Why They Raped, Pillaged, and Plundered: General Sherman’s Professed Hatred of Self Government
November and December of this year mark the 150th anniversary of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s famous “march to the sea” at the end of the War to Prevent Southern Independence. The Lincoln cult especially its hyper-warmongering neocon branch has been holding conferences, celebrations, and commemorations while continuing to rewrite history to suit its statist biases. Business as usual, in other words. But they are not the only ones writing about the event. Historian Karen Stokes has published South Carolina Civilians in Sherman’s Path: Stories of Courage Amid Civil War Destruction that contains a great deal of very telling information about Sherman’s motivation in waging total war on the civilian population of South Carolina.
Stokes begins by quoting a letter that Sherman wrote to General Henry Halleck shortly before invading all-but-defenseless South Carolina: “The whole army is burning with an insatiable desire to wreak vengeance upon South Carolina.” In another message a few weeks later, Sherman reiterated to Halleck that “The whole army is crazy to be turned loose in South Carolina.”
A New York newspaperman who was “embedded” with Sherman’s army to use a contemporary term wrote that “There can be no denial of the assertion that the feeling among the troops was one of extreme bitterness towards the people of the State of South Carolina.” The Philadelphia Inquirer cheered on as Sherman’s army raped, pillaged, burned, and plundered through the state, calling South Carolina “that accursed hotbed of treason.”
In a January 31, 1864 letter to Major R.M. Sawyer, Sherman explained the reason why he hated the South in general, and South Carolina in particular, so much. The war, he said “was the result of a false political doctrine that any and every people have a right to self-government.” In the same letter, Sherman referred to states’ rights, freedom of conscience, and freedom of the press as “trash” that had “deluded the Southern people into war.”
Sherman’s subordinates expressed similar opinions. In 1865 Major George W. Nichols published a book about his exploits during Sherman’s “march” in which he describing South Carolinians as “the scum, the lower dregs of civilization” who are “not Americans; they are merely South Carolinians.” General Carl Schurz is quoted by Stokes as remarking that “South Carolina the state which was looked upon by the Northern soldier as the principal instigator” of the war was “deserving of special punishment.”
All of this is so telling because it reveals that neither Sherman, nor his subordinate officers, nor the average “soldier” in his army, were motivated by anything having to do with slavery. South Carolina suffered more than any other state at the hands of Sherman’s raping, looting, plundering, murdering, and house-burning army because that is where the secession movement started. It was NOT because there were more slaves there than in other states, or because of anything else related to slavery. It was because South Carolinians, even more than other Southerners, did not believe in uncompromising obedience to the central state.
Shortly after the war ended some prominent Northerners began to pour into South Carolina to revel in the scenes of destruction and to steal whatever they could. The goofy Brooklyn, New York, Reverend Henry Ward Beecher went on one such excursion and gave a speech while standing under a giant U.S. flag in Charleston in which he declared:
“Let no man misread the meaning of this unfolding flag! It says, ‘GOVERNMENT hath returned hither.’ It proclaims in the name of vindicated government, peace, and protection to loyalty; humiliations and pains to traitors.
This is the flag of sovereignty. The nation, not the States, is sovereign. Restored to authority, this flag commands, not supplicates . . . . There may be pardon for former Confederates, but no concession . . . . The only condition of submission is to submit!”
In other words, the purpose of the war was to “prove” once and for all the false nationalist theory that the states were never sovereign; they did not ratify the Constitution, as explained in Article 7 the constitution created them; that the states never delegated certain powers to the central government in the Constitution and that the central government is to have unlimited “supremacy” overall individuals and institutions.
This was the nationalist superstition about the American founding, first fabricated by Alexander Hamilton and repeated by successive generations of nationalist consolidations mercantilist despots such as John Marshall, Joseph Story, Daniel Webster, and Abraham Lincoln.
This is why Sherman and his army revealed so much in their brutalization of defenseless South Carolinian women and children and the looting and destruction of their property. And they bragged about it for the rest of their lives. Much of the boasting is cataloged in South Carolina Civilians in Sherman’s Path. Stokes quotes General Charles Van Wyck as writing that “nearly every house on our line of march has been destroyed.” An “embedded” New York reporter named David P. Conyngham is quoted as described one South Carolina town after observing “the smoking ruins of the town, too tall, black chimneys looking down upon it like funeral mutes” with “old women and children, hopeless, helpless, almost frenzied, wandering amidst the desolation.” The book contains dozens of other eye-witness accounts by Union Army soldiers and Southern civilians of the burning down of entire cities and towns, rape, robbery, and wanton destruction of all varieties of private property, all of it occurring after the Confederate Army had vacated. All to prove once and for all, to South Carolinians and all other Americans, North, and South, that federalism and self-government was a “delusion,” to quote General Sherman himself.
Mass Murder of Civilians as Deliberate US Policy
By Thomas DiLorenzo
September 12, 2011
The phrase “collective responsibility” is rather pleasant-sounding, with its implication that, perhaps, we should all collectively take responsibility for our own actions. What parents should not teach their children such things? But for at least the past 150 years “collective responsibility” also has a specific meaning with regard to U.S. military policy. In the military context, “collective responsibility” is a euphemism for the mass murder of innocent civilians. It is a phrase that was used by General William Tecumseh Sherman himself, long preceding today’s nonchalant dismissal of the murder of civilians in foreign countries as “collateral damage.”
The idea is that if the U.S is at war with another nation it is not only the combatants who are legitimate “targets” but all inhabitants of the “enemy nation,” women, children, the disabled, everyone. As such, it is the primary cause of “blowback,” or retaliation for the intentional murder of noncombatants by the U.S. military. It is common sense to expect the people of other countries to retaliate for such atrocities, even committing acts of terrorism against us. But most Americans seem to be so brainwashed in the lies and propaganda of “American Exceptionalism” (the idea that whatever foreign policy the U.S. pursues is virtuous by virtue of the fact that it is the U.S. foreign policy) that they simply cannot imagine why anyone from any foreign country would want to harm us. In their ignorance, they are prone to believe such fantasies and absurdities as the theory that Middle East terrorists attacked us on 9/11 because they hate the idea of freedom.
William Tecumseh Sherman was indeed the founding father of terrorism perpetrated by the U.S. government and disguised by the language of “collective security.” Sherman biographer William Fellman (author of Citizen Sherman) quotes Sherman as saying this about his fellow American citizens from the Southern states: “To the petulant and persistent secessionists, why death is mercy, and the quicker he or she is disposed of the better . . . . 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” (emphasis added). Sherman was referring here to his plans for the civilian population of Georgia after the Confederate Army had left the state.
Referring to his plans for the civilian population of Northern Alabama, Fellman quotes Sherman as saying that the “Government of the United States” had the “right” to “take their lives, their homes, their lands, their everything . . . . We will take every life, every acre of land, every particle of property . . . ” And he was not referring to slaves when he used the word “property.”
In a July 31, 1862 letter to his wife Sherman wrote that “the war will soon assume a turn to extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the people . . . . There is a class of people, men, women, and children, who must be killed . . .” (emphasis added).
In the autumn of 1862 Confederate snipers were firing at U.S. Navy gunboats on the Mississippi River. Unable to apprehend the combatants, Sherman took revenge on the civilian population by burning the entire town of Randolph, Tennessee to the ground. In the spring of 1863, after the Confederate Army had evacuated, Sherman ordered the destruction of Jackson, Mississippi. Afterward, in a letter to Grant Sherman boasted that “The inhabitants are subjugated. They cry aloud for mercy. The land is devastated for 30 miles around.”
Sherman’s troops also destroyed Meridian, Mississippi after Confederate troops were driven out, after which Sherman wrote to Grant: “For five days, ten thousand of our men worked hard and with a will, in that work of destruction, with axes, sledges, crowbars, claw bars, and with fire, and I have no hesitation in pronouncing the work well done. Meridian . . . no longer exists.”
When Sherman’s chief military engineer, Captain O.M. Poe, advised that the bombing of Atlanta after the Confederates had fled was of no military significance, Sherman ignored him and declared that the corpses of women and children in the streets was “a beautiful sight,” as Fellman writes in Citizen Sherman.
In October of 1864 Sherman ordered the murder of randomly-chosen citizens in retaliation for Confederate Army attacks on his army. He wrote to General Louis Watkins: “Cannot you send over about Fairmount and Adairsville, burn ten or twelve houses . . . , kill a few at random, and let them know that it will be repeated every time a [military] train is fired upon . . . ” (See John B. Walters, Merchant of Terror: General Sherman and Total War, p. 137).
Two months after the formal end of the war, Sherman was placed in charge of the Military District of the Missouri, which was all land west of the Mississippi. His assignment was to commence a war of genocide against the Plains Indians, primarily to make way for the government-subsidized transcontinental railroads. Lincoln’s personal friend, General Grenville Dodge, was the chief engineer of the project and recommended that slaves be made of the Indians, who could then be forced to dig the railroad beds from Iowa to California. Government policy was to attempt to murder as many of the Plains Indians instead, women and children included, and Sherman was the natural choice as the director of such an enterprise.
Fellman quotes Sherman’s marching orders as the following (p. 26): “We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to the extermination, men, women and children” (emphasis added). Fellman writes that Sherman “had given [General] Sheridan prior authorization to slaughter as many women and children as well as men Sheridan or his subordinates felt was necessary.” “The more Indians we can kill this year, the less will have to be killed next year,” Sherman wrote to Sheridan. By 1890 the U.S. Army murdered as many as 60,000 Indians, placing the survivors in concentration camps known as “reservations.”
As Murray Rothbard once wrote, all government power rests ultimately on a series of myths and superstitions about the alleged magnificence of the state and its leaders and henchmen (and of corollary myths about the “evils” of the civil society). Americans will continue to be duped into supporting unconstitutional wars of aggression — and to be the victims of blowback — as long as they are conned into believing that such monsters and psychopathic killers as William Tecumseh Sherman are secular saints and heroes.
THE LETTER from Union Lieutnant Thomas J. Myers: Feb 26, 1865
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.
I wish all the jewelry this army has could be carried to the “Old Bay State”. It would deck her out in glorious style; but, alas! it will be scattered all over the North and Middle States. The damned n-words, as a general rule, prefer to stay at home, particularly after they found out that we only wanted the able-bodied men, (and to tell the truth, the youngest and best-looking women). Sometimes we took off whole families and plantations of n-words, by way of repaying secessionists. But the useless part of them we soon manage to lose; [one very effective was to “shoot at their bobbing heads as they swam rivers” after the army units crossed over], sometimes in crossing rivers, sometimes in other ways.
I shall write to you again from Wilmington, Goldsboro’, or some other place in North Carolina. The order to march has arrived, and I must close hurriedly. Love to grandmother and aunt Charlotte. Take care of yourself and children. Don’t show this letter out of the family.
Your affectionate husband, Thomas J Myers, Lieut.,
P.S. I will send this by the first flag of truce to be mailed, unless I have an opportunity of sending it at Hilton Head. Tell Sallie I am saving a pearl bracelet and ear-rings for her; but Lambert got the necklace and breast pin of the same set. I am trying to trade him out of them. These were taken from the Misses Jamison, daughters of the President of the South Carolina Secession Convention. We found these on our trip through Georgia.”
Destroy every house and farm
Headquarters, 1st Division, Army of the Frontier, Carrollton, Arkansas April 4, 1863.
Lt. R. Carpenter: (Union)
Commanding expedition to Osage Fork,
It having come to the knowledge of the colonel commanding that the forage trains of this command are repeatedly fired in to on Osage Fork of Kings River by lawless men, who secret themselves in the bushes and are encouraged and entertained by the inhabitants in that vicinity, you are therefore instructed to proceed to said neighborhood with the wagons placed in your charge, destroy every house and farm etc. owned by secessionist, together with their property that cannot be made available to the army; kill every bushwhacker you find; bring away the women and children to this place, with provision enough to support them, and report to these headquarters upon your return.
WM. WEER, COLONEL, COMMANDING DIVISION
Apparently Lt. Carpenter and his men did their job well for a report by a Confederate Intelligence Officer reveals the following: SWR’s Lady Val
Little Rock, Arkansas, April 17, 1863.
Lt. General Holmes, (Confederate)
Commanding, District of Arkansas:
Sir: I left Dardanelle, Arkansas, on the 5th instant, and returned yesterday, the 16th, having gone as far into enemy country as Cassville, Barry County, Missouri.
They (the Union forces) have murdered every southern man that could be found, old age and extreme youth sharing at their hands the same merciless fate. Old Samuel Cox and his son (age 14), Saul Gatewood, Heal Parker and Capt. Duvall, of Missouri, were a part of those murdered in Carroll. They burned on Osage, in Carroll County, fifteen southern houses and all the out houses, none of those thus made homeless being permitted to take with them any clothing or subsistence. They seem to have hoisted the black flag, for no southern man, however old and infirm or however little he may have assisted our cause, is permitted to escape them alive.
General, I have not the language to describe in truthful colours the ravages these Hessians are committing In the northwest of this State. Their guide and principal leader up there is an Arkansian, formerly a Baptist preacher in Carroll county, of the name of Crysop.
The infantry and a battery of five guns, numbering about 1,000 men, left the cavalry at Carrollton, they moving in a northeast direction and toward Forsyth, Missouri, on White River, about 43 miles from Springfield, Missouri on the river road from the Latter place to Yellville, Arkansas.
No troops at Huntsville, Berryville, or Bentonville, Arkansas. The Pin Indians have moved out of the nation. An occasional scout visits these places, murdering and stealing.
General Herron is at Springfield, very sick and not expected to live. But few troops at Springfield.
The main force is concentrating at Hartville under command of General Blunt. They report 10,000 men and I do not believe they miss it far. They are concentrating to check Marmaduke, whom they fear as honest men do the devil. On the border, both in Arkansas and Missouri, they are murdering every southern man going north or coming south. A first Lieutenant (Robert H. Christian) of the Missouri Militia committed one of the most diabolical, cold-blooded murders that I heard of during my trip. Four old citizens had gone to the brush, fearing that by remaining at home they would be murdered. Their names were Asa Chilcutt (who was recruiting for the C. S. Army), Alias Price, Thomas Dilworth, and Lee Chilcutt.
Asa Chilcutt was taken very sick, and sent for Dr. Harris, a Southern man. The doctor came as requested, and while there, this man Christian and 17 other militia came suddenly upon their camp. Lee Chilcutt made his escape. The others were captured, and disposed of as follows: Asa Chilcutt, the sick man was shot some six or seven times by this leading murderer, Christian.
They marched the others 150 yards to a ridge, and, not heeding their age or prayers for mercy, which were heard by citizens living near by, they shot and killed the doctor and the others, all of them being shot two or three times through the head and as many more times through the body. They (the Federals) then left them, and, passing a house nearby told the lady that, they had “killed four old bucks out there and if they had any friends they had better bury them.” This man Christian also tried to hire two ladies, with sugar and coffee, etc. to poison southern men lying in the brush. Christian proposed furnishing the poison and also the subsistence, and would pay them well if they accepted his proposition. The names of the ladies are Rhoda Laton, and Mrs. Simms, and every word of all the above can be proven in every particular.
I have given you the above narrative of Christian’s acts at the request of the public living in that section. They look to you as the avenger of their wrongs.
I have the honor to be, general, your most obedient servant,
JOSEPH G. PEEVY,
Capt. Company B. Hunter’s Regiment,
Missouri Infantry on Detached Service.
Horrible Deed By Federals In Virginia by Mr. R. D. Stewart
The writer personally knew the small family, consisting of Andrew Getz, Elizabeth, his wife and their simple-minded son, David. David was about thirty years of age. The family lived in a small house close to the Methodist church, and for the rent of this humble home they served as sexton of the church. Davy was mentally deficient, and no duties or a civil or military character were required of him. He was simple and harmless. The boys loved to tease him, and many a Confederate soldier told Davy that he had come from the army to take him back with him. He was a very timid child. He had no ambition to be a soldier but was always frightened when the suggestion was made that he should go into the army. Davy had in some way become possessed of an old musket, and with it amused himself hunting ground squirrels and small birds.
In the summer of 1864, he was engaged in his usual sport in the pines near his home when a squad of Federal soldiers suddenly came upon him. To their question “Are you a bushwhacker?” he replied, “Why, yes.” He had no comprehension of the term “bushwhacker.” He was at once seized by a number of Federal soldiers dragged to the pike, and then tied to a wagon. The poor fellow was almost frightened to death, and his heart-rending screams aroused the whole town. There was a wail that can hardly be imagined.
Accustomed as were the people to the brutality of the Federals who prowled through this valley, nothing aroused their sympathy and horror, not even the burning of their homes and churches by the fire fiends of the brutal Sheridan as did this inhuman outrage. Tied behind a wagon and dragged through the streets his plaintive cries and shrieks brought to their doors the ladies on both sides of the street. Helpless they stood and wept for the poor unfortunate. Close behind him walked his aged mother and father, clasping each other’s hands. They continued to follow their screaming child until they were driven back by the bayonets of the Federal soldiers.
Custer’s camp was about one mile south of Woodstock. Here he was waited upon by Mrs. J. L. Campbell, Mrs. Murphy, and other ladies of the town, who gave him a truthful statement of the character of the man and besought Custer to look at him, as one glance would convince him of the truth of their statements. He roughly repulsed them. He was afterwards visited by Moses Walton, a distinguished lawyer of Woodstock, Dr. J. S. Irwin, A Union man of the town, and Mr. Adolph Heller, a prominent merchant and a strong Union mand, at whose house both Custer and Torbett had occasionally made their headquarters. While Mr. Heller was at heart a Union man, he was always ready to protect the innocent so far as it was in his power. He earnestly besought General Custer to release the poor idiot. When Custer intimated that he proposed to have him shote, Mr. Heller boldly replied: “General Custer, you will sleep in a bloody grave for this. Surely a just God will not permit such a crime to go unavenged.” These gentlemen left his headquarters saddened by the exhibition of brutality upon the part of Custer. Their words of Mr. Heller proved to be prophetic.
Poor Davy Getz was again tied behind a wagon, compelled to walk to Bridgewater, a distance of forty-five miles, there forced to dig his own grave, was then murdered like a dog. The father several years later committed suicide. The mother was taken to the home of her son, Mr. Levi Getz, of Rockingham cunty, where she died some years ago.
Confederate Veteran Magazine March 1907
7 Years of Age was Shot Through the Head
DAILY CONSTITUTIONALIST [AUGUSTA, GA], July 22, 1864, p. 4, c. 1
Horrible Atrocities Near Island No. 10.—Mrs. Mary Beckham, in a letter published in the Atlanta Appeal, furnishes a lengthy narrative of the treatment of her family by Lincoln’s murderers. After giving an account of the robberies and insults heaped upon herself and family by Adjutant Gen. Gwynne, and Capt. Thomas, of the negro troops, she makes the following statement:
“On Tuesday morning about 9 o’clock, August 4th, 1863, twelve armed negro soldiers came to the house, there being no one there except my husband, father-in-law, Benjamin Beckham, and four of my children, and some of our family negroes. They rushed on my husband and tied him, took off his watch and pin, and rifled his pockets. They then tied my father-in-law and dragged them to the river, (it being about thirty yards). They killed my husband on top of the bank by shooting him in the head. They then cut off his shoulder-blade and rolled his body into the river, his clothes looked as if there had been a great struggle.
They then took the old gentleman, stabbed him three times, once in the heart, and cut one of his ears off. After throwing his body into the river, they proceeded back to the house, where two of them had been guarding my dear little children. They spoke to my eldest daughter, Laura, aged fourteen years, telling her to get up and follow her old daddy, at the same time presenting a pistol to her temple. The children then were driven to the water’s edge, where their father and grandfather had been murdered, and then they were put to death in the most cruel manner.
The youngest, Richard aged two and a half years, was thrown into the water alive. Laura jumped in and attempted to rescue him, and whilst in the water, waist-deep, begging for mercy, she was knocked on the head by the butt end of a gun, entirely separating her forehead, and then stabbed in the side. Kate Ida, eleven years of age, was then disposed of. She was beaten with guns until her head and shoulders were perfectly soft; her body was bruised all over. Caroline, seven years of age was shot through the head, and so disfigured that she did not look like a human. After they had murdered them all and thrown their bodies into the river, they returned to the house, taking everything valuable and all the clothing they could carry.”
Yankee biological warfare
In the archives of Louisiana, and in the book “The Conduct of Federal Troops in Louisiana …”, edited by David C. Edmonds, can be found first-hand reports of the Yankee army trying to “poison” innocent men, women, and children. The following is a letter written by one Dr. Sabatier for a report of the Yankee conduct; a report that was requested by the governor of Louisiana. (Pg. 91 – 92).
“… when the small-pox broke out among the Federal troops, then occupying New Iberia, it was impossible in our vicinity to procure the smallest portion of vaccine matter… I used my best exertions to procure some vaccine from the Federal physicians in New Iberia, and through one of my confreres succeeded in getting a few points loaded with vaccine, which I immediately inoculated to my own children.”
Dr. Sabatier goes on to say how his children suffered more form the vaccine than from small pox. In fact, he states, “A few days after the operation, one of my poor little baby’s arms was horribly swollen and inflamed, and on the second day appeared a pustule which had nothing of the appearance of vaccine…” Unfortunately for Dr. Sabatier many children died including his own. I sent a copy of this report to several doctors at Ochsner hospital in New Orleans, and their report back to me was that this “vaccine” was made to kill. The governor’s report goes on to state that over “two thousand perished in six weeks.” They died because of a poison passed off as a vaccine.
….. In the summer of 1863 another civilian doctor by the name of George Hill witnessed the Union army occupy what is today called Morgan City, at that time called Brasher. An event took place here, the likes of which would not be seen again until Hitler and the Nazis started their “final solution.”
Dr. Hill was reported as being “a distinguished physician and surgeon of Opelousas.” But all his years as a doctor did not prepare him for what he saw.
“In the summer of 1863, Berwick’s Bay and a portion of the Lafourche country were taken possession of by the Confederate army. I, with many others who had lost property by the raid which the Federal army made between the 20th of April and the 20th of May of this year, visited the Bay for the purpose of recovering our property. I was among the first to cross the bay; and having been informed on the night of my arrival by a gentleman named March that several of my lost Negroes were at the sugar house of Dr. Sanders (Henry Sanders), and that others were there in a dying condition, I [left] in the morning [for the] sugar house of Dr. S. and entered it by a door in the west end.
[Original sentence says: I, in the morning as soon as sugar house of Dr. S. and entered it by a door in the west end.] -ed
“The scene which then and there presented itself can never be effaced from my memory. On the right hand, female corpses in a state of nudity, and also in a far advanced stage of decomposition. Many others were lying all over the floor, many speechless and in a dying condition.
“All appeared to have died of the same disease: bloody flux. The floor was slippery with blood, mucus and feces. The dying, and all those unable to help themselves, were lying with their scanty garments rolled around their heads and breasts – the lower part of the body naked – and every time an involuntary discharge of blood and feces, combined with air, would pass, making a slight noise, clouds of flies, such as I never saw before, would immediately rise and settle down again on all the exposed parts of the dying. In passing through the house a cold chill shook my frame, from which I did not recover for several months, and, indeed, it came near costing my life.
“As I passed from the house I met with a Negro man of my own, who informed me that he had lost his wife and two children. I asked him if his friends – the Yankees – had not furnished him with medicine. He said, ‘No, and if they had, I would not have given it to my family as all who took their medicine died in twelve hours from the time of its being given.”
This “deposition” ends with the remark that it was shown to Dr. Sanders, who was then a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives. Dr. Sanders knew of the incident and was recorded as saying, “Before the arrival of Dr. Hill, he had caused many decomposed bodies that filled the coolers to be removed and interred… A hundred others would, if necessary, add their testimony to that of these gentlemen.”
This event has become known as the Sugar House Incident, or the Sugar House Murders and the house in which it occurred has been located by myself and a few others. Our next step is to have the area scanned by infrared imaging to locate the mass graves that should be in the area.
The Conduct of Federal troops in Louisiana during the invasions of 1863 and 1864: official report compiled from sworn testimony under the direction of Governor Henry W. Allen, Shreveport, April 1865; annotated and edited by David C. Edmonds
Publisher: Lafayette, La. : Acadiana Press, 1988.
ISBN: 0937614084 DDC: 973.7 LCC: E470.7
Their Aims Cloaked
During the Civil War (sic), when exaggerated stories of suffering in Southern prison camps in Richmond and Andersonville began to spread over the North, Secretary of War Stanton prepared to use the stories to “fire the Northern heart.” The Union armies were waging a relentless war upon the South’s transportation system, and the Confederates were unable to provide adequate housing, clothing, medicine, and food to the prisoners. Instead of exchanging the prisoners — the obviously humane solution — the Secretary of War preferred to allow Union soldiers to suffer from disease and privation in Southern prisons. Stanton knew that the very presence of the prisoners furnished a drain upon the Confederacy’s dwindling resources.
Edward M. Stanton was the Cabinet representative of the “Radical,” or “Jacobin,” faction of the Republican Party. The Jacobins represented the interests of the North’s rising industrialists who wanted a protective tariff, of the railroad promoters who wanted subsidies from the Federal treasury, and of the financiers who were using the new national banking system to get a stranglehold on the country’s wealth.
(The Jacobins were a very radical group, although they were still considered relatively moderate. They firmly believed in the need to remove all social class distinctions. They also believed that the vote should be universal and that government should provide for the welfare of the poor.)
Using the language of humanitarianism and freedom to cloak their predatory aims, the Jacobins wanted the war prolonged until the armies had crushed the South, destroyed its economic system, and enabled Northern exploiters to seize the South’s resources. In Congress, the Jacobins controlled the Joint Committee on the Conduct of War, which fomented propaganda and formulated Jacobin policies.
Neither Secretary Stanton nor the Congressional Jacobins were willing to relieve the suffering of Union prisoners of war by modifying military policy or exchanging the prisoners. Instead, the Secretary gave encouragement to popular demands that Confederate prisoners of war, confined in the North, be made to suffer in retaliation. Northern prison officials reduced the rations of prisoners of war, failed to provide heat, and refused to issue clothing to prisoners suffering the unaccustomed severities of a Northern climate. Surgeons of Northern prison camps officially reported that men were dying from exposure, overcrowding, lack of food and bad sanitary arrangements.
“The Secretary of War is not disposed at this time, in view of the treatment our prisoners of war are receiving at the hands of the enemy, to erect fine establishments for their prisoners in our hands,” replied Stanton to a suggestion that more prisons were needed. Moreover, he ordered that measures be taken to subject captured Confederates to “precisely similar treatment in respect to food, clothing, medical treatment and other necessities” as prevailed in Southern prisons.
Although the Jacobin press enthusiastically endorsed this venomous program, some prisoners of war, returning from the South, denied that Confederates were deliberately torturing prisoners. Such reports might well have caused a reaction against the policy of retaliation, and have given an excuse for renewed demands for exchanges. To forestall such developments, Stanton sought “official confirmation of his policy. He asked the Committee on the Conduct of the War to visit a hospital at Annapolis and report on the condition of some sick and wounded ex-prisoners.
The enormity of the crime committed by the rebels toward our “prisoners,” Stanton told the Jacobin committee, “is not known or realized by our people, and cannot but fill with horror the civilized world with the deliberate system of savage and barbarous treatment.”
Thus instructed, the Congressional committee visited Annapolis. They emerged with a report which was a masterpiece of propaganda. In 30 pages of official print, they set forth a catalog of Confederate brutality. They told how the Southerners robbed their captives, how they beat them, starved them, and murdered them with fiendish glee. And, as evidence that could not be denied, the committee presented the pictures of 8 alleged victims of Confederate savagery. The 8 pictured men have hollow, unshaven cheeks, glassy eyes, protruding bones, and expressions of utter despondency.
The Government promptly circulated thousands of copies of this official report. No one noticed that two of the pictured men had been dead when the committee visited Annapolis, and no one knew, of course, that the worst case was a soldier who had never been a prisoner at all! Nor did the Committee bother to mention that the Confederates had sent these prisoners home, at their own request, because there were no proper hospital facilities for their care in Richmond. Such an admission would have weakened the Jacobin argument that the rebels had a “predetermined plan” permanently to disable all Union prisoners of war.
Bolstered by this report bearing the solemn signatures of Congressmen, the War Department continued its policy of retaliation upon the helpless Confederate prisoners of war. Before long, disease ran riot and death stalked the Northern prison camps until more than 12 percent of the prisoners were dead. Secretary Stanton had almost succeeded in administering “precisely similar treatment.” In the South where the blockade prevented getting medicines, and the war on the transportation system prevented the Confederates from feeding their prisoners, 15.5 percent of the captives died.
The end of the Civil War (sic) did not bring an end to official propaganda on the subject of Confederate atrocities on prisoners of war. After the war, the Jacobins continued their program of destroying the South’s economic system. As they proceeded to impose military government on the South in a drastic program of “Reconstruction,” they needed to keep the prison atrocity stories alive. Unless, so their argument ran, the Southerners were controlled at the point of a bayonet, they would reestablish slavery and rise again in an effort to destroy the Union.
Accordingly, in 1869, the Jacobins in the House of Representatives appointed a committee to report again on the prisoners. “Rebel cruelty,” duly reported the committee, “demands an enduring truthful record, stamped with the National Authority.” The committee took testimony, oral and written, from 3,000 witnesses, and they issued a heavily documented volume which stamped with the National Authority” all the horror stories of the Confederate prisoners and proved conclusively the Jacobin doctrine that the Confederates were fiends, Jefferson Davis was a beast, and no rebel could ever be trusted with a ballot. To the Jacobin, it was clear that the whole South should be made to suffer forever for its sins.
The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 65-69
Firing Into Confederate Prisoner Tents
The hatred instilled in black troops against their former white neighbors in the South became deadly; it would continue in Reconstruction as the victorious Republican party needed black political dominance to remain in power. Below, this shooting of unarmed prisoners was no doubt a contributing factor in the higher percentage of Confederate deaths in Northern prison camps.
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Firing Into Prisoner Tents:
“As a general rule, the treatment by the white soldiers was not so bad, and it would have been much better, no doubt had it not been for the cruel policy of the United States Government, and the stringent orders to have that policy carried out. The colored troops were very harsh in their treatment of us, and they were no doubt urged to do this by their officers, who were certainly the meanest set of white men that could be found anywhere. The Negroes never let an opportunity pass to show their animosity and hatred towards us, and the man who shot a Rebel was regarded as a good soldier. They carried their authority to the extreme and would shoot upon the slightest provocation.
If a prisoner happened to violate even one of the simplest regulations, he was sure to be shot at, and should he be so unfortunate as to turn over in his sleep, groan, or make any noise, which some were apt to do while sleeping, the tent in which he lay would be fired into. For instance, one night in Company G, Fourth division, someone happened to groan in his sleep. The Negro patrol was near, heard it, and fired into the tent, killing two and wounding several others. These were killed while sleeping and were unconscious of having committed any offense whatever. None of these patrols were punished but were praised for vigilance.
Scores of incidents, similar in character and result, might be given…Suffice it to say that a man’s life was in more danger than upon a picket line, for he was completely at the mercy of the cruel and malignant Negro soldiery. Shooting into the tents of prisoners became so common that the officers of the white regiments protested at last against their (the colored troops) being allowed in camp, and accordingly, they were withdrawn at night, and white patrols substituted.”
(Southern Historical Society Papers, Prison Experience (Point Lookout), James T. Wells, Volume VII, pp. 397-398)
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