Newly made graves were opened, the coffins taken out, broken open, in search of buried treasure, and the corpses left exposed. Every spot in grave yard or garden, which seemed to have been recently disturbed, was sounded with sword, or bayonet, or ramrod, in their desperate search after spoil. These monsters of virtuous pretension [bold italics, mine], with their banner of streaks and spangles overhead, and sworn to the Constitution, which they neither understand nor read, never once forget the greed of appetite which has distinguished Puritanic New England for three hundred years; and, lest they might forget, the appetite is kept lively by their women – letters found upon their dead, or upon prisoners, almost invariable appealing to them to bring home the gauds and jewelry, even the dresses of the Southern women, to deck the fond feminine expectants at home, whom we may suppose to be all the while at their devotions, assailing Heaven with prayer in behalf of their thrice blessed cause and country.
The march of the enemy into our State was characterized by such scenes of brutality, license, plunder and general conflagration, as very soon showed that the threat of the Northern press, and of their soldiery, were not to be regarded as mere brutum fulmen. Day by day, brought to the people of Columbia tidings of newer atrocities committed, and a wider and more extended progress. Daily did long trains of fugitives line the roads, with wives and children, and horses and stock and cattle, seeking refuge from the wolfish fury which pursued. Long lines of wagons covered the highways. Half naked people cowered from the winter under bush tents in the thickets, under the eaves of houses, under the railroad sheds, and in old cars left there along the route. All these repeated the same story of brutal outrage and great suffering, violence, poverty and nakedness.
Habitation after habitation, village after village – one sending up its signal flames to the other, presaging for it the same fate – lighted the winter and midnight sky with crimson horrors. . . . Where the families still ventured to remain, they were, in most instances, so tortured by insult, violence, robbery and all manner of brutality, that flight became necessary, and the burning of the dwelling soon followed the flight of the owner. No language can describe the sufferings of these fugitives, or the demonic horrors by which they were pursued; nor can any catalogue furnish an adequate detail of the wide-spread destruction of homes and property. Granaries were emptied, and where the grain was not carried off, it was strewn to waste under the feet of their cavalry or consigned to the fire which consumed the dwelling.
The negroes were robbed equally with the whites of food and clothing. The roads were covered with butchered cattle, hogs, mules and the costliest furniture. Nothing was permitted to escape. Valuable cabinets, rich pianos, were not only hewn to pieces, but bottles of ink, turpentine, oil, whatever could efface or destroy, upon which they could conveniently lay hands, was employed to defile and ruin. Horses were ridden into the houses. Sick people were forced from their beds, to permit the search after hidden treasures. In pursuit of these, the most diabolic ingenuity was exercised, and the cunning of the Yankee, in robbing, proved far superior to that of the negro for concealment. The beautiful homesteads of the parish country, with their wonderful tropical gardens, were ruined; ancient dwellings of black cypress, one hundred years old, which had been reared by the fathers of the republic – men whose names were famous in Revolutionary history – were given to the torch as recklessly as were the rudest hovels; the ancient furniture was hewn to pieces; the costly collections of China were crushed wantonly under foot; choice pictures of works of art, from Europe; select and numerous libraries, objects of peace wholly, were all destroyed.
The summer retreats, simple cottages of slight and unpretending structure, were equally devoted to the flames, and, where the dwellings were not destroyed – and they were only spared while the inhabitants resolutely remained in them – they were robbed of all their portable contents, and what the plunderer could not bear away, was ruthlessly hewn to pieces. The inhabitants, black no less than white, were left to starve, compelled to feed only upon the garbage to be found in the abandoned camps of the enemy. The corn scraped up from the spots where the horses fed, has been the only means of life left to thousands but lately in affluence. It was the avowed policy of the enemy to reach our armies through the sufferings of their women and children – to starve out the families of those gallant soldiers whom they had failed to subdue in battle.
We have been told of successful outrages of this unmentionable character being practiced upon women [rapes] . . . . Many are understood to have taken place in remote country settlements, and two cases are described where young negresses were brutally forced by the wretches and afterwards murdered – one of them being thrust, when half dead, head down, into a mud puddle, and there held until she was suffocated. . . . We need, for the sake of truth and humanity, to put on record, in the fullest types and columns, the horrid deeds of these marauders upon all that is pure and precious – all that is sweet and innocent – all that is good, gentle, gracious, dear and ennobling – within the regards of . . . Christian civilization.
[Mayor Goodwyn] while walking with the Yankee General, heard the report of a gun. Both heard it, and immediately proceeded to the spot. There they found a group of soldiers, with a stalwart young negro fellow lying dead before them on the street, the body yet warm and bleeding. Pushing it with his feet, Sherman said, in his quick, hasty manner, “What does this mean, boys?” The reply was sufficiently cool and careless. “The d___d black rascal gave us his impudence, and we shot him.” “Well, bury him at once! Get him out of sight!” As they passed on, one of the party remarked, “Is that the way, General, you treat such a case?” “Oh!” said he, “we have no time for courts-martial and things of that sort!”
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