The 1840 Lafayette County Courthouse in Oxford, Mississippi was burned by Northern Gen. A.J. “Whiskey” Smith in August 1864, dispatched there by Sherman.
Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865
Lincoln’s Soldiers Licensed for Any Crime
“The [Democrat Convention] elected Major-General George McClellan, Lincoln’s indecisive former general, as their candidate for president in November . Clement Vallandigham’s delegates forced the convention to accept a platform of peace with the South.
A few days after the Convention convened, the stalemate around Atlanta ended [as] Sherman advanced through the smoke into a ruined city. “Atlanta is ours and fairly won,” wired Sherman to the War Department. Vallandigham and his peace Democrats saw their platform crack [and] . . . The way to the Southern heartland lay open.
On August 22 . . . a federal force under General [A.J.]“Whiskey” Smith entered . . . Oxford, Mississippi. For the better part of the month Oxford had changed hands in vicious fighting. [Nathan Bedford] Forrest held it until forced to withdraw on August 22 after two days of street fighting. That morning a large force of [Smith’s] black and white troops occupied the town.
In a one-day orgy of looting, thirty-four stores and businesses were burned. Five homes . . . were put to the torch. Smith supervised the carnage, refusing to allow anyone to remove anything of value from their homes. [Confederate Commissioner to Canada Jacob] Thompson’s wife, Kate, salvaged the one thing she valued above all else, a photograph of their only son, Macon, before he was badly disfigured in an accident. As she clutched the photo on the lawn, a Union soldier grabbed it and threw it into the blaze.
In the official report to the Confederate War Department some days later, the commandant at Oxford wrote: “General Smith’s conduct and that of his staff was brutal in the extreme, they having been made mad with whiskey. The soldiers were licensed for any crime – robbery, rape, theft and burning.”
(Dixie and the Dominion, Canada, the Confederacy, and the War for the Union, Adam Mayers, Dundurn Group, 2003, pp. 61-62)