scholars of the nation’s legal history, Lawrence Friedman, Kermit Hall and Melvin Urofsky, have all articulated that the Vallandigham trial and eventual Supreme Court determination in the case, is a rare landmark.

But in none of the treatise’s does Holt’s role as Vallandigham’s “prosecutor,” or the participating judge advocates emerge. Indeed, as recently as 2008, a well-researched study on Lincoln’s relationship to the Supreme Court only briefly notes Holt’s role in the entire process.

Melvin Urofsky summed up the Judge Advocate General’s role as, “simply informing the [Supreme Court] that it could inhibit neither Congress nor the President in prosecuting the War.” This is an oversimplification and the importance of Holt’s participation in Vallandigham’s trial is more than symbolic.

Holt, an officer in the War Department argued the case to Supreme Court, rather than the attorney general. This reflected how militarized the law had become and how politicized the Judge Advocate General’s Department was becoming.

[Gen. Burnside’s General Order 38 regarding treason contained] controversial prohibitions aimed at stifling dissent to the war. Most problematic was a section which stated: “The habit of declaring sympathies for the enemy will not be allowed in this department. Persons committing such offenses will be at once arrested, with the view toward being tried as above stated, or sent beyond our lines into the lines of their friends.”

This part of the order conflicted with the Bill of Rights’ recognition of freedom of speech as an inalienable right. [Burnside] intended to ferret out the leaders of subversive organizations [as there were] already acts of public discontent within the Ohio Department . . .

[Burnside’s judge advocate aide Major James Cutts included] allegations [that] Vallandigham referred to the war as “wicked, cruel and unnecessary,” and that the war was “fought for the freedom of the blacks and enslavement of the whites.” [Vallandigham] had publicly accused the [Lincoln] administration of negotiating with the South in bad faith . . . [and] that Lincoln planned to “appoint military marshals in every district and restrain the people of their liberties, to deprive them of their rights and privileges.”

On his own, Lincoln arrived at a novel solution. If, he reasoned, Vallandigham aided the Confederacy, he should be expelled from the Union and reside with them. Holt approved of this course of action.”

(Law in War, War as Law: Brigadier General Joseph Holt and the Judge Advocate General’s Department in the Civil War and Early Reconstruction, 1861-1865, Joshua E. Kastenberg, Carolina Academic Press, 2011, excerpts, pp. 103-106; 110)

 

Sherman’s Brand of Pillaging

The writer(s) of “Lincoln, as the South Should Know Him,” below, were comparing Sherman’s atrocities to the German invasion of Belgium in 1914. The latter may have been more British propaganda aimed at drawing the US into the war, but the point was made that Kaiser Wilhelm’s troops were kind soul’s when compared to Sherman’s bummers. And the point is well made that the commanders, Sherman and Lincoln, were ultimately responsible for the behavior and criminality of the army.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sherman’s Brand of Pillaging

“One of [General Joe] Wheeler’s scouts, observing Sherman’s advance, reported that during one night, and from one point, he counted over one hundred burning homes. And as to the looting, a letter written by a Federal officer, and found at Camden, S.C., and after the enemy had passed, and given in the Southern Woman’s Magazine, runs as follows:

“We have had a glorious time in this State. The chivalry have been stripped of their valuables. Gold watches, silver pitchers, cups, spoons, forks, etc., are as common in camp as blackberries. Of rings, earrings, and breastpins I have a quart. I am not joking – I have at least a quart of jewelry for you and the girls, and some A1 diamond pins and rings among them. Don’t show this letter out of the family.”

Sherman long desired burning Columbia, in the most solemn manner calling his God to witness as to his truthfulness. When, after the overwhelming evidence that he did burn it was adduced, he unblushingly admitted the fact, and that he had lied on Wade Hampton with the purpose of rendering him unpopular, and thereby weakening his cause. But a mere lie shines white against the black ground of Sherman’s character.

The necessities of war demanded that Sherman live off the country he traversed. Those elastic necessities may have been stretched to demand that he destroy even the pitiful stint of food that the South had left; that he wrest the last morsel from the mouth of the mother and babe, lest, perchance, some crumb thereof reach and nourish the men at the front.

But what necessity of war, except that brand that Sherman fathered and sponsored, demanded that the torch follow the pillager, that every home be burned, and famishing mother and babe be turned out in midwinter to die of cold and exposure?

It is a maxim of war, as it is of common sense, that the higher the rank the greater the fame or blame for any given act. Above the perpetrator stood the commander of the army. Sherman; above Sherman stood the commander-in-chief of all the Federal armies, Abraham Lincoln. If Lincoln ever discountenanced Sherman and his methods, he never gave word to it, and he was a man of many words.”

(Lincoln As the South Should Know Him, Manly’s Battery Chapter, Children of the Confederacy, Raleigh, North Carolina, 1915?, excerpts, pp. 2-8)

Unleashed Brutes in North Carolina

Below, a young Massachusetts corporal writes of the “justness and greatness of their cause” as he and his regiment invade a formerly peaceful North Carolina, and wage war against old men, women and children, in what the North falsely believed to be the “heroic spirit of the fathers of the Revolution.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Unleashed Brutes in North Carolina

“In The Country of the Enemy” (A Diary)

Dec. 22, 1862:

At one point the column was confronted by a spunky secesh female, who, with the heavy wooden rake, stood guard over her winter’s store of sweet potatoes. Her eyes flashed defiance, but so long as she stood upon the defensive no molestation was offered her. When . . . she changed her tactics and slapped a cavalry officer in the face, gone were her sweet potatoes and other stores in the twinkling of an eye. (page 102)

Feb 8th, 1863:

On our way back to New Bern, when in my last, I gave currency to the rumor that the object of our expedition to Plymouth was accomplished. But yesterday noon an order from headquarters addressed to our right wing, directing us to put ourselves in light marching order, with 24 hours rations of hard tack in our haversacks . . . told us something was (a) foot. We noted suspiciously the twinkle in the eye of the quartermaster, but fell in at the word of command, and were soon marching out of Plymouth on the “Long Acre Road.”

Leaving the Washington road on our right . . . we found ourselves repeating the old familiar tramp, tramp through the mud and sand and water of North Carolina, past weather-stained but comfortable looking homesteads; past small plantations, through pine woods, through creeks and over bridges.

We were not long in ascertaining the fact that we were on a foraging expedition, and if history should call it a reconnaissance, the misnomer will never restock the stables and storehouses, the bee-hives and hen-roosts, that night depleted along the road of Long Acre.  We received an early hint that we were going to capture a lot of bacon twelve miles out of Plymouth, but if the residents along the road this side that point managed to save their own bacon and things, they certainly had reason to bless their stars.

If it would not be considered unsoldierly and sentimental, your correspondent might feel inclined to deprecate this business of foraging, as it is carried on. It is pitiful to see homes once, perhaps, famed for their hospitality, entered and robbed; even if the robbers respect the code of war. It is not less hard for women and children to be deprived of the means of subsistence because their husbands and sons and brothers are shooting at us from the bush. But war is a great, a terrible, an undiscriminating monster, and no earthly power may stay the ravages of the unleashed brute.

At last (about half-past ten o’clock) we halted, and were happy to be informed that the object of the expedition was accomplished. The column was near a house. After making somewhat particular inquiries we were informed that we had captured a dozen barrels of pork, and that the chaplain, as a temperance measure, had resolutely knocked in the head of a barrel of sweet cider, but not, however, until a few enterprising fellows had filled their canteens with the delicious beverage.

We were now ready to countermarch, and five o’clock this morning found us again at Plymouth, after a night march of twenty-five miles.

New Bern, Feb. 17, 1863:

We are visited occasionally at New Bern by friends from Boston. [Rev. Dr. Lothrop, who] . . . preached to the regiment on the 15th. He favored us with an admirable discourse from the words, “keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” We need frequent reminders of the justness and greatness of our cause to keep our hearts warmly engaged in a service so full of sacrifice as this. I fear we have too little of the martyr-spirit which saves a people, and that the North must make up in numbers and treasure what it lacks in the heroic spirit of the fathers of the Revolution.”

“In The Country of the Enemy,” Diary of a Massachusetts Corporal, University Press of Florida, 1999, pp. 129-131