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The Second Death of Dixie

[1]4,486 words

Thomas Goodrich
The Day Dixie Died: Southern Occupation, 1865-1866 [2]
Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2001

Thomas Goodrich’s second book for Stackpole Books followed three years after his revisionist look at the culture of the American Indians in Scalp Dance: Indian Warfare on the High Plains, 1865-1879. He had gone to the original writings found in the letters and diaries of soldiers, politicians, and citizens of the North and the South prepared during and immediately after the close of the War Between the States, in an effort to determine how the population viewed each other and in particular what whites and blacks thought about the circumstance of millions of blacks suddenly being freed.

The book was released in the late summer of 2001, and the historian and his publisher were optimistic about the book’s sales. Their hopes were soon dashed by the events of September 11, 2001. The book had few reviews, and a planned publicity tour was canceled, as a terrorist act beyond anything the world had ever witnessed captured everyone’s attention for months.

Perhaps now is the time for a reconsideration of Goodrich’s groundbreaking original research of that era we commonly refer to as “Southern Reconstruction.” I read the book years ago, but its contents jumped to my mind when I began to watch as the movement grew calling for the removal of statues and monuments that in any way symbolized the Southern Confederacy.

Most of the Confederate statues have stood since the early 20th century, but it has made no difference as suddenly blacks inexplicably discovered their self-esteem impugned by a bronze relic that they had bypassed hundreds of times without a thought. The liberal news media has jumped on the story of their “suffering” and editorialized that it is time to erase these reminders of blacks’ enslavement. After all, slavery was a cruel and inhuman institution, and these statues are barbarous expressions of the men who fought to preserve it. Whites who speak up for the preservation of the statues are revealing their hideous nature — racist.

In order to understand the reason for building these monuments, one might try to imagine the conditions in which Southerners lived from 1865 to 1877. On the other hand, one can read Goodrich’s book, which plants you firmly in the mind-numbing carnage of that wasteland. Goodrich provides us with the personal observations of both Southern and Northern “ordinary” people as written in their letters and diaries; documents that were never meant for publication and certainly not intended to defend or champion the Confederate cause, which the writers and diarists knew was now forever interred in the blood-soaked dirt of Gettysburg, Antietam, and elsewhere.

Goodrich spent years scouring through the archives of libraries, museums (this was before the internet made research much easier), and collections held privately by descendants of those who lived during the post-war years.

Goodrich, born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, an unrepentant Yankee, was transformed by the eloquent words of pathos he read on the dog-eared, yellowed pages.

So, what did happen during Reconstruction? Goodrich’s book provides a clear window to that time, the war’s end, and the place, the South. Most of us today assume both sides shook hands and returned home to their family and friends to easily resume their daily lives that had been on hold for four years.

That’s what most of us think because most of us have no idea of what Reconstruction was like for Southerners. Our state-sanctioned school curricula do not include this topic, and God knows the Jewish dominated media are too busy promulgating open immigration, SJW whining, BLM BS, and the Russia/Trump conspiracy to tell the truth about that period in our history.

And not many of us care to hear about it anyway.

Whatever ideas ante-bellum Southerners held about the causes of the war and Abraham Lincoln’s role in starting it, most Southerners knew that any hope for peaceable post-war conditions was dashed on April 14, 1865, with John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of Lincoln. The Northern newspapers saw it likewise. The Chicago Tribune wrote:

The foolish rebels have killed their best friend. The man who stood between them and retribution, who alone had the will and power to shield them from the punishment their crime deserves, is slain by them (p. 28).

The former President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, upon hearing the news of Lincoln’s death said, “It is sad news. I am sorry. We have lost our best friend in the court of the enemy” (p. 36).

Unlike Lincoln, who was content to let Jefferson Davis escape and even offered him a Union ship for passage to Europe, Andrew Johnson who succeeded Lincoln, vowed to use his authority to satisfy the radical Republican abolitionists’ calls for “the most disgraceful death known to our civilization” to be imposed on Davis. And Johnson was determined that all of the South “shall suffer for this, they shall suffer for this” (p. 32).

The Northern newspapers clamored for the hanging of the Southern leaders even for the internationally respected Robert E. Lee. It would probably have happened but for the intervention of an outraged Ulysses S. Grant who swore that he would resign rather than see Lee harmed. In a letter to his wife, Grant wrote of the “suffering endured already” by Southerners (p. 37).

The esteem for Grant halted the cries for Lee’s blood, but the demand for revenge on the Southern civilian population only grew louder with each passing day. The South’s entire infrastructure was in ruins including mail service; Southerners were unaware of the “murderous mood” sweeping the North like a wildfire (p. 38).

The people in the South, however, possessed the foresight to realize the danger that lurked on the horizon. Even John Wilkes Booth, while on the run, was bothered by the reaction of Southerners to his deed. Instead of being hailed as a hero, he was called the “perpetrator of this cowardly, dastardly crime” by one Southern newspaper. The former governor of South Carolina announced to a large gathering in Charleston that, “Our expressions of disgust for the dastardly wretch who could have conceived and executed such a diabolical deed can scarcely be uttered” (p. 51).

Those few in the South who had the means and the money to escape the coming fury did so. Judah P. Benjamin, the Jewish former Confederate secretary of state, utilized various disguises to make a perilous journey through Florida swamps and finally made his way to England.[1] [3] Many others sought and found safe haven in South America, Cuba, Canada, and the Bahamas.

But the collapse of the Confederate currency and a demolished infrastructure forced the ordinary Southerner to sit and wait for the inevitable savage cruelty of a hostile Northern government.

They did not have to wait long.

When the abolitionists were not haranguing President Johnson to take swift action, the Northern “men of God” were shouting from their pulpits for hellish retribution.

Hang them up on Mason’s and Dixon’s line, that traitors of both sections may be warned. Let them hang until vultures shall eat the rotten flesh from their bones; let them hang until the crows shall build their filthy nests in their skeletons; let them hang until the rope rots, and let their dismembered bones fall so deep into the earth that God Almighty can’t find them on the day of Resurrection (p. 73).

We all have heard the fictional narrative of the Black Lives Matter movement that the police have targeted blacks for shooting and arrests — the truth says otherwise, but the facts don’t matter. So it was in the North in the post-War era that fictions of all kinds were written and spoken to deliberately prejudice the minds of people who might soon be presiding on juries to decide the fate of Confederate soldiers. Such was the case for Swiss-born Major Henry Wirz, the commander of Andersonville prison in Georgia.

The facts surrounding Andersonville were truly horrific: an estimated thirteen thousand Union soldiers perished in a little over a year of operation. They died because of malnutrition, disease, neglect, and yes, in some cases, murder. However, no one in the North wanted to hear the facts. The infrastructure of the South and especially in Georgia because of General Sherman’s scorched earth policy was in tatters. Wirz, a physician, too badly wounded to actively participate in battle, found that Sherman’s march to the sea cut the prison off from needed supplies of food, clothing, and medicine for his own men (reduced to half rations), as well as for prisoners.

What was even worse for Andersonville was Lincoln’s decision to stop the exchange of prisoners between the opposing forces. This strategic initiative was based on the fact that the North, with a larger population, could replace captive soldiers much easier than the South. As Goodrich writes, “In theory, the move was designed to assure victory and shorten the war. In practice, it guaranteed the slow, agonizing death of thousands,” of Union captives (p. 78).

The official records kept by both sides showed that the death rate of various causes in Southern camps was 9 percent; in the Northern camps, it was 13 percent. And this was true despite the plenitude of food, the ready availability of clothing, and the ample supply of medicine to treat the Southern wounded in the Northern camps (p. 79).

But the facts don’t matter — right? There were no extenuating circumstances for Wirz including the fact that the prosecution’s star witness perjured himself by not disclosing that he was an employee of the Federal government, had lied about his true identity, and was a deserter from the7th New York Volunteers. Wirz was hung on November 10, 1865. His family buried him in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington, D.C. and placed a grave marker with the words “Confederate hero, martyr.” Later a monument in his name was erected in Andersonville. But he was never a slave owner — in fact, he was a physician to slaves — so I guess that monument can stand.[2] [4]

After the war had ended, there was a duration of puzzlement for both slave owner and slave as neither knew precisely what to do. As Northern troops moved through the Southern states, there was a variety of reactions depending on the region and the relations that had existed between the owners and the slaves. Some owners buried their most valuable and valued possessions in the adjacent woods, others slept in the woods at night, and others slept in their beds but with their clothes on (pp. 96-101).

The rumors of Northern crime hung in the air, and both master and slave had no idea what was in store for them. While most Federal troops were restrained by their commanders, too many ran roughshod over the citizenry carrying out terror raids on any house not already damaged by fusillades of grapeshot or cannon balls. Many slave owners believing that they would be arrested for violating some unknown proscription, went ahead and freed their slaves despite their protests. The slaves had few possessions, no job to earn wages, and, like their former masters, no money.

At other times and in different regions, “Slaves were whooping and laughing and acting like they were crazy,” said freed slave Mary Anderson. She wrote that the Yankee soldiers busted the door to the smokehouse at the plantation where she had labored. “They…got all the hams. They went to the icehouse and got several barrels of brandy…. The Yankees stayed there, cooked, eat, drank, and played music” (p. 97).

Many slaves thought the day of jubilee had arrived and were eager to meet their liberators. And many were sorely disappointed when the men in blue made no distinction between white and black when it was their task to fill their own pockets. “Hand over that watch!” a soldier commanded a frightened young black who had run out from the house to greet the men who rode up on horses. The young man did as ordered then ran back to the house to complain that the Yankees had taken the watch his master had given him. He had decided that he would, “not go with them that stole it” (p. 98).

Goodrich notes that the reaction of the slaves was different and in many ways puzzling. Perhaps this was due to the circumstances of their living conditions on the plantation. Many heeded the siren call of freedom without a thought as to how they would make a living. Some left without a backward glance at their former masters, but some inexplicably ran as fast from their own families. Goodrich quotes from the diary of a South Carolina woman:

Mary Chesnut related the haste of some Negro mothers, in their frantic race to follow the Yankees. “Adam came in exultant,” she wrote. “Oh, Missus, I have saved a wagon load of babies for you. Dem niggers run away an’ lef’ dem chillum all ‘long de road” (p. 99).

And while many blacks did leave, the Federal troops were surprised that thousands of blacks refused to leave their ancestral homes. These same blacks were surprised, however, that their desire to remain with their former masters had no ameliorative effect on the marauding Federal troops.

Since the dawn of time, the conquering army has nearly always exercised its “right” to pillage and plunder the conquered — the spoils of war.[3] [5] The Northern victorious army was no different. As the various divisions traveled through the South one unit following on the heels of another, a pattern was observed:

First squads demanded arms and whiskey. Then came the rascals who hunted for silver and ransacked the ladies’ wardrobes…. Then came the smiling, suave, well-dressed officers who regretted it all so much. And then, outside of the gate, officers, men, bummers, divided even — share and share alike — the piles of plunder (p. 100).

One man in Texas observed that the Southern roads began to resemble those traveled by the plundering hordes of Mongolia:

The road was filled with an indiscriminate mass of armed men on horseback and on foot, carts, wagons, cannon and caissons, rolling along in most tumultuous disorder, while to the right and to the left, joining the mass, and detaching from it, singly and in groups, were hundreds going empty-handed and returning laden. Disregarding the lanes and pathways, they broke through fields and enclosures, spreading in every direction that promised plunder or attracted curiosity (p. 101).

Goodrich quotes Belinda Hurmence from her book, Before Freedom: 48 Oral Histories of Former North and South Carolina Slaves, that when the Yankee soldiers moved off to garrison the cities and towns of the South, they left behind a land “as silent as a graveyard.”

The only solace to be had by the suddenly impoverished plantation and farm owners was the knowledge that there was nothing else left to be stolen from them. As one victim said, “Our poverty is now our protection” (p. 101).

For the former slaves, it was as bad or worse as no Southern state was prepared for the huge migration to the cities where the blacks thought they would find work. The states had no money and very few jobs. In Memphis, Tennessee, thousands of blacks died of starvation and disease in the winters during Reconstruction. In Alabama, the Freedman’s Bureau in 1865 expected 30,000 to die in their state. It was the same all over the South (p. 133).

As one former slave lamented, “We was never hungry, ‘till we was free” (p. 131).

At the beginning of the Southern occupation by the Federal army, the officers seized the grandest homes for their own living quarters whether the home was occupied by the owner or not. The owner received no compensation for this displacement. But this was a minor nuisance compared to the havoc wreaked by the regular troops. During the first week of occupation, the Union troops in Tuscaloosa looted the townspeople for the sport of it, then burned the university library and more than thirty thousand volumes. Not content with this senseless destruction, they moved on to the university’s observatory and lay waste to one of the finest refracting telescopes in the country (p. 152).

During the war years, the Yankees and the Confederates killed each other. After the war, the Northern troops still had a thirst for killing — they quenched their thirst with the blood of civilians. It seemed to many Southerners that four years of fierce warfare and the deaths of 600,000 to 800,000 men had settled nothing.[4] [6] Hatred grew each day, and many paroled Confederate soldiers, returning home in their tattered uniform would be dragged out of their crumbling homes in the middle of the night and lynched (pp. 172-175).

Mary Rives of Louisiana surveyed the land around her house and wrote, “Everything in nature wears a funeral aspect” (p. 179).

Mary Chesnut, while traveling through South Carolina, observed the deathlike stillness: “From Chester to Winnsboro we did not see one living thing — man, woman, or animal” (p. 179).

A newspaper reporter traveled from Vicksburg to Jackson, Mississippi, a distance of about fifty miles and noted only “four or five houses standing and inhabited on the whole route…so total was the destruction in Jackson that many began calling it ‘chimneyville’” (p. 180).

Sara Rice Pryor wrote that there were so many decaying cadavers of hogs, horses, and cattle lying in the roads and fields, which Union soldiers had “wantonly shot down” that the stench was “unbearable.” And as she opened the front door, “millions of flies swarmed forth” (p. 181).

Packs of wild dogs and armies of large Norway rats roamed the landscape feasting on the stinking carrion, making human travel hazardous for everyone and impossible for a woman by herself (p. 182).

So boundless was the devastation to the homes and even the churches that many Southerners who had previously believed themselves a Christian, now felt that God had turned against them; so merciless was their subjugation and so sweeping in scope was the waste that, they believed God was meting out additional punishment for their collective sin (pp. 184-186). Many Northern Christians agreed with that damning self-assessment.

The fiery Indiana Congregationalist preacher Henry Ward Beecher, who had heavily lobbied President Lincoln to do everything possible to end slavery, was pitiless toward the Southern people. Surveying the ruination of the South, he remarked that he was “glad” and hoped that “all ages shall… abhor” the South (p. 184).

During the pre-Civil-War conflict in the Kansas territory, known as “Bloody Kansas,” Beecher raised funds to send Sharps rifles to abolitionist forces, stating that the weapons would do more good than “a hundred Bibles.” And while he demanded strict moral behavior from his parishioners, it appeared that he did not abhor adultery for himself. The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Walter A. McDougall observed that the allegations of Beecher’s numerous extra-marital affairs “drove Reconstruction off the front pages for two and a half years.”[5] [7]

Perhaps more devastating to the Southern spirit was the people’s embrace of moral depravity. Thousands of children without a home or a parent, the war orphans, roamed the streets picking pockets, robbing, burglarizing, and generally frightening the citizens.

Virtually unknown in antebellum days, drinking establishments sprang up like weeds that now grew in the cotton fields. Gaming halls became the scenes of brawling and fighting day and night, houses of prostitution too common to note where reports of “infernal orgies” cast a darkness of depravity over the cities. Not surprising was the number of Southerners, impoverished, perpetually hungry, sleeping in the woods, who took to alcohol to relieve their depression. Then when drinking didn’t cure what ailed them, they found a more permanent solution — suicide. A Kentucky man wrote about the high incidence of suicides, saying that he could “look out of his door at any hour of any day in the week to see a funeral passing the streets” (p. 197).

It is true that the frustration and depression morphed into hostility toward the freed slaves and atrocities were committed. One diarist in Montgomery, Alabama, recorded seeing freed blacks coming into the city with “their ears cut off and large pieces” of skin ripped from their heads. Former slaves were hung from tree limbs. Even the Indians, slave-holding Choctaws and Chickasaws, saw their freed blacks as wild animals and hunted and killed them accordingly (pp. 220-221).

Slowly, the Southerners put down the whiskey bottles, darned their tattered clothing, repaired broken farm implements, and got back to the herculean labor of rebuilding on the land torn and ravaged by years of war. By late 1866, the cities of Atlanta, Charleston, Richmond, and Baton Rouge were hardly recognizable as the alien landscapes they were at the close of the war. Even some of the smaller communities, whose commercial buildings in the downtown areas were all destroyed, were rising from the ashes.

They even began growing cotton again. It was already clear to most Southerners before the outbreak of war that the slave system was on the way out.[6] [8] One woman wrote that “A hired man is far cheaper than a man whose father and mother, his wife and twelve children have to be fed, clothed, housed, nursed, taxes paid, and doctors’ bills — all for his half-done, slovenly, lazy work…a nuisance that did not pay” (p. 222).

And another woman from Mississippi wrote “I tell you we get along a good deal better and get more done than when all the negroes was here” (p. 222).

One Tennessee farmer uttered a larger truth than he knew at the time. “I never was free until my slaves were free” (p. 222).

So, we have to ask, “What is the purpose of the monument destroyers?” The only reason I have heard is that the statues are of soldiers who fought to keep blacks enslaved. That cannot be denied. But in hindsight, our judgmental attitudes are so easy to form, so simple, and the slavery issue was not a simple one.

This essay is not the proper platform to anatomize the complexities of all that was being said and written in the years leading up to the war. But like feuds between families that endure for a long time, sometimes the original reason for a disagreement is lost, but the emotional tide keeps washing over the disputants. The line is drawn in the sand, and each side dares the other to cross it.[7] [9]

So it was between the North and the South.

It is absurd to argue that these monuments were built to keep alive in the minds of Southerners that one day the old South would rise again and blacks would once more be enslaved. But that is precisely what liberals argue. They have no references to back up this claim, and so they resort to obfuscation and outright lying.

For example, Joy Reid, an MSNBC “news analyst” declared on NBC’s Meet the Press on August 13, 2017, that “The idea of putting up [Confederate] monuments actually didn’t happen right after the Civil War. It happened in the 1960s” during the civil rights era. She also said that the building of the monuments exploded during that time as a political statement “aimed at African-Americans.”[8] [10]

Ms. Reid is black, and as we have observed repeatedly, blacks never let the facts stand in the way of an effective anti-white assertion. Nearly 75% of the statues were built long before the civil rights era, and the majority of those were erected between 1900 and 1919, not in the 60s. This was at a time when the Southerners who lived out the horror of the war were reaching the end of their lives. If we assume the average age of a Confederate soldier was 26 to 30 years old, then by 1900 he would have been between 61 and 66. If statues were to be erected for the war’s veterans to behold, then now was the time to begin.[9] [11]

And it was the Confederate flag that stirred controversy in the 60s, not monument building, which Reid admitted on August 15, 2017.[10] [12]

The funds for the statues were raised by private organizations like the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Ladies Memorial Association, and other groups formed to build memories of rock that would outlast their own memories. I could not find a single statue that was built at taxpayers’ expense. But the shrill calls to “take’em down” cost the taxpayers of New Orleans, just one example, 2.1 million dollars to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee.[11] [13]

Will that money spent change what happened over 150 years ago? No, what happened, happened. The harsh assessment of the South in the War Between the States by present-day critics is a clear example of history being written by the winner of the conflict. As Winston Churchill once remarked about a political foe, “History will not be kind to that man. I know because I will write it.”

We owe a debt of gratitude to Tom Goodrich for tackling this complex subject and giving both sides of the conflict fair treatment.

The 20th-century writer and poet Zbigniew Herbert, who grew up in Poland and Germany during World War II, said that he understood in the very real glow of flames above his home city, that “History was a strange teacher…It will require the work of many consciences to shed light on it.”

Some might argue that the era of Reconstruction in the South was peace conducted by another means — war.

Notes

[1] [14] By 1800 there were more Jews living in Charleston, South Carolina, than in any other city in the U.S. As many writers, including Kevin MacDonald, have documented, the Jews have historically attempted to blend among the majority population as a survival strategy. Bertram Korn, a prominent scholar of Southern Jewry, argued that the Jews “gained in status and security from the very presence of this large mass of (slaves) who were compelled to absorb all of the prejudices which might otherwise have been expressed more frequently in anti-Jewish sentiment.”

[2] [15] Henry Wirz, Wikipedia

[3] [16] “The sons of Israel captured the women of Midian and their little ones; and all their cattle and all their flocks and all their goats they plundered.” Numbers 31:9

[4] [17] Civil War Facts, civilwar.org

[5] [18] Henry Ward Beecher, Wikipedia

[6] [19] During the period 1851-1861, the South produced an average of 3,816,150 bales of cotton each year using slave labor. From 1865 to 1870, the years when the South was still recovering from the war, it produced an average of 2,475,027 bales each year. But between 1870 and 1876, the South’s production without slaves was on average 3,999,642 bales a year, thus exceeding its pre-war production using slave labor. Ryan Faulk, The Alternative Hypothesis, April 15, 2016

[7] [20] The call to protect slavery from Black Republicanism was tied to the preservation of regional equality and honor, personal manhood, the rights of white male property owners and husbands, and more–in short, the duties and privileges of white men were at stake as well as the actual future of slavery and racial superiority. Republicans were determined to wage “a holy crusade for our benefit in seeking the destruction of that institution which…lies at the very foundation of our social and political fabric”. Numerous passages repeated the ubiquitous terms — always linked by Southern spokesmen — of “degradation and dishonor” (p. 63).

[8] [21] Did Confederate symbols gain prominence in the civil rights era? politifact.com

[9] [22] Civil War Facts, civilwar.org

[10] [23] supra, politifact.com

[11] [24] Paul LeBron, cnn.com, June 12, 2007