Words of Civil War leaders offer different view of history

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 7, 2001

Political and military leaders of the North and South produced thousands of communiqu\u00E9s, orders and letters throughout the four years of conflict.

Since the victors always write the history, we have been forced to accept much of the Northerner’s version, especially Lincoln’s oft-repeated phrase, &uot;The Union must be preserved!&uot; and quotes from his infamous Emancipation Proclamation as justifiable reasons for destroying the South and her people.

But, to fully appreciate the words of our great Southern men, we should first examine a few more words of the military leadership under Lincoln. As Commander-in-Chief, Lincoln set the tone for their conduct of the war, fully aware of the consequences of his policies.

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The documents of Sherman, Grant Sheridan and other Union officers recorded below (all contained within the federal government’s own Official Records of the War of the Rebellion) are without equal in their utter contempt for the South and treatment of its citizens. These represent but a small fraction of the almost 450 such examples found in the official records, including the documented rapes, murders, arsons, robberies, hangings, kidnappings and other Yankee atrocities committed throughout the South, heinous acts carried out against the black population, as well.

One can only imagine those communications that never made it into the official records. Nor do these include the vitriolic words of the Black Republican politicians, Abolitionists, so-called Christian preachers and newspaper editors who waged their own campaigns of destruction.

Here then are some examples to ponder.

— &uot;I have heardof your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a DictatorOnly those generals who gain successes, can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship.&uot;

Lincoln to Gen. Joseph Hooker; Jan. 26, 1863

— &uot;Rebellion has assumed that shape now that it can only terminate by the complete subjugation of the SouthIt is our duty to weaken the enemy, by destroying their means of subsistence, withdrawing their means of cultivating their fields, and in every other way possible.&uot;

Gen. Ulysses S. Grant; April 11, 1863

— &uot;The United States has the right, andpower, to penetrate to every part of the national domainWe will remove and destroy every obstacletake every life, every acre of land, every particle of propertyIf the people of the South oppose, they do so at their peril.&uot;

Gen. William T. Sherman; Sept. 17, 1863

— &uot;I have your telegram saying the President had read my letter and thought it should be published[I] profess to fight for but one single purpose, viz, to sustain a Governmentindependent of [Negroes], cotton, money, or earthly interest.&uot;

Sherman; Oct. 10, 1863

–&uot;These people are proud arrogant rebelsthey should respect us – not from love, for they never will do that, but from fear of the power of our Government.&uot;

Gen. Grenville M. Dodge; Nov. 27, 1863

— &uot;We of the North are, beyond all question, right in our lawful causeThe Government of the United States hasany and all rightsto take their lives, their homes, their lands, their every thingwar is simply power unrestrained by constitution or compactin another year they may beg in vain for their livesto the petulant and persistent secessionist, why, death is mercy, and the quicker he or she is disposed of, the betterTo such as would rebel against a Government so mild and just as ours was in peace, a punishment equal would not be unjust.&uot;

Sherman; Jan. 31, 1864

— &uot;Ibegan systematic and thorough destructionFor five days, 10,000 men worked hard and with a will in that work of destruction with axes,crowbarsand with fireMeridianno longer exists.&uot;

Sherman to Grant; Feb. 16, 1864

— &uot;There is a class of people [Southern] men, women, and children, who must be killed or banished before you can hope for peace and order.&uot;

Sherman to Union Secretary of War Edwin Stanton; June 21, 1864

— &uot;Your letter of the 21st of June has just reached me and meets my approval.&uot;

Stanton’s reply to Sherman; July 1, 1864

— &uot;Until we can repopulate Georgia, it is useless to occupy it, but the utter destruction of its roads, houses, and people will cripple their military resourcesI can make the march, and make Georgia howl.&uot;

Sherman to Grant; Oct. 9, 1864

— &uot;I have given you but a faint idea of the cleaning out of the stock, forage, wheat, provisions, &c., in the [Shenandoah] ValleyThe refugees from [CSA Gen. Jubal A.] Early’s army, cavalry and infantry, are organizing guerilla parties…becoming very formidable…I know of no way to exterminate them except to burn out the whole country.&uot;

Gen. Philip Sheridan to Grant; Oct. 11, 1864

— &uot;With great pleasure I tender to you and your brave army the thanks of the nation and my own personal admiration and gratitude for the month’s operations in the Shenandoah Valley.&uot;

Lincoln to Sheridan; Oct. 22, 1864

— &uot;Cannot you send over about Fairmont and Adairsville [Georgia] burn ten or twelve houses of known Secessionists, kill a few at random&uot;

Sherman to Gen. L. D. Watkins in Calhoun, Ga; Oct. 29, 1864

— &uot;The people of the Southseethe sure and inevitable destruction of all their propertythe inevitable result of starvation and misery.&uot;

Sherman; Jan. 21, 1865

&uot;Let the whole people know that the war is now against themIt is petty nonsenseto talk of our warring against women and childrenthey should defend their women and children and prevent us reaching their homesI want the people of the South to realizethey shall not dictate laws of war or peace with us.&uot;

Sherman; Feb. 23, 1865

These quotes represent but a small sampling of the Yankee’s own version in suppressing the so-called &uot;rebellion,&uot; leaving no doubt as to the federal government’s real motives. Note that the above was directed primarily against the civilian population, not armed Southern soldiers on the battlefield. Following the surrender, many Southern military and political leaders were required to seek &uot;forgiveness&uot; from their Union masters by signing an Amnesty Oath or Oath of Allegiance, an act amounting to political blackmail. Once signed, these men would be welcomed back into &uot;a government so mild and just as ours.&uot; One such version of this oath, issued by President Andrew Johnson in May 1865, reads

&uot;I [name] do solemnly swear or affirm, in the presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Union of States thereunder, and that I will in like manner abide by and faithfully support all Laws and Proclamations which have been made during the existing rebellion, with reference to the emancipation of slaves. So help me God.&uot;

Violation of this oath was paramount to treason and could result in a person’s imprisonment or, in some cases, even death. There were 14 classes of Southerners excluded from the &uot;benefits&uot; of this oath, including all ex-governors and lieutenant governors, high-ranking military or political officers, those with assets exceeding $20,000 and others.

Only upon clemency granted by the President himself could these men be granted new &uot;citizenship.&uot;

In contrast to the North, Southern military and political leaders were not interested in &uot;subjugation,&uot; &uot;extermination&uot; or &uot;destruction.&uot;

Conquest of territory or plundering of riches did not motivate Southerners. The South just wanted to be left alone to pursue its destiny without interference from the federal government. The Confederacy was not without its own great men whose words have also been recorded for posterity, although their writings and public statements have been relegated to the back pages of history, consciously omitted from the politically-correct books, movies, and other propaganda that influence our children.

Compare the quotations of the Union’s great heroes with the few below, words as alive and cherished by patriotic Southerners today as they were over 130 ago.

— &uot;Duty is the sublimest word in our English language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.&uot;

General Robert E. Lee; in a letter to his son

— &uot;We feel that our cause is just and holy; we protest solemnly in the face of mankind that we desire peace at any sacrifice save that of honor and independence; we seek no conquest, no aggrandizement, no concession of any kind from the States with which we were lately confederated; all we ask is to be let alone; that those who never held power over us shall not now attempt our subjugation by arms.&uot;

President Jefferson Davis; April 29, 1861

— &uot;the Confederate government is waging this war solely for self-defence, that it has no design of conquest or any other purpose than to secure peace and the abandonment by the United States of its pretensions to govern a people who have never been their subjects and who prefer self-government to a Union with them.&uot;

Jefferson Davis; Sept. 7, 1862

— &uot;Keep steady in the view of the great principles for which you contendThe safety of your homes and the lives of all you hold dear depend upon your courage and exertations. Let each man resolve to be victorious, and that the right of self government, liberty and peace shall find him a defender.&uot;

Robert E. Lee; speech to his troops, Sept. 9, 1861

Robert Crook, a Natchez native, lives and works in Baton Rouge.