Retrieved from KnappAgency
Before the summer of 1864, the Civil War was primarily fought on battlefields. After failing to decisively vanquish Confederate forces in pitched clashes, the Union leadership widened the war, trying to destroy the South’s economy – with the civilian population increasingly a target. William Sherman, the commander of the Union forces menacing Atlanta in 1864, had sent a telegram to Washington saying that in the South “There is a class of people men, women, and children, who must be killed or banished before you can hope for peace and order.”
The destruction of the Shenandoah Valley was carried out by Gen. Philip Henry Sheridan. Along an almost 100-mile stretch, the sky was blackened with smoke as his troops burned crops, barns, mills and homes. Sheridan reported to Grant in October 1864 that he had ordered the torching of all houses within a five-mile radius of where a politically connected Union officer had been shot. Sheridan ordered his men to leave the valley a “barren waste” and boasted that when his operation was complete, the Shenandoah Valley “from Winchester to Staunton will have but little in it for man or beast.”
One newspaper correspondent traveling with Sheridan’s army reported: “Hundreds of nearly starving people are going North . . . not half the inhabitants of the valley can subsist on it in its present condition.” John Heatwole, author of “The Burning: Sheridan’s Devastation of the Shenandoah Valley” (1998), concluded: “The civilian population of the Valley was affected to a greater extent than was the populace of any other region during the war, including those in the path of Sherman’s infamous march to the sea in Georgia.”
President Lincoln congratulated Sheridan in a letter on Oct. 22, 1864: “With great pleasure I tender to you and your brave army the thanks of the nation and my own personal admiration and gratitude for the month’s operation in the Shenandoah Valley.”
The devastation visited on the Southern economy and its civilian population by Sheridan, Sherman and other Northern commanders made the South’s postwar recovery far slower than it might have been, multiplying the misery of white and black survivors. Historian Jim Downs’s “Sick From Freedom” (2012) showed how chaos and illness during and after the war contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of freed slaves.
Below is a letter which was published the two Volume Book the Rise & Fall of the Confederate Gov’t papers of Pres. Jefferson Davis. The letter was from a Rev. Dr. John Bachman who was an aging Lutheran Pastor who witness and was himself a victim a Yankee War Crimes. This letter shows how the Yankees systamatic plundered there victims. There are eyewitness acounts that the Boys in Blue abused, lynched, raped the African Americans that they claimed to liberate. .It is amazing with all this evidence that many Americans deny this and call this behavior just. The attached words by Dr. Bachman speak real honest truth that most Americans sadly deny.
The longer the American Civil War lasted, the more Union generals acted as if they were conducting a crusade to crush infidels. In a September 17, 1863, letter to Henry W. Halleck, the general in chief of the Union armies, Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman wrote:
“The United States has the right, and … the … power, to penetrate to every part of the national domain. We will remove and destroy every obstacle – if need be, take every life, every acre of land, every particle of property, everything that to us seems proper.”
Halleck liked Sherman’s letter so much that he passed it on to President Lincoln, who declared that it should be published. Sherman, in a follow-up to Halleck on October 10, 1863, declared:
“I have your telegram saying the President had read my letter and thought it should be published. I profess … to fight for but one single purpose, viz, to sustain a Government capable of vindicating its just and rightful authority, independent of niggers, cotton, money, or any earthly interest.”
On June 21, 1864, before his bloody March to the Sea, Sherman wrote to the secretary of war: “There is a class of people [in the South] men, women, and children, who must be killed or banished before you can hope for peace and order.” A few months later, Sherman informed one of his subordinate commanders:
“I am satisfied … that the problem of this war consists in the awful fact that the present class of men who rule the South must be killed outright rather than in the conquest of territory, so that hard, bull-dog fighting, and a great deal of it, yet remains to be done. Therefore, I shall expect you on any and all occasions to make bloody results.”
On September 27, 1864, Sherman wrote to Gen. John Hood, the Confederate commander of the Army of Tennessee, and announced, “I have deemed it to the interest of the United States that the citizens now residing in Atlanta should remove, those who prefer it to go south and the rest north.” Sherman’s comments could have been a model for the Serbian leaders who drove ethnic Albanians out of Kosovo.
On October 9, 1864, Sherman wrote to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant:
“Until we can repopulate Georgia, it is useless to occupy it, but the utter destruction of its roads, houses, and people will cripple their military resources. I can make the march, and make Georgia howl.”
Sherman lived up to his boast – and left a swath of devastation and misery that helped plunge the South into decades of poverty.
Scorched-earth tactics were also used in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864-65. On September 28, 1864, Gen. Phil Sheridan ordered one of his commanders to “leave the valley a barren waste.” General Grant ordered Union troops to “make all the valleys south of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad a desert as high up as possible … eat out Virginia clear and clean … so that crows flying over it for the balance of the season will have to carry their provender with them.” Union Gen. Wesley Merritt proudly reported to Sheridan on December 3, 1864, that “the destruction in the valley, and in the mountains bounding it, was most complete.”
Such tactics were typical towards the end of the war. On December 19, 1864, a Union colonel reported that he had followed orders “to desolate the country from the Arkansas River to Fort Scott, and burn every house on the route.” In the same month, a major general with the Army of the Potomac noted the success of a Union expedition south of Petersburg, Virginia: “Many houses were deserted contained only helpless women and children … almost every house was set on fire.”
When his troops attacked Georgia they had destroyed homes and towns almost in a routine way, without much passion. Their attitude changed when they entered South Carolina.
“In our march through South Carolina every man seemed to think he had a free hand to any kind of property he could put the torch to,” one of Sherman’s soldiers wrote. “South Carolina paid the dearest penalty of any state in the Confederacy, considering the short time the Union Army was in the state.”
Sherman claimed never to have taken part in the looting carried out by his men. But after such a fine lunch he could not resist. Blair showed him some exquisite carpets they had confiscated, and Sherman told his orderly to take them. They were made into saddle bags and blankets and a rug for his tent.
Sherman captured enough food and supplies in Cheraw to fill every wagon of Howard’s 17th Corps and part of Blair’s 15th Corps. His troops didn’t need to forage for food, but they did, carting off everything they found, sometimes burning it. More of Sherman’s troops passed through Cheraw than any town in the South.
Union Troops arrived at the Cash plantation in different groups. They filled all the plantation’s carriages with plunder from the Big House. Smoke houses were emptied, every chicken stolen. The blacks had put on their best clothes in anticipation of greeting their liberators. But the Union troops beat and robbed some of them and stole their clothes and shoes. They tricked black women, promising them silk dresses they had taken from whites, and then raped them.
“Cheraw was a very pretty town of some three or four thousand inhabitants,” he wrote, as he stopped off at St David’s Episcopal Church. But when he returned to the town later in the evening, he found that all the stores had been burned. “Vast clouds of dense smoke were arising from burning buildings and hung around the town in a mournful grandeur.”
After Sherman crossed the Pee Dee and drove into North Carolina, he ordered the burning and pillaging stopped. The state was damaged, swaths of pine trees were torched, and Fayetteville suffered. But North Carolina and Virginia escaped the kind of destruction that took place in South Carolina. Sherman had accomplished what he set out to do.
THE LETTER from Union Lieutnant Thomas J. Myers: Feb 26, 1865 of the Morrill Tariff
“Camp near Camden, S. C.
My dear wife–I have no time for particulars. We have had a glorious time in this State. Unrestricted license to burn and plunder was the order of the day. The chivalry [meaning the Honourable & Chivalrous people of the South] have been stripped of most of their valuables. Gold watches, silver pitchers, cups, spoons, forks, &c., are as common in camp 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.
Officers are not allowed to join these expeditions without disguising themselves as privates. One of our corps commanders borrowed a suit of rough clothes from one of my men, and was successful in this place. He got a large quantity of silver (among other things an old-time milk pitcher) and a very fine gold watch from a Mrs DeSaussure, at this place. DeSaussure was one of the F. F. V.s of South Carolina, and was made to fork over liberally.. Officers over the rank of Captain are not made to put their plunder in the estimate for general distribution. This is very unfair, and for that reason, in order to protect themselves, subordinate officers and privates keep back every thing that they can carry about their persons, such as rings, earrings, breast pins, &c., of which, if I ever get home, I have about a quart. I am not joking–I have at least a quart of jewelry for you and all the girls, and some No. 1 diamond rings and pins among them.
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. But I said I could not go into particulars. All the general officers and many besides had valuables of every description, down to embroidered ladies’ pocket handkerchiefs. I have my share of them, too. We took gold and silver enough from the damned rebels to have redeemed their infernal currency twice over. This, (the currency), whenever we came across it, we burned, as we considered it utterly worthless.
On Saturday, July 9, 1864, a detachment of eight men went to the factory and set fire to it in several places. One by one the company store, the machine shops and the homes around the mill were put to the torch. Great clouds of smoke filled the air as the civilians of New Manchester watched their homes burn.
Major Thompkins then ordered that the 300-foot-long wooden dam across the creek above the mill be cannonaded. After several shots ripped holes in the dam the swirling waters of Sweetwater Creek finished off the destruction. Within minutes, several hundred thousand dollars worth of property perished in the flood, including one piece of Union artillery. The transport wagons then arrived, not to take the citizens to safety westward but to take them to Marietta, Georgia, where they would board trains for deportation to the North.
When the transport wagons proved to be insufficient, each cavalryman was ordered to take a second rider on his horse. The women hated riding behind the soldiers, but it was “a very fine sight,” one Illinois soldier wrote home, one “we don’t often see in the army.” “The employees were all women,” he continued, “and they were really good looking.” Since the men had not been near a woman for months, order and discipline quickly broke down.
By the time the New Manchester women reached Marietta, Georgia, they had long since ceased to exist as identifiable individuals. They had been merged with groups of other mill prisoners and were huddled together – 400 in the group – the male prisoners having been segregated from the female. This group hereafter was referred to in official reports and dispatches simply as the “Roswell Women,” or the “Factory Hands.”
On July 15th, these women were given nine days’ rations, placed on trains and were sent to a distribution point in Nashville, Tennessee. On July 20th, they were again moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where a local newspaper reporter noted their arrival: “The train which arrived at Louisville from Nashville last evening brought up from the South two hundred and forty-nine women and children, who are sent by order of General Sherman, to be transferred north of the Ohio River, there to remain during the war. We understand that there are now at Nashville fifteen hundred women and children, who are in a very destitute condition, and who are to be sent to Louisville to be sent North. A number of them were engaged in the manufactories at Sweetwater at the time that place was captured by our forces.”
By this time, however, General Sherman’s wholesale deportations had caused a furor in the North.
Not one of the New Manchester women ever returned and only a handful of the men. Henry Lovern, for instance, returned in January 1866 and became an employee of the Princeton Manufacturing Company’s textile mill in Athens, Georgia. Nathaniel Humphries, who ran the company’s store at New Manchester was confined for eleven months at Jeffersonville, Indiana. From there he returned to Georgia and spent the remainder of his life in Cobb and Carroll Counties. W.H. Bell, second in the card room, finally returned, as did Gideon J. Jennings, who had been employed at the factory as a machinist.
In March 1868, these were the only men who could be found within the state who had a first-hand knowledge of the events at New Manchester on those fateful days. Most of them never saw their families again. One husband traced his wife to Louisville, Kentucky, where they were reunited, but this was an exception. Most of them died never knowing the whereabouts of their wives and children.
Camp Douglas was one of the largest POW camps for the Union Army, located in the heart of Bronzeville. More than 40,000 troops passed through the camp during its nearly four years in operation. What’s more — and this is where it gets gloomier — it’s been hyperbolically remembered by some historians as the “deadliest prison in American history” and “eighty acres of hell.” So the fact that Chris, despite his earnest attempt, didn’t find much on Camp Douglas interested Curious City, too. How could one of the deadliest Civil War prison camps virtually disappear from our collective memory? Answering this part of Chris’s question had us consider how a city acknowledges the darker parts of its past and the benefits, if any, of remembering them at all.
Recall that Chris, our question-asker, could find little about the camp — as though the place had become a secret. Secrecy was certainly not the case during the war, though. In the camp’s early days, Chicago residents were allowed free access to the camp. “People were excited that here was the enemy, tamed, incarcerated and for your viewing,” Karamanski says. Sometimes, though, visitors — likely Confederate sympathizers — would end up walking out with a prisoner.
Soon, though, the camp tightened up security and stopped admitting visitors.
At that point, a local businessman got an idea. Utilizing a hotel across the street from the camp, he built a viewing platform where he charged customers 10 cents a pop to climb a stairway up to a wooden platform to catch a glimpse of the rebels. “It was a real treat for a lot of kids to see those Confederates,” Karamanski says.