Skip to comments.Sherman the Pyromaniac
Posted on 06/21/2002 7:41:57 AM PDT by Aurelius
On February 17, 1865, General William Tecumseh Shermans Union Troops completed the long march from Savannah and reached Columbia, the capital of South Carolina. T.J Goodwyn, Columbias Mayor, surrendered the city to General Sherman, and requested "for its citizens the treatment accorded by the usages of civilized warfare." Also, the Mayor asked the General to provide adequate guards "to maintain order in the city and protect the persons and property of the citizens."
General Sherman informed the Mayor that he might have to destroy a few government buildings but otherwise, "Not a fingers breadth, Mr. Mayor, of your city shall be harmed. You may lie down to sleep, satisfied that your town shall be as safe in my hands as if wholly in your own."
Three days later Shermans Union forces marched out of Columbia, leaving behind roughly 50% of the city they had occupied; the rest was charred, smoldering ruins. Almost 500 buildings and their contents had been destroyed including warehouses, factories, offices, hotels, schools, libraries, private residences, churches, and a Catholic convent.
General Sherman claimed that the fire had been started by retreating Confederate troops, a claim that was denied by Confederate officers as well as Columbias citizens. And so began a controversy that continues to this day: Who was responsible for the burning of Columbia?
Southern historians generally blame the conflagration on a vengeful General Sherman while many Northern historians attempt to justify, mitigate, and in some cases, deny the involvement of Union troops. Other versions claim that drunken soldiers accidentally set the fires and at least one historian claims that a series of small, normally safe, fires got out of control because of strong winds blowing through the city.
But this disaster had many eyewitnesses including William Gilmore Simms, who, before the War Between the States, was an internationally celebrated author, poet, journalist and historian.
Tourists to Charleston, Simms hometown, get an idea of his importance if they visit White Gardens, the little park beside the Battery. Strolling through the park, they will encounter a bust of a rather stern looking man atop a pedestal with a single word inscription "Simms." When this monument was erected in the 1890s, it never occurred to Charlestonians that any further description was needed.
Unfortunately, Simms was also a staunch supporter of the Confederacy, defending its right to secede as well as to determine its own public policies. So he became a victim of political correctness long before that term was coined. Quietly, during the 1970s, many encyclopedias began deleting any reference to Simms. At that time, I remember leafing through one encyclopedia, an updated version recently placed on the librarys shelves. To my dismay, Simms had been removed and, in one of lifes little curios, his alphabetical slot had been refilled by professional football player, O.J. Simpson.
Because William Gilmore Simms was familiar with Shermans frequently quoted opinions as well as his background, he expected Columbia to be torched. Also, probably sensing that Northern historians might attempt to vindicate Sherman, Simms wanted to make an accurate record of events for posterity. So he traveled to Columbia, arriving a few days before General Sherman and his troops. With his keen observers eye Simms viewed events as they unfolded. He also conducted numerous interviews with other eyewitnesses, taking copious notes. Consequently, Simms was able to scrupulously report the events of those three dark days in February 1865.
His book, The Sack and Destruction of Columbia, South Carolina, begins with this ominous sentence: "It has pleased God, in that Providence which is so inscrutable to man, to visit our beautiful city with the most cruel fate which can ever befall States or cities." Simms goes on to capsulize the dramatic incidents and offer his conclusions. To illustrate the magnitude of the devastation, he includes a detailed listing of properties destroyed which fills nineteen pages. "The Sack and Destruction of Columbia, South Carolina" was first published in 1865 and it would be Simms last book. In 1937, A.A. Salley reissued the work with clarifying notes. Because of the continued interest in the burning of Columbia, the book was issued again in the year 2000 by Crown Rights Book Company. This latest version fails to attribute the footnotes to Salley which causes a certain amount of confusion, but doesnt detract from the books overall power.
William Gilmore Simms places the blame for the holocaust of Columbia on the Commander-in-Chief of the occupying army, William Tecumseh Sherman. He also puts to rest claims that retreating Confederates set the fires or that they were accidentally started by an unruly group of drunken soldiers. His recital of events makes it crystal clear that the Union officers, especially General Sherman, had control of the troops at all times and knew what was happening in every quarter of the city. Throughout the inferno, General Sherman was frequently spotted riding through the city, observing what was happening but making no attempt to stop it.
Any discussion of Shermans culpability in the burning of Columbia should mention his pre-war opinions of Southerners, especially South Carolinians; opinions he formed while stationed there in 1843. "This state, their aristocracy, their patriarchal chivalry and glory-all trash." But Sherman was alarmed by what he called South Carolina "young bloods" who were "brave, fine riders, bold to rashness and dangerous in every sense." His solution was, incredibly, that "the present class of men who rule the South must be killed outright."
Shermans resentment of Columbias upper class finally erupted during his occupation of their city. In addition to having their homes burned, irreplaceable heirlooms and other family mementos were destroyed. Priceless paintings, family portraits, and statuary were defaced. Family crystal and porcelain china were smashed. And a special target of Shermans wrath were private libraries hosting invaluable historical documents and irreplaceable first editions.
But the anxious citizens of Columbia had anticipated the worst even before Shermans army arrived.
"Day by day brought to the people of Columbia tidings of atrocities committed.long trains of fugitives.seeking refuge from the pursuers.village after village-one sending up its signal flames to the other, presaging for it the same fate.where mules and horses were not choice, they were shot down.young colts, however fine the stock, had their throats cut.the roads were covered with butchered cattle, hogs, mules and the costliest furniture. horses were ridden into houses. People were forced from their beds, to permit the search after hidden treasure."
Union troops entered Columbia in an orderly manner with Sherman and his officers firmly in control. But shortly after the officers withdrew, the drinking and looting began. Those who took part in the looting of valuables claimed that the victors were entitled to the spoils of war. And Simms description of the looting of the city is bolstered by other reports as well as correspondence from Union soldiers. These excerpts are from a letter Union Lieutenant Thomas Myers wrote from Camden, S.C. after the burning of Columbia.
"My dear wife.we have had a glorious time in this State. Unrestricted license to burn and plunder was the order of the day.gold watches, silver pitchers, cups, spoons, forks, etc are as common as blackberries. The terms of plunder are as follows: Each company is required to exhibit the results of its operations at any given place, -one-fifth and first choice falls to the share of the commander-in-chief and staff, one-fifth to the corps commanders and staff, one-fifth to field officers of regiments, and two-fifths to the company." Then Lieutenant Myers makes this statement:
"Officers are not allowed to join these expeditions without disguising themselves as privates." And, finally, this telling comment:" General Sherman has silver and gold enough to start a bank. His share in gold watches alone at Columbia was two hundred and seventy-five."
Some smoldering cotton bales were found and quickly extinguished by Union troops when they took possession of the city but there were no other significant fires. However, shortly after dusk "while the Mayor was conversing with one of the Western men, from Iowa, three rockets were shot up by the enemy from the Capitol Square. As the soldier beheld these rockets, he cried out: "Alas! Alas! For your poor city! It is doomed. These rockets are the signal! The town is to be fired." Shortly thereafter, flames broke out around the city. "As the flames spread from house to house, you could behold, through long vistas of the lurid empire of flames and gloom, the miserable tenants of the once peaceful home issuing forth in dismay, bearing the chattels most useful or precious, and seeking escape through the narrow channels which the flames left them."
Not only were Union troops seen starting fires, they were also observed preventing firemen from extinguishing blazing buildings. "Engines and hose were brought out by the firemen, but these were soon driven from their labors-which were indeed idle against such a storm of fire-by the pertinacious hostility of the soldiers; the hose was hewn to pieces, and the foremen, dreading worse usage to themselves, left the field in despair."
But William Gilmore Simms didnt paint all Union troops or officers with the same brush. Some were brutish but others showed respect and even outright disapproval of the behavior of their compatriots. Simms praises these Union soldiers, who ".to their credit, be it said, were truly sorrowful and sympathizing, who had labored for the safety of family and property, and who openly deplored the dreadful crime." Several Union officers tried to restrain their men and many of the soldiers were injured themselves while risking their own lives to help families escape from burning buildings that were collapsing around them. Often, Union soldiers shared their provisions with civilians and, to the extent possible, prevented them from being robbed while they were being led to safety.
"One of these mournful processions of fugitives was that of the sisterhood of the Ursuline Convent, the nuns and their pupils. Beguiled to the last moment by the promises and assurances of officers and others in Shermans army, the Mother Superior had clung to her house to the last possible moment." The nuns and their young girls were protected and led to a safe place by Union officers who professed to be Catholic Irish. These officers stood guard over the Mother Superior and her charges throughout the night.
Simms makes only a passing mention of "outrages" against women, black and white, that took place "in remote country settlements" far from the eyes of Union officers. He recounts "two cases" of young black women that tragically ended in death but this is not a subject he wants to pursue so he demurs:
"Horrid narratives of rape are given which we dare not attempt to individualize."
The fires as well as the vandalism continued unabated for almost 12 hours.
Around four in the morning, a distraught lady confronted a Union officer:
"In the name of God, sir, when is this work of hell to be ended?" "You will hear the bugles at sunrise" he replied, " when a guard will enter the town and withdraw these troops. It will then cease, and not before." " Sure enough, with the bugles sound, and the entrance of fresh bodies of troops, there was an instantaneous arrest of incendiarism. You could see the rioters carried off in groups and squads, from the several precincts they had ravaged."
The Sherman apologists ignore eyewitness reports of the immolation of Columbia as well as much of the devastation caused by Shermans famous "march to the sea." Instead, they quote self-serving entries in Shermans diary wherein he blames the fires on the retreating General Hamptons Confederate army. To justify the looting that occurred throughout his march, Sherman claims that: "The country was sparsely settled, with no magistrates or civil authorities who could respond to requisitions, as is done in all the wars of Europe; so this system of foraging was simply indispensable to our success." This is totally false. Atlanta, Columbia, and all the smaller towns in between, had elected officials to whom requisitions could have been submitted. And they would not have been ignored.
As a graduate of West Point, Sherman surely knew that his conduct was illegal and grossly unethical. Comments from diaries and letters written during and after the march to the sea show that many of his junior officers and soldiers had lost respect for their Commander-in-Chief. Sherman later admitted that his placing the blame for the fire on retreating Confederate troops was false. And, in a curious statement made the day after the fire, when questioned about his involvement, Sherman said: "I did not burn your town, nor did my army. Your brothers, sons, husbands and fathers set fire to every city, town and village in the land when they fired on Fort Sumter. That fire kindled then and there by them has been burning ever since, and reached your houses last night."
Incredibly, William Tecumseh Shermans attacks on defenseless civilians are viewed by his apologists as an expedient military strategy. They laud Sherman for being the father of modern warfare; the term they use is "total war." They claim, falsely, that he only destroyed property and supplies that would aid the Confederate military effort which, sadly, might sometimes include non-military targets, i.e. innocent civilians. And even Shermans abusive acts against "non-military targets" are laundered by applying innocuous terms like "directed severity" and "collateral damage."
Some who try to exonerate Sherman often refer to reports of Shermans march as a "myth" enshrined in films like "Gone With the Wind." But the burning of Atlanta was not a myth nor was it a literary device created by Margaret Mitchell to heighten the dramatic effect of her novel. And in his memoirs, Sherman described the spectacle: "Behind us lay Atlanta, smouldering and in ruins, the black smoke rising high in air, and hanging like a pall over the ruined city."
Unable to concede that there could be any other interpretation of events except theirs, the apologists often employ one of contemporary societys most overused ploys; implying that Southerners who hold opinions contrary to theirs do so because of sub-conscious psychological reasons. Assuming a clinical tone, one professor explains: "The reasons Southerners continue to embrace this myth are more elusive.for some it still continues to resonate, especially for whites discontented with "Second Reconstruction"; and for those unhappy with the rapid development and transformation of the South."
The sanitized legend of William Tecumseh Sherman was becoming almost as sacrosanct as the Lincoln mythology. But it began to erode in the 1960s and 1970s as a result of criticism, not from Southerners, but from northern liberals. These critics of the war in Vietnam compared Shermans operations in Georgia and the Carolinas to crimes committed by Americans in Vietnam. They called Sherman our first merchant of terror, the spiritual father of such hated doctrines as search and destroy.
In the 1870s, Congress held hearings to consider claims for property losses in Southern states as a result of the war. After investigating the facts, the government agreed "to compensate the Ursuline Order of Nuns for the destruction of their convent when much of Columbia, SC, was burned following the occupation of the city by Union soldiers in 1865." Although this was not an outright admission of guilt, it certainly implied improper behavior on the part of General Shermans army.
Scholarly disputes over the burning of Columbia persist to this day. But, although there are still unresolved issues, the story does have a happy ending. In 1867, a group of New York City firemen, mostly former Union soldiers, raised $2,500 for fire hose carriage as a gift, a "peace offering" , to the city of Columbia. Some of the firemen, and other New Yorkers, traveled to Columbia to formally present the new fire carriage. At the ceremonial presentation, they were officially welcomed by a former Confederate officer. After offering the citys profound appreciation, he expressed hope that one day Columbia would be able to "obey that golden rule by which you have been prompted in the performance of this magnificent kindness to a people in distress."
That day finally came 134 years later when New York City lost 343 firefighters and 98 vehicles in the collapse of the World Trade Center. The city of Columbia, S.C. responded by raising $354,000 to purchase and present a state-of-the-art fire engine to New York Citys heroic fire department.
No, remember: just before the election, Lincoln wrote out a directive that stated that, once the election was over, he would follow the course selected by the electorate; that, if McClellan won, he would NOT push the enforcement of the war because he viewed that to be against what the people had decided in the election. To my memory (and I have to admit that I am working from memory here because all of my books are at home) he passed this directive around his cabinet as well so that they were aware of the fact that, should Lincoln lose the election, the direction of the prosecution of the war would change.
As far as the Johnston/Hood change of command, Sherman was worried more about a Confederate "army-in-being" staying in the local area of Atlanta, chewing up his rail-lines and interfering with his logistics, all the while sitting there like a rabid dog waiting to pounce on him should they be able to cut him off for very long. Sherman was relieved when Hood took over because he knew that Hood was the type of general to drive straight ahead (virtually, a Confederate Grant) and would not play the delaying game that Johnston had done so well. Sherman truly worried about and respected Johnston's ability in the defense. On a number of occasions during the Confederate retreat from Chattanooga to Atlanta, Johnston came within an inch of ambushing one of Sherman's columns and chewing it up, which would have gone a long way to equalizing the disparity of the forces.
A case in point is what Hood did with his Army once he got to Tennessee and Kentucky .. the battles of Franklin and Nashville displayed his utter incapacity to command such large forces or to make any plans other than the straight charge into the teeth of well-prepared defenses, bleeding the Army of Tennessee white at Franklin and completely destroying it at Nashville.
Sherman did not begin his March to the Sea until he was sure that Hood was headed for Tennessee and Kentucky, hoping that Sherman would follow him back in that direction. Sherman's statement (again from memory) was that, if he could be sure that Hood would go to Tennessee and Kentucky, he would give him the rations and the logistics train to do so; that General Thomas could worry about him instead of Hood hanging around the local area making foraging and resupply difficult, if not impossible.
Keeping Johnston wouldn't have automatically translated into keeping Atlanta; on the other hand, putting Hood in command virtually guaranteed that that would be impossible.
The CSA never had a workable grand strategy. That is the beef on JD. They didn't really have a strategy at all. It was widely thought in Europe even in 1865 that the north could never conquer the south. Davis insisted that every square inch of ground be defended, in direct contravention of Sun Tzu's statement that "he who defends all, defends nothing."
The proper CSA strategy was to maintain powerful forces in the interior and strike at federal incursions as they came. The CSA had interior lines. Think of a wheel. The US forces were outside the rim of the wheel, the CSA forces were at the center. It would obviously be easier to shift forces across the chord of the wheel than around its circumferance. The CSA didn't take advantage of that.
When Grant invested Vicksburg, the best move for the CSA would have been to send Lee's army to fight him and mass with CSA forces already in the area. If Richmond fell, it could always be retaken; it wasn't as important as Vicksburg. When Grant was repulsed at Vicksburg, the best strategy would have been to draw Lee's forces back to say, Chattanooga and wait for the next Union punch, and then counterpunch.
JD was also no people person. People found him prickly and doctrinaire. He had his inner circle and favored them over everyone else. Bragg was CG of the Army of Tennessee. He was incompetent, and this was intimated to Davis, but Bragg stayed, and overstayed. The war was being lost in the "west", while Lee gave the Army of the Potomac bloody nose after bloody nose. The war was lost in the west. In fact, despite myth, US forces in the west advanced from victory to victory --without interuption-- excepting the check at Chicamaugua, the benefits of which Bragg promptly squandered. I know when Longstreet protested about Bragg's policy right after Chickamaugua, Bragg sent him to Knoxville to no special purpose where he assaulted Union positions to no gain and great loss. But Bragg was beloved of Davis. Idiots.
What else? Attempts to achieve diplomatic help from the Brits and Frogs were also amateurish and lame. Attempts to raise money and have a stable fiscal policy - Lame.
The fact that Marse Bobby didn't want to take his army to Vicksburg showed that Davis couldn't control his subordinates. Longstreet was only sent to east Tennessee after the cat was out of the bag.
After Johnston was replaced by Hood, Davis made a visit to Hood's army that made things worse; some competent officers (including Hardee) were replaced by less experienced officers and what was probably the last chance of the CSA was lost.
This is only a survey. I don't know that much about it, really.
Davis was wonderfully inept -- especially when you look at his resume. West Point graduate, serving officer in the Mexican war, seceretary of war, senator.
For contrast, Lincoln....uh.......Lincoln ran a two person law firm and said his drunk of a partner was better organized.
That would be a wonderful thing. It will be possible for me once there is general acknowledgement and recognition that Abraham Lincoln was no saint; his actions did not necessarily represent a duty of his office; and what he accomplished did not necessarily justify the price he paid in other peoples lives and property. As long as those unpleasant doubts remain covered up, I am putting nothing behind me. I am sure you are familiar with the famous quote of Santayana. However unpleasant for some the casting of doubts on our historical myths may be, nothing good can come from burying those doubts. To my knowledge (and my knowledge of that history is quite limited) there was no similar open sore point between the French and the Germans.
1. I was born in Atlanta, Ga, and raised in Texas.
2. Slavery was evil.
3. The South lost and we are all the better for it. Get over it.
4. The last eight presidents have all been from the South or the West. Except Ford, who doesn't count.
5. We have all the jobs, and we don't have to shovel snow.
6. Stop your insecure whining. No one cares.
This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be reelected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President-elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such grounds that he cannot possibly save it afterwards.
What Lincoln meant by this was that he would have done all his power to bring the war to what he considered a successful conclusion between November and March. He considered nothing less than a united country as a successful conclusion and in this McClellan agreed with him. At the convention in Chicago, McClellan repudiated the peace plank of the Democrat Party platform. His position was, and remained through the entire election, peace and reunification with honor. McClellan wrote that as soon as the confederate states, either individually or as a whole, stated a readiness for peace based simply on reunion, "we should exhaust all re resources of statesmanship...to secure such peace, reestablish the Union, and guarantee for the future the Constitutional rights of every state," meaning protection of the institution of slavery. The expectation was that with the election of McClellan a peace movement would spring up in the south as well and press for reunification. The expectations were optimistic, to say the least. So in the end, McClellan or Lincoln, the south was beaten. It was just a matter of time.
Sherman vs. Johnston or Sherman vs. Hood. It made no difference. Sherman had pushed Johnston back from the borders of Georgia into Atlanta itself. And then what? He would have either driven Johnston out of Atlanta, too, or would have starved and shelled him into surrender. So Sherman would have taken Atlanta no matter what. And he would have cut loose and headed for the sea regardless, because he recognized it for what it was. A psychological blow to that the confederacy would never recover from. Proof positive that the south was so weak that it couldn't stop Sherman from going wherever he wanted. Also he knew that he couldn't defend a supply line that streached a thousand miles and trying to do so would just waste his army away. So Sherman had to go deeper into the south or retreat back into Tennessee. He headed south taking only half his army with him and leaving the remainder, under Thomas, to take on the Army of Tennessee. He didn't care who commanded the southern army and where it was headed, so long as they didn't get anywhere near a northern city. So Thomas dogged the confederates during their last offensive with the sole purpose of hearding them somewhere where he could beat them. And that would have been the plan regardless.
Johnston may not have committed the blunders that Hood made, but he still didn't have the forces to make a difference. The whole purpose of the Tennessee campaign was to stop Sherman and to attract recruits to rebuild the army. The first purpose was futile to begin with and the second was a dismal failure. Hood made it easier for the Union but Johnston would have failed almost as badly.
That is your opinion; you have every right to your opinion. I don't agree with you.
Most Americans aren't so different. If we think of the war at all, we recognize it as a great tragedy that we have put behind us. Most people, to the extent that they think of Lincoln at all, recognize that he wasn't a saint. Pragmatic political and military concerns which don't trouble most saints entered deeply into Lincoln's thought and actions.
I suppose that most Americans do believe that Lincoln's stand for union was undertaken as a duty of his office, at least as he understood it. That doesn't mean that everything that Unionists did in the war was justified. It certainly doesn't mean that everything that happened in the war was Lincoln's fault. There was another side involved that played an important role in shaping events.
I suspect that for very many Americans there is a creeping suspicion that Lincoln would have done well just to let the South go, if he could, on the theory that peace is usually better than war, if war can be avoided. This preference accounts for the condemnation of FDR's and LBJ's Asia policies by Americans who yield to no one in their opposition to fascism or Communism.
I'm not so sure that a policy of pacific inaction would have worked in 1861. Most people don't take the power politics of the times and the ambitions of Southern leaders and sympathizers into account. Lincoln's perception that the Confederates would risk war to destroy the Union is at the back of our minds, but not in the front.
I'd venture to say public opinion is more negative about Lincoln's stand than it ought to be, but you can certainly take some comfort in the widespread opinion that perhaps it might have been better just to play possum.
Preference for peace over war emphatically doesn't translate to sympathy or support for the Confederate leadership, though. There is nothing that will make Jefferson Davis into a hero for most Americans. That fact won't change, though the reasons behind it have.
Where Confederatists differ from others is not that the others hold to some faultless, saintly Lincoln myth, but that the Confederatists don't recognize the faults and misdeeds and errors and transgressions of the rebel leaders. There is always some sympathy for the defeated South, but I don't think the great majority of Americans accept the victim myth that so many Confederatists indulge in, nor do they view Lincoln as the font of all evil that came later.
If you are looking for some great suppressed ulcer of American life, it's likely you won't find it in Southern suffering, but in racial questions. I don't say that with any axe to grind. The widest spectrum of Americans would agree on that, though they would disagree on just who is being suppressed and just what has been repressed. Rightly or wrongly, the eyes of younger Americans have been focused elsewhere, and North and South seem to have much more similarities than differences.
Since 9/11/2001, though, that racial focus is thankfully yielding to a renewed national consciousness. It's likely that we'll see the differences, but believe -- as we did during WWII -- that our different regions complement each other and make our nation better and stronger.
Must be because God didn't intervene. If he had, he surely wouldn't have intervened on the side of the blasphemous Lincoln who blamed the war on him.
Chambersburg was in retaliation for Union General Hunter's burning of the Shenandoah Valley a month before. General Sheridan had ordered the Shenandoah Valley be made a desert and a barren waste, and Hunter complied. Destruction of civilian property and harassment of women and children seems to be a common theme of Federal troops led by Sheridan, Hunter, Sherman, and Butler.
See: Shenandoah to Chambersburg. The letter to General Hunter quoted on this web site was published in Southern newspapers of the time. You can find it in The Daily Picayune of New Orleans.
He made life miserable for his enemy and struck psychologial fear into the minds of other enemy troops hundreds of miles from where he was operating.
SunZu would have liked Sherman.
Which, of course, would be false. Everyone knows the real number is not 100%, but 99.999%.
Slavery issue aside, had the Confederate states been successful in establishing their independence, it would have opened the door to future secessions. We would almost certainly have had a separate nation on the West Coast, for example (California and Oregon were talking about just such a thing). Before long, the United States would have totally disintegrated and we would have ended up looking like Central America - a bunch of failed republics ruled by despots and military leaders.
It's a damn good thing we were able to reunite this country and put the Civil War behind us (at least most of us). Otherwise, we wouldn't have been in position to stop Hitler and Imperial Japan in WW2. The world would be a totally different place today - for the worse.
As would Nebuchadnezzar, and Atilla the Hun. he would have fit in well in the Red Army. Is that what OUR culture and nation is all about? Not mine, thank God.
Headquarters Forces on Blackwater, Franklin, Va, January 1864
Gen. Wilde, commanding Colored Brigade, Norfolk, Va. Sir Probably no expedition, during the progress of this war, has been attended with more utter disregard for the long-established usages of civilization or the dictates of humanity, than was your late raid into the country bordering the Albemarle. Your stay, though short, was marked by crimes and enormities. You burned houses over the heads of defenseless women and children, carried off private property of every description, arrested non-combatants, and carried off ladies in irons, whom you confined with negro men. Your negro troops fired on Confederates after they surrendered, and they were only saved by the exertions of the more humane of your white officers. Last, but not least, under the pretext that he was a guerrilla, you hanged Daniel Bright, a private of Company L, 62d Georgia Regiment (cavalry), forcing the ladies and gentlemen whom you held in arrest to witness the execution. Therefore, I have obtained an order from the general commanding for the execution of Samuel Jones, a private of Company B, 5th Ohio, whom I hang in retaliation. I hold two more of your men -in irons- as hostages for Mrs. Weeks and Mrs. Mundin. When these ladies are released, these men will be relieved and treated as prisoners of war.
Col. Joel R. Griffin
Union officers had threatened to hang to the two civilian women mentioned in the letter above if anyone was hanged in retaliation for the hanging of Daniel Bright.
I think you need to check your timeline. Chambersburg was burnt in July 1864 while Sheridan went through the Shenandoah Valley in September and October of 1864.
Supposedly Chambersburg was burnt in retaliation for the damage done to VMI by General Hunter. I think that the case can be made that VMI was a legitimate military target. It provided hundreds of officers to the confederate military. It would be as if the south had ever made it to West Point and burned it to the ground.
And if burning a town in retaliation is acceptable then if Sherman used Chambersburg as his reason for burning Atlanta then would you find that OK?
OK, how about this one then?
War is the remedy our enemies have chosen. And I say let us give them all they want; not a word of argument, not a sign of let up, no cave-in until we are whipped - or they are. -- William T. Sherman
War was the path that the south chose to follow in April 1861 and it seems to me that for them to complain about the damages done is the height of hypocracy.
A few posts up you asked why Davis was a fool. Well a big reason for that was he ignored the advice of his own cabinet and started the war at Charleston. His own secretary of state gave him the following warning:
Firing on that fort will inagurate a civil war greater than any the world has yet seen...At this time it is suicide, murder, and will lose us every friend in the North...You will wantonly srike a hornet's nest which extends from mountains to ocean, and legions now quiet will swarm out and sting us to death. It is unnecessary; it put us in the wrong; it is fatal." -- Robert Toombs
Well, Toombs was right. It was wrong, it was unnecessary and it was fatal. So it can be accurately said that if any one person is responsible for the destruction of the southron dream of independence, then that person is Jefferson Davis.
Which, of course, would be false. Everyone knows the real number is not 100%, but 99.999%."
Yes, and all southerners (Rebels) have no teeth, own 3 legged hound dogs, have cars on blocks in the driveway, dead appliances on the front porch; onto which they have tied said 3 legged hound dog, and belong to the KKK. Never let the facts get in the way of a good stereotype I always say./sarcasm off
Im not an uptight northerner, but I am dressed as one.
President Lincoln and the loyal people throughout the country saw the folly of separating.
President Lincoln once even referred to the example of Europe as something to be avoided.
What these "self determination" fanatics fail to see is exactly what you point out. We are stronger together than we could ever be apart. This is so obvious it makes me think that what the neo-rebs -really- want, is what really was lost in the ACW -- white supremacy. President had a part in ending white supremacy. That is what galls them about Lincoln, and that is why he is a tyrant to them.
It would be nice to have the freedom of a 19th century "mountain man" like Jeremiah Johnson, but it is just not doable.
What a Dark Age this country is experiencing.
Thanks for the comment. I had seen reference on the web (that I can't find at the moment) that Sheridan had given the order and Hunter's troops complied. Doesn't mean that Sheridan himself was in the Shenandoah Valley himself in this particular instance.
Here are some comments by Confederate General Early on why he ordered the destruction of Chambersburg, as reported in Northern newspapers.
General Hunter in his recent raid to Lynchburg, caused wide-spread ruin wherever he passed. I followed him about sixty miles, and language would fail me to describe the terrible desolation which marked his path. Dwelling-houses and other buildings were almost universally burned; fences, implements of husbandry, and everything available for the sustenance of human life, so far as he could do so, were everywhere destroyed. We found many, very many, families of helpless women and children who had been suddenly turned out of doors, and their houses and contents condemned to the flames; and in some cases where they had rescued some extra clothing, the soldiers had torn the garments into narrow strips, and strewn them upon the ground for us to witness when we arrived in pursuit.
General Hunter has been much censured by the voice of humanity everywhere, and he richly deserves it all; yet he has caused scarcely one-tenth part of the devastation which has been committed immediately in sight of the headquarters of General Meade and General Grant, in Eastern Virginia. For example--in Culpepper County, where General Meade held his headquarters, almost every house and building has been burned; very few have escaped the flames; and utter desolation is seen on every hand. Even a small tannery in sight of General Meade's headquarters, where a poor man tanned a few hides for the neighbors on the shares, to furnish shoes for the poor women and children who were necessarily left there, was burned by the army, and the half tanned skins drawn from the bats and cut into narrow strips to prevent the possibility of their being useful.
Recently they have burned the house of Andrew Hunter, near Charlestown, with all its contents, requiring his family to stand by and witness the destruction of their homes. They did the same with the house of Edmund J. Lee, near Shepardstown, and repeated it on the buildings of Hon. Alex H. Boteler.
Such things of course, cannot be long endured, and must provoke retaliation whenever it is possible. Accordingly I lately sent General McCausland to Pennsylvania. I did not wish to retaliate in Maryland, because we all hope and believe that Maryland will eventually become a member of the Southern Confederacy. I therefore sent him to Pennsylvania, with written instructions to demand of the authorities of Chambersburg, a sum which would be sufficient to indemnify those gentlemen, and also pay some other damages which I specified in the order; and in default of their compliance, he was instructed to burn the town, which I learn was done. I was very reluctant, and it was a most disagreeable duty, to inflict such damage on these citizens; but I deemed it an imperitive necessity to show the people of the Federal States that was has two sides. I hope and believe it has had, and will have a good effect. I saw with much pleasure, since then, an able article in the National Intelligencer, which called upon the north to consider gravely whether such a mode of warfare as they had inaugurated is likely to yield a success commensurate to its cost.
Looks like I have to add Meade and Grant to the Pillage Honor Roll along with Hunter, Wilde/Wild, Sherman, Butler, and Sheridan. The Federals must have decided if we can't beat them in the field, go after their women and children.
As Benjamin Franklin once said, "We either hang together or hang separately." I strongly believe that had we allowed this country to split apart in 1860, we would have continued to fragment to the point where we would become a bunch of squabbling nations, constantly warring among each other, much like Europe over the past few centuries. Our strength is dependent upon our unity. There is no way we could have become the premier superpower on Earth and the greatest beacon of hope for freedom in the history of civilization, had we allowed the South to tear away from us.
Sorry, that won't wash. The Confederate leader initially demanded a ransom not to burn the town. When the townsfolks couldn't get the money up in the short allotted time, then the fires were started.
An act of a brigand, not a soldier.
Stealing gold watches?
lincoln,stanton,butler,sherman and MANY others would be tried TODAY, if they were still alive, imVho.
I'll ask you to bite your tongue, sir. Had Jackson lived some of the mindless military blunders made after his death might not have happened and the South possibly could have gotten what she wanted all along. A standoff and lincoln would have had to sue for peace. The South always saw the war as a defensive battle, especially since abe fired the first shot by trying to resupply Sumter. We wanted to be left alone, and I believe in time would have become two powers with relations much closer than even the United States and Britain today
MY family had at least 92 elderly men,women & children murdered in SC, during a 3-day drunken orgy of sex crimes,looting, arson & MURDER, for NO other reason than they were Indians AND the damnyankees KNEW that NOBODY in the federal army would CARE!
at least 5 CSA prisoners from my family were MURDERED while a POW at Point Lookout,MD.
these are FACTS!
for dixie LIBERTY,sw
Bullshi#!! Excuse my language but that at least here in NC is an outright lie. We are seen as second class and not 'up to snuff' as we say by them. There were only two reasons the north wanted the South and had to fight. Our money (taxes) and our raw materials(cotton being one). If we hadn't had either, the war probably would not have started.
Today? Almost everyday I hear comments and jokes about Southern culture on television, radio, print media, and even here on FR. How we're all dumb rednecks and you wouldn't want a Southern surgeon or a Southern banker. How we do things differently down here and snide little comments about our culture. Jefferson himself saw us as 13 separate states, the only need for the Constitution was to join in international affairs and a few housekeeping affairs at home, not the Empire we are today
The north and the South are different from culture and belief to just daily living. We have become the dumping ground for 3/4 of the nation as a vacation spot. Somewhere you might want to go for a few years but not stay. To make fun of the slow Southerners. I was born and raised in the South, and God willing I will never leave. I don't know what you might have experienced to make a comment like that about Southern culture, but from someone who experiences it every day you are wrong
An act of a brigand, not a soldier.
See my post 85 for Confederate General Early's explanation of the money demand. It was compensation for the destruction of Southern propery by Union General Hunter. At least the Chambersburg people had a choice -- the Southerners whose houses were burned didn't.
Actually I get far more flack from the rest of the country about living in Massachusetts than Southerners get about their culture. For example, Massachusetts and the people who live in Massachusetts are always being attacked on Free Republic, but I just have to grin and bear it.
Most of my family live down south (Alabama) and I spend a lot of time there. Even there, I have to take flack about Massachusetts. Unlike you, I just don't let it get to me. (Well, most of the time.)
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