Browsing "Sherman’s Legacy"

Union Victory in Colorado

Union Victory in Colorado

Philadelphian Edward W. Wynkoop migrated westward in the late 1850s and became an officer in the First Colorado Regiment early in the Civil War. By 1864 his unit was fighting irate Cheyenne Indians who resisted the constant encroachments of white settlement in their territory. His view of the Indian being less than human was in line with most easterners coming West.

Wynkoop’s superior was Ohioan Colonel John Chivington, a Methodist minister who believe that the Cheyenne would “have to be soundly whipped before they will be quiet.” He instructed now-Major Wynkoop that any Cheyenne found in his vicinity were to be killed outright as that was the only way to deal with them.

Wynkoop came to better understand the Cheyenne leaders after they agreed to peace negotiations as well as release white captives, though Unionist Governor John Evans at Denver agreed with Chivington. Major Wynkoop’s better relations with the Cheyenne was rewarded with his transfer to Fort Reilly, Kansas, ostensibly for not killing enough Indians.

In late November 1864 Col. Chivington, in command of the First and Third Colorado Regiments descended upon the Cheyenne-Arapaho village at Sand Creek which thought it was at peace with the whites. Chivington’s dawn attack butchered about two hundred Cheyenne – two-thirds of them women and children. His troopers later paraded through Denver “with the genitals of the dead dangling from their shirts and hats.”

Wynkoop was soon promoted to lieutenant-colonel and charged with investigating the Sand Creek “battle.” He called the affair an “unprecedented atrocity” in which “women and children were killed and scalped, children shot at their mothers’ breasts, and all the bodies mutilated in the most horrible manner.” Despite the official investigation and Wynkoop’s condemnation of Chivington’s monstrous conduct, the colonel was not charged and allowed to resign and retire from the United States Army.

Col. Chivington’s massacre of helpless Cheyenne only intensified the conflict as the southern Plains once again dripped with blood. Wynkoop continued to arrange peace talks and bring more peaceful relations, but continued postwar white encroachments brought an uneasy peace.

In early 1867 came Gen. Hancock and Custer to threaten the Indians – later came Sheridan, Sherman and Miles on their mission to clear the Plains of Indians.

(Between the Army and the Cheyenne. Louis Kraft. Military History Quarterly, Winter, 2002, pp. 48-53)

The Republican Party’s Manifest Destiny

While Northern Gen. W.T. Sherman is notorious for his war upon Southern civilians, his wife Ellen wrote of her fond hope of seeing a war “of extermination and that all Southerners would be driven like Swine into the sea . . . [and that we may] carry fire and sword into their States till not one habitation is left standing.” Lincoln used Grant, Sherman, Sheridan and Pope to remove or exterminate those in the way of the Republican party’s manifest destiny.

The Republican Party’s Manifest Destiny

“In 1851, the Santee Sioux Indians in Minnesota sold 24,000,000 acres of land to the federal government. The white people got the land but the Indians got almost none of the money. After a devastating crop failure in 1862, the Sioux were starving. With the federal government refusing to pay what was owed the tribe, the Sioux rose up.

Abraham Lincoln dispatched General John Pope to put down the insurrection, and rising to the occasion, Pope told a subordinate: “It is my purpose to utterly exterminate the Sioux . . . they are to be treated as maniacs or wild beasts, and by no means as people with whom treaties and compromise can be made.” The revolt was subdued and the Indians removed.

After show trials of ten to fifteen minutes each, 303 male Indians were sentenced to death. Fearing the bad international publicity that such a bloodbath might bring, Lincoln ordered the list pared down to thirty-nine representative native miscreants – all of whom were hanged on the day after Christmas, 1862.  It was the largest max execution in American history.

In July of 1865 with the war to subdue the American Confederacy scarcely over, Gen. Grant sent Gen. Sherman against the Plains Indians to allow government-subsidized railroads unrestricted passage westward. Warming to the task, Sherman wrote his commander in 1866: “We are not going to let a few thieving, ragged Indians check and stop the progress of the railroads. We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, ever to their extermination, men, women and children.”

Passing orders down to his army, Sherman observed that “during an assault [on an Indian village] the soldiers cannot pause to distinguish between male and female, or even discriminate as to age. As long as resistance to the government is made, death must be meted out.”

(Confessions of a Copperhead. Mark Royden Winchell, Shotwell Publishing, 2022, pp. 48-49)

 

Goths and Vandals in Florida

Captain J.J. Dickison, renowned for his fearless role in leading Florida’s “Cow Cavalry” during the war, is said to have always carried three revolvers – two in holsters and one on his saber belt. On more than one occasion after emptying his pistols and dashing up to an enemy cavalryman who was ordered to surrender, but refused to do, he would strike an unerring blow with his trusty saber.

Goths and Vandals in Florida

“Gainesville, Fla., August 19, 1864

The enemy’s cavalry [from Ohio and Massachusetts], reported to be four hundred strong, reached this place on the 17th, at four o’clock, a.m., with the view to sacking and burning the town. Upon their arrival, we had but one company of militia and a few citizens, who had assembled suddenly upon the emergency, under command of Judge Thomas F. King, to repel them.

Finding that they were unable, in consequence of the largely superior force, to successfully resist them, they retired . . . anxiously hoping for the arrival of our cavalry.

The enemy, or, at least a majority of them, were stationed at the railroad and depot, while the remaining began an indiscriminate robbery and plunder of the citizens of the town. Just in the midst of their thieving operations, and conduct such as would have been a disgrace even to the names and character of the Goths and Vandals, Captain [J.J.] Dickison . . . with his noble command, dashed in the town from nearly every direction.

When nearly opposite the residence of Colonel Dozier, Captain Dickison directed Lt. Bruton of the artillery, to open upon the enemy with the two pieces under his command. A portion of our cavalry then charged upon the enemy, and opened such a terrific fire upon them that they scampered through the town in every direction like a flock without a shepherd.

The fighting between our troops and the enemy then became indiscriminate and general. The Yankees tried to secret themselves in and under the houses in town, while many of them sought to remain near the ladies for protection, knowing full well our gallant men would not aim their trusty rifles at them thus situated.  Finding that they were completely hemmed in . . . a large number surrendered.

A number of the enemy, after being routed . . . started pell-mell on the road leading to Newnansville, where they were met by a detachment of militia cavalry, commanded by Captain Williams, who captured twenty-four of them.”

(Dickison and His Men: Reminiscences of the War in Florida, Mary Elizabeth Dickison, Courier-Journal Printing Co., 1890, excerpts pp. 100-102)

Un-Christian Hell-Hounds in Georgia

The path of Sherman’s army across Georgia was strewn with “outrages and barbarities of the most repulsive nature” wrote Southern newspapers, with the Macon Telegraph claiming that “Southern women had been overpowered by the “lustful appetites of the hell-hounds.” The “cesspools of Northern infamy and corruption” had been dredged, it said, “in order to collect the infamous spawn of perdition sent out to despoil our country.” Sherman, by the acts of hiss men, had earned “the fame of the ravisher, the incendiary and the thief.” His men did not draw a color line as black “comfort women” followed his army.

Un-Christian Hell-Hounds in Georgia

“[Sherman’s] army continued to support its burden of Negro followers . . . despite Sherman’s admonitions. Altogether, about twenty-five thousand – four Negroes for every ten soldiers – tagged along, but about three fourths of them became disillusioned by their new “freedom” and, after a few days of starting out, began the weary trek back to their home places. When Sherman and his men came within sight of the coast, the horde had dwindled to sixty-eight hundred.

[They] were fascinated by the guns and volunteered to “tote” them for the men. In camp they looked after the pots and pans and helped out with the cooking. At night they entertained their “liberators” with their plaintive plantation melodies. And the good-looking women peddled sex.

Sherman naturally was reluctant to take on these added appetites to be satisfied. And he had a strong personal dislike for colored people. (Damn the n****r! he once exploded.)

A large number of Negroes lost their lives in a few minutes of horror and hysteria at Ebeneezer Creek. Upon approaching the creek, General Jeff Davis of the XIV Corps . . . ordered the [bridge] pontoons taken up, leaving the Negroes on the west bank. In desperation, the Negroes attempted a mass crossing. Even the few who could swim had great trouble making it . . . many were drowned.

[When] the Christian Commission asked Sherman to allow its agents – distributing literature and conducting religious services – to carry on their work among the troops, he shot back, “Certainly not . . . Crackers and oats are more necessary for the army than any moral and religious agency, and every regiment has its chaplain.”

(Those 163 Days: A Southern Account of Sherman’s March from Atlanta to Raleigh, John M. Gibson, Bramhall House, 1961, excerpts pp. 73-75)

 

Victory Seals Union Theft and Destruction

The author below writes of the “well-dressed malingerer, the best educated, the most cunning, the most creative of the [Vietnam] generation, they live with their little secret: their citizenship came of age on a note of avoidance . . . which in turn bred a profound cynicism toward their responsibilities in a free society.”

This may be compared to the “well-dressed malingerers” of Northern society in the early 1860s who remained home, a few after tasting 90 days service, and realizing the resolve of their opponent seeking independence; then they avoided the draft with substitutes and paying for exemptions from physicians seeking extra income. They dug deep into their pockets as well for town, county, State and federal bounty money to pay the poor and recently-released criminals to take their place. They then applauded Lincoln for seizing dispossessed black Southern farmhands, and taught them to loot and burn Southern farms and towns, for “the Union.”

Victory Seals Union Theft and Destruction

“General Sherman had done the dirty work for the Union. To him had fallen the duty to break the spirit of the rebellion, to punish the rebels, whatever their sex or station. His unsparing, relentless hand had given the Union victory.

The dirty work of the Vietnam War was consigned to a small percentage of the Vietnam generation; the poor, the uneducated, and the youth who fought who were wounded, who died. Most of those who went to Vietnam, the studies show, saw moderate to heavy combat. It is only the glories of modern medical science and the speed of the helicopter that prevented the names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington from being etched in much smaller print.

If the cruel charge of substitution is valid against any group, it is valid for the sixteen million who avoided Vietnam illegally. By their avoidance, the country had, de facto, reverted to the practice of the Civil War, where a man could buy a substitute. Had it not been for this overall turpitude, a Lt. William Calley could never have been an officer in the US Army.

Sherman’s dirty work ended in victory, and the victory swept away in the North any preoccupation with the manner of victory. Victory sealed over for the Union veteran his memory of theft or wanton destruction in Dixie.

In Vietnam, defeat and atrocity are fused. The wanton violence of Sherman’s bummer and Westmoreland’s grunt differs as looting differs from stealing, but neither time nor morals are static. The patterns of behavior in both armies were encouraged by the official policy and extended the rules of permissible conduct in the same degree.

The burning of Columbia and the slaughter at My Lai were exceptional only in their dimensions. The formal order for civilized behavior contrasted with the informal message toward atrocity in precisely the same way.”

(Sherman’s March and Vietnam, James Reston, Jr., MacMillan Publishing Company, 1984, excerpt pp. 167-168; 170)

Fiends in Federal Uniform

Sherman demonstrated control over his troops when it suited him, and could also allow subordinates to wink at soldier outrages. At Sandersville, Georgia alone, residents were left with no food or water for days while Union soldiers shot all the hogs, cows and chickens they could not take with them, the ground strewn with food, and carpets drenched with syrup and then covered with meal.  The roads along Sherman’s route were lined with the carcasses of horses, hogs and cattle, wantonly shot down to starve out the people and prevent them from making crops.

Fiends in Federal Uniform

“[During Sherman’s march through Georgia] a German-born private enthused to his family, “we live like God in France.” A good deal of looting also took place, especially by the foraging parties who operated with little supervision. “If money, watches or jewelry was found it was inevitably confiscated, recalled a New York veteran after the war, adding that the rampant thievery had “a very demoralizing effect on the men.” Even men of good reputation began to steal. There were men in prisons all over the country, the old veteran believed, “who took their first lessons in thieving while acting as one of Sherman’s foragers.”

Plenty of men regretted the hardship they and their comrades visited on civilians. During the destruction of railroads preceding the march, an Ohio soldier, drafted into the army only weeks before, scrawled in his diary: “There is great destruction of property about here. Much of it unnecessary. It is a pity to see homes of comfort destroyed thus. I think of my own house and wife and I can estimate the feelings of the enemy when I think how I would feel if served thus.”

Colonel Orlando M. Poe . . . complained to his own diary of the damage wrought by vandals, to the great scandal of our Army, and marked detriment to its discipline.” As the army neared to coast, a captain came upon four houses set afire “by some dirty rascal from our army . . .”

Eight days into the Savannah campaign, Major Thomas Taylor of the 47th Ohio . . . came upon a family who had been abused by a renegade party of [Union] foragers. After stripping them of everything edible, the “bummers” had smashed jars and dishes, vandalized furniture, scattered clothing, cut open mattresses, and threatened to burn the house down around their ears if they did not leave.”

“Such an act of barbarity,” Taylor wrote, “I have never witnessed in the service, yet these fiends wore the Federal uniform.”

(The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians 1861-1865, Mark Grimsley, Cambridge University Press, 1995, excerpt pg. 197)

 

No Quarter for Old Men and Beardless Boys

Marianna, Florida was a peaceful west Florida town of prewar Whigs who bitterly opposed their State’s secession. Aware of the theft and destruction Northern forces had visited upon other Florida towns, Marianna made ready to defend their homes. Though a disaster for the town, the old men and boys succeeded in causing sufficient casualties to thwart the enemy advance to Tallahassee, and force its retreat to Pensacola.

No Quarter for Old Men and Beardless Boys

“On the morning of the 25th of September, 1864, the usually quiet town of Marianna, in west Florida, of about 2,000 inhabitants, was in a state of great anxiety over the report that the “Yankees were coming.”

The church bells were rung, calling out all citizens to the court house, where a meeting was held and resolutions passed to repel the invaders. A few Confederate soldiers, then at home and on sick leave, formed the nucleus of an organization which was at once perfected. Grayheaded old men, boys under 16 years of age within the town and ten miles around, regardless of previous Union sentiment, arrived with shotguns and formed what they themselves called “The Cradle and Grave Militia company,” in all about 200, and partly mounted.  They elected Captain Norwood, a prominent Unionist, as their captain, and reported for duty . . . full of ardor and brave endeavor. [Their commander formed a defensive] line with its right at the boarding-house and the left resting at the Episcopal church.

[The enemy invader] consisted of a battalion of the Second Maine cavalry . . . and several companies of deserters, the so-called First regiment of Florida Troops, and two full companies of ferocious Louisiana Negroes, in all about 600 . . . [the enemy] detached a part of his command to flank the village, and advanced the main body directly toward the church.

An indiscriminate firing began from the Confederate front and rear, the old men and beardless boys fighting like enraged lions, disputing every inch of ground. The contest was fierce and deadly for half an hour, when [the enemy commander] ordered the church, boarding-house and a private residence opposite burned.

The militia kept their ground manfully between the two walls of flames. In the meantime the Federal flanking party gained the rear of the militia and commenced an indiscriminate slaughter, giving no quarter to anyone. The Negro companies in particular acted in a most fiendish manner. Old men and boys who offered to surrender were driven into the flames of the burning buildings; young lads who laid down their arms were cut to pieces; others picked up bodily by stalwart Negro soldiers and thrown into the seething, burning church.

The half-charred remains of several of the half-grown boys were afterward found in the ruins of the church. The Confederates scattered in every direction, every man for himself, pursued by the Maine cavalry who kept up a steady fire on them. The whole fight lasted about an hour . . . [the enemy] would return to Pensacola with their prisoners, contraband and plunder.

The day after the fight, Marianna presented a pitiable sight. The dead and wounded lay all about, and the wails and cries of mothers, wives and sisters could be heard in every direction. Women and children searched for father, son or brother in the ashes of the burnt buildings. Here and there a charred thigh or ghastly skull was disinterred from the debris.”

(Federal Incursion to Marianna, J.J. Dickison, Confederate Military History, Clement A. Evans, editor, Confederate Publishing Company, 1899, excerpts pp. 114-117)

Merchant of Terror

To his brother John Sherman on October 1, 1862, General W.T. Sherman wrote:

“I rather think you now agree with me that this is no common war — that it was not going to end in a few months or a few years. For after eighteen months the enemy is actually united, armed and determined, with powerful forces well-handled, disciplined and commanded on the Potomac, the Ohio, the Missouri. I knew, and know yet, that the Northern people have to unlearn all their experiences of the past thirty years and be born again before they will see the truth.”

Property destruction was not the complete answer. Sherman was convinced of this, since the “guerilla” attacks continued even after the example offered in the fate meted out to Randolph. There was something lacking – an element to complete the new concept of war – if the part played by the people of the South was to be eliminated.  With acceptance of the fact that destruction of property was not the final answer, Sherman’s mind leaped the gap and seized on the solution – terrorism. 

He would so thoroughly inject the shock of fear into the South that it would lead to its complete demoralization. Such demoralization would work like a slow poison, resulting in the paralysis of the Confederate armies through wholesale desertions of men returned home to assure the safety of their families. More important, dread would so sicken the people of the South that they would clamor for cessation, and to obtain relief they would exert every pressure on their government to end the war.

Here then, in Memphis, was the mold made. The months ahead would see it filled in: it would harden into the completed philosophy of total war, employing a program of devastation and waste, the turning loose on the countryside of a horde of pillagers and looters who would do their work systematically and well.”

(Merchant of Terror: General Sherman and Total War, John Bennett Walters, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1973, excerpt pp. 65-66)

Unceasing Blows and Sheer Attrition

In early May 1864, Grant moved across the Rapidan River in Virginia to pass quickly through the Wilderness before giving battle. Instead, there he lost some 26,000 men in the dense thickets. On June 3rd Grant lost “more men in the eight minutes of hottest fighting than in any period of the war.”  Though this carnage intensified the peace movement in the North, Lincoln provided Grant with an endless supply of immigrants, substitutes and conscripted men to continue this fearful slaughter. Lincoln, despite ruling the North with near-dictatorial powers, was well-aware 1864 was an election year and victories at any cost were needed before November.

Unceasing Blows and Sheer Attrition

“With the spring of 1864, the war entered a new phase. Union victories in the West had cut deeply into the economic and military strength of the Confederacy.  They had done more, for they had associated the names of Grant and his lieutenants with a habit of mind which connoted aggressiveness, strategy on a large scale, and victory.

It was not that Grant was a supreme master of the “science of war,” nor even that he merited full credit for the victories under his command . . . It was rather that a situation had been reached where, with Northern recruiting, Confederate depletion, and Grant’s sledge-hammer blows, the essential conditions of Union triumph had been presented.

Almost immediately [after Grant’s elevation to lieutenant-general] the final grand strategy of the war began to unfold itself, a strategy by which Grant used his numerical superiority and plunged ruthlessly ahead in Virginia, losing an enormous number of men, but wearing out the Confederates by sheer attrition; while in the lower South Sherman attained unenviable laurels by destroying vast amounts of food and other supplies in his “march” through Georgia and the Carolinas.  

It was by these unceasing blows at the heart of the Confederacy that the war, which had dragged on indecisively for three years, was brought to an end in 1865.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction, James G. Randall, D.C. Heath and Company, 1937, excerpts pp. 539-543)

Prosperity Through Armaments

To underscore the following excerpts, author George Thayer states that “We live in an age of weapons. Never before in the history of mankind have weapons of war been so dominant a concern as they have been since 1945.” Thayer writes that after the second war to end all wars, the US “had given away $48.5 billion worth of arms and military supplies to 48 nations.” One of these was the Soviet Union of Josef Stalin, who Roosevelt had armed to the teeth and who immediately became the US’s postwar primary adversary.

Prosperity Through Armaments

“In the twenty-four years since 1945, there have been fifty-five wars of significant size, duration and intensity throughout the world. This means that mankind faces a new and violent conflict somewhere in the world slightly more often than once every five months, any one of which is capable of provoking a holocaust.

If one adds to this total all the coups, large-scale riots and clashes of unorganized, low-order violence, then the total of postwar cases of armed conflict that have had significant impact on the course of history would number in excess of fifteen score – more than one per month.

Today we are far along the way to losing our sense of proportion, for by any definition many of these wars have been quite large. For instance, bombing tonnage in the Korean War exceeded all the tonnage dropped by the Allies in the Pacific Theater of World War II. In the “small” six-day Sinai War of 1967, more tanks were committed to battle than by the Germans, Italians and Allies together at the crucial twelve-day battle of El Alamein in 1942. And from July 1965 to December 1967, more bomb tonnage was dropped on Vietnam than was dropped by the Allies on Europe during all of World War II.

Consider some of the political consequences that today’s arms trade have produced:

The fall of Germany’s Erhard government in 1966 can be blamed in large part on Bonn’s purchases of American military equipment which it could not afford and did not need.

The cancellation of the Skybolt missile by the United States in 1962 was one of the contributing factors that led to Prime Minister MacMillan’s resignation in 1963.

The Pakistan-India War of 1965, in which American equipment was used on both sides, produced two results adverse to United States interests: it forced Pakistan to take a more neutral position in world affairs, and it forced India to consider manufacturing nuclear weapons.

Had there been no large infusion of American weapons into the area (ostensibly as a defense against communism), the war would not have taken place.”

(The War Business: The International Trade in Armaments, George Thayer, Simon and Schuster, 1969, excerpts pp. 17-21)

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