Discussion Atrocities at Gettysburg?

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

major bill

Colonel
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
Messages
16,585
I was wondering what what atrocities the members of the Union III and V Corps believed they were repaying the Confederates for committing at Gettysburg.

"Another division of Union soldiers press on the next morning to the town of Front Royal, but the Rebels were gone, except for stragglers and badly wounded men who had been left behind. But on the way back through the Manassas Gap, Salter recorded a shocking sight: He said he and his men "found over 100 bodies of rebels who had been killed or wounded and afterward bayoneted by our men, who had not forgiven their atrocities at Gettysburg and other places, and I afraid they never will, as the majority of the 3rd & 5th Corps declared they will bayonet every rebel the can get at, on the battlefield." These atrocities, if they were indeed committed on wounded Confederates soldiers, had taken place in the previous day's fighting in the pass, though it seems that no one else made note of it." (p 208 The 16th Michigan infantry in the Civil War revised edition, Kim Crawford claimed to be written about by Captain Charles H. Salter)

It is interesting that no one else reported on this, perhaps it was so common no one bothered to write anything about it. Still Captain Salter seen it as out of the ordinary. So if the bayoneting of wounded Confederate soldiers was out of the norm, what were the atrocities that the members of the III and V Corps that so upset about?
 

rpkennedy

Major
Member of the Year
Joined
May 18, 2011
Messages
9,970
Location
Carlisle, PA
I was wondering what what atrocities the members of the Union III and V Corps believed they were repaying the Confederates for committing at Gettysburg.

"Another division of Union soldiers press on the next morning to the town of Front Royal, but the Rebels were gone, except for stragglers and badly wounded men who had been left behind. But on the way back through the Manassas Gap, Salter recorded a shocking sight: He said he and his men "found over 100 bodies of rebels who had been killed or wounded and afterward bayoneted by our men, who had not forgiven their atrocities at Gettysburg and other places, and I afraid they never will, as the majority of the 3rd & 5th Corps declared they will bayonet every rebel the can get at, on the battlefield." These atrocities, if they were indeed committed on wounded Confederates soldiers, had taken place in the previous day's fighting in the pass, though it seems that no one else made note of it." (p 208 The 16th Michigan infantry in the Civil War revised edition, Kim Crawford claimed to be written about by Captain Charles H. Salter)

It is interesting that no one else reported on this, perhaps it was so common no one bothered to write anything about it. Still Captain Salter seen it as out of the ordinary. So if the bayoneting of wounded Confederate soldiers was out of the norm, what were the atrocities that the members of the III and V Corps that so upset about?
That is a good question. I have never read of any atrocities so I'm curious to what Captain Salter was referring.

Ryan
 

major bill

Colonel
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
Messages
16,585
I understand bayoneting wounded enemies or dead foes probably occurred on both sides. I am not in a position to judge anyone and not using modern morals to judge Civil War actions is the accepted view on this forum. Still it would seem like the leadership on both sides would attempt to keep this kind of thing under control. This kind of thing could be viewed as a breakdown in control by some officers.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Harms88

Private
Joined
Oct 13, 2019
Messages
203
Location
North of the Wall & South of the Canucks
This is something that has always happened in American history, like you hear of American GIs and Marines killing captured Nazis and Japanese.

So, I'm not surprised that some Federals, angry at the Confederates, would bayonet wounded men.

While no psychologist, here is what I would pin it as:

Some of these men had been fighting from 1861, spending 3 summers away from home and family beyond the odd furlough. During this time, they would have seen dozens of not hundreds of friends and comrades killed. Some have probably lost their girls back home to other guys, since they weren't there.

They would have wanted an outlet to vent their angry and frustration at these rebs who by their very existence has dragged them into an awful war. Doesn't matter that they volunteered willingly. Nor that they have killed comrades of these men in turn.

So I don't even think it's one thing is particular that they are exact their revenge, as much as all the little things over time simply having reached the boiling point.
 

damYankee

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 12, 2011
Messages
3,910
They were fighting a battle with single shot muzzle loading muskets and rifles with bayonets attached to the barrels. Did you assume the bayonets were used for roasting marshmallows over a nice warm campfire?
If you have no idea what an bayonet charge means I suggest you use google .
 

major bill

Colonel
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
Messages
16,585
I do not have the right to judge Union soldiers who bayoneted every single wounded Confederate they encountered. I am not certain anyone alive today has a right to judge them by our moral standards. My real question is what were the perceived Confederate atrocities committed at Gettysburg that they believed they were avenging? Two Corps who the majority of members had sworn to bayonet ever "rebel" they find seems a little over the top.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

damYankee

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 12, 2011
Messages
3,910
I understand bayoneting wounded enemies or dead foes probably occurred on both sides. I am not in a position to judge anyone and not using modern morals to judge Civil War actions is the accepted view on this forum. Still it would seem like the leadership on both sides would attempt to keep this kind of thing under control. This kind of thing could be viewed as a breakdown in control by some officers.
I would say respectfully, you have little understanding of the brutality of war as fought in that era. And if you think this case was bad, you may want to investigate The Bloody Ban, the Butcher, the Green Dragoon.
Or perhaps the Indian Wars.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

major bill

Colonel
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
Messages
16,585
Perhaps the rebels wrote V Corps instead of the 5th Corps.
I am not sure of the usage during the Civil War, but in the modern US Army, V Corps is acceptable as is Fifth Corps in some cases, 5th Corps is never acceptable. Worse yet is 5th corp, today 5th Corps being used would indicate the person was a probaby a civilian and not well versed in military studies.
 

Robin Lesjovitch

Sergeant
Joined
Dec 16, 2018
Messages
663
I was wondering what what atrocities the members of the Union III and V Corps believed they were repaying the Confederates for committing at Gettysburg.

"Another division of Union soldiers press on the next morning to the town of Front Royal, but the Rebels were gone, except for stragglers and badly wounded men who had been left behind. But on the way back through the Manassas Gap, Salter recorded a shocking sight: He said he and his men "found over 100 bodies of rebels who had been killed or wounded and afterward bayoneted by our men, who had not forgiven their atrocities at Gettysburg and other places, and I afraid they never will, as the majority of the 3rd & 5th Corps declared they will bayonet every rebel the can get at, on the battlefield." These atrocities, if they were indeed committed on wounded Confederates soldiers, had taken place in the previous day's fighting in the pass, though it seems that no one else made note of it." (p 208 The 16th Michigan infantry in the Civil War revised edition, Kim Crawford claimed to be written about by Captain Charles H. Salter)

It is interesting that no one else reported on this, perhaps it was so common no one bothered to write anything about it. Still Captain Salter seen it as out of the ordinary. So if the bayoneting of wounded Confederate soldiers was out of the norm, what were the atrocities that the members of the III and V Corps that so upset about?
Newspapers sometimes printed stories to suit their readers. I think most agree today that Lee's soldiers acted reasonably for the times.
However, the press can turn requisitioning into intolerable acts of vandalism.
 

Irishtom29

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Messages
1,823
Location
Comancheria
I am not sure of the usage during the Civil War, but in the modern US Army, V Corps is acceptable as is Fifth Corps in some cases, 5th Corps is never acceptable. Worse yet is 5th corp, today 5th Corps being used would indicate the person was a probaby a civilian and not well versed in military studies.
During the Civil War it was "the Fifth Corps" or "the 5th Corps". Note that V doesn't mean fifth, it means five.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

lurid

Sergeant
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
Messages
641
I understand bayoneting wounded enemies or dead foes probably occurred on both sides. I am not in a position to judge anyone and not using modern morals to judge Civil War actions is the accepted view on this forum. Still it would seem like the leadership on both sides would attempt to keep this kind of thing under control. This kind of thing could be viewed as a breakdown in control by some officers.
It might have been ordered by the commanding officers. It could be viewed as psychological operations as well. Could have been sending a message. Not necessary a break down in ranks.
 

archieclement

Captain
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Messages
5,186
Location
mo
I do not have the right to judge Union soldiers who bayoneted every single wounded Confederate they encountered. I am not certain anyone alive today has a right to judge them by our moral standards. My real question is what were the perceived Confederate atrocities committed at Gettysburg that they believed they were avenging? Two Corps who the majority of members had sworn to bayonet ever "rebel" they find seems a little over the top.
Not sure why one would think they dont have a right to judge those who would murder helpless wounded or prisoners.......wrong is wrong whether in 2019 or 1863...….the actions would be the same, so should the judgement

But i guess Fort Pillow would also be excusable if one doesn't have the right to judge killing those wounded or helpless

I can understand trying to see what they thought at the time, and that they may not thought it wrong, after all about every evil in history has been moralized as right by those doing it, from slavery to genocide. But it shouldnt change your view of right or wrong.
 

damYankee

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 12, 2011
Messages
3,910
It might have been ordered by the commanding officers. It could be viewed as psychological operations as well. Could have been sending a message. Not necessary a break down in ranks.
Or it could be that as in many war's the emotions got the best of men who had been through hell and just snapped.
I think it would be a great idea to start a thread dedicated to Civil War atrocities, We could start with the Lawrence Raid maybe?
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

archieclement

Captain
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Messages
5,186
Location
mo
Or it could be that as in many war's the emotions got the best of men who had been through hell and just snapped.
I think it would be a great idea to start a thread dedicated to Civil War atrocities, We could start with the Lawrence Raid maybe?
And jump over all the jayhawker raids that lead up to retaliation at Lawrence? Plus there were quite a few by troops others then jayhawkers, I would think one should start at the start. Would think a thread of just atrocities in the first year of the war would fill pages
 

major bill

Colonel
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
Messages
16,585
Or it could be that as in many war's the emotions got the best of men who had been through hell and just snapped.
I think it would be a great idea to start a thread dedicated to Civil War atrocities, We could start with the Lawrence Raid maybe?
Sounds like an interesting topic, but likely to devolve into an argument of who was more moral, Union soldiers or Confederate soldiers. I have stated that both sides sometimes killed wounded soldiers.

On this thread I wished to avoid a discussion of who held the moral high ground. I was simply trying to understand what the Union soldiers believed the Confederate soldiers had done at the Battle of Gettysburg which gave the Union soldiers an excuse to kill wounded Confederates.
 

archieclement

Captain
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Messages
5,186
Location
mo
Sounds like an interesting topic, but likely to devolve into an argument of who was more moral, Union soldiers or Confederate soldiers. I have stated that both sides sometimes killed wounded soldiers.

On this thread I wished to avoid a discussion of who held the moral high ground. I was simply trying to understand what the Union soldiers believed the Conf
I agree bringing morality into most threads is rather futile, yet its almost always done..........

Morality has no set definition, instead its rather a magic pill that allows one to do what is normally wrong......because its now right once one claims some moral authority to do so. Suddenly everything from calling people out of their houses in the middle of night to hack them to death with swords, burning peoples houses, robbing people, lynching people, killing unarmed people, even civilians, wounded, or prisoners all become perfectly OK once a group claims its morally justified. And morality has never heard the mothers story of if Johnnie jumped of a cliff, would you too?........Because a common justification of suddenly morally allowing what would be normally unacceptable, is claiming they did it first.....

So once one claims something moral or immoral................its by who? You, me, today or then, or by those doing whatever.......if going by those doing whatever, if they thought it immoral they wouldn't have been doing it.........

And think most everyone would agree the popular interpretation of "moral" is always shifting........that what would generally be considered "moral" today or in 1800 are not the same.

Edit-added- Honestly if one today went back to 1800 to explain elements of our popular morality today to the victorian society or before, i'd say you would have had about an equal chance of having been laughed out of the room, or tar and feathered.......
 
Last edited:
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

jackt62

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Messages
3,818
Location
New York City
I have not previously read of atrocities at Gettysburg, but the sad truth of the matter is that various degrees of atrocities were committed by both sides, regular and irregular, during the ACW.
 

damYankee

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 12, 2011
Messages
3,910
I have not previously read of atrocities at Gettysburg, but the sad truth of the matter is that various degrees of atrocities were committed by both sides, regular and irregular, during the ACW.
Define atrocity.
The Hornets Nest? Cold Harbor? Pickets Charge? Air burst shot? Grape shop?
The topic is a moot point. Does anyone question the use of shock troops such as the Gurkhas in the nightmare of WWI trench warfare 50 years after Gettysburg?
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top