Saturday, July 11, 2015

Conduct Of The War

In this segment of my postings on the War between the States, I will post David's synopsis of the actual conduct of the war.  In particular, the role that Abraham Lincoln played in directing the actions of the Army of the North.  We all have our own ideas about the reasons for the war, and these may or may not be altered by anything we read.  I use a wide variety of sources in trying to make some sense of it all.  I wonder if we have learned anything.  600,000 Americans died fighting each other.  I fear the polarizing actions of men who continue to disregard our U. S. Constitution, combined with the moral slide in society, may doom us to repeat our history.  This will be made easier if we are talked into removing the symbols of only one half of the conflict to satisfy a small portion of our under-informed populace.  If Lincoln were judged by today's court of social media, would his historical mementos be removed from public view?  You be the judge.

"Lincoln held little respect for the Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights.  During the war he jailed over 30,000 people who disagreed with his policies.  Most were not charged with specific offenses and in many cases, were given no reason for their incarceration.  They had no trial and no recourse to habeas corpus, and most sat in jail for the duration of the war.  Constitutionally, only Congress can declare a suspension of habeas corpus for American citizens and only in time of war (the idea that habeas corpus applied to anyone on U. S. soil whether citizen or not did not appear until the late 20th Century), but Lincoln initially did it on his own.

Among those jailed were newspaper editors, journalists, members of the opposition party, virtually the entire legislature of Maryland, and thousands of regular citizens who were known or suspected of being opposed to his policies.  He shut down hundreds of newspapers and periodicals, and ordered the Post Office not to deliver copies of hundreds of others thereby causing the papers' demise.

He declared martial law for the duration in several Northern states, had the military shoot dead several hundred civilians in Chicago and New York who were rioting in protest of his Emancipation Proclamation and the draft laws, deported a U. S. Congressman for criticizing him in a speech in his home district, ordered the largest mass execution, 39 American Indians, in the history of the country, and generally during the war committed every single violation of law, restriction of individual freedom, and lack of respect for common decency attributed by Jefferson to King George in the Declaration of Independence.

Lincoln ordered his many generals to take total control of the geographic areas they were assigned and make civilian government subordinate to them.  For example, one of his generals in Missouri, a state which had not seceded, ordered the forced eviction of every living soul in three entire counties and part of a fourth.  General Order 19, issued in Missouri banned the civilian possession of any kind of firearm for any purpose in the entire state of Missouri.  General Benjamin F. "Beast" Butler hung a man for lowering the U. S. flag in New Orleans.

Lincoln authorized General Sheridan to declare total war on civilians in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia by destroying every single man made structure and home, the seizure and/or burning of all crops, and the killing of all livestock that could not be used by the Army.  Freed slaves were involuntarily conscripted by the thousands as unpaid laborers for the Union army.  In a few cases in other states, even whites were forced to build earthworks against their will for the Union Army.

Particularly after 1862, civilians were terrorized, shot, hung, and imprisoned for no legal reason.  Several hundred women and children were seized in Georgia by Sherman and shipped off to the north to a concentration camp where most died.

A number of women, the exact number is uncertain, were imprisoned in Kansas City because they were suspected Confederate sympathizers and/or because their men folk were "believed" to be fighting in the Confederate Army.  Some were as young as thirteen.  As in most of theses cases, there were no trials and no habeas corpus for these people.  Many died when the building they were imprisoned in collapsed due to the foundation structure being undermined by Union enlisted men who built tunnels under the building for access to a neighboring whorehouse.  The invasion of Lawrence, Kansas by Quantrell's guerrillas was a direct result of the deaths of these women, many of whom were related to Quantrell's troops.

Atlanta was shelled mercilessly.  There was no military reason for the shelling.  It's only occupants were women, children, and old men after General Joe Johnston pulled out.  When the Union troops finally rode into what was left of the town, the bodies of women and children littered the streets.  When they left to continue their "March to the Sea", what was left of the town was burned.  Virtually the entire state of South Carolina, even its lowland forests, was burned to the ground.

In Vicksburg Mississippi, the Confederates defending the area were encamped in a wide ring outside the city.  Repeated attempts by Grant's army to break the Confederate lines failed.  Grant, with the permission of Lincoln, then began bombarding the city day and night with artillery and heavy cannon fire from gunboats.

There were Confederate positions on the edge of the city facing the river, but most of the Southern troops were outside the city.  Grant determined to lay siege to the city and shelled it as well as the Confederate positions.  22,000 shells from the gunboats' cannons and nearly twice that from artillery rained down on the city with no regard as to whether the targets were civilian or military.  Civilians were not allowed to leave as per Grant's order though this fact is disputed by some historians because no written order has ever been found.  For whatever reason, civilians were trapped.  After two months of the siege and constant shelling, remarkably few civilians had died.  Their city was destroyed, but civilians dug caves in the sides of the numerous hills, and ravines in the area and took shelter there.  Though Grant could not break the Confederate lines, the Confederate commander decided the lack of food for his men,and the very obvious reality that no relief was coming made surrender the only viable course.

All over the South looting by the Union troops was authorized and everything which could not be stolen was destroyed.  Many elderly men and loyal slaves were hung or shot because they would not reveal where the family had hidden valuables.  During the Red River campaign in Louisiana in 1863, over 50 gunboats were dispatched up the Mississippi River from New Orleans and then up the Red River, ostensibly to support the army's campaign against Shreveport.  The campaign failed and the gunboats were never really utilized except for one thing.  They were used to transport stolen cotton back to New Orleans where the generals sold it and pocketed the money.

There was little rape of white women reported, but there were thousands of slave women raped by their 'liberators' while their officers looked the other way.

The South was destroyed.  One quarter of all of the white men in the South were killed or wounded during the war.  While it made sense to destroy manufacturing centers, Lincoln's policy, in defiance of the recognized rules of war, as well as common decency, was also to make war on civilians.  It is estimated that over 50,000 Southern civilians were killed during the course of the war.  Hundreds of towns and cities were burned to the ground.  Private homes were looted and then destroyed as a matter of policy. Courthouses, churches, public buildings of all kinds, farms, plantations, opera houses...all were destroyed as part of a scorched earth campaign.  As previously noted, anything which was not stolen was, as in the case of livestock, killed, or as in the case of structures, burned. This policy caused many civilians, including slaves, to starve when their food supplies for the winter were carted off or destroyed.

In some of the southern parishes of Louisiana were plantations owned by French nationals who chose not to take either side in the war.  It didn't matter to the Union troops.  The French homes were burned, some of the men were murdered, and all of their possessions either stolen or destroyed.  After the war, the U. S. government paid reparations to most of these people, not because it was sorry for what had been done in the name of the U. S. government, but to pacify the French government.

There were some interesting exceptions to the total devastation.  Louisiana established the 'Seminary of Learning in Louisiana' in Pineville, Louisiana across the Red River from Alexandria, in 1853.  It was primarily a military academy for men.  The president of the institution was William Tecumseh Sherman.  He had many friends who were plantation owners in the central Louisiana area and gave specific instructions during the afore mentioned Red River campaign not to burn their homes.  As a result, there are an unusually large number of anti-bellum homes in this area which survived the war.  Unfortunately, the city of Alexandria did not.  It was burned to the ground though there was not military reason for such an act.  Other than the homes specifically exempted by Sherman, a twenty mile wide strip of complete devastation was wrought for almost seventy miles through northwest and central Louisiana.

In short, by the laws of war both then and today, Lincoln and many of his generals were war criminals.

I say Lincoln and his generals because thy authorized the heinous crimes committed against civilians and their property.  I have read letters by union soldiers of all lower ranks, both officers and enlisted, who were horrified by the actions taken against civilians and in some cases, they refused to participate.  Enough did, however, and the South was laid desolate."

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