August 2016

 

Welcome to the monthly newsletter.  While I may be a few days before August, I figured it was best to go ahead and get this issue out since I had such technical issues and could not get the summer edition out.  If you wish to be notified of each new issue, send an email to subscribe@floridareenactorsonline.com.   ALL Writers are welcomed: Confederate, Union, and Civilian.  If you wish to submit an article, or have any questions, send an email to webmaster@floridareenactorsonline.com.

 

YOS,

Ham

 

 

For additional event information, please visit the EVENTS page for a complete listing.

 

·        September 9-11:    Battle of Tunnel Hill, GA

·        September 23-25:  Occupation of Palatka, FL

·        September 23-25:  Rifles, Rails & History, Tavares, FL

 

 

Letters to the Editor

 

A reader turned submitted this, asking that it be run. 

 

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Personal Thoughts

By Wayne Prenter

steven_dispatch@yahoo.com

 

Ham,

 

Something's been bugging me for some time now about civil war reenacting I thought I'd pass on to you being you have a voice with the magazine.

 

It was my recent looking over of the magazine and event pictures past and present, I wanted to share some thoughts about.

 

Have you ever noticed the overkill use of colored trim on uniforms civil war reenactors wear at almost every event?

 

I've compared pictures from years past to now and it seems to be getting worse and worse as the years go by.

 

I have to say the people who wear it the most are almost always the ones who have put the least amount of effort into their impression.

 

Looking at the pictures I can't help but say to myself 'these guys look like clowns'.

 

It looks like they went down to sutler row with a fist full of money and got took by almost every half-assed sutler their.

 

Cheaply made, totally unauthentic and a total waste of money, not to mention an embarrassment to what we do but the thing is these people have been in the hobby for years.

 

I guess they've never heard the saying 'less is more'.

 

Look at original photos, with the exception of maybe the Washington artillery and a few rare individuals at the very beginning of the war, no one wore that crap especially in the final years of the war (especially Confederates).  

 

I wish there was something I could do to get people to take the colored trim off of their uniforms, in doing so would make what they are wearing more realistic and be more genuine to what it was instead of one just doing it to standout at events on purpose.

 

Not sure how to word it but maybe you could do an article or something that that might address it or at least make others aware that what they are doing is asinine, they actually might not realize what they are doing is not how it was done.

 

Just a thought.

 

-Wayne

 

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Filming at Ocklawaha River Raid 2015 – Update

By Keith Kohl

ltcol2ndbattalion@gmail.com

 

Greetings, fellow re-enactors!  As many may recall, the November 2015 Ocklawaha River Raid Re-enactment near Ocala was the setting for a segment of the television show “Somebody’s Gotta Do It”.  This series is hosted by Mike Rowe and airs on CNN network channels.  Many turned out early at the event for this occasion and through the noble efforts of so many re-enactors the segment was filmed on Friday in the midst of unusually warm days and the buzz of activity of re-enactors arriving, camps setting up, etc.   Besides the filming around the camps and grounds, two brief re-enactment skirmishes took place, and the film crew stayed almost two hours longer than they originally planned as they filmed additional footage for the episode.

 

Of course several months have gone by now.  Over that time I have received a handful of communications from re-enactors who took part in the filming as to a possible air date.  In light of the efforts put forth to make this filming a reality I send this update in hopes of passing word along.  I have been in occasional contact with the production company as to when the segment may be televised.  In my most recent email conversation, I have received word that at that time the fourth season of the show (which the Civil War re-enactment segment is scheduled to be a part of) and that the season would not likely begin until after the conclusion of the November elections.

 

Be assured that I shall continue my efforts to remain in contact with the production company.  As soon as I have any firm information or details I shall set plans in motion to spread the word among the re-enactor community by way of emails to as many unit contacts, individuals, Florida Re-enactors Online and group web sites, Facebook, etc. etc., in hopes of getting word to everyone before the show airs.  With the dedicated efforts of so many involved in this, I see it as proper to do no less.

 

A warm thank you to everyone who gave of their time and effort on those almost record breaking warm days (yes it was November, I had to check the calendar and reassure myself) to accomplish what we all did on this occasion.  Planning is already well under way for the 32nd Annual Ocklawaha River Raid on November 4-6, 2016.  While we are not expecting any filming this year (though the last one was an unexpected pleasant surprise so one never knows) the event hosts are forging ahead with old standbys and new aspects we hope will blend together in providing a rewarding experience to both re-enactors and the public.  For the moment, best wishes to all and until our paths may cross again on another field or around the campfire, I remain,

 

Lt. Colonel Keith Kohl, commanding

1st Brigade

Provisional Army of the Confederate States

 

1st Brigade, Provisional Army of the Confederate States

The 1st Brigade, Provisional Army of the Confederate States (PACS) is a Living History/Re-enactor organization comprised of several infantry companies.  While based in the central Florida, the group has members located around a large expanse of the state.  This organization has both military and civilian members of all ages and strives to preserve the history of the Civil War years and portray the people and events of this time period.  For more information contact: Lt. Colonel Keith Kohl by email at ltcol2ndbattalion@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter from the Federal 4th Brigade, US

Written by the member units

Published by Col. Chuck Munson

1861chuck@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Archaeologist Seeks Olustee Timber Map

Written by Joel Addington

reporter@bakercountypress.com

 

Submitted by Chris Lydick

clydick@fs.fed.us

 

 

 

 

 

WHY DID THE CHEROKEE FIGHT WITH THE

CONFEDERACY IN THE CIVIL WAR?

By Leonard M. Scruggs

as originally published on LewRockwell.com

 

 

Cherokee_Confederates_Reunion

Many have no doubt heard of the valor of the Cherokee warriors under the command of Brigadier General Stand Watie in the West and of Thomas' famous North Carolina Legion in the East during the War for Southern Independence from 1861 to 1865. But why did the Cherokees and their brethren, the Creeks, Seminoles, Choctaws, and Chickasaws determine to make common cause with the Confederate South against the Northern Union? To know their reasons is very instructive as to the issues underlying that tragic war. Most Americans have been propagandized rather than educated in the causes of the war, all this to justify the perpetrators and victors. Considering the Cherokee view uncovers much truth buried by decades of politically correct propaganda and allows a broader and truer perspective.

 

 

On August 21, 1861, the Cherokee Nation by a General Convention at Tahlequah (in Oklahoma) declared its common cause with the Confederate States against the Northern Union. A treaty was concluded on October 7th between the Confederate States and the Cherokee Nation, and on October 9th, John Ross, the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation called into session the Cherokee National Committee and National Council to approve and implement that treaty and a future course of action.

 

The Cherokees had at first considerable consternation over the growing conflict and desired to remain neutral. They had much common economy and contact with their Confederate neighbors, but their treaties were with the government of the United States.

 

The Northern conduct of the war against their neighbors, strong repression of Northern political dissent, and the roughshod trampling of the U. S Constitution under the new regime and political powers in Washington soon changed their thinking.

 

The Cherokee were perhaps the best educated and literate of the American Indian Tribes. They were also among the most Christian. Learning and wisdom were highly esteemed. They revered the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution as particularly important guarantors of their rights and freedoms. It is not surprising then that on October 28, 1861, the National Council issued a Declaration by the People of the Cherokee Nation of the Causes Which Have Impelled them to Unite Their Fortunes With Those of the Confederate States of America.

 

The introductory words of this declaration strongly resembled the 1776 Declaration of Independence:

 

"When circumstances beyond their control compel one people to sever the ties which have long existed between them and another state or confederacy, and to contract new alliances and establish new relations for the security of their rights and liberties, it is fit that they should publicly declare the reasons by which their action is justified."

 

In the next paragraphs of their declaration the Cherokee Council noted their faithful adherence to their treaties with the United States in the past and how they had faithfully attempted neutrality until the present. But the seventh paragraph begins to delineate their alarm with Northern aggression and sympathy with the South:

 

"But Providence rules the destinies of nations, and events, by inexorable necessity, overrule human resolutions."

 

Comparing the relatively limited objectives and defensive nature of the Southern cause in contrast to the aggressive actions of the North they remarked of the Confederate States:

 

"Disclaiming any intention to invade the Northern States, they sought only to repel the invaders from their own soil and to secure the right of governing themselves. They claimed only the privilege asserted in the Declaration of American Independence, and on which the right of Northern States themselves to self-government is formed, and altering their form of government when it became no longer tolerable and establishing new forms for the security of their liberties."

 

The next paragraph noted the orderly and democratic process by which each of the Confederate States seceded. This was without violence or coercion and nowhere were liberties abridged or civilian courts and authorities made subordinate to the military. Also noted was the growing unity and success of the South against Northern aggression. The following or ninth paragraph contrasts this with ruthless and totalitarian trends in the North:

 

"But in the Northern States the Cherokee people saw with alarm a violated constitution, all civil liberty put in peril, and all rules of civilized warfare and the dictates of common humanity and decency unhesitatingly disregarded. In the states which still adhered to the Union a military despotism had displaced civilian power and the laws became silent with arms. Free speech and almost free thought became a crime. The right of habeas corpus, guaranteed by the constitution, disappeared at the nod of a Secretary of State or a general of the lowest grade. The mandate of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was at naught by the military power and this outrage on common right approved by a President sworn to support the constitution. War on the largest scale was waged, and the immense bodies of troops called into the field in the absence of any warranting it under the pretense of suppressing unlawful combination of men."

 

The tenth paragraph continues the indictment of the Northern political party in power and the conduct of the Union Armies:

 

"The humanities of war, which even barbarians respect, were no longer thought worthy to be observed. Foreign mercenaries and the scum of the cities and the inmates of prisons were enlisted and organized into brigades and sent into Southern States to aid in subjugating a people struggling for freedom, to burn, to plunder, and to commit the basest of outrages on the women; while the heels of armed tyranny trod upon the necks of Maryland and Missouri, and men of the highest character and position were incarcerated upon suspicion without process of law, in jails, forts, and prison ships, and even women were imprisoned by the arbitrary order of a President and Cabinet Ministers; while the press ceased to be free, and the publication of newspapers was suspended and their issues seized and destroyed; the officers and men taken prisoners in the battles were allowed to remain in captivity by the refusal of the Government to consent to an exchange of prisoners; as they had left their dead on more than one field of battle that had witnessed their defeat, to be buried and their wounded to be cared for by southern hands."

 

The eleventh paragraph of the Cherokee declaration is a fairly concise summary of their grievances against the political powers now presiding over a new U. S. Government:

 

"Whatever causes the Cherokee people may have had in the past to complain of some of the southern states, they cannot but feel that their interests and destiny are inseparably connected to those of the south. The war now waging is a war of Northern cupidity and fanaticism against the institution of African servitude; against the commercial freedom of the south, and against the political freedom of the states, and its objects are to annihilate the sovereignty of those states and utterly change the nature of the general government."

 

The Cherokees felt they had been faithful and loyal to their treaties with the United States, but now perceived that the relationship was not reciprocal and that their very existence as a people was threatened. They had also witnessed the recent exploitation of the properties and rights of Indian tribes in Kansas, Nebraska, and Oregon, and feared that they, too, might soon become victims of Northern rapacity. Therefore, they were compelled to abrogate those treaties in defense of their people, lands, and rights. They felt the Union had already made war on them by their actions.

 

Finally, appealing to their inalienable right to self-defense and self-determination as a free people, they concluded their declaration with the following words:

 

"Obeying the dictates of prudence and providing for the general safety and welfare, confident of the rectitude of their intentions and true to their obligations to duty and honor, they accept the issue thus forced upon them, unite their fortunes now and forever with the Confederate States, and take up arms for the common cause, and with entire confidence of the justice of that cause and with a firm reliance upon Divine Providence, will resolutely abide the consequences.

 

The Cherokees were true to their words. The last shot fired in the war east of the Mississippi was May 6, 1865. This was in an engagement at White Sulphur Springs, near Waynesville, North Carolina, of part of Thomas' Legion against Kirk's infamous Union raiders that had wreaked a murderous terrorism and destruction on the civilian population of Western North Carolina. Col. William H. Thomas' Legion was originally predominantly Cherokee, but had also accrued a large number of North Carolina mountain men.      On June 23, 1865, in what was the last land battle of the war, Confederate Brigadier General and Cherokee Chief, Stand Watie, finally surrendered his predominantly Cherokee, Oklahoma Indian force to the Union.

 

cherokee-braves-flag-mediumThe issues as the Cherokees saw them were 1) self-defense against Northern aggression, both for themselves and their fellow Confederates, 2) the right of self-determination by a free people, 3) protection of their heritage, 4) preservation of their political rights under a constitutional government of law 5) a strong desire to retain the principles of limited government and decentralized power guaranteed by the Constitution, 6) protection of their economic rights and welfare, 7) dismay at the despotism of the party and leaders now in command of the U. S. Government, 8) dismay at the ruthless disregard of commonly accepted rules of warfare by the Union, especially their treatment of civilians and non-combatants, 9) a fear of economic exploitation by corrupt politicians and their supporters based on observed past experience, and 10) alarm at the self-righteous and extreme, punitive, and vengeful pronouncements on the slavery issue voiced by the radical abolitionists and supported by many Northern politicians, journalists, social, and religious (mostly Unitarian) leaders. It should be noted here that some of the Cherokees owned slaves, but the practice was not extensive.

 

The Cherokee Declaration of October 1861 uncovers a far more complex set of "Civil War" issues than most Americans have been taught. Rediscovered truth is not always welcome. Indeed some of the issues here are so distressing that the general academic, media, and public reaction is to rebury them or shout them down as politically incorrect.

 

The notion that slavery was the only real or even principal cause of the war is very politically correct and widely held, but historically ignorant. It has served, however, as a convenient ex post facto justification for the war and its conduct. Slavery was an issue, and it was related to many other issues, but it was by no means the only issue, or even the most important underlying issue. It was not even an issue in the way most people think of it. Only about 25% of Southern households owned slaves. For most people, North and South, the slavery issue was not so much whether to keep it or not, but how to phase it out without causing economic and social disruption and disaster. Unfortunately the Southern and Cherokee fear of the radical abolitionists turned out to be well founded.

 

After the Reconstruction Act was passed in 1867 the radical abolitionists and radical Republicans were able to issue in a shameful era of politically punitive and economically exploitive oppression in the South, the results of which lasted many years, and even today are not yet completely erased.

 

The Cherokee were and are a remarkable people who have impacted the American heritage far beyond their numbers. We can be especially grateful that they made a well thought out and articulate declaration for supporting and joining the Confederate cause in 1861.

 

 

PRINCIPAL REFERENCES:

 

Emmett Starr, History of the Cherokee Indians, published by the Warden Company, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1921. Reprinted by Kraus Reprint Company, Millwood, New York, 1977.

 

Hattie Caldwell Davis, Civil War Letters and Memories from the Great Smoky Mountains, Second Edition published by the author, Maggie Valley, NC, 1999.

 

 

 

Yankee Atrocities

During and After the Rebellion

By Ralph Epifanio

ralphoto@att.net

 

It has been said that war changes a man. In The War Between the States, was it the other way around?

 

Throughout history, war was fought primarily between armies of men. In some cases, of course, civilians have been caught between opposing forces, and became incidental, or accidental victims. Thus, civilian casualties are usually viewed as the exception, rather than the rule, of planned warfare.

 

This is not to suggest that pillage, plunder, rape, and murder did not follow invading armies. Criminal acts notwithstanding--and any army has the potential of including both a criminal and mentally ill component--men angered by bloodletting, and far from the civilizing effect of family, friends, and legal restraint of suspended civil law, have certainly been known to devolve toward primal instinct. In fact, the economic foundation of western (and eastern) civilization has long been supported by the "spoils of war." Consider, for example, ancient Greece and Rome, where slavery was the fate of those enemy peoples widowed or orphaned by war; or captives sold to trans-Atlantic slavers by African tribes.

 

During the latter stages of the Southern Rebellion of 1861-5, however, what had, historically, been a secondary action, seems to have become a primary objective. With Confederate manpower dwindling in number, and the areas under their protection shrinking in size, much of what was left for the still formidable Union force to conquer was civilian in nature: women, children, old men, and their personal property. Members of the Union Army, occupying land deep in enemy territory, no doubt frustrated by a string of defeats at the hands of "Bobby Lee" and his contemporaries, and subject to fear associated with being surrounded by Southern sympathizers, no doubt sought ways of subduing those remnants of Confederate culture; its civilians.

 

Of course, this strategy had a name. Somewhat sanitized, we call it "total" or "hard war." The theory went something like this: take away the enemy's support, and the war will end quicker. But unlike targeting only military objectives, this form of retribution was  broadened to include transportation (horses, mules, railroads, etc.), medical supplies, and sources of food (not to mention the "spirit" of the Southern people). Later still, it became truly personal: crops, livestock, family stocks of food, personal possessions, women's clothing, pianos, grandfather clocks, silverware, jewelry, civilian homes, slave quarters, hospitals, places of worship, and libraries.  One has to wonder if any of the Union officers (and gentlemen?) paused long enough to evaluate the humanity of taking or destroying a family's last meal, or, with winter close by, torching their home.

 

"Foraging," or "living off the land," was no excuse for what amounted to stealing what was not theirs to take. The same thing was true of occupying "abandoned" land. War is a time of great migration, as people flee--or risk being casualties--of warfare. Pre-meditated at best, these acts of a crime against humanity were so well-planned as to be preceded by the supply of "forage caps," and the passing of a measure called "The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Land" to allow Blacks to occupy legally owned land without due process. It is small wonder that the South sought post-war retribution against a second Northern invasion during Reconstruction.

 

The widespread practice of the aforementioned secondary military objectives ran rampant during the Union conquest of the South. While evidence exists that men such as Col. Fielding Hurst (Jackson, Tenn, 1864), Gen. Frank P. Blair, under orders by Sherman (Yazoo Valley, Miss., Spring of 1863), Maj. General David Hunter (Shenandoah Valley, Spring of 1864), and Gen. Eleazer Paine, "The Hanging General" (Fayetteville, Tenn.) caused their share of mayhem, they were minor league players in the Union destruction of the South.

 

Three men--William Tecumseh Sherman, Phillip Sheridan, and their commanding officer, Ulysses S. Grant--by accident or design, created a situation that turned a war between nations into a war against civilians.

 

 Starting with Sherman, we see a pattern of behavior that approximates that of the worst conquerors in history, keeping in mind that these actions were purportedly performed in order to "preserve the Union," and facilitated against former (and future) American citizens. Sherman is quoted as saying that "War is Hell," but whether it was meant to describe his version of conquest, or his own mental state, is up to debate. (He is also credited with saying "War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it; the crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.")

 

·        Jackson Miss., July 17-19, 1863: According to a Northern journalist, "They left the entire business district in ruins, burned most of the better residences, dragged furniture into the street to be demolished and looted homes, churches and the state library. A correspondent for the Chicago Times reported that the only fine residences left standing were those occupied by some of the general officers; and in summing up his impression of the sack of the town, he stated that 'such complete ruin and devastation never followed the footsteps of any army before.'"

 

·        Meridian, Miss. (Feb. 14-19, 1864): According to Sherman, "For 5 days 10,000 men worked hard and with a will in that work of destruction, with axes, crowbars, and with fire, and I have no hesitation in pronouncing the work as well done. Meridian and its depots,  store-houses, arsenal, hospitals, offices, hotels and cantonments no longer exists."

 

·        Roswell, Georgia (June, 1864): Here, the Union army burned the cotton mills. Sherman ordered Gen. Garrard to arrest the mill owners, charge them with treason, and have them hung. (Garrard, who had a conscience, resisted.) Now under Union control, Sherman turned his attention to the approximately 500 women and children who worked in the mills. To Garrard, he wrote "I repeat my orders that you arrest all the people, male and female, connected with those factories, no matter what the clamor, and let them foot it, under guard, to Marietta, whence I will send them by (railroad) cars to the North...the poor women will make a howl. Let them take along their children and clothing, providing they have the means of hauling or you can spare them." (Official Records, series 1, vol. 38 and 39, pages 76-77)

The men and women, formerly employees of the Sweetwater and New Manchester Mills which were previously torched, were loaded onto trains and sent North."Reaching the rail terminus in Louisville, the men quartered in the city’s military prison, while the women and children received housing in a newly opened hospital, where members of the Louisville Refugee Commission provided care. The citizens of Louisville, ill-equipped to handle the influx of the refugees, wanted the people sent elsewhere. Sherman intervened and issued orders to '…have them sent across the Ohio River and turned loose to earn a living where they won’t do us any harm.' Over time, the mill workers ferried to the opposite bank of the river, and many took residence in various Indiana locales. Several of the Sweetwater families settled down in Perry County, where some eventually found employment in the Cannelton Cotton Mill after the war. Years later, roughly half of the New Manchester refugees made their way back to Georgia, but returned to a town forever lost to history."

 

·        Siege of Atlanta, Georgia (August-Sept., 1864): After the Union rained artillery shells down on the city for weeks, John Bell Hood retreated in order to save what was left of his army. The effects on this bombardment on the city's civilian population was horrifying, and would today be considered a crime against humanity. While there no accurate count of non-military casualties, one local surgeon performed 107 amputations on its civilians. By contrast, the U.S. Military's October 3, 2015 missile strike of the Kunduz, Afghanistan Trauma Center, resulting in the death of 42 civilians, brought worldwide condemnation. Imagine the backlash if Sherman's tactics, which resulted in far more fatalities, had occurred today?

 

·        "March to the Sea": After leaving Atlanta in flames, his army swarmed (as opposed to marched) toward the coast, destroying anything and everything in its path. Beyond its obvious effect on human life and property, what possible military gain did it achieve? To answer that, we can look back to a July 31, 1862 letter to his wife Ellen, when Sherman wrote "The North may fall into Bankruptcy and anarchy first, but if they can hold on the war will soon assume a turn to Extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the People." His wife's response was supportive.

 

·        South Carolina: A huge swath of that state--especially Columbia--became a meaningless exercise in wanton destruction. It was genocide, pure and simple. "On the day the army entered the city (Columbia),  robbery of civilian homes was rampant and was indulged by both officers and enlisted men. Churches were pillaged, women's jewelry was roughly taken from their bodies and arson was rampant."

“Grant stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk, and now we stand by each other.”    - William Tecumseh Sherman

 
 

 

 

 

 


Next, we have General Phil Sheridan, who in briefest terms possible, burned his way through the Shenandoah Valley in the fall of 1864. Acting on Grant's orders to "eat out Virginia clean and clear as far as they go, so that crows flying over it for the balance of the season will have to carry their own provender with them,"

 

"The Union retrograde march began on October 6, accompanied by a pall of flames and smoke. For three days, Federal cavalrymen torched farms, houses, crops, and mills. The destruction was systematic and organized, unlike anything before in the war. A Pennsylvanian wrote, 'the blackened face of the country from Port Republic to the neighborhood of Fisher's Hill bore frightful testimony to fire and sword.' Another Yankee exclaimed, 'The Valley is all ablaze in our rear.' The local residents called it simply, "The Burning." By one estimate the damages exceeded three million dollars."

 

With winter fast approaching, he did as much as he could to create a "starving time" for its residents. A proud Phil is quoted as reporting: “I have destroyed over 2000 barns, filled with wheat, hay, and farming implements,” along with “over 70 mills, filled with flour and wheat.”  This was a prelude to what he (again acting under orders from Commanding Officer of the United States Army Sherman and President Grant) did to the American Indian in the decades to follow.

 

And lastly we have their commanding officer, Gen. Grant. Like Lincoln, it is difficult to prove just how much he approved of his staff's "indiscretions," but if we look back to his many business failures, and ahead to a presidential administration rife with intrigue and corruption, the man deserves sympathy rather than suspicion.

 

To be fair, we should take Sherman's assessment of the methods that made Lt. General Grant so successful. Sherman wrote this in 1885, the year his friend and commanding officer died.

 

"It will be a thousand years before Grant's character is fully appreciated. Grant is the greatest soldier of our time if not all time... he fixes in his mind what is the true objective and abandons all minor ones. He dismisses all possibility of defeat. He believes in himself and in victory. If his plans go wrong he is never disconcerted but promptly devises a new one and is sure to win in the end. Grant more nearly impersonated the American character of 1861-65 than any other living man. Therefore he will stand as the typical hero of the great Civil War in America."

 

On the other hand, what modern war tribunal would not view this widespread persecution of a people and obscene destruction of their food sources, homes, and personal property without labeling it a war crime, condemning the general in charge?

 

 

In either case, the failure of Grant and Lincoln to protect Southern civilians is a black mark on both their wartime records. Lincoln, at least, should have been alerted to his General's single-mindedness towards an eventual victory by his wife's warning that "Grant is a butcher and not fit at the head of an army....He loses two men to the enemy's one. He has no management, no regard for life." Mary, of course, was referring to Grant's own men, but the comment can be extended to civilian deaths as well.

 

During the war, Grant's armies incurred an estimated 154,000 casualties; in just the Overland Campaign alone (May 4 to June 24, 1864) the result of his leadership amounted to 54,926 casualties: 7,621 dead; 38,339 wounded; 8966 captured and missing.

 

An equally infamous chapter in Grant's career was the result of his "General Order 11":

 

"In November 1862, convinced that the black market in cotton was organized 'mostly by Jews and other unprincipled traders,' Grant ordered that 'no Jews are to be permitted to travel on the railroad southward [into the Department of the Tennessee] from any point,' nor were they to be granted trade licenses. When illegal trading continued, Grant issued Order No. 11 on December 17, 1862."

 

 Grant: "The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the department [the 'Department of the Tennessee,' an administrative district of the Union Army of occupation composed of Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi] within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.

 

"Post commanders will see to it that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners, unless furnished with permit from headquarters. No passes will be given these people to visit headquarters for the purpose of making personal application of trade permits."

 

A Jewish delegation to Washington appealed to Lincoln, which roughly coincided with the president's announcement of his Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863). On January 3rd, Lincoln ordered Grant's repeal of said order. Grant did so three days later. Ironically, not only did the "Jewish vote" help elect Grant president in 1868, but he further "apologized" by appointing Jews to office under his administration.

 

Most, if not all of these men's wartime actions were in direct conflict with President Lincoln's own General Order #100 (1863); the Lieber Code. Like today's Geneva Accord, it clearly outlined the protection of civilians in an occupied South. In part, it reads:

 

"Three articles under Section II declared that soldiers would “acknowledge and protect, in hostile countries occupied by them, religion and morality; strictly private property; the persons of the inhabitants, especially those of women” (Article 37); that “all robbery, all pillage or sacking, even after taking a place by main force, all rape, wounding, maiming, or killing of such inhabitants, are prohibited under the penalty of death” (Article 44); and that “crimes punishable by all penal codes, such as … rape, if committed by an American soldier in a hostile country against its inhabitants, are not only punishable as at home, but in all cases in which death is not inflicted the severer punishment shall be preferred” (Article 47)."

 

In many cases the Lieber Code was enforced, but in a broader sense it was ignored.

 

Author Crystal Feimster, in her Opinionator article (April 25, 2013), wrote: "The Lieber Code....set clear rules for engaging with enemy combatants. But the code also clarified how Union soldiers should treat civilians, and in particular women. Largely forgotten today, the Lieber Code established strict laws regarding an issue that was everywhere and nowhere in the consciousness of the Civil War: wartime rape."

 

Here Feimster expands on the intent of the Lieber Code, and why it was important.

 

"Together the articles conceived and defined rape in women-specific terms as a crime against property, as a crime of troop discipline, and as a crime against family honor. Most significantly, the articles codified the precepts of modern war on the protection of women against rape that set the stage for a century of humanitarian and international law.

 

"Such explicit prohibition was necessary, because even after the code was in place, sexual violence was common to the wartime experience of Southern women, white and black. Whether they lived on large plantations or small farms, in towns, cities or in contraband camps, white and black women all over the American South experienced the sexual trauma of war.

 

"Union military courts prosecuted at least 450 cases involving sexual crimes. Even after the code was in place, sexual violence was common to the wartime experience of Southern women, white and black."

 

One wonders, how many sexual assaults went unreported? (Current statistics reveal that one in ten is reported.) Historical evidence suggests that the Union Command did not hesitate to try and harshly sentence those who were proven to be rapists. However, the victim had to appear before an all-male military court, no doubt a humiliating experience for any woman, let alone one living with 19th century virtues.

 

All sources seem to agree that for every white woman raped, many more Negro women were assaulted. Keep in mind that, under Southern law, these Black women had no civil rights, and it is doubtful that all of those abused by Union soldiers had the courage and confidence to pursue legal protection--if they even knew they could.

 

As previously stated, rape was considered a serious crime, and addressed accordingly. Feimster gives specific trial cases, including stated testimony, as evidence that these acts occurred. And, while Union soldiers raped both white and black women, "Black women were in even more danger....Many times, troops and ruffians raped black women while forcing white women to watch, a horrifying experience for all, and a proxy rape of white women."

 

And what of the Confederates? The historical record shows a hugely disproportionate number between prosecutions of Union soldiers, and those against Confederates.  As explained in the following excerpts, published in the book Sexual Violence in Conflict,  Confederate officers were shown to keep a tighter rein on their men.

 

"Until recently, the American Civil War has been considered an anomaly to this pattern of sexual violence in conflict zones. Our research, however, demonstrates that nearly four hundred soldiers were prosecuted for crimes of sexual violence in U.S. Army courts-martial and military commissions. A handful of these assaults took place in the North; the majority were perpetrated on Southern women by soldiers of the invading Union Army." (page 202)

 

"What accounts for this paucity of evidence for sexual violence committed by Confederate soldiers? One explanation may be that the Confederate military command implemented preventative measures that limited the interactions between soldiers and civilians and thus reduced the possibility of depredations of any kind by Confederate soldiers on the civilian population. Indeed, Confederate records contain many general orders aimed at controlling the behavior of Confederate troops. For example...General Magruder noted that 'depredations committed on private property by troops of this command as so base and cowardly...as to throw discredit on all officers, non-commissioned officers and men who compose it'. In response, Magruder ordered  the placement of 'sentinels over the houses, premises, and fields of all citizens in the vicinity of their camps, and to send out patrols to take up all offenders (to) be punished...by their commanding officers in a most severe and summary manner.'" In addition, for example, Brig. General John Floyd instructed that his regimental commanders 'see that men stay in camp, and not be prowling about all over the country.'" It was, in other words,  drill, drill, drill; and not forage, pillage, and prowl. (page 213)

 

One tries to fathom why the--for the most part--well-armed, well-clothed, well-fed Union Army would be so much more liable to abandon self-control and military discipline in order to commit criminal acts against their Southern cousins, while the ill-equipped, half-naked, half-starved Confederates--though arguably led by better officers--seemed to show exemplary self-control when they were on "enemy soil" (Maryland and Pennsylvania) as the record seems to indicate.

 

Benjamin Butler, in his 1892 autobiography, suggests plausible reasons. Volunteering for a recruiting trip to New England in 1861,

 

"I found the war was dwindling into a partisan one. The governors of the States insisted upon having all the troops under their own administration and control. They thus obtained the appointment of all the officers of regiments, including the colonels. The governors of substantially all the States were Republicans, and the army was being recruited almost entirely by the friends and protégés of the Republican governors. These men enlisted their Republican neighbors and associates, and then, to eke out their companies so that they could be put at the head of them, they recruited all the scalawags there were in the neighborhood, and not unfrequently robbed the house of correction and the State prisons, the governors pardoning the prisoners on the condition that they should enlist."

 

Even if what Butler wrote was true, it would only explain part of the cause. Then there is the fact that the Union Army was comprised of 2,000,000 men, fighting a four year war in hostile territory. It might have been a 19th century form of "traumatic stress."

 

What follows is a sampling of dependable eyewitness accounts recorded in 19th century journals and diaries. Drawn, literally, from dozens of books, one thread runs through them all. Whether witnessing the war through the eyes of a Union or a Confederate soldier, the atrocities mentioned are disproportionately Union-generated. In tens of thousands of pages of first-hand, primary source material (journals and diaries),  Confederate-caused incidents are noticeably under represented. These readings were pretty evenly split between Union and Confederate authors, and the one thing that stands out as being mentioned by Confederate authors was the effort put forth by their officers to pay for supplies and  protect civilian lives and property when on Union soil.

 

A case in point would be this, from Mary Chestnut's A Diary from Dixie: "Confederate soldiers had committed some outrages on the plantations and officers had punished them promptly." (March 7th, 1862 entry)

 

I decided not to include case studies of such desperadoes as the Reno brothers, Quantrill's Raiders, Bloody Bill Anderson, Jesse and Frank James, and the like. Not only did this group of sociopaths wage guerilla warfare far from the mainstream Confederate command structure, but they seem to have had personal, non-military motives--as did their counterparts acting as Union sympathizers. Further reading on these cases can be found by Googling 10 War Crimes of the Civil War (http://listverse.com/2013/03/17/10-war-crimes-of-the-us-civil-war/). This website is NOT one I would recommend for academic purposes. I would also suggest steering clear of any that begin with "Confederate."

One must take note of exceptions to Confederate courtesy, such as Jubal Early's tit-for-tat response to Hunter's sack of the Shenandoah; his successful ransoming of Frederick, Maryland, and unsuccessful extortion, and subsequent burning of  Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. A similar event took place in St. Albans, Vermont, which resulted in the robbery of three banks, a minor (shed) fire, and  a train chase into Canada. In the latter case, however, it is unclear whether these men were innovative Confederate soldiers, or simple bank robbers.

 

Although the historical record includes countless more examples of Yankee atrocities, suffice it to say that the following sampling should be enough to illustrate why Southerners called the boys in blue "Yankee Devils" and "them Thievin' Yankees."

 

While reading the following, keep this in mind: as bad as wartime atrocities were, those of Reconstruction were worse. That story, however, will have to wait for another day.

 

 

Women of the South in War Times

The War Time Experiences of Elizabeth Waring Duckett (including notes)

 

 

The sufferings of the Northern prisoners in the South were terrible; for the Confederate Commissary department broke down in furnishing supplies for Confederate soldiers, who were often barefooted and generally half clad; but it should always be remembered that Commissioner Ould and Confederate authorities offered in desperation, to let the Federal surgeons provide food and medicines for the Northern prisoners. They even offered to buy medicines, declared contraband of war by the Federal Government, with cotton and gold. Finally, they offered to send thousands of their prisoners North without requiring any equivalent, if the Federal authorities would provide transportation. Transportation was at last sent, after many months, but too late to prevent the great mortality of the summer of 1864. (pages 61-2)

 

From the Diary of Mrs. Judith Brockenbrough McGuire - 1862-1863

February 11, 1863: "Oh, how cruel it is that the Northern Government should have made medicines and the necessaries of life to the sick and wounded, contraband articles." (pages 175-6)

 

"This lovely spot had been her home from her marriage, and the native place of her many children, and when I remember it as I saw it two years ago, I feel that it is too hard for her to be thus deprived of it. An officer (Federal) quartered there last winter, describing it in a letter to the New York Herald, says the furniture had been 'removed,' except a large old-fashioned sideboard; he had been indulging his curiosity by reading many private letters which he found scattered about the house; some of which, he says, were written by General Washington, with whom the family seems to have been connected."(page 178)

Notes: "This reference to the Washington letters recalls the fact that thousands of historic documents, letters, and manuscripts were destroyed during the war. Other thousands were carried North.

 

"A few of these documents have been returned. The most noted case was the return by J.P. Morgan, Jr., of Martha Washington's will. This was about to be destroyed at Fairfax Courthouse by Blenker's troopers, but was saved by a Federal officer." (pages 179)

 

July 3, 1863: "Our troops seem to be walking over Pennsylvania without let or hindrance. They have taken possession of Chambersburg, Carlisle, and other smaller towns. They surrendered without firing a gun. I am glad to see General Lee orders his soldiers to respect private property; but it will be difficult to make an incensed soldiery, whose houses have in many instances been burned, crops wantonly destroyed, horses stolen, negroes persuaded off, hogs and sheep shot down and left in the field in warm weather--it will be difficult to make such sufferers remember the Christian precept of returning good for evil." (page 187-8)

 

In the Carolinas

"As in the case of thousands of other private houses, the Murchison mansion was thoroughly ransacked; but many of the family valuables had been hidden so successfully that some of the soldiers became enraged at not securing greater booty; in spite of protests, they burst into the room of a young girl who was in the last stages of typhoid fever. The child was taken from the bed in which she lay and died while the bed and room were searched for money and jewelry. An officer, whose name indicated foreign birth or extraction, was appealed to; by answer to the Goodridge ladies was:

'Go ahead boys, do all the mischief you can.'

 

"Although over seventy years old, Mr. Murchison, a kinsman of Sir Robert Murchison, was threatened with death; but Miss Phoebe Goodridge fell on her knees and begged for his life. Consequently, the soldiers refrained from carrying out their threat, but dragged Mr. Murchison, half-clad, into the nearby swamps, where he was compelled to stay until the raiders had gone away. The troopers slashed the family portraits with their swords, broke up much of the furniture, and poured molasses into the piano. Everything in the nature of food was destroyed. Cattle and poultry were driven off or shot. All granaries of corn and wheat were torn open and carried off or ruined. Consequently, the members of the family were, like many of the women of South Carolina, compelled to live on scattered grains left by cavalry horses, which they washed and made over into what they called 'big hominy.'

 

"In that carnival of destruction, it should be noted that not one act of vandalism was recorded against the happy record of over five hundred negroes of this and adjoining estates, although they were given every incentive to rise up and pillage and possess the property of the helpless women. The Murchison plantation was twelve mile from the town of Fayetteville.

 

"In connection with the story of this cavalry raid, it may be added that Mrs. Monroe, a woman of Scotch blood and a dependent of the Muchison family, was given a very valuable watch for safe-keeping. In some manner, the raiders heard of it. They visited Mrs. Monroe and although they choked her into insensibility, they failed to get the watch. After the raid, the faithful woman returned the watch to Miss Goodridge, triumphantly exclaiming: 'They nae got it! They nae got it!'"(pages 227-9)

Note: "There is an interesting anecdote of a Miss Tillinghast of the town of Fayetteville. Miss Tillinghast, like the Goodridges, was of New England parentage. While her house was being ransacked, she stood on the steps and, with true Puritan fervor, read, for the benefit of her unwelcome visitors, the 109th Psalm, wherein the Psalmist commands the thought that the days of the unmerciful 'be few' and that their names 'be blotted out.'"

The Burning of Columbia (told by Madame S. Sosnowski, a lady of Poland and a noted teacher at Barhamville College)

 

"During Saturday and Sunday...we were continually molested. Drunken and infuriated soldiers, some with saber in hand, endeavored to open the side doors. Another hour brought a party of soldiers who were inclined to harangue us on political questions. One among them...endeavored to demonstrate that this country was destined for the white man, and that the Indian, as well as the negro, had to be exterminated.

 

"We were soon contending with a half-drunken set of men at the main entrance of the building (while another party tried to set fire to the rear of the house)....These marauders threatened to kill the cook should we not tell them where our valuables or provisions were hidden. Others went into the house of the poor negro women, cut and tore their bundles, and even cut their clothes wantonly to pieces; and thus, unfortunately, our box with silver, containing many old family relics, fell into the hands of the vandals.' (pages 268-9)

 

"The headquarters of General Wood being at the old family residence of Mrs. Lucy Pride Green, we had only a few steps to reach it. We found the general surrounded by a motley crew....Although in manner the general was much of a gentleman, I was sorry to learn afterward that he stripped the old mansion of its paintings and many other valuables." (page 273)

 

(Author's note: As a result of noticing a Mason's breastpin on an officer passing by that evening,  Mrs. Sosnowski briefly obtained a modicum of protection. Stating her position as a Mason's widow, that officer arranged a one-night's guard, which, much to her chagrin, left after the next morning's reveille. With the army of Sherman still a threat, she and the other women staying with her fled the area.)

 

War Times in New Orleans (from Miss LeGrand's Journal)

"We hear constantly of negroes who are brought away unwillingly from their home comforts and their masters--and not infrequently are these poor people robbed of all they have by their pretended saviors. Mrs. Wilkinson's old man was robbed on his plantation of his watch and money, and another of four hundred dollars which he had hoarded up for a long time." (page 371)

 

Further Excerpts from the Diary of Mrs. McGuire

March 10, 1864 -"There has been much excitement in Richmond about Kilpatrick's and Dahlgren's raids....As usual, they did all the injury they could to country-people, by pillaging and burning. They steal everything they can; but the people have become very adroit in hiding." (page 376)

 

 Note: Mrs. McGuire had, in her diary, a copy of General Robert E. Lee's General Order No. 73, which was given out at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania on June 27th, 1863, and--in part--said the following:

 

"The Commanding General has observed with marked satisfaction the conduct of the troops on the march, and confidently anticipates results commensurate with the high spirit they have manifested. No troops could have better performed the arduous marches of the past ten days. Their conduct in other respects has, with few exceptions, been in keeping with their character as soldiers, and entitled them to approbation and praise.

 

"There have, however, been instances of forgetfulness on the part of some that they have in keeping the yet unsullied reputation of the army and that the duties exacted of us by civilization and Christianity are not less obligatory in the country of the enemy than in our own....It must be remembered that we make war only on armed men, and that we cannot take vengeance for the wrongs our people have suffered without lowering ourselves in the eyes of all whose abhorrence has been excited by the atrocities of the enemy, and offending against Him to whom vengeance belongeth, without whose favor and support our efforts must all prove in vain.

 

"The Commanding General therefore earnestly exhorts the troops to abstain with scrupulous care, from unnecessary or wanton injury to private property, and he enjoins upon all officers to arrest and bring to summary punishment all who shall in any way offend against the orders of this subject."

                                                                                                            --Robert E. Lee

 

 

The Civil War Journal of Jedediah Hotchkiss

 

1862

"Tuesday, April 22nd. (Rosecran's) soldiers visiting houses, searching through everything, marauding over the country and insulting people. Most of the troops there are Dutch (Germans) and they are more brutal than any others...." (page 31)

 

"Tuesday, May 6th. We heard that Banks had left Harrison and retreated down the Valley after plundering the people." (page 37)

 

"Saturday, June 14th. We...saw the miserable Dutch of Fremont's army that he had left, wounded, behind him. The enemy did a great deal of damage; plundered the houses of the people near the battle field and burned up one house in which it is supposed he had put his dead....Our men behaved very gallantly according to the accounts of the people near the action." (page 56)

 

"Friday, August 8th. Saw a huge pile of wheat in the river which the enemy had emptied out of the mill....Our scouts captured Yankees in every direction; caught one with a horse load of chickens which he had stolen....Mr. Garnett told us much about the atrocity of Pope's army and the suffering of the people from the enforcement of his order to 'subsist his army on the country.' Many fine places have been nearly destroyed by the enemy." (page 66)

 

"Monday, August 25th. The enemy burnt the buildings at Lee's Springs." (page 72)

 

"Thursday, August 28th. ...found Brown there and went foraging, bought honey, etc...spent the night at Bell's...and heard much of the atrocity of Pope's men, especially Sigel and his crew." (page 73)

 

"Monday, Sept. 1st. (In Maryland during the Antietam campaign.) The soldiers were very bad, stealing everything eatable they could lay their hands on, after trying to buy it. They were nearly famished, our wagons being far behind. They were also very thirsty, water being very scarce." (page 77)

 

"Friday, Sept. 5th. The General and his staff were treated to a noble melon on Maryland shore. We went by a lock in the canal and there intercepted a boat load of melons on the way to the Washington market, which our men bought....The General (Jackson) ordered a field of corn to be purchased and the roasting ears to be given to the men and the husks and stalks to the horses; he also bought rails and ordered the men to have one day's rations of roasting ears cooked and in the haversacks by dawn tomorrow." (page 79)

 

"Saturday, Sept. 6th.  I heard one of the soldiers say, as we passed by, 'I wonder if the General has roasting ears in his haversack too?' We soon stopped for dinner when the General took a large roasting ear out of his haversack and deliberately gnawed off the corn, and the whole army, stretched for miles along the road, followed suit." (page 79)

 

"Wednesday, Sept. 10th. I find 'Union' sentiment stronger as we go northwest, though all are astonished at the number, discipline, and good conduct of our troops." (page 80)

 

"Wednesday, Oct. 1st. (Near Lebanon church) where Fremont and his crew came into  the Valley, last June....The people relate many outrages committed by Fremont's men." (page 86)

 

"Thursday, Nov. 6th. I took dinner at Col. Slaughter's, where our cavalry was after the Cedar Run fight. The Yankees came there after the fight and searched the house and carried off some things." (page 92)

 

(Author's note: Throughout his narration, but especially in this section, Hotchkiss, an Army engineer and Stonewall Jackson's mapmaker, records exactly how much he pays for everything, from a button, to a horse. He takes great pains to purchase/pay off everything as soon as he receives his salary (sometimes a long time in coming). While this attention to honesty may be a personal attribute, it is my impression that it was equal parts a "Southern" tradition of honesty, and the impression made by their command structure, especially Robert E. Lee.)

 

1863

"Monday, Jan. 19th. We went to Fredericksburg and saw the great destruction made by the enemy and some of our troops during the fighting thro. its streets, and especially by the sacking of the town by the enemy; hardly a house escaped getting a shot through it, and the sacking was general. We saw safes, everywhere, broken into and windows smashed, etc." (page 109)

 

"Tuesday, June 23rd. We started from our camp, three miles west of Boonsboro, at an early hour, and went on through Hagerstown, stopping to make some purchases." (page 154)

 

"Friday, June 26th. We marched, at an early hour and came to one mile east of Shippensburg. The people looked sullen. Our cavalry is scouring the country for horses &c. The people are fearful of retribution from us, but some were disposed to joke and spoke of our being in the Union now....We occupied the houses of some Union people for the night, but no damage was done to anything....Our men behaved admirably."(page 155)

 

"Monday, September 7th. We took dinner at Mrs. Major's and she told us of the plunderings of the Yankees and how she had once saved a box of valuables from them by sitting on it about the time of the battle." (page 175)

 

"Tuesday, October 20th. In the [evening] Lieut. J.P. Smith and myself rode over with General Ewell to look at Mrs. Taylor's house for headquarters. We found it much injured and the fine furniture destroyed by the Yankees." (page 179)

 

"Wednesday, Dec. 2nd. They (the Yankees) had begun to move yesterday and were going all night. They committed all manner of depredations and brutalities on the people they passed by." (page 187)

 

"Sunday, August 28th. We spent the day in camp at Bunker Hill....The enemy occupied Smithfield, burning the houses there." (page 225)

 

"Tuesday, October 5th. Rosser's cavalry encamped near Staunton; came upon Lynchburg and Richmond. The enemy burned barns, &c., at night." (page 234)

 

 "Thursday, October 6th. Lomax went to Peale's Cross-Roads, Rosser to near Timberville. The enemy did a vast amount of damage in Rockingham. A good many Dunkers left the county and went with the Yankees. They burned some of the houses they deserted."

 

Author's note: The Dunkers (Church of God) were Schwarzenau Brethren, or the Fraternity of German Baptists, as they "dunked" or baptized their members. It is stated in many sources that they were Union sympathizers, but despite admitting to that and leaving their southern homes to follow the Union Army, their homes, nonetheless, were burned by the Union Army.

 

A Brotherhood of Valor

 The Second Wisconsin: "Corporal Horace Emerson of the Second admitted that 'this Regt is composed of the tough cusses of Wis,' who 'don't fear nothing,' and 'steal every thing they can bring away.'  The other regiments, said Emerson, called them 'Devels'."(page 59)

 

“During the initial weeks of December (1861), McClellan’s Army of the Potomac prepared for the advent of winter. On Arlington Heights, King’s troops built log huts with brick fireplaces. Some of the bolder men sneaked into the countryside, confiscating furniture and mirrors from civilian residences for the huts.” (Pages 73-74)

 

“The Federals occupied the Centreville-Manassas area for a week. Parties of the soldiers roamed the countryside, foraging for chickens, pigs, and other foodstuffs, despite having ‘plenty to eat’, and whiskey rations in the camp. While officers attempted to stop the foraging, most volunteer soldiers refused to accept the Regular Army’s strictures against the practice. They came to resent Southern civilians and viewed the confiscation of civilian property as just punishment for the populace’s support of treason and rebellion. Before long, foraging became common and widespread.

 

“The Wisconsin and Indiana troops of Rufus King’s (Iron) brigade raided the farmsteds. One corporal corralled six pigs himself during one night’s excursion. (Pages 90-91)

 

"When the Hoosiers passed through the farmyard, they grabbed turkeys and chickens....The owner protested the thievery, but the soldiers rebutted that the fowl were 'obstructing our forward movement.'" (page 169)

 

"During the Return march, some Federal troops had killed livestock and stolen property that belonged to a Union-sympathizing family. Acting division commander Lysander Cutler, former colonel of the Sixth Wisconsin, accused members of the Iron Brigade and demanded that the Westerners pay for the damages, which had been assessed at $150. Cutler's accusation created a 'considerable stir in our brigade,' wrote a Hoosier. (Rufus) Dawes dubbed it a 'strange demand' that soon was 'all blown over,' when Cutler learned that the Fourteenth Brooklyn had committed the depredations." (Page 281)

 

"They (the Westerners in the Iron Brigade) welcomed recruits and conscripts; participated in raids upon the railroads, wrecking the rails, burning ties, barns, mills, and even residences...." (Page 306)

 

“Like an awakened giant, the Union Army of the Potomac lumbered out of its winter camp on March 9, 1862, marching on the road to Centreville, Virginia….

 

"In one month, the Federals...implemented Grant's instructions to ravage the region by burning mills and barns, and collecting livestock. The destruction was systematic, thorough, and devastating. Residents of the Valley paid a dear price for their allegiance to the Confederacy." (Page 309)

 

Conceived in Liberty

“Alabama was devastated. Though the numbers are imperfect, an estimated 34,000 of its men were killed in battle or died of disease, while 20,000 were disabled for life. Nor could those who returned expect to take up the lives they had left behind. There were now 20,000 widows in the state and 60,000 orphans; almost all of Alabama’s railroads were destroyed (along with trestles, stations, water tanks, machinery, depots, and repair shops), as well as its foundries, livestock, municipal centers, and all of the state’s investments. Selma had been sacked by a detachment of Union cavalry, and the contents of the town that could not be borne off by blue-clad raiders were destroyed. Nearly all of Decatur, in northern Alabama, had been burned.

 

“In the war’s aftermath, federal soldiers who were required to occupy the South’s major cities, towns, and rail junctions systematically stripped the region of its surviving resources. In Decatur, anything that could not be moved, and that had not been destroyed in the fire, was shipped north. The countryside was scoured for food to feed the occupying army and the Union soldiers took what they needed. Lawlessness was endemic, with many Union soldiers believing that the fruits of war were now theirs to be enjoyed. The practice of taking food when it was needed was a continuation of the wartime strategy of 1864 and 1865, which dictated that Union soldiers could live off the land. This policy, however, exacerbated rural poverty, and large tracts of the major southern states, including Alabama that had once been under cultivation were abandoned.

 

“It is almost impossible now to understand the full depth of the southern crisis.”  (Pages 309-309)

 

Florida Civil War Heritage Trail (A Florida Heritage Publication)

"The Clark-Chalker House was looted during the October, 1864 Union raid on Middleburg, but was not burned as other buildings were." (page 41)

 

"In October, 1864 a small Union force of 55 men of the 4th Massachusetts Calvary conducted a raid on Middleburg from their strongpoint at Magnolia, near Green Cove Springs. The raiders burned warehouses and other buildings, and looted the remaining houses and businesses." (page 41)

 

Llambias House, St. Augustine...."Returning after the war, they found the house had been stripped of its furniture and woodwork, and that the ground floor had been used as a stable by Union troops." (page 52)

 

This Hallowed Ground

"This free-and-easy quality the Civil War soldier never lost. It remained with him to the end, and although it was less marked in the eastern regiments, generally, than in those from the West, and varied a good deal from regiment to regiment in each section, it was always, and predominantly, the great distinguishing characteristic of the volunteer armies. For better or for worse, the armies of the Civil War had that devil-may-care, loose-jointed tone to them. They could be led--members straggled freely, foraged and looted as the mood seized them, sometimes deserted in droves--and, in the end carried the load that had been given them, which was not a light one." (page 26)

 

"Whatever its achievements on the parade ground, the 19th had a heavy hand with occupied territory. One of the northern Alabama towns was held by the 33rd Ohio, which did so much looting that on complaint of the citizens it colonel was rebuked and the regiment was withdrawn. The townsfolk exulted only briefly, for the 33rd was replaced by the 19th Illinois, and according to army legend, before the day was over the luckless citizens were begging the authorities to let them have the 33rd again--compared with the Illinois regiment, it was a model of decorum." (page 147)

 

(In reference to middle Tennessee's plantations) "Reflecting on all of this plenty, he"--an Indiana soldier--"confessed that the men of his regiment were foraging quite liberally. The provost guard, he said, never got into action 'until many a chicken squawked his last squawk, and many a pig had squealed his last squeal.'" (page 178)

 

 

"There was one noteworthy thing about the new soldiers: they believed in foraging with a free and heavy hand. War propaganda had begun to take effect, and recruiting-campaign orators were no longer simply appealing to love of country and the desire for adventure; they were demanding that the South be made to sweat for the crime of secession, and recruits had been receptive. New soldiers in camp around Memphis considered themselves entitled to take anything edible: 'They would slaughter a man's hogs right before his eyes, and if he made a fuss cold steel would soon put a quietus on him.' Commanding generals tried in vain to restrain them....On the march in northern Mississippi, Grant's men developed the playful habit of setting fire to dead leaves caught in the angles of rail fences; if this fired the fences and in turn set houses and barns ablaze, nobody cared. Along the line of march, any house whose occupants had fled was certain to be burned. An Ohio artilleryman remarked that 'the cotton gin was then like the coal-breakers in the time of a great strike--many were burned; among soldiers and miners there is a lawless element that delights in destruction.' Gaunt, blackened chimneys stood where burned houses had been, and when soldiers saw one they would point to it and call: 'Here stands another Tennessee headstone.'" (page 182)

 

"Grant's army was moving down the line of the Mississippi Central Railroad....The country was wooded and thinly populated, and the inhabitants seemed to hold unanimous anti-Yankee sentiments of considerable bitterness. One reason, perhaps, was that the western troops were doing an uncommon amount of senseless looting. A Union officer remembered seeing in one occupied town a cavalryman staggering off, carrying a huge grandfather's clock. Asked what on earth he proposed to do with it, the man explained that he was going to dismantle it 'and get a pair of the little wheels out of it for spur rowels.' The idea took hold, and other cavalrymen were doing the same." (page 199)

 

"But the Confederates were incomparably the more orderly. A Confederate detachment might camp in a place for weeks, without a single hen roost being the poorer; but 'when the Union troops came around we all had to look out for our money, jewels, watches, vegetables, pigs, cows and chickens.' Much of the Federal looting was senseless, with men taking things that could be of no earthly use to them. The Tennessean remembered one outfit that stole a shipment of two hundred bibles and tore the books up to build fires. The Tennessean believed that these Federal habits developed partly because the men felt themselves to be in enemy country, where anything was fair game, and partly because the Yankee armies contained so many foreign-born and so much 'riff-raff from the large cities.'" (page 208)

 

"The army stepped out confidently, glad to be on the road again after the dreary months around Milliken's Bend....Day after day Grant's impromptu wagons lumbered out around the country, accompanied by details of gleeful infantry; evening after evening they returned to camp, bringing incredible numbers of cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, geese, and ducks. As these reached camp, other details would butcher and dress the animals, while the commissaries issued corn meal freshly ground on plantation mills. Of its own supplies, the army was issuing nothing much but coffee, sugar, and salt; Mississippi provided all the rest; the soldiers gorged on fresh poultry, roast pork, and beef-steaks. They ate so much of this, in fact, that some men were heard to say that they would be glad to get back to army hardtack and bacon eventually; their fare now was so rich they were getting tired of it." (page 235)

 

(Jackson, Mississippi) "...Sherman's and McPherson's men...went whooping into the capital on May 14....the streets were full of disorderly elements...and a growing assortment of Federals who had dropped out of ranks to have fun, everyone apparently bent on picking up any valuables that might be found. There was a good deal of looting and destruction, which grew worse as Federal troops began ripping up railroad tracks

 

and wrecking foundries, warehouses, and other installations useful to the southern war effort. Someone had released the convicts in a local prison, and these joined in the looting...." (page 235)

 

"The road was lit with pillars of fire and of smoke by night and by day; cotton gins, farmhouses, anything that would burn went up in fire, and the colonel of one regiment, eyeing a pillared plantation manor house, burst out angrily: 'People who have been as conspicuous as these in bringing this thing ought to have things burned. I would like to see those chimneys standing there without any house.' A few days later, when the army marched back from Jackson (Miss.)--which by now was getting to be pretty shipworn--the plantation displayed nothing but blackened chimneys. Even the fences had been burned." (page 270)

 

"In any case, Meridian was thoroughly sacked. Sherman had appointed a solid column of cavalry to come down from the Memphis area and join him...Sherman pulled his infantry out, loaded down with all the loot that could be carried...in three hundred wagons which had been appropriated from the nearby countryside. Black smoke lay on the land as the troops marched away, and a scar that would be a long time fading; and as the column swung back toward home territory it was followed, as Sherman recalled, by 'about ten miles of Negroes.'" (page 306)

 

Georgia: "Atlanta was pretty tattered already....During the long Federal occupancy of the town the deserted buildings got rough treatment from the soldiers, who never had any qualms about destroying dwellings that were not currently inhabited. And finally, when it was time to leave, Sherman ordered complete destruction of all factories, railroad installations, and other buildings that might be of any use....

 

"The soldiers went to their work with zest. By now they understood industrial warfare, they could equate wholesale destruction with a blow at the enemy's war potential, and anyway it was fun to wreck everything....As the men moved out of town it would happen that groups would break ranks and go back to set fires on their own account; one man in such a group wrote that they were moved by a 'desire to destroy everything, and fearful that some old rebel's property would be saved.' Other men wrote that going through Atlanta 'the smoke almost blinded us,' and they concluded that 'everything of importance was on fire.'" (page 355)

 “The utter destruction of [Georgia’s] roads, houses and people will cripple their military resources… I can make Georgia howl!”

- Sherman

 
 

 

 

 

 


After Atlanta, "Plantations were looted outright; men who had set out to take no more than hams and chickens began carrying away heirlooms, silver, watches--anything that struck their fancy....and barns and houses went up in smoke. A general remarked that 'as the habit of measuring right by might goes on, pillage becomes wanton and arson is committed to cover the pillage.' An Illinois soldier confessed that 'it could not be expected that among so many tens of thousands there would be no rogues,' and another man from the same state burst out: 'There is no God in war. It is merciless, cruel, vindictive, un-Christian, savage, relentless. It was all the devils could wish for." (pages 358-9)

 

"Foragers brought in vast wagonloads of material that was abandoned to rot." (page 359)

 

"So much food was taken, indeed, that the soldiers themselves were appalled when they stopped to think about it. In one regiment the men made a rough rule-of-thumb estimate of the requisitions that had been made and concluded that the army must have accounted for one hundred thousand hogs, twenty thousand heads of cattle,  fifteen thousand horses and mules,  five hundred thousand bushels of corn, and one hundred thousand bushels of sweet potatoes. Sherman himself later estimated that his army had caused one hundred million dollars worth of damage in Georgia. Of this, he believed, perhaps twenty million dollars represented material that the army had actually used; the rest was 'simply waste and destruction.' One officer wrote about burned houses,  burned fences, roads cut to bits by marching men, fields despoiled and crossed by innumerable wagon tracks and concluded that 'Dante's Inferno could not furnish a more horrible and depressing picture than a countryside when the war swept over it.' As the march went on, it was noted that the word 'bummer' changed...(from) a term of contempt; before the army got to the coast the men were beginning to call (all of) themselves bummers." Even Sherman, concludes Catton, "did not mind applying the word to all of his troops." (pages 360-1)

 

Author Catton speculates that "This was not an army; it was just a collection of western pioneers on the march....casually burned towns and looted plantations and set fire to pine forests just for the fun of seeing it burn....An Indiana soldier remarked that the men set fire so much that 'some days the sun was almost entirely obscured by the smoke of the consuming buildings, cotton gins, etc." (Page 374)

 

South Carolina: "Every evening the mounted foragers would come in to camp, trailed by hundreds of wagons, buggies, loaded by foodstuffs; in the morning, when the army moved on, these would be set on fire and abandoned, symbols of the offhand hatred which the rank and file nourished for the state where secession had been born....Going through the town of McPhersonville, Ohio soldiers realized that every house was burning....'Our line of march throughout this state was marked by smoke in the day and the glare of fire by night.' All along this line of march few buildings escaped the flames; one soldier commented dryly that 'where a family remains at home they save the house but lose their stock and eatables.' An Illinois soldier estimated that perhaps one house in ten escaped destruction, and noted exultantly: 'The rich were put in the cabins of the Negroes; their cattle and corn were used for rations, their fences for corduroy and camp fires, and their barns and cotton gins for bonfires. It seemed to be decreed that South Carolina, having sown the wind, should reap the whirlwind.'" (page 374)

 

"Passing through the town of Barnwell, which the cavalry had set on fire--the troopers jested that the name of the town should be changed to Burnwell--the infantry tramped past one blazing house whose despairing owner was trying frantically and ineffectively to check the blaze. A private innocently called out to ask him how on earth his house had caught on fire." (page 374)

 

"Clouds of smoke hung over the line of march every day, and one soldier recalled 'In our march through South Carolina every man seemed to think he had a free hand to burn any kind of property he could put the torch to.'" (page 375)

 

"Columbia"--South Carolina's capital--"got the full fury of the storm....Union troops marched in. Here and there little fires started. A great wind came up, the fires spread--and presently most of Columbia was on fire in a senseless, meaningless conflagration that brought the final measure of ruin and despair to the Palmetto State." (page 375)

 

 

"An Illinois soldier...wrote that the soldiers 'smiled and felt glad in their hearts' to see the city burning, and another man from the same state confessed his whole division was drunk and added 'I think the city should be burned out....' Wisconsin soldiers went whooping and hollering. An Iowan felt that most of the trouble came when the soldiers looted stores and saloons and got drunk....Straggling soldiers, singly and in squads...continued to congregate in town, where all joined indiscriminately in the general confusion, wanton plunder and pillage of the stricken city and helpless people. The scene at sundown beggared description, for men, women and children, white and black, soldiers and citizens, many of whom were crazed with drink, were all rushing frantically and aimlessly through the streets, shouting and yelling like mad people." (page 376)

 

North Carolina: "...when they marched through the turpentine forests, the stragglers who continued to fringe the moving army set fire to the congealed resin in notches on the trees, and for mile after mile the army moved under a pall of odorous pine smoke. An officer wrote that the flames in the forest aisles 'looked like a fire in a cathedral,' and one soldier remembered 'the endless blue columns swaying with the long swinging step,' and said that above the crackle of the flames could be heard the massed singing of John Brown's Body." (page 377)

 

A Diary from Dixie

"Mr.(Lucius Quintas Cincinnatus) Lamar...laughs at the compliment New England pays us. We want to separate from them; to be rid of the Yankees forever at any price. And they hate us so, and would clasp us, or grapple us, as Polonius has it, to their bosoms 'with clasps of steel.' We are an unwilling bride." (June 27, 1861)

 

"Crowds of Irish, Dutch, and Scotch are pouring in to swell their (Northern) armies. They are promised our lands and they believe they will get them." (July 21, 1862)

 

"General Grant is charmed with Sherman's  successful movements; says he has destroyed millions upon millions of our property in Mississippi. (March 12, 1864)

 

"There is the (Dahlgren) notebook...in the (Jefferson Davis) Executive Office, with orders to hang and burn." (March 12, 1864)

 

"Then a Miss Patterson called--a refugee from Tennessee. She had been in a country overrun by Yankees, and she described so graphically all the horrors to be endured by those subjected to fire and sword, rapine and plunder, that I was fairly scared...." (February 16, 1865)

 

"The Fants are refugees here, too; they are Virginians, and have been here in exile since the second Battle of Manassas. They...tried to go back to their own house, but found one chimney only standing alone; even that had been taken possession by a Yankee, who had written his name upon it." (February 16, 1865)

 

Columbia, South Carolina

"Isaac Hayne came away with General Chestnut. There was no fire in the town when they left. They overtook Hampton's command at Meek's Mill. That night, from the hills where they were encamped, they saw the fire, and knew the Yankees were burning the town, as we had every reason to expect they would." (February 22, 1865)

 

"Thomas, Daniel says, was now to ravage Georgia, but Sherman, from all accounts, has done that work once for all. There will be no aftermath. They say no living thing is found in Sherman's track, only chimneys, like telegraph poles, to carry the news of Sherman's army backward."

 

"....Oh vandal Sherman! what are you at there, hard-hearted wretch that you are! (February 26, 1865)

 

"I am informed that a detachment of Yankees were sent from Liberty Hill to Camden with a view to destroying all the houses, mills, and provisions about that place." (February 26, 1865)

 

"Father O'Connell came in, fresh from Columbia, and with news at last.  Sherman's men have burned the convent. Mrs. Munroe had pinned her faith to Sherman because he was a Roman Catholic, but Father O'Connell was there and saw it. The nuns and girls marched to the old Hampton house...and so saved it. They walked between files of soldiers. Men were rolling tar barrels and lighting torches to fling on the house when the nuns came. Columbia is but dust and ashes, burned to the ground. Men, women and children have been left there homeless, houseless, and without one particle of food--reduced to picking up corn that was left by Sherman's horses on picket grounds and parching it to stay their hunger." (March 5, 1865)

 

"That very night a party of Wheeler's men came to our camp, and such a tale they told of what had been done at the place of horror and destruction, the mother left raving. The outrage had been committed before her very face, she having been secured first. After this crime the fiends moved on. There were only seven of them. 'The girl?' 'Oh, she was dead!'" (March 5, 1865)

 

"Troy relates that a Yankee officer snatched a watch from Mrs. McCord's bosom. The soldiers tore the bundles of clothes that the poor wretches tried to save from their burning homes, and dashed them back into the flames. They were howling round the fires like demons, these Yankees in their joy and triumph at our destruction." (March 8, 1865)

 

"Old Colonel Chestnut refuses to say grace; but as he leaves the table audibly declares, 'I thank God for a good dinner.' When asked why he did this odd thing he said: 'My way is to be sure of a thing before I return thanks for it.' Mayor Goodwyn thanked Sherman for promised protection to Columbia; soon after, the burning began." (March 27, 1865)

 

"They say Mulberry has been destroyed by a corps commanded by General Logan." (April 23, 1865)

 

"Sherman took only our horses. Potter's raid came after Johnston's surrender, and ruined us finally, burning our mills and gins and a hundred bales of cotton. Indeed, nothing is left to us now but the bare land, and the debts contracted for the support of hundreds of negroes during the war....A hired man would (have been) a good deal cheaper than a man whose father and mother, wife and twelve children have to be fed, clothed, housed and nursed, their taxes paid, and their doctor's bills, all for his half-done, slovenly, lazy work....Only one man of Mr. Chestnut's left the plantation with the Yankees." (May 4, 1865)

 

"Godard Bailey, editor, whose prejudices are all against us, described the raids to me in this wise: They are regularly organized. First came the squads who demanded arms and whiskey. Then came the rascals who hunted for silver, ransacked the ladies' wardrobes and scared women and children into fits--at least those who could be scared. Some of these women could not be scared. Then came some smiling, suave, well-dressed officers who 'regretted it all so much.' Outside the gate officers, men, and bummers divided even, share and share alike, the pile of plunder." (May 4, 1865)

 

"The new York Herald quotes General Sherman as saying 'Columbia was burned by Hampton's sheer stupidity." (June 1, 1865)

 

"Eben dressed himself in his best and went at a run to meet his Yankee deliverers--so he said. At the gate he met a squad coming in. He had adorned himself with his watch and chain, like the cordage of a ship, with a handful of gaudy seals. He knew the Yankees came to rob white people, but he thought they came to save niggers. 'Hand over that watch!' they said. Minus his fine watch and chain, Eben returned a sadder and a wiser man. He was soon in his shirt-sleeves, whistling at his knife board. 'Why? You here? Why did you come back so soon?' he was asked. 'Well, I thought maybe I better stay with ole marster that give me the watch, and not go with them that stole it.' That watch was the pride of his life. The iron had entered his soul."

 

"Mrs. Adger saw a Yankee soldier strike a woman, and she prayed God to take him in hand according to this deed. The soldier laughed in her face, swaggered off, stumbled down the steps, and then his revolver went off by the concussion and shot him dead." (June 1, 1865)

 

In closing, this author wishes to encourage those who have gotten this far to continue their own, personal pursuit of this subject. Although this article was the result of YEARS of reading journals, diaries, books, and internet articles on the War Between the States, its content barely scratches the surface of a subject that can best be summed up by the phrase "man's inhumanity to man." Any attempt at understanding that theme will only add to one's understanding of the Rebellion and the people whom it affected.

 

 

 

 

Fury on the St. Johns

By Keith Kohl

ltcol2ndbattalion@gmail.com

 

The St. Johns River and surrounding areas cover a wide expanse of the northeast Florida region, from its headwaters near Lake George to its junction with the Atlantic Ocean east of Jacksonville.  This northward-flowing river is a haven for boaters, fishermen, and similar water sports enthusiasts.  Her banks are dotted with large towns and small hamlets and in many areas surrounded by vast stretches of pristine Florida wilderness including state park lands, forests, recreation areas, and the like.  Yet 150 years this area was not nearly so tranquil.  A war was on between North and South, and this area would be among the hotly contested of all parts of Florida.  For nearly ¾ of the four-war conflict, the legions of the Union and the Confederacy would spar repeatedly in this arena.

 

The strategic value of the St. Johns River area came from several facets.  As the youngest state in the Union in 1860 (having only achieved statehood fifteen years prior), Florida was still very much developing. Her infrastructure of roads, rail lines, and so forth was still in a relatively early stage.  The large and navigable St. Johns River was a natural thoroughfare for moving people and goods, especially considering the large port at Jacksonville, about six or seven miles from the mouth of the river.  To a Confederacy relying on trade with foreign nations to support the war effort (and Union forces intending to prevent such) the St. Johns could easily be a valuable prize for both sides. The lands around the waterway were among some of the richest agricultural lands in the state.  Both modest farms and larger plantations were common, cattle in abundance, and crop production lucrative.  This was also one of the areas were Sea Isle cotton could be grown.  While this could only be harvested fewer times in a year, it was regarded as making a finer material than the more common short-staple cotton.  Further the river could be used as a means for invading military forces to strike into the heart of interior Florida, as well as a natural barrier to contain enemy operations to one side of the stream or the other. These factors would be revealed time and again in the strategies of the opposing forces throughout the course of the war.

 

The conflict was about a year along when Northern forces made their opening moves into the St. Johns River region.  In early 1862 a Union flotilla of gunboats and transports weighed anchor from their base at Hilton Head, South Carolina and moved southward along the Atlantic coast.  By March this had arrived off the northeast Florida coast.  Orders had already been issued to Confederate forces to abandon many of the northeast Florida defenses in the face of the enemy’s advance.  In rapid order Northern troops occupied Fernandina and the military post of Fort Clinch on Amelia Island, Fort Marion (Castillo de San Marcos) and St. Augustine, and Jacksonville.  The latter city would only be held for a few months on this occasion (though Union forces would occupy it again three more times, the last occasion being from February 1864 until the conclusion of the war).  The other captured locations would remain as Union garrisons throughout the course of the conflict. 

 

From this point on, United States forces would have a firm hold on the St. Johns River area.  With the enemy’s larger numbers and resources, Florida’s Confederate forces would face a difficult task in containing Union operations along the river.  The large Union navy could easily command the waterway, patrolling it and placing garrisons in towns along its banks almost at will.  The circumstances of war and Confederate strategy in the area helped secure this area for the Union even more.  Besides having few if any ships to oppose the enemy navy, the South had fewer resources all around including the number of troops it could put into the field.  The demands of war in other theaters of action caused the Confederacy to make some hard choices in light of the Union’s larger numbers, and as such many of the Florida defenders were withdrawn throughout the war to other more active theaters of action.  Further, Florida authorities, in an attempt to prevent Unionist residents from communicating with and assisting Northern forces, ordered all the small boats along the St. Johns destroyed.  This policy soon worked against Confederate interests in the area.  First it limited the number of boats available for Southern forces to cross the river and conduct operations on the east side of the stream.  Further the Union Navy ships had small craft of their own by which they could easily reach shore and communicate with loyal Florida Unionists.

 

With the heavy Union presence in the area, the St. Johns River area saw a bit a “role reversal” from what had been in place before this.  Prior to the arrival of Northern forces in March 1863, pro-Unionist Floridians were basically living in “enemy territory”.   With the region east of the river now largely Union-held; pro-Unionists now had a bit of a safe haven.  Conversely, the state’s pro-Southern population in this area was now with being the ones residing in a pro-Northern region.  Now these persons had to accept life on said terms or move inland to another pro-Southern part of Florida.

 

All of this helped set the stage for the St. Johns River to be one of the most active and highly contested regions in Florida.  Yes, the Union forces had a considerable advantage in resources.  Nonetheless Confederate defenders were frequently on hand to challenge enemy designs.  Fighting would often flare up along the banks of the waterway as the opposing sides contended with one another.  In September 1862 a battery of heavy artillery was placed at St. Johns Bluff, which blunted several attacks by Union gunboats.  This position concerned Northern forces enough that 1700 men were dispatched from Hilton Head to contend with this battery.  Towns and farms along the shores would see ebb and flow of Union troops as well as intermittent battle, and Union ships continued to prowl the waterway.  As the war progressed and more troops were withdrawn to more active theaters, Southern forces continued to be a threat to Union operations in the region.   Even on the east side of the river Federal troops were not always safe from attack.  Southern troops would occasionally be daring enough to cross and carry out operations, sometimes in the very shadow of the larger Union garrisons.

 

Of course as the war progressed the Southern defenders were finding themselves more and more hard pressed.  The need for troops on other fronts would become increasingly pressing, causing more units to be withdrawn from Florida.  Further the Union presence remained steadfast especially later in the conflict.  Besides their larger number of troops, the North still had the advantage of their naval superiority.  Nonetheless the defenders fought on, often tapping various resources and a bit of ingenuity in the process.  With no real number of vessels of their own, the Southerners looked to new ways to contend with the Union forces.  Drawing on new innovations being introduced to warfare during this conflict, Confederate forces along the St. Johns embarked on a new strategy, one that for a time would give a heightened sense of concern to Union forces in the region. 

 

In the Spring of 1864 the Confederate defenders along the St. Johns took a new approach to contending with the enemy.  Faced with the enemy’s superior numbers, the advantage of mobility and firepower provided by his ships, and lacking vessels of their own to provide any serious challenge, the Southern forces turned to additional measures.  Drawing from the new and innovative technologies now making their appearances in warfare, they set about mining the waters of the Saint Johns River. 

 

Guided by Captain E. Pliny Bryan, who had been dispatched from Charleston, underwater “torpedoes” (as mines were called at the time) were placed in the river.  These watertight metal containers were filled with heavy charges (often ranging around 70 pounds) of fine-grade gunpowder and, floating just below the surface, would detonate on impact.  As many as 20 of these were initially set in place, waiting for unwary victims to venture by.   Federal operations on the river were about to meet a new and dangerous challenge; now besides contending with Confederate troops and artillery from shore, the Union ships faced danger from below the water as well.

 

The torpedoes soon made their presence known.  The transports Maple Leaf, Harriet A. Weed, and U. S. S. General Hunter had been dispatched to Palatka.  While the other ships remained there, the Maple Leaf began her return trip to Jacksonville.  Around 4:00 A.M. on the morning of April 1, she encountered one of the torpedoes.  The resulting explosion tore a gaping hole in the vessel’s hull, and the Maple Leaf sank within seven minutes with the loss of four men drowned.  The camp gear and other equipment of three Federal regiments also went down into the river.  Confederate soldiers later boarded the ship and burned the section remaining above water.

 

Before long, Union forces would have further experiences with the submerged weapons.  On April 12, the Union garrison was withdrawn from Palatka.  The field works they had built were destroyed before their departure, and the bulk of the military stores and part of the garrison were moved across the river to Picolata.  The transports General Hunter and Cosmopolitan, along with the gunboat U. S. S. Norwich, were soon en route to Jacksonville.  Along the way, the General Hunter struck a torpedo and rapidly sank, drowning one man and wounding another.  In addition to fewer casualties, there was also a smaller loss of equipment than with the sinking of the Maple Leaf.  On the 9th of May, the torpedoes would claim their last victim on the St. Johns.  The USS Harriet Weed had the misfortune to encounter one of these.  The resulting explosion sent the vessel into the depths of the river about 12 miles south of Jacksonville.

 

As dramatic as these incidents may have been, in reality the presence of the torpedoes did little to stem Union operations on the Saint Johns.  Having been alerted to their presence, the crews became more vigilant and cautious.  Many of the remaining torpedoes were found and removed.  Further the crews took additional steps to safe guard themselves and their ships.  On May 23, as the gunboat USS Columbine approached Horse Landing around sunset, the crew was expecting an attack (the USS Ottawa had been engaged the day before at nearby Brown’s Landing).  As they approached the landing, the guns of the Columbine opened fire and the crew was reported to have “lowered the torpedo catchers”.  Though the avoided the hidden mines, the ship and Union forces in general would get a reminder that this was not entirely a safe haven despite their military resources.  The Columbine was engaged and destroyed that evening during a 45 minute battle with Confederate cavalry and artillery.

 

By the beginning of the summer the mines in the St. John’s proved to have been contained enough to no longer be a serious threat to Union forces.  No more ships were reported to be destroyed by them following the fate of the Harriet Weed.  With this the brief reign of the St. John’s torpedoes came to a close, and along with it a dramatic few weeks that may have not altered the course of the conflict in the area much, but no doubt gave the Union Navy cause for consternation and a possible boost to Southern morale.

 

Decades would pass, but the story of the mining of the St. Johns reached forth to come to light for another generation.  Past and present came face to face when in recent years the wreck of the USS Maple Leaf was found just off Mandarin Point near Jacksonville where she had laid at rest all those years.  The artifacts recovered from her were found to be in a remarkable state of preservation.  Besides the expected metal and similar hard items, cartridge boxes, shoes, and similar leather goods were found intact.  A wooden box belonging to a Union officer was found with the canvas lining in place and his name could be faintly read where he had painted such upon it. 

 

 

Story drawn from the book Florida’s Civil War Years, copyright 2011 by Keith W. Kohl.

PICTURE: Author’s map of the St. Johns River and surrounding region, from Florida’s Civil War Years.

 

  

 

 

Chaplain’s Corner

Practicing Hope

Inspired by God

Captain John Butler

Chaplain Hardy’s Brigade

 

http://www.floridareenactorsonline.com/Newsletter/2016Archives/2016-03_files/image060.jpg Oh how great is your goodness, which you have laid up for them that fear you; which you have wrought for

them that trust in you before the sons of men! You shall hide them in the secret of your presence from the pride of man:

you shall keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues. Blessed be the Lord: for he had shown me his

marvelous kindness in a strong city. For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before your eyes: nevertheless, you heard the

voice of my supplications when I cried unto you. O love the Lord, all you his saints: for the Lord preserves the faithful, and

plentifully rewards the proud doer. Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all you that hope in the

Lord.” Paslms 31:19-24

 

‘There’s no hope! All is lost! Woe to us the fallen!’ How often do we hear these words, I’m sure at Little Round top Joshua Chamberlain heard those words from his men, at the far left of the Union line, nearly out of ammunition, facing the Confederate forces charging up at them. Did he fold? Did he fall into despair and fall away to let the line crumble? No, he found hope in the cause they were charged with and held on finding a way to gain victory.

 

Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” Prov. 13:12

 

When you lose your hope, which is Satan’s greatest thrill, you get into despair. You fall further and further into the dark one’s clutches. Your will to live and associate with others falls further and further away. Your body can become sick and frail due to the stress and worry that you put on yourself. This sickness can lead to discouragement, depression, hopelessness. How can we find hope? Where do we look for it? How do we fill our hearts and minds with the hope of Jesus Christ? We know in our heads the Christ alone is our source of hope but hope is not something that just comes to you, hope is something that all of us should practice. We as believers have the greatest hope there is, and we need to go out showing everyone that hope. Hope takes work.

 

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; And patience, experience;

and experience, hope: And hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy

which is given unto us” Romans 5:3-5

 

Hope needs to be fully active in our lives, practiced at all times. It is easy to slip and fall into despairing moments, but do not linger there, look to the light that is our hope and He will guide you out of those low times. Don’t look at the huge picture of your life, but look day to day, practice hope one day at a time. Pray often, without ceasing, even if it is to only give thanks for what God has done for you. Remind yourself of who you are in Christ, he delights in you! You are His child, you are forgiven and redeemed. Count your blessings, name them out loud. Write them on a board. Get into the word, stay in the word, pray the word, the Bible is God’s word and direction for our lives. It points the way to our great Hope, and the promise of the eternal life for all who accept Jesus Christ.

 

And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him.

And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no

candle, neither light if the sun; for the Lord God gives them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.” Rev. 22:3-5

 

If this message compels you to learn more about Jesus, or if you have a burden that you need prayer for, please contact me; catman6375@msn.com.

 

 

 

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FOR SALE:  1858 Remington New Army .44 revolver (black powder). It has been a great side arm, but I need to thin out a bit. Brass receiver, wood handles. Not gonna lie, the exterior has some minor pitting from a past season, but it is in fine looking & working condition (see pics for details). Includes leather US stamped holster. Asking $400 obo as this model is no longer being made (reasonable offers will be considered). Email Ham at irishham97@gmail.com.  Thank you!!


            

 

 

 

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