Monday, September 26, 2016

Leaving Poor Women Their Tears and Their Memory

Gen. Samuel G. French was New Jersey-born and living in Mississippi when the war commenced; he assumed command of North Carolina’s Cape Fear District in March, 1862 and fortified the city against attack from the sea. His adjutant from then through the end of the war was Captain Charles D. Myers, a native of New York City and successful prewar merchant in Wilmington. (Myer’s was an early member of Wilmington’s prestigious Cape Fear Club). French possessed a dim view of Sherman’s abilities as a military officer.
Bernhard Thuersam,   The Great American Political Divide

Leaving Poor Women Their Tears and Their Memory

“The much-vaunted “march to the sea” was a pleasure excursion, through a well-cultivated country . . Sherman boastfully writes that he “destroyed two hundred sixty-five miles of railroad, carried off ten thousand mules, and countless slaves; that he did damage to the amount of $100,000,000. Of this, his army got $20,000,000, and the $80,000,000 was waste,” as they went “looting” through Georgia.

But not content with this, when “this cruel war was over,” he presented the delectable spectacle of “how we went thieving through Georgia” at the grand review of his army in Washington, by mounting his bummers on mules laden with chickens, ducks, geese, lambs, pigs and other farm productions, unblushingly displayed, to cover up the concealed money, jewelry and plate taken from the helpless women – to delight the President, to edify the loyal people, to gratify the hatred of the populace to the South, to popularize the thirst for plundering made by his troops, to be an object lesson to the present generation, to instill a broader view of moral right, to heighten modest sensibilities, to refine the delicate tastes of young ladies, to humiliate a conquered people; or wherefore was this unwise “Punch and Judy” show given?

During the revolutionary war, when the British fleet ascended the Potomac river, one ship sailed up to Mount Vernon – the residence of the arch rebel, Washington – and made a requisition for provisions which his agent filled. The English commander must have been a gentleman because he did not burn the dwelling, insult the family, nor commit robbery!!!

Gen. Bradley T. Johnston, in his life of General J.E. Johnston, quotes that, “Abubekr in the year 634 gave his chiefs of the army of Syria orders as follows: Remember that you are always in the presence of God, on the verge of death, and in the assurance of judgment and the hope of paradise. When you fight the battles of the Lord acquit yourselves like men, without turning your backs; but let not your victory be stained with the blood of women and children. Destroy no palm tree, nor burn any fields of corn . . . nor do any mischief to cattle, only such as you kill to eat . . .”

It is not I who charge Sherman with destroying cornfields, cutting down fruit trees, or “driving off one cow and one pig;” he himself boasts as having done it. If he did take “one cow and one pig,” he kindly left the poor women their tears and their memory.”

(Two Wars, The Autobiography & Diary of Gen. Samuel G. French, CSA, Confederate Veteran, 1901, pp. 264-266)


  1. I read this book several years ago and it offers a fairly honest account of of the thievery that went on under the guise of foraging. It also mentions the 1st Ala. Cavalry U.S. several times in the book (advance personal guard for "Billy" Sherman). The first had been riding mules since early 1862. Most of the men in that outfit were unionist from northwest Alabama and particularly Winston County where I live today. There is a local story about some New York transplants who were brothers marrying local girls. Shortly after the war began they joined the union army and one of the brothers was elected to the rank of "captain" in a company of the 1st. The brothers returned from the war and more especially "the march to the sea" as wealthy men having looted from Atlanta to the sea.

  2. The English commander must have been a gentleman because he did not burn the dwelling, insult the family, nor commit robbery!!!

    Actually, from reading Washington's notes on this subject, the Washington plantation was held until a ransom for it was paid to the English Commander. The "Gentleman" demanded, and got, a bribe to leave the plantation standing.