Battelfield Atrocities And Multilating The Dead and Wounded.

hrobalabama

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I have not thought about the mutilating of dead and wounded soldiers during the war of 1861-65.
I just finished reading a novel about the war and how the dead and wounded Southern soldiers were mutilated by
Northern soldiers by the cutting off the ears, noses, scalps;eyes gouged out and other horrible atrocities.
Now I am sure if it was done by one side. it was also performed by the other side as well. Was this just fiction or was it widespread during this negative period of American history? Was this sort of a "scalping" tendency carried over from the Native aborigines? In this story, a medical doctor observed this after major battles. He stated the"dead soldiers were mutilated and personal effects were put in their hands; eyeballs gouged out...etc."
I realize war is very cruel and human nature is very capable of perpetrating bizarre deeds, but this is hard to believe when "Billy Yank" and Johnny Reb" were amicable on picket duty and when taken prisoner by either side.
Is there ample evidence of these atrocities?
 

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mrdix

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it was a NOVEL ... not the place you should be looking for History ....although I recall a few examples of such behavior - not quite to the level you describe
 

major bill

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A few soldiers in every American war have engaged in this kind of behavior even up to our current wars. I can find a few Civil War cases of bayoneting, shooting or bashing the heads in of dead enemies, but less scalping or the taking of body parts. I have seem more talk of scraping, cutting off ears, taking body parts that actual proof. The same applies to World War Two, Vietnam and the Gulf War. Everyone seems to know of someone who did this but they themselves did not and very little proof of it happening can be found. I am guessing, then as now, this is mostly campfire talk or bragging. That said I have friends who certainly did this kind of thing.
 

AUG

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I don't think it was widespread but it certainly was claimed to have happened on a number of occasions. Of course there are the well known claims that Union soldiers were scalped by Native Americans at Pea Ridge, Poison Springs, and a few other instances in the Indian Territory. Then there were battles involving USCT troops: the Crater, Fort Pillow, Poison Springs, Jenkins' Ferry, etc. It was claimed that troops from the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry were scalped by the Native Americans at Poison Springs and many wounded were killed - then at Jenkins' Ferry the 2nd Kansas Colored Infantry got their revenge. A few Confederate accounts (who held the field after the battle) mention Confederate wounded with throats cut, ears cut off, etc. Its possible that some of that was exaggerated, but it is well known that a number of Confederate wounded were killed at Jenkins' Ferry in revenge for black troops killed in other battles.
 

Dutch Mudsill

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War zones are always incredible rumor mills. While atrocities are a part of every war, contemporary accounts can also contain wild rumors.
 

Michael W.

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I don't think it was widespread but it certainly was claimed to have happened on a number of occasions. Of course there are the well known claims that Union soldiers were scalped by Native Americans at Pea Ridge, Poison Springs, and a few other instances in the Indian Territory. Then there were battles involving USCT troops: the Crater, Fort Pillow, Poison Springs, Jenkins' Ferry, etc. It was claimed that troops from the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry were scalped by the Native Americans at Poison Springs and many wounded were killed - then at Jenkins' Ferry the 2nd Kansas Colored Infantry got their revenge. A few Confederate accounts (who held the field after the battle) mention Confederate wounded with throats cut, ears cut off, etc. Its possible that some of that was exaggerated, but it is well known that a number of Confederate wounded were killed at Jenkins' Ferry in revenge for black troops killed in other battles.
Correct on Pea Ridge, there were documented cases of Union troops being scalped by Confederate Indian forces....
 

pfcjking

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Correct on Pea Ridge, there were documented cases of Union troops being scalped by Confederate Indian forces....
Since Native Americans are still allowed to harvest whales and take peyote as part of their religion and culture, shouldn't modern Native American US Soldiers be allowed to count coup and scalp their enemies?

Edited by Chellers
 

AndyHall

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There are documented cases, but as @AUG351 says, I don't think it was very common. Some stories of mutilation of the dead may come from scavenging animals; after a couple of days it would be hard to tell.

Edited by Chellers
 
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BrianB

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According to Bill Shea, who wrote a book on Pea Ridge, yes there was several incidents of scalping of Union dead and wounded at Pea Ridge, but he thinks only a very small group of Indians were involved in it.
 

rpkennedy

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Gordon Rhea writes of an incident of a soldier wounded at the Wilderness who was taken to a Confederate hospital (the same soldier wrote about lying near James Wadsworth as he lay dying). Some time after arriving, a drunken Confederate officer arrived, cursed him out for being a Yankee, and pulled his pistol on the man. The officer's friends pulled him aside before he could fire his weapon and sent him away telling him that he didn't belong at the hospital.

R
 

Patrick H

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Since Native Americans are still allowed to harvest whales and take peyote as part of their religion and culture, shouldn't modern Native American US Soldiers be allowed to count coup and scalp their enemies?

Edited by Chellers
Counting coup (I believe usually done with the tap of a hooked staff) and scalping are two entirely different things. Now, I'm sure a Native American member is going to correct me.
 

Lost Cause

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From Wasted Valor: The Confederate Dead at Gettysburg: In October, 1863, a Pennsylvania militia soldier reported that decomposed heads of Confederate soldiers buried in shallow graves on the field easily fell off and were kicked around like footballs.
 

Patrick H

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Battlefield atrocities might not have been exactly common, but they sure weren't unheard of out here in Missouri and along the Kansas border. The first account I've read concerned Native American members of Kansas militias scalping their victims. I don't remember where I read it, but of course, that was undoubtedly written by a Missourian. I think militias were often poorly officered and badly run. A Missouri militia killed Buck Collins and Al Carter (southern boys displaced to Howard County by Order Number 11). They ran Al down until a low hanging wild grape vine hooked him under the jaw and drug him off his horse. Then they shot out his eyes and partially scalped him. Getting back up onto the road, they told a local farmer "We just got Bloody Bill Anderson." The farmer replied: "You got the Carter boy".
Archie Clements was a spooky little so and so who rode with Anderson. Archie reportedly scalped a number of victims after the Centralia massacre. According to at least one account, heads were severed from dead union bodies and switched out with other bodies, or positioned on top of fence posts. Still other accounts claim Anderson's men cut the genitals from their victims after that massacre. When Gen. Price occupied Boonville, Missouri in October of 1864, Anderson rode into town with his company of guerrillas. Price was initially horrified to see human scalps decorating the reins on some of the guerrilla's horses.

These stories have been repeated so many times it's hard to know for sure which are true and which are pure press sensationalism. However, I believe there is an element of truth in every one of them.

Carter-Collins-boys.jpg
 

AUG

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JCM6395

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Read about a U.S. army surgeon walking the Chickamauga battlefield looking for Union wounded...he saw obvious scenes of atrocities committed on wounded Union troops. Some had been tortured by fire...some had their heads chopped off and mounted on tree stumps. I say both sides engaged in it to a degree over the course of the war. Nobody had a lock on righteousness in that war.
 

Michael W.

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hrobalabama

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it was a NOVEL ... not the place you should be looking for History ....although I recall a few examples of such behavior - not quite to the level you describe
Historical novels are written (or should be) within a researched historical setting. Some of the best historical novels teach more about history than textbooks. i.e. GETTYSBURG by Shaara; VICKSBURG 1863 by Winston Groom.
 
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