Friday, May 27, 2011

Dr. Fleming on General Sherman

From a response to a comment in "Chronicles Magazine" in 2008:
" I wrote as I did in the belief that you are a decent man who has been victimized by modern education.
Yes, I am saying Sherman was no better than Bomber Harris, indeed, far worse, because his criminal campaign of mass looting, burning, and raping was not aimed at a national enemy against whom his country had fought a few decades earlier in a terrible war but against people whom he had known, his fellow Americans. How many civilians died as a result of the Union’s decision to make war on civilians? No one knows but most estimates I have read are in excess of the roughly 600,000 military deaths. The majority were black, some of them killed in cold blood because they became an annoyance as they followed the troops, but most from the starvation that followed the destruction of an agrarian economy. I am not at all an expert in these matters and have only done casual reading except in certain regions, such as South Carolina and Missouri. Some jackass keeps on writing in to complain about Quantrill, an Ohioan whose deeds were not known to the Confederate commanders. But the deliberate murders, lootings, and ethnic cleansing committed by, for example, General Thomas Ewing, whose General Order #11 is so tragically portrayed by George Caleb Bingham, a unionist (if memory serves.) Read up on why Cole Younger joined up with Quantrill, after the Yankees tortured his father to death simply because he would not tell them where he had hidden his money or read WG Simms’ meticulous account of how Sherman burned Columbia, SC and the outrages committed by the troops and by vicious scoundrels like Black Jack Logan of Illinois, or look up the sack of Athens Alabama (in which women of both races were raped), the perpetrator of which, a lunatic Cossack colonel, although condemned by a court martial was reinstated and promoted by Lincoln. But why go on? The Union attitude is summed up by Phil Sheridan, later as an observer of the Franco-Prussian War. Though most Europeans had condemned France for starting the conflict, opinion shifted when the Prussians brutally besieged Paris. This was not enough for Sheridan, who shocked the Prussians by telling them how he and his boys used to manage these things. They should be left with nothing but their eyes, to weep with, he told the astonished Prussians.
What was the South guilty of? The decision to leave a union that had become odious to them after 3 generations, a union for which southerners had fought and died for disproportionately. Say, if you like, that they had reached the wrong conclusion or a conclusion you do not like, but Lincoln refused all negotiation and deliberately provoked a war, as he said he did, in attempting to reinforce Ft. Sumter. The result was the most terrible war of the 19th century.
Lee’s father was a hero of the revolution; his wife was the descendant of Martha Custis Washington, their 17th century plantation Arlington an almost sacred memorial of our nation’s first first lady was confiscated by the vile union government out of pure meanness. They locked up poor President Davis in a cold damp cell and would not permit his wife to provide warm clothing–they hoped he would die because they knew they could not put him on trial without incurring the censure of the civilized world. Or, read sometime about what the union did in the siege of Charleston, the most beautiful and civilized city in North America. (Milby Burton’s book, by the way, is excellent). But every part of the South has tales to tell, not legends, but documented cases of looting, arson, rape, and murder.
That most Southerners no longer care much about the systematic atrocities ordered by the union government and carried out by its armies is not so much a sign that they have forgiven the north as that they have been victimized by a Northern system of government education that has made them as ignorant as anyone in Illinois. But I hope you will understand why Southerners–all too few–who do remember find the platitudes of the History Channel or Ken Burns just a little offensive. To defend Lincoln and condemn the South is a little like telling the Ukrainians that Hitler was right. There was a time when good men in the South made common cause with their counterparts in the North and preferred not to speak too plainly about the late unpleasantness, but with the Civil Rights Revolution that once again subjected southern states to Reconstruction and with the growing smugness and hypocrisy of northerners who praise Lincoln and condemn slavery–the mote in their Southern neighbors’ eyes–and refuse to take note of the beam in their own–a pointless and criminal war– some young men feel they have had enough.
Not all northerners were evil; many were indifferent to the War or opposed it, and of those who supported it, some thought it should have been fought honorably. There is no point in demonizing all “Yankees.” But the new style of national history is giving the South much the same message as a sheriff is said to have given to women facing rape: Don’t fight it; just roll over and enjoy it."

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