We frequently read today about war crimes, such as bombing hospitals. In World War II Britain bombed civilians in Dresden and dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In war, we are told, “anything goes.” Abraham Lincoln followed this barbaric policy, and those who treat him as a “hero” have much to answer for.
In his definitive book War Crimes Against Southern Civilians (Pelican 2007), the historian Walter Brian Cisco blames Lincoln for a brutal campaign of Terror against the South:
“A Review of War Crimes Against Southern Civilians by Walter Brian Cisco (Pelican, 2007).
War Crimes Against Sou...Cisco, WalterBest Price: $3.99Buy New $32.82(as of 10:30 UTC - Details)Walter Brian Cisco is a lifelong scholar of American Civil War history, a professional writer, and researcher with many respected publications on the subject including States Rights Gist: A South Carolina General of the Civil War, Taking a Stand: Portraits from the Southern Secession Movement, Henry Timrod: A Biography, and Wade Hampton: Confederate Warrior, Conservative Statesman. In his latest book War Crimes Against Southern Civilians, Cisco writes on a subject that many historians have avoided, war crimes committed by the Union forces on the civilian population of the South beginning in the early years of the Civil War.
In his book, Cisco does a commendable job of uncovering historical records from the time period in citing from sources that include accounts from enlisted Union soldiers that were involved in the events, official reports, letters, diaries, and various other testimonials from civilians that tell of the monstrosities committed against Southern population throughout the Civil War. Early in his book, Cisco clearly states Lincoln had adopted the “black flag” policy and this policy was executed by several Union commanders in dates far preceding the better known Sherman’s March to the Sea. “Warring against noncombatants came to be the stated policy and deliberate practice in its subjugation of the Confederacy. Abraham Lincoln, the commander in chief with a reputation as a micromanager, well knew what was going on and approved” (pg. 16). Several pieces cited support this claim and are presented throughout the book.
The evidence offered supporting the “black flag” policy adopted by the Lincoln administration is done in numerous ways. A few examples presented are incidents such as the 1861 St. Louis massacre in which twenty-eight civilians lay dead in the streets of St. Louis and seventy-five others were wounded by the hands of a force of between six and seven thousand Union regulars and German volunteers commanded by Capt. Nathanial Lyon (pg. 22 and 23). The 1862 occupation of New Orleans in which Maj. General Benjamin Butler, establishes martial law whose “decrees were worthy of a czar” and in one infamous order, commanding Union soldiers to treat the ladies of the town as prostitutes which could be “construed as a license for rape” (pg. 65). Other accounts are crimes committed against non-combatants were the attacks on Southern pacifist religious refugees, in which Sheridan’s army robbed, plundered, poisoned wells with dead animal carcasses, and burned their houses to the ground during the Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1864 (pg. 124). Cisco cites several instances in which slaves and free blacks were robbed, raped, and killed by the hands of Union soldiers. Cisco’s book is filled with damning evidence of the war crimes committed by the Union forces on the South. Any reader of this book has to question how a soldier in the U.S. military could justify the inhumane actions that were taken against a civilian population which included the elderly, women, children and slaves. The accounts of Union aggression stated seems surreal and brings forth a question of fallacy that has been planted in the minds of generations of Americans far from what the Union cause truly was about.
War Crimes Against Southern Civilians chapters are organized by engagements recorded from 1861-1865 and follows the timeline very closely. The organization of the chapters is done in a manner that it is easy for a reader to follow and creates a clear account of how these events progressed throughout the war. The author also does a good job citing sources in the book and those that are used are accurate, but the format used in citing the information are not very user friendly. The pages within the text are void of footnotes and somewhat of a nuisance for readers who want quick access to citations presented on the page they are reading. Cisco does not include any footnotes in the book or endnotes at the end of each chapter, but instead lists all notes at the end of the book. Even though the book is well written, improvements could be made through the way notes are arranged and should do so if an updated version of the book is ever released.
Without question, the author writes from a Southern perspective in presenting the atrocities Southern citizens were subjected to by Union forces. Many historians might discount Cisco’s work for representing only the Southern viewpoint of the war in this book. However, through writing in a Southern viewpoint, Cisco has brought forth a piece of history that is unknown to many readers of Civil War history. The majority of books written about the Civil War give a very limited account of the events that took place with the intent of glorifying the actions of the Lincoln administration and the Union army. Cisco’s contribution of the historical accounts of the Civil War is commendable and he meets a difficult subject matter head-on that other authors have purposely neglected. The facts Cisco presents, instills his readers with facts that contribute a more complete understanding of events that forever changed the course of a nation.
After reading this book, an vital element in understanding the Civil War history is uncovered that many historians are not aware of. Cisco offers a wealth of evidence to his readers that have been too taboo for many academic writers to report. War Crimes Against Southern Civilians is a must read for historians who are truth seekers and want to attain a fuller understanding of the events that unfolded during a difficult time in American history.” War Crimes Against Southern Civilians – Abbeville Institute
Valerie Protopapas makes clear Lincoln’s responsibility for the war atrocities:
“Who has not heard of Wounded Knee? Most know at least the general facts surrounding what is acknowledged as an atrocity committed by the army of the United States. On December 29th, 1890, the 7th Cavalry surrounded a band of Ghost Dancers—a spiritual movement of the Lakota Sioux—near Wounded Knee Creek. The soldiers demanded that the Indians surrender their weapons. As the Indians made to comply, a fight broke out between an Indian and a soldier and a shot was fired. When it was over, it is estimated that between 150 to 300 Indians—nearly half of whom were women and children— had been killed; the cavalry lost 25 men. Wounded Knee is considered the last major confrontation in the deadly war of extermination waged by the American government against the Plains Indians.
But Wounded Knee was also a fitting footnote to the tactics of the United States military that began some thirty years earlier when it was loosed not against the Plains Indians but against people with whom that military shared a common heritage of struggle and liberation from the tyranny of Great Britain. Despite growing ill-feeling between the sections which only deepened as the 19th century progressed, the United States still taught the principles of civilized and just warfare as codified by Hugo Grotius and Emmerich de Vattel. Indeed, Lincoln’s lead general Henry Halleck wrote General Order 12 declaring that assaults on civilians were: “coming into general disuse among the most civilized nations.”
Yet, the first strategy created by General Winfield Scott at Lincoln’s request and utilized from the commencement of the war targeted non-combatants. The Anaconda plan was created to starve the South into submission, depriving her people not just of arms and munitions, but food and medicine, the essentials of life itself. Thus, the nature of the war that was to be waged against the people of the South was in place from the beginning. All that happened afterward was simply the extension and exacerbation of the already chosen path of total war against every man, woman and child of the Confederacy.
Much has been made of Lincoln’s General Order 100, also known as the Lieber Code. Most of those who have commented have bestowed upon Lincoln the mantle of the first man to create an “extraordinary code that emerged … to change the course of world history.” And that Lincoln’s Code is the … inspiring story of . the idea that conduct in war can be regulated by law.” But these votaries forget that prior to Lieber there were the codes of Grotius and deVattel that had been taught at West Point and other such institutions and these codes forbade assaults by armies upon noncombatants. Lieber, on the other hand, gave Lincoln what he wanted—something that sounded good but allowed him to murder, plunder and pillage under the concept of “military necessity!” Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon recognized—and denounced—this cunning duplicity, stating that:
“…a commander under this code may pursue a line of conduct in accordance with principles of justice, faith, and honor, or he may justify conduct correspondent with the barbarous hordes who overran the Roman Empire…”
Indeed, despite its pretense of “civilized conflict” Lieber openly endorsed the concept of “hard war” by defining it as a struggle not limited to armies and navies. Remember Halleck’s observation that assaults on non-combatants were “coming into general disuse among the most civilized nations.” Are we then to assume that Lieber’s code was written for a nation that was not “civilized?” In Article 21, Lieber states: “The citizen . of a hostile country is thus an enemy.and as such is subjected to the hardships of war.” Article 29 states, “The more vigorously wars are pursued, the better it is for humanity.” One has to wonder how Lieber defined “better” and “humanity.” Finally, he concludes, “The ultimate object of all modern war is a renewed state of peace.” Well, there is nothing more peaceful than the grave.
In Lieber’s code, necessity always trumped both legality and humanity. Sherman and Sheridan would never have undertaken their atrocities had they followed any of the codes of war taught at the Point under Halleck. Indeed, on August 4, 1863, Sherman wrote to Grant at Vicksburg,
“The amount of burning, stealing and plundering done by our army makes me ashamed of it. I would rather quit the service if I could, because I fear that we are drifting to the worst sort of vandalism …You and I and every commander must go through the war, justly charged with crimes at which we blush.”
However, in a later response to a Southerner who called him a barbarian, Sherman said that he, as a commander:
“may take your house, your fields, your everything, and turn you out helpless to starve. It may be wrong, but that don’t alter the case.”
Author Otto Eisenschiml, writing less than 20 years after the Nuremberg war crimes trials, asserted that Sherman should have been hanged just as the Nazi war criminals had been hanged! Instead, he was lauded, honored and promoted by a grateful government.
Of course, there were federal officers who objected. Robert Gould Shaw, the commander of the famous black regiment honored in the film Glory, was commanded by a superior officer to burn Darien, Georgia. Shaw later wrote to his wife:
“for myself, I have gone through the war so far without dishonor, and I do not like to degenerate into a plunderer and robber—and the same applies to every officer in my regiment.”
Union hero, Joshua Chamberlain, wrote to his sister on December 14th, 1864, after having burned the homes of women and children near Petersburg, Virginia at Grant’s order:
“I am willing to fight men in arms, but not babes in arms.”
Union General Don Carlos Buell resigned in protest, writing:
“I believe that the policy and means with which the war was being prosecuted were discreditable to the nation and a stain on civilization.”
Even Northern newspapers commented upon such atrocities. One New York paper, referring to Sherman’s “capture” and deportation of 400 young women with their children from Rosewell, Georgia cried:
“…it is hardly conceivable that an officer bearing a United States commission of Major General should have so far forgotten the commonest dictates of decency and humanity… as to drive four hundred penniless girls hundreds of miles away from their homes and friends to seek their livelihood amid strange and hostile people. We repeat our earnest hope that further information may redeem the name of General Sherman and our own from this frightful disgrace.”
Many of the women were raped by their soldier captors during their journey to Marietta after which they and their children were imprisoned, starved, mistreated and then sent North without subsistence. Not one of these poor unfortunates ever returned home after the war, an act more savage than Wounded Knee.
Indeed, distinguished military historian B. H. Liddell observed that the code of civilized warfare which had ruled Europe for over two hundred years was first broken by Lincoln’s policy of directing the destruction of civilian life in the South. On this matter, Liddell wrote “This policy was in many ways the prototype of modern total war.”
Neither was Lincoln ignorant of his armies’ atrocities. In his memoirs Sherman wrote that at a meeting with Lincoln after his March, the President was eager to hear the stories of how thousands of Southern civilians, mostly women, children, old men and slaves, were plundered, tortured, raped, murdered and rendered homeless. According to Sherman, the President laughed almost uncontrollably at these narratives. Sherman’s biographer Lee Kennett, concluded that had the Confederates won the war, they would have been:
“justified in stringing up President Lincoln and the entire Union high command for violations of the laws of war, specifically for waging war against noncombatants.”
It had always been Lincoln’s strategy not only to defeat the South but to destroy both the culture and the will of the people by targeting civilians. Under the concept of “military necessity,” Lincoln’s new code of war allowed him to do whatever was required to achieve that end and his commanders followed suit. Even General Halleck author of General Order 12, abandoned his concern for civilization. Ulysses Grant decided after the Battle of Shiloh in April of 1862, that the only strategy possible was to annihilate the South. Writing to Sheridan and Sherman, Grant stated,
“We are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people and we must make old and young, rich and poor feel the hard hand of war.” Lincoln’s Total War – Abbeville Institute
The great Tom DiLorenzo describes some of the atrocities against Southern civilians here:
South Carolina Civilia...Karen StokesBest Price: $11.50Buy New $3.37(as of 05:45 UTC - Details)“November and December of this year  mark the 150th anniversary of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s famous “march to the sea” at the end of the War to Prevent Southern Independence. The Lincoln cult – especially its hyper-warmongering neocon branch – has been holding conferences, celebrations, and commemorations while continuing to rewrite history to suit its statist biases. Business as usual, in other words. But they are not the only ones writing about the event. Historian Karen Stokes has published South Carolina Civilians in Sherman’s Path: Stories of Courage Amid Civil War Destruction that contains a great deal of very telling information about Sherman’s motivation in waging total war on the civilian population of South Carolina.
Stokes begins by quoting a letter that Sherman wrote to General Henry Halleck shortly before invading all-but-defenseless South Carolina: “[T]he whole army is burning with an insatiable desire to wreak vengeance upon South Carolina.” In another message a few weeks later, Sherman reiterated to Halleck that “The whole army is crazy to be turned loose in [South] Carolina.”
A New York newspaperman who was “embedded” with Sherman’s army (to use a contemporary term) wrote that “There can be no denial of the assertion that the feeling among the troops was one of extreme bitterness towards the people of the State of South Carolina.” The Philadelphia Inquirer cheered on as Sherman’s army raped, pillaged, burned, and plundered through the state, calling South Carolina “that accursed hotbed of treason.”
In a January 31, 1864 letter to Major R.M. Sawyer, Sherman explained the reason why he hated the South in general, and South Carolina in particular, so much. The war, he said “was the result of a false political doctrine that any and every people have a right to self-government.” In the same letter Sherman referred to states’ rights, freedom of conscience, and freedom of the press as “trash” that had “deluded the Southern people into war.”
Sherman’s subordinates expressed similar opinions. In 1865 Major George W. Nichols published a book about his exploits during Sherman’s “march” in which he describing South Carolinians as “the scum, the lower dregs of civilization” who are “not Americans; they are merely South Carolinians.” General Carl Schurz is quoted by Stokes as remarking that “South Carolina – the state which was looked upon by the Northern soldier as the principal instigator” of the war was “deserving of special punishment.”
All of this is so telling because it reveals that neither Sherman, nor his subordinate officers, nor the average “soldier” in his army, were motivated by anything having to do with slavery. South Carolina suffered more than any other state at the hands of Sherman’s raping, looting, plundering, murdering, and house-burning army because that is where the secession movement started. It was NOT because there were more slaves there than in other states, or because of anything else related to slavery. It was because South Carolinians, even more than other Southerners, did not believe in uncompromising obedience to the central state.
Shortly after the war ended some prominent Northerners began to pour into South Carolina to revel in the scenes of destruction (and to steal whatever they could). The goofy Brooklyn, New York, Reverend Henry Ward Beecher went on one such excursion and gave a speech while standing under a giant U.S. flag in Charleston in which he declared:
“Let no man misread the meaning of this unfolding flag! It says, ‘GOVERNMENT hath returned hither.’ It proclaims in the name of vindicated government, peace and protection to loyalty; humiliations and pains to traitors. This is the flag of sovereignty. The nation, not the States, is sovereign. Restored to authority, this flag commands, not supplicates . . . . There may be pardon [for former Confederates], but no concession . . . . The only condition of submission is to submit!”
In other words, the purpose of the war was to “prove” once and for all the false nationalist theory that the states were never sovereign; they did not ratify the Constitution, as explained in Article 7; the constitution created them; that the states never delegated certain powers to the central government in the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8); and that the central government is to have unlimited “supremacy” over all individuals and institutions.
This was the nationalist superstition about the American founding, first fabricated by Alexander Hamilton and repeated by successive generations of nationalist/consolodationist/mercantilist despots such as John Marshall, Joseph Story, Daniel Webster, and Abraham Lincoln.
This is why Sherman and his army reveled so much in their brutalization of defenseless South Carolinian women and children and the looting and destruction of their property. And they bragged about it for the rest of their lives. Much of the boasting is catalogued in South Carolina Civilians in Sherman’s Path. Stokes quotes a General Charles Van Wyck as writing that “nearly every house on our line of march has been destroyed.” An “embedded” New York reporter named David P. Conyngham is quoted as described one South Carolina town after observing “the smoking ruins of the town, to tall, black chimneys looking down upon it like funeral mutes” with “old women and children, hopeless, helpless, almost frenzied, wandering amidst the desolation.” The book contains dozens of other eye-witness accounts by Union Army soldiers and Southern civilians of the burning down of entire cities and towns, rape, robbery, and wanton destruction of all varieties of private property, all of it occurring after the Confederate Army had vacated. All to prove once and for all, to South Carolinians and all other Americans, North and South, that federalism and self-government was a “delusion,” to quote General Sherman himself.” US Soldiers Raped, Pillaged, and Plundered – LewRockwell
Let’s do everything we can to end the cult of Lincoln and to oppose war atrocities.