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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
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    Virginia
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    337

    Civil War atrocities

    Some time ago my roommate and I ended up discussing atrocities that both sides committed during the war. Immediately acts against captured USCT soldiers by Confederates was mentioned, however other acts, that did not involve black soldiers, were brought up. One story was from my roommate who read an account about a green Federal regiment marching in Tennessee one night during the War. Some local partisans ambushed the Federals, scattering most of the regiment with around 20 members of the regiment becoming captured. The captives were led to a ravine where they were summarily executed with a single shot to the back of the head. Unfortunately I don't know any more about the story or what regiment it happened to.

    That story reminded me of one described by a German soldier in East Tennessee in winter of 63-64. In letter to dated February 23, 1864 by Gottfried Rentschler of the 6th Kentucky (US) Infantry.

    On the 6th we came through Georgetown, a small town that had little damage; and camped overnight on the farm of Major Baird of the 3rd Tennessee Cav. Regt. There, many of the country people in the neighborhood sought us out and gave an account of how dreadfully they had suffered from the Rebels. When Wheeler made the last invasion in the area, one of his soldiers, by the name of Roberts, went into the house of a certain Carter (the Carters consist of a very large family in East Tennessee and are all very good Union people) and shot Robert Carter, a young man, poked his eyes out, shoved them into this pocket, and went to his mother, to whom he said that he had killed Bob Carter. She said, "You did not do that." He pulled the eyes out of his pocket and threw them on the table saying: "Here, if you do not believe me here are the eyes of the son of a bitch." This is only one of the numerous atrocities. Here and there the Southern barbarians have most certainly received their rewards for their cruelty as, e.g., the Sesech who hideously beat an old man whose son was a lieutenant in a Tennessee regiment. When the lieutenant when to Knoxville with his regiment and came through his home area, and learned who committed this atrocity on his old father, he went into the house of the Sesech, pulled him into the street, and shot a bullet through his head.
    Two Germans in the Civil War: The Diary of John Daeuble and the Letters of Gottfried Rentschler. Edited and Translated by Joseph R. Reinhart. Page 48

    Also I remembered this account by Sergeant Patrick Henry Goodrich of the 20th Connecticut Infantry. In a letter dated Sept. 22, 1863 near Raccoon Ford, Goodrich describes the battle of Chancellorsville.

    I was in the trenches until 6:00 when the firing commenced for the day. It was kept up for 1/2 an hour or so up on the right of us when the Rebs were driven back down towards us. There was one of our batteries and two regts. in front of us. One of them were ____. The Rebs fired on them. They fired one or two rounds, and then were ordered to charge. Instead of doing that, they ran back, the cowardly sneaks. They may talk as much as they please about ____. If they are all like that regt., they may as well be sent home or be put in the 11th Corps. After they had left, the Rebs took the battery and turned it on us. Their infantry then came up with a yell and shouting through the hollow in front of our Regt. We let them get pretty up, then we raised up and let them have it. THis was too much for them, and they turned and they turned on a double quick. Lots of them fell before they got out of the hollow. Some of them lay down in the bushes, and as soon as the firing was over, got up and waved their hats and wanted to come into our lines. Several did come but were shot by our men who said they had seen too much of their barbarity. THey would now shoot any hat they saw raised out of the bushes. After driving them back, we lay down in our trenches.
    Civil War Letters of Sgt. Patrick Henry Goodrich: A Soldier in the Connecticut Twentieth Regiment, Company D. Edited by Lawrence P. Cogswell, Jr. page 43
    Bill Backus

    Backus's Bodacious Battery (PNB gun crew)
    1st Maine Cavalry

  2. #2
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    Dec 2003
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    Tuskaloosa, Alabama
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    1,620

    Re: Civil War atrocities

    Bill,

    You may be thinking of Shelton Laurel, in Western North Carolina.

    http://thomaslegion.net/sheltonlaurelmassacre.html

    A deeper look on many of these stories finds that Home Guard were the responsible parties, not diciplined and trained military men. Note the efforts in the above account as a career officer is distanced from the executions.
    Terre Lawson

    Wearing Grossly Out of Fashion Clothing Since 1958.

    ADVENTURE CALLS. Can you hear it? Come ON.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Tennessee
    Posts
    67

    Re: Civil War atrocities

    During Sherman's campaign in the Carolinas, members of the 6th Georgia Cavalry shot a couple of foragers from a New York regiment. After the war, the commanding officer of the 6th, Colonel John Hart was arrested by Federal authorities.

    Roy Queen

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Mass & Conn
    Posts
    865

    Re: Civil War atrocities

    Might I recommend "The Uncivil War: Irregular Warfare In The Upper South, 1861-1865 (Campaigns and Commanders)" by Robert R. Mackey?
    Bryan O'Keefe
    Associate Member SUVCW
    Conn. Vol. Infantry, Independent

  5. #5
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    Dec 2003
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    Out West
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    1,709

    Re: Civil War atrocities

    Quote Originally Posted by Spinster View Post
    Bill,

    You may be thinking of Shelton Laurel, in Western North Carolina.

    http://thomaslegion.net/sheltonlaurelmassacre.html

    A deeper look on many of these stories finds that Home Guard were the responsible parties, not diciplined and trained military men. Note the efforts in the above account as a career officer is distanced from the executions.
    Well said Terre - this is normally the case in many Civil Wars...all less civil than ours. Its the irregulars, bushwhackers and home guard that commit most of the atrocities and are the most cruel prison guards, etc. Front line soldiers know the score and develop a respect for their foe that is shared where the danger is greatest. Having spent all their energy fighting and trying to stay alive, they have little energy left to mistreat the foe, unless they consider the foe somehow not deserving of such respect (Ft Pillow, etc). Irregulars, not enduring much stand up combat, exercize their hate for the enemy in other ways...and perhaps worse, mix local feuds (revenge) and other conflict into the broader picture to justify unspeakable acts, like the Kansas/Missouri border war.

    The fact that one needs to dig for such accounts I believe is a great testament to the American character of everyone from military leaders down to the lowest private in the ranks and most of the citizens. In most such wars, the losers get hung or lanquish in prison.
    Soli Deo Gloria
    Doug Cooper

    "The past is never dead. It's not even past." William Faulkner

    Please support the CWPT at www.civilwar.org

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Franklin, TN
    Posts
    129

    Re: Civil War atrocities

    The "Hicksford Raid", (aka The Apple Jack Raid), comes to mind. In Grant's continuing efforts to cut off Petersburg from the rest of the south, a foray down the Weldon RR was put forth in December 1864. In the end, some Federal soldiers are punished by the Johnnies and a few are "staked out". One report mentions a Federal soldier staked to the ground with the stake going through his throat. In retailation, Union soldiers burn numerous buildings and homes. Rough stuff, this.
    John Marler
    Franklin, TN

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Virginia
    Posts
    1,231

    Re: Civil War atrocities

    Dealing with captured Yanks in the Valley, 1864.

    Some time in October the valley was filled with smoke from the burning mills, barns and factories, grain and hay stacks and that Yankees were driving all the live stock they could find before them as they went…Even dwelling houses were destroyed, and one afternoon in October as we were marching down the back road the command suddenly came to a halt. Something unusual was going on. Without permission I left my company and rode to the top of a hill near by, where my attention was attracted to a clump of officers and men engaged in some unusual work. I rode to where they were and found it to be a military courtmartial. Colonel Blank, the judge, had just rendered his decision, from which there was no appeal. Six Yankee barn-burners were doomed to die. A circle had been formed, they were in its center and begging that their lives be spared. The valley Virginia boys who had witnessed their mothers, sisters and younger brothers hovering around the smoldering ashes where their elegant homes once stood, volunteered and shot them down one by one as he was ordered to march out of the circle. Some of them ran for life, hoping against hope.

    The last one that was shot was a handsome young fellow not over seventeen years of age, and claimed to be a lineal descendant of Ethan Allen, of revolutionary fame, and when told to walk out of the circle that he might be shot down with back to us, he refused to do so, and standing perfectly erect with his arms folded across his breast, said “If I must die, I will die like a man.” In another moment the blood spurted from his brain and he fell to the ground a corpse.
    -- William B. Conway [4th Va. Cav.], “From the Wilderness to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia 1864,” in Atlanta Journal, February 8, 1902.

    Eric
    Eric J. Mink
    Co. A, 4th Va Inf
    Stonewall Brigade

    Help Preserve the Slaughter Pen Farm - Fredericksburg, Va.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Near the Nothern Central RR
    Posts
    143

    Re: Civil War atrocities

    The fact that one needs to dig for such accounts I believe is a great testament to the American character of everyone from military leaders down to the lowest private in the ranks and most of the citizens. In most such wars, the losers get hung or lanquish in prison.
    I definately agree. I have always considered it rather uniqe that former Confederate generals...Fitzhugh Lee, Joseph Wheeler as commander of 5th Corps, at least one other that I cannot recall...served generalships in the army over thirty years later in Cuba, serving side by side with former federal officers. It is hard to imagine that type of reconciliation occuring anywhere else...all the warts of reconstruction being duly noted...
    Tom Scoufalos


    "If you don't play with your toys, someone else will after you die." - Michael Schaffner, Chris Daley, and probably other people too...

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Essex
    Posts
    79

    Re: Civil War atrocities

    Fort Pillow
    Andersonville
    Bloody Bill Anderson
    Guerrilla warfare in Kansas and Missouri
    Sherman's western campaign
    Nick Buczak
    19th Ind

    http://www.allempires.com

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    41

    Re: Civil War atrocities

    Umm,
    The Shelton Laurel Massacre was perpetrated by the 64th NCT which was an organized body of soldiers that were definitely not Home Guard. However, this regiment was stationed close to home and had many issues with soldiers deserting and then becoming 'outliers.' The raid that precipitated this action was launched at Marshall, the hometown of a number of the men in the 64th including their Colonel. Colonel Allen's house was sacked and his family suffered some abuse. It was January and of course there were sick children involved.

    The Shelton Laurel massacre was not an isolated incident, nor can the severity of the atrocity committed be blamed solely on policy decisions or misjudgments on the part of commanders Heth [Department commander], Allen, or Keith [regimental commanders]; rather it represented the most extreme manifestation of escalating tensions between lower-ranking troops and civilians, as guerrilla warfare blurred the lines between combatants and noncombatants and obscured the rules of war that defined both. (Inscoe and McKinney, p120)
    Two books on this episode and others in western North Carolina:
    Phillip Paludan's "Victims"
    and
    Inscoe and McKinney's "The Heart of Confederate Appalachia"
    Peter Koch
    North State Rifles

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