Sherman’s March – Posted on the History Channel Site
More of the Reverend’s letter…
When Sherman’s army came sweeping through Carolina, leaving a broad track of desolation for hundreds of miles, who steps were accompanied with fire, and sword, and blood, I happened to be at Cash’s Depot, six miles from Cheraw. The owner was a widow, Mrs. Ellerbe, seventy-one years of age. Her son, Colonel Cash, was absent.
I witnessed the barbarities inflicted on the aged, the widow, and young and delicate females. Officers, high in command, were engaged tearing from the ladies their watches, their ear and wedding rings, the daguerreotypes of those they loved and cherished.
A lady, a personal friend, was compelled to strip before them, that they might find concealed watches and other valuables under her dress. A system of torture was practiced towards the weak, unarmed, and defenseless, which, as far as I know and believe, was universal throughout the whole course of that invading army.
Before they arrived at a plantation, they inquired the names of the most faithful and trustworthy blacks; they were immediately seized, pistols were presented to their heads; with the most terrific curses, they were threatened to be shot if they did not assist them in finding buried treasures. If they did not succeed, they were tied up and cruelly beaten. Several poor creatures died under the infliction. The last resort was that of hanging, and the officers and men of the triumphant army of General Sherman were engaged in erecting gallows and hanging up these faithful and devoted blacks. They were strung up until life was nearly extinct, when they were let down, suffered to rest awhile, then threatened and hung up again. It is not surprising that some should have been left hanging so long that they were taken down dead.
Coolly and deliberately these hardened men proceeded on their way, as if they had perpetrated no crime, and as if the God of heaven would not pursue them with His vengeance. But it was not alone the poor blacks that were thus subjected to torture and death.
Gentlemen of high character, unconnected with the military, were dragged from their fields or their beds, and subjected to this process of threats, beating, and hanging.
Along the whole track of Sherman’s army, traces remain of the cruelty and inhumanity practiced on the aged and the defenseless. Some of those who were hung up died under the rope, while their cruel murderers have not only been left unreproached and unhung, but have been hailed as heroes and patriots.
I, who have been a witness to these acts of barbarity that are revolting to every feeling of humanity and mercy, was doomed to feel in my own person the effects of the avarice, cruelty, and despotism which characterized the men of that army.
On Sunday the blacks were kicked, and knocked down and robbed of all their clothing and they came to us in their shirtsleeves, having lost their hats, clothes, and shoes. Most of our own clothes had been hid in the woods. The blacks who had assisted in removing them were beaten and threatened with death, and compelled to show them where they were concealed. They cut open the trunks, threw my manuscripts and devotional books into a mud hole, stole the ladies’ jewelry, hair ornaments, etc. tore many garments into tatters. The plantation, of one hundred and sixty blacks, was some distance from the house, and to this place successive parties of fifty at a time resorted for three long days and nights, the husbands and fathers being fired at and compelled to fly to the woods.
The time will come when the judgment of Heaven will await these libidinous, beastly barbarians.
I walked out at night, and the innumerable fires that were burning as far as the eye could reach, in hundreds of places, illuminated the whole heavens, and testified to the vindictive barbarity of the foe. -Rev Dr. John Bachman (pastor of the Lutheran Church in Charleston, SC 1865)