Army to Save the Union, or Army of Thieves?


These are some interesting period views of how Lincoln’s army of emancipation waged war against fellow Americans. One could add the looting by Burnside’s troops North Carolina in 1862, after Lincoln appointed Edward Stanly to be "military governor" of the State (which already had an elected governor) in May of that year. Although the basis of the war at that time was to restore the State to the original union with no other changes, Burnside had been confiscating slaves and allowing his men free reign over the populace. In Hamilton’s "Reconstruction in North Carolina," the author states that "He (Stanly) was greatly handicapped in his peaceful efforts (to find North Carolinian unionists) by the operations of the Union troops in the eastern part of the State. His argument, (to the citizens) that they were a "glorious army of noble patriots," lost its significance in view of their constant plundering and burning, and his protests against this were without avail. Stanly resigned his appointment in January, 1863 stating that "he had assured the people of the State that the administration was only trying to restore the Union and would secure the rights of the people. Stanly’s resignation letter also decried "the most shameful pillaging and robbery that ever disgraced an army in any civilized land." (see Hamilton, pp 92-94).

Bernhard Thuersam, Executive Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Post Office Box 328
Wilmington, NC 28402

Army to Save the Union or Army of Thieves?

The Old Guard was published from 1863 to 1867 by C. Chauncey Burr. Based out of New York, it would be assumed that this publication was to be pro-Union: however, this was not the case. Articles that appeared during the war years of The Old Guard were very critical of Lincoln and his administration, and blamed them either directly of indirectly, for the mass casualties on both sides of the fighting. The following articles were originally published in the May, August and September issues of The Old Guard and illustrate, quite effectively, the sentiments of pro-Southern citizens.

Daniel Webster, A Prophet:

When the “great Expounder of the Constitution” read the speech of Mr. Seward, which announced “the irrepressible conflict,” he exclaimed—“If these infernal fanatics and abolitionists ever get power in their hands, they will override the Constitution, set Supreme Court at defiance, change and make laws to suit themselves, lay violent hands on those that differ with them in their opinion, or dare question their infallibility; and finally, bankrupt the country and deluge it with blood.

We beg, with due respect, to call Mr. Lincoln’s attention to these words of terrible prophecy uttered by the immortal Daniel Webster. The flowers have blossomed over the grave of the great statesman but a few summers before his awful words are more than fulfilled. Will Mr. Lincoln deny that abolitionism has already wrought the work of destruction and death then foretold?

Disgrace Of Our Army:

The following extract from a letter written by one of our officers the day after the slaughter at Fredericksburg will be read with mingled shame and indignation by every Northern man, except the abolitionists, who appear to delight in such theft and plunder.

“I went over the Rappahannock this morning (the 13th) and such a scene as I witnessed cannot possibly be described. The men (of the Northern army) had emptied every house and store of its contents, and the streets, as a matter of course, were filled with chairs and sofas, pianos, books and everything imaginable. The men were beginning to make themselves appear as ridiculous as possible. Some had hauled pianos to the front doors and were making hideous noises on them. Others were in silk dresses with beaver hats on, parading the streets. Others were reading letters; while others turned their attention to obtaining tobacco of which there was an immense quantity in town. I have seen hundreds of men with from 50 to 100 pounds of it. I saw one man with a canary bird, and another with a banjo. A more disgraceful scene I have never witnessed. If Richmond suffers the same fate this town has, no wonder that the (Southern) whites fight so. The shelling was a military necessity; but after the town was in our possession the pillaging should have ceased. I think our army has been disgraced today by this act.

A federal officer, corresponding for the Chicago Times, gives an account of General Grant’s progress in Northern Mississippi which shows that our soldiers under that command are horribly demoralized:

“Straggling through the country, and stealing everything that they can lay their hands on (says the correspondent), whether of use or not to them, goes on. Helpless women and children are robbed of their clothes and bedding, their provisions taken from them and by men who have no earthly use for them whatever.”

From Another Correspondent:

“A private letter received here not long since, from a soldier in one of our western armies states that their march South was characterized by acts of vandalism and wanton outrage, and fiendish cruelty disgraceful to a civilized people. Burning houses, desolated fields and homeless households marked their path; while unlicensed robbery, indiscriminate plunder, and , not infrequently, assassination completed the woeful picture presented by an invading army which appeared to be without restraint, and whose only purpose would seem to be as thus manifested, to burn, pillage and destroy as it went.”

Men who behave in this manner are not soldiers, but brigands. The officers who allow such crimes deserve to be execrated by the parents whose sons are under their command. It was one of the real causes of abolition complain against General McClellan, that he forbid marauding and plundering. It is painful to publish such things; but the people ought to know them, in order that they may understand why it is that the Southern people fight with such unnatural desperation, and why they have come to entertain such a sincere horror of Northern people. Generals who allow these crimes on the part of their soldiers, it is certain, are not fighting to restore the Union—they are doing the barbarous will of the abolitionists, to drive the South so far out that it can never get back. We are sorry to say that General Grant has won for himself a most inglorious notoriety in this particular.

How We Are Avenging Sumpter:

The following are the reported casualties of this war from its beginning to January 1st, 1863:

Federals Killed: 43,874
Federals Wounded: 97,029
Federals died of disease/wounds: 250,000
Federals Made Prisoner: 68,218
Total: 459,374

Confederates Killed: 20,893
Confederates Wounded: 59,915
Confederates died of disease/wounds: 120,000
Confederates Made Prisoner: 22,169
Total: 222,677

They have killed 22,874 more of our men than we have of theirs.
They have wounded, not mortally, 39,414 more of our men than we have of theirs.
150,000 more of our men have died of disease and wounds than of theirs.
They have made prisoners of 46,000 more of our men than we have of theirs.
Our total casualties are 237,297 more than theirs—that is, our casualties have been 14,000 more than as much again as theirs.
This is the way we have “revenged the firing on Fort Sumpter.”

But this is not all. We have spent almost two thousand million more of money than they have spent. We have made two hundred thousand of our women widows.
We have made one million of children fatherless.
We have destroyed the Constitution of our country.
We have brought the ferocious savagery of war into every corner of society.
We have demoralized our pulpits, so that our very religion is a source of immorality and blood. Instead of being servants of Christ, our ministers are servants of Satan.
The land is full of contractors, thieves, provost-marshals and a thousand other tolls of illegal and despotic power, as Egypt was of vermin in the days of the Pharaohs.
We are rapidly degenerating in everything that exalts a nation.
Our civilization is perishing.
We are swiftly drifting into inevitable civil war here in the North.
We are turning our homes into charnel houses.
There is a corpse in every family. The angel of death sits in every door.
The devil has removed from Tartarus to Washington.
We pretend that we are punishing the rebels, but they are punishing us.
We pretend that we are restoring the Union, but we are destroying it.
We pretend that we are enforcing the laws, but we are only catching Negroes.

That is the way we are “revenging Sumpter.”
Selling our souls to the devil and taking Lincoln & Co.’s promise to pay.
We have it in greenbacks and blood.
That is the way we are “revenging Sumpter.”

(from the Archive Press: Introduction by Matt Caldwell, Civil War Historian Magazine, July/August 2005)

The Old Guard: A Monthly Journal Devoted to the Principles of 1776 and 1787, Volume II, No. 1, January 1863

Published in New York by C. Chauncey Burr & Company No. 119, Nassau Street