Saturday, August 4, 2012

After a campaign of virtual genocide against the South, rivled only by the extermination of the Native Americans and carried out by the same federal troops; General Early came to the conclusion that "it was time to open the eyes of the people of the North to this enormity, by example in the way of retaliation."

I consider Early's actions regrettable though understandable. It remains as one of the few blemishes in the history of the Confederate soldiers conduct during the war. 

However, Sheridan's Union forces had burned so many crops and barns in the Shenandoah Valley, that, as one observer put it, "a bird flying over the Valley, must carry it's own provender." In the deep South, Sherman would burn a swath through Georgia, South Carolina, and finally North Carolina. Grant deliberately ordered the policy of laying waste to everything in Sherman's path. Union commanders like Turchin and Sherman were responsible for allowing their men to rape, rob, burn, lynch and destroy indiscriminately. Sherman openly advocated making war on women and children...

When Chambersburg residents learned on the morning of July 30, 1864 that yet another Confederate cavalry raid was approaching their city, most people were not overly concerned (why should they be). Rebels had occupied the city in October 1862 and again in June 1863, soon before the Battle of Gettysburg. On both occasions Southern troops were on their best behavior, although they had burned military supplies and railroad equipment. 

On July 30 1964, 2,800 Confederate raiders came to avenge the destruction in the Shenandoah Valley caused by Union troops under General David Hunter. When residents failed to pay $100,000 in gold, or $500,000 in Yankee greenbacks, General John McCausland, by order of General Early set the town on fire. 

1927 Magazine article: 

Rebel General John McCausland: the Terror of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (The Nation, 1927)
This small notice from THE NATION marked the death of General John McCausland (1836 – 1927), C.S.A.. Much to the disappointment of the town elders residing in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, McCausland (pardoned by President U.S. Grant) escaped the hangman and outlived every last Confederate general ever put in the field.

"'Hardly a man is now alive who remembers that famous day and year' when a thrill of horror went through the North as the news came that a Confederate cavalry general, one John McCausland, had led his troops into Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, on the thirtieth of July, 1864, and burned the greater part of that town to the ground...He was declared an outlaw, a brigand, a violator of all the decencies of war and the laws thereof; a beast who warred on women and children."

These same folks considered Sherman, Sheridan, Turchin, Butler and Hunter heroes, Hmmm! Why didn't they just "GET OVER IT" like we hear so often...the war had been over for 62 years. 

Not all Confederates participated in the sacking of Chambersburg. The Masonic Temple was spared when an officer who was also a Mason posted guards to prevent its burning. When the colonel of the 21st Virginia Cavalry refused to obey the burning order, he was arrested and his entire unit sent out of town.

Other Confederates tried to help frantic citizens retrieve household goods before their homes were burned. In the end, perhaps 550 buildings went up in flames. No mention of any unarmed citizen injured or a woman insulted.

The following statement is from one of the Confederate participants:

And why did we justify so harsh a measure? Simply because we had come to the conclusion that it was time for us to burn something in the enemy's country. In the campaign of the preceding year, when our whole army had passed through your richest section of country, where the peaceful homes and fruitful fields only made the contrast with what he had left the more significant, many a man whose home was in ruins chafed under the orders from General Lee, which forbade him to touch them; but the orders were obeyed, and we left the homes and fields as we found them, the ordinary wear and tear of an army of occupation alone excepted. We had so often before our eyes the reverse of this wherever your army swept through Virginia that we were thoroughly convinced of the justice of a stern retaliation.

The men who actually applied the torch may be classed in three divisions: First, those whose own homes had been ravaged or destroyed or whose relations had suffered in that way. These men were anxious for the work to begin, and the spirit of revenge which actuated them made them apparently merciless. There were many such in the brigade. Second, the far larger portion who simply obeyed orders as soldiers and who saved what they could and to whose humanity and liberal construction of the orders given them no doubt you must be thankful for the portion of the city that was saved. Third, the men to be found in all armies who looked upon the occasion as an opportunity to plunder and who rejoiced in wanton destruction. This last element was, I am glad to say, small; but I have no doubt to those who unfortunately came in contact with them they were but types of the whole command. Confederate Veteran, Volume XVII, Number 11, November, 1909, pp. 559-561

Read the full article...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.