Tuesday, November 15, 1864: “two young pigs are shot down in my yard and hunted as if they were rebels themselves”

DBF

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
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Sherman’s troops foraging on a Georgia plantation
Artist: James Earl Taylor (1883)

The above quote, written by a soldier in a letter to his sister, describes his feelings on the assignment he was given in late fall and winter of 1864. He was known as a “bummer” the title given to General Sherman’s foragers during his “March to the Sea”. It was an effective term for it put fear in the hearts of those in his path. He concludes his thoughts:​

“But I feel some degree of consolation in the knowledge I have that I never went beyond my duty to pillage.” {1}

General Sherman issued “Special Field Orders No. 120” on November 9, 1864. He ordered his men to - -​

“forage liberally on the country” and “to destroy mills, houses, cotton-gins, etc.” but within limits. The foraging parties were supposed to be regularized and under the control of “discreet” officers; soldiers were not supposed to enter homes. Should the army be “unmolested,” Southern property was also supposed to be left alone. Significantly, Sherman also ordered that when seizing livestock, his men ought to discriminate “between the rich, who are usually hostile, and the poor and industrious, usually neutral or friendly.” {2}

For the soldiers in the field it was understood as - -​

“Each brigade leader was to organize a foraging detail under "discreet officers." The details were empowered to gather rations and forage of any sort and quantity useful to their commands and could appropriate animals and conveyances without limit. Soldiers, howeening language, and, when possible, were to leave each family "a reasonable portion [of provisions] for their maintenance." In regions where the army moved unmolested, no destruction of property was permitted. But where bushwhackers or guerrillas impeded the march, corps commanders were enjoined to "enforce a devastation more or less relentless, according to the measure of hostility.” {1}

During this time many women stood alone as Sherman’s thousands marched, camped and lived off their land while their men were off serving in the Confederate army. The Southern women became clever in the “hiding of their valuables”. Sometimes with success - - other times failure.​

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Little Mary Williams had an important role to play when her family’s home was invaded from members of the Union Army. When the soldiers came in, she was sitting on a flour barrel. Now the soldiers knew that was an odd place for a small child to sit so they went over to lift her off believing that something valuable was in that barrel. As they started to lift her off, one soldier glanced over the fireplace and saw something that stopped him in his tracks. You see Mary’s father was a Mason and over the fireplace was her father’s Masonic sword. The soldiers immediately took their leave.

A Masonic apron and gingerbread are the backdrop for this story from Emma High of Madison, Georgia. As General Henry Slocum and his four thousand men were camped out in front of her home, Mrs. High waved her husband’s Masonic apron and cried out that not only was she the wife of a Mason, but was the daughter of one as well. General Slocum assured her that she could rest easy as her home would not be disturbed. That was all fine until the morning when the family cook made her famous gingerbread cookies. As the smell of the freshly baked goodies surrounded the troops rushed in for the treats. Of course little did they know that there was a lack of sugar in them. A tin cup next to the cookies quickly filled with coins as the hungry soldiers paid for the goodies. Alas, this story does not end happily as the last soldier took the last cookie and grabbed the tin cup full of money and ran out the door.

Mrs. Nora Canning is using her cunning to save her husband’s life. The Yankees thought they could “encourage” her husband to disclose where their valuables were hidden in their Louisville, Georgia plantation. As the Yankees were ransacking their home their frustration grew so they took her husband to a nearby swamp. When they returned him, Mrs. Canning was shocked to see that her husband was near death. They had used the scare tactic of “hanging” to encourage him to tell them where he had hidden his watch and gold. Mr. Canning implored his wife to give them his watch which she did then the Yankees left. Unfortunately Mr. Canning’s throat swollen and parched from his near hanging took to bed with a fever. The Yanks had cut the rope to their well and took the buckets so she had no water to give her husband.

When more soldiers arrived at the home, Mrs. Canning begged if there was not one “good Samaritan among you”? Then she inquired if there was a fellow Mason among the group and quickly an officer was brought into the home. As she said - -​

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The “bummers and foragers” of Sherman's Army in the Grand Review, Washington D.C., May 24, 1865
Illustrator James Earl Taylor

The soldiers left the with much needed supplies and no one bothered them again.

*

And so it went on throughout Sherman’s “March to the Sea”, as the army approached, women looked for ways to protect their possessions. Dolly Sumner Lunt tells of the “demons” coming into her property:

“the plundering that takes thousand pounds of meat, lard, butter, eggs, pickles, turkeys, hens, chickens and ‘two young pigs are shot down in my yard and hunted as if they were rebels themselves’. {1}

She pleads with a guard but is told he’s only following orders. She witnessed her life being destroyed one object at a time. When Captain Webber entered her home she begs for protection from the “vandals” who were forcing themselves into their homes. Eventually she realizes Captain Webber from Illinois knows her brother living in Chicago and through her tears she pleads with him to let her brother know of her destitution. He also promises her home would not be burned, but would not guarantee how they would leave the rest of her property. Even young Sadie lost her favorite doll “Nancy” during the raid leaving the little girl in tears.” {2} Although “Nancy” was found outside in the mud and after a good cleaning, she became a beloved toy again and according to Dolly Lunt “Nancy” was eventually passed down to Sadie’s children.​

*

Burying their goods was a popular method but the bummers were getting smart in detecting anything buried. Some managed to hide their silverware (a popular booty) in hollowed walls. One enterprising woman managed to hide not only her valuables but food as well in her walls. Another clever mother put all the family valuables in bed along with her eleven year old son. As soldiers approached she informed them he had scarlet fever causing the soldiers to flee the home. Smallpox was another word the soldiers did not want to hear or go near. Mothers in the town of Thomasville, Georgia dressed up their boys as girls to keep their sons from being drafted into the Union Army. This worked until soldiers spotted the boys climbing trees and the “jig was up”.

There are legends and tales of Georgia women using a butcher knife to cut off the hand of a soldier as he reached for her corn; another shooting a soldier through a “chink out of her cabin wall” and then putting a spindle into the hole impaling the next soldier; and another incident of a lady placing a stick in a window to hold it up only to remove the stick when a Yankee soldier took a peek to see what she had in her kitchen. She reportedly broke his neck when she pulled out the stick causing the window to crash down.

In Walton County Georgia, Minerva Moore Hughes struggles on her family farm just to feed her nine children. With her husband dead every scrap of food is desperately needed. When she heard of the advancing Yanks, she told her children to hide their only family cow and hog. When the enemy arrived, they took all her corn and observed the evidence of animals of her farm. Two soldiers were assigned to task of discovering the hidden booty. While one soldier remained in the family home, the other took to scouting outside. Temporarily distracting the soldier in her home gave her enough time to load her shotgun and shoot him. The outdoor soldier came running into her home only to suffer the same fate. It was said she buried the two dead soldiers, sent their horses loose and with the help of her children re-laid new pine boards on the floor - all in a day’s work. The story is passed down that she got away with the killing. {4}

*

Florence Byrne a resident of Waynesboro, Georgia when heard the Yankees would soon be on her doorstep quickly clothed herself in her best and prettiest dress. It was her hope that if she wore all her nicest clothes, they would more than likely be still on her when the barbarians left. Her strategy proved to work however the Union soldiers decided to carry her piano out onto the street and give them a concert. It was reported that she played “Dixie” for the enemy troops and the soldiers responded by calling her a “d**m little rebel”. Florence got the last laugh when the troops were driven off by Wheeler’s cavalry. She was still attired in her finest gown.

In Brunson, Georgia Mrs. Hattie Richardson’s family worked feverishly to hide their valuables. They buried valuables and covered them in manure, hid food under clothes and one daughter hid her prized china doll under her clothes. Their house was pillaged when the Union Army arrived. Mrs. Richardson told the story of how an officer came to view the damage and asked if soldiers had done this to which she replied: ​

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Illustration of the devastation left behind as Sherman led his “March to the Sea”
(LOC - No Known Copyright Restrictions)

A woman put her valuables in a dish pan and then threw turnip greens to cover it up. She got lucky for those soldiers were not fans of turnip greens. Other hiding places that had great success: the mother that hid her valuables in her baby’s diaper - - making sure it was dirty when the Yankees came. It worked! OR there is the story of four Georgia women rocking on a front porch in Covington. Their eyes kept wandering to a spot in the yard that had fresh turned soil and was “suspicious” in nature. Could it be a hiding place? That is what some Yankee soldiers thought when they saw it and began to dig. Imagine their surprise when they unearthed a pine box containing the remains of a beloved family dog - no silver; no money; no jewelry. Perhaps their biggest surprise was after the soldiers re-buried the pet and heard one of the women cry out:​

“It looks like poor Curly will get no peace. That’s the fourth time he’s been dug up today.” {4}

*

Our letter-writing soldier from the beginning of this thread appeared to have some concern for what they were doing when he asked his sister in his letter:​

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“Sherman’s March to the Sea”
Artist: Alexander Hay Ritchie
(LOC - No Known Copyright Restrictions)

*


“'Sherman's dashing Yankee boys will never reach the coast!’"
So the saucy rebels said and 'twas a handsome boast’
Had they not forgot, alas! to reckon with the Host

While we were marching through Georgia.”


Lyrics “Marching through Georgia”
Composer/Lyrics: Henry Clay Work






Sources
1. https://civilwarhome.com/bummers.html
2. https://oxfordre.com/americanhistor...9329175.001.0001/acrefore-9780199329175-e-204
3
. https://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/burge/lunt.html
4. “General Sherman and the Georgia Belles Tales from Women Left Behind”, by Cathy J. Kaemmerlan
5. “Through the Heart of Dixie Sherman’s March and American Memory”, by Anne Sarah Rubin
All Photos - Public Domain unless otherwise designated
 

NH Civil War Gal

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As a Union gal, I don’t mind Sherman marching to the sea and getting some food. I GREATLY mind the rapacious hordes and bedlam that went with it. *Edited* if the Yankees had behaved the way they should have. Taking a child’s doll and other such things. I’ve read in great depth about Sherman’s march and what the bummer’s did. It is to no credit to the Union. This was not our shining moment, no matter how you dress it up.

I remember reading a diary from a plantation woman and she was writing about her slaves. One black woman actually became unhinged over the Yankees because they dug up the Black graveyard, after seeing newly dug dirt, and threw the poor little dead baby of the Black woman on top of the dirt. The plantation mistress was called to the quarters and seeing this poor Black woman rolling her eyes and asking “what kind of Yankees did you say there were?” And then the mistress ran to the graveyard and couldn’t believe her eyes. Horrible.

There was no reason for this. One thing to subdue a population but this went way beyond that. It created hatred where none needed to exist.

Great story @DBF.
 
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Joined
Mar 6, 2011
I don't know about the "harder hand " theory being valid.
Worked in ancient times when a difficult population would be eradicated.
The English have used the "harder hand..to force" policy with the Irish for about seven hundred years. That hasn't gone well.
Lincoln's death was terrible for the South, his "let em up easy" might have produced different results.
 

Georgia Sixth

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Dec 14, 2011
Location
Texas
As a Union gal, I don’t mind Sherman marching to the sea and getting some food. I GREATLY mind the rapacious hordes and bedlam that went with it. *Edited* if the Yankees had behaved the way they should have. Taking a child’s doll and other such things. I’ve read in great depth about Sherman’s march and what the bummer’s did. It is to no credit to the Union. This was not our shining moment, no matter how you dress it up.

I remember reading a diary from a plantation woman and she was writing about her slaves. One black woman actually became unhinged over the Yankees because they dug up the Black graveyard, after seeing newly dug dirt, and threw the poor little dead baby of the Black woman on top of the dirt. The plantation mistress was called to the quarters and seeing this poor Black woman rolling her eyes and asking “what kind of Yankees did you say there were?” And then the mistress ran to the graveyard and couldn’t believe her eyes. Horrible.

There was no reason for this. One thing to subdue a population but this went way beyond that. It created hatred where none needed to exist.

Great story @DBF.

I don't remember now where I read this, but it was a quote from Sherman expressing his opinion that the only reason the confederate men continued to fight was because the women back home were demanding revenge. He shoulda thought of that before he did his imitation of the Visigoths.
 

Mrs. V

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 5, 2017
All I can say is that it was war. The first war in which civilians were considered the enemy and not exempt from being combatants. I suppose that is why soem of the Bummers were so cruel. I wonder too if some of it was just plain psychotic behavior. “Shell shock” etc.
 

NH Civil War Gal

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I think a Marshall Plan for the Southern women would have changed the whole balance of the war. *Edited* if children and women had not been pillaged like this, women would not have wanted the revenge they did. And a lot of the stuff Sherman’s bummers took was just plain nuts for soldiers to take.

I agree with @turner ashby kidd, the harder and heavier hand (is only a theory) and it hasn’t worked out too well for any country that has used it.

I think the March to the Sea WAS a tremendous thing and Joe Johnston had every right to be amazed. I also think Sherman had no reason for letting it get as out of control as he did. He failed in that and there was no accountability going to be held and the soldiers/officers knew that. It could have been managed a lot better and still made the populace know who was going to win without total devastation in his path.
 
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farrargirl

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 9, 2017
Location
Baldwin County, on the Alabama Gulf Coast
*Edited* Perhaps this superb post by @DBF should be read and reacted to in the spirit by which it was written.
I am finally getting around to reading this heavily sourced and documented book:

743E8D48-32E7-4927-82F8-33B497906CF6.jpeg

The author makes no personal conclusions as to the barbarity of General Sherman’s action through Georgia, and his annihilation of Columbia,SC.
He doesn’t need to. The diaries, letters and accounts of the Union soldiers under him speak for themselves.
Give it a read...
 
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DBF

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
should be read and reacted to in the spirit by which it was written.
Thank you for pointing out it “should be read and reacted to in the spirit by which it was written”. This is the Ladies Tea Forum and following the title of the forum it reads: “War from a Feminine Perspective”, and that was in my thoughts as I wrote this. I have several threads that are coming as the ladies of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina face Sherman’s army and “in their own words” describe the horrors of war.

In case you missed it here is a thread I posted describing the ladies in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania as they tell of the July, 1864 raid when the Confederates came to burn their town. Their words are as heartbreaking as the Southern ladies.

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/saturday-july-30-1864-“morning-has-broken”-over-the-ladies-of-chambersburg-pennsylvania.184039/
 

Ethan S.

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Location
Carter County Kentucky
The bummers became a part of a dirty legend ever since then, haven't they? You ask any pro-confederate person, and they'll blab to no end about how unfairly the South was treated by Shermans' men. They were an exception to what I believe was common place during the war. Of course, there were provision runs and raids during the war, but the ferocity of Shermans men sticks out in most folks minds.


I've been reading Company Atych, by Sam Watkins, and he described how he stood on picket duty in Perryville Kentucky one night, and a yankee was doing the same across the street. They got to talking with each ther, and actually came across the street, picked a house, and went "provision hunting" together for some bread and foodstuffs. I found it kind of humorous.
 

Georgia Sixth

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Dec 14, 2011
Location
Texas
*Edited* Perhaps this superb post by @DBF should be read and reacted to in the spirit by which it was written.
I am finally getting around to reading this heavily sourced and documented book:

View attachment 397589
The author makes no personal conclusions as to the barbarity of General Sherman’s action through Georgia, and his annihilation of Columbia,SC.
He doesn’t need to. The diaries, letters and accounts of the Union soldiers under him speak for themselves.
Give it a read...
This is a GREAT work of scholarship and so few people have ever heard of it.
 

farrargirl

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 9, 2017
Location
Baldwin County, on the Alabama Gulf Coast
This is a GREAT work of scholarship and so few people have ever heard of it.
Yes, it is. I think the author chose the perfect vehicle to make his point. Primary sources with every account from the Union soldiers foot-noted.
Thanks for the comment. My dad’s people came from that part of middle Georgia, I graduated from Wesleyan in Macon, Ga. so...beautiful Jaw-Ja is a part of me 🍑....
 

farrargirl

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 9, 2017
Location
Baldwin County, on the Alabama Gulf Coast
Thank you for pointing out it “should be read and reacted to in the spirit by which it was written”. This is the Ladies Tea Forum and following the title of the forum it reads: “War from a Feminine Perspective”, and that was in my thoughts as I wrote this. I have several threads that are coming as the ladies of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina face Sherman’s army and “in their own words” describe the horrors of war.

In case you missed it here is a thread I posted describing the ladies in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania as they tell of the July, 1864 raid when the Confederates came to burn their town. Their words are as heartbreaking as the Southern ladies.

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/saturday-july-30-1864-“morning-has-broken”-over-the-ladies-of-chambersburg-pennsylvania.184039/
Just read your Chambersburg post. Great stuff. Bravo!
 
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