Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

“We have certainly earned the honor. . . .”

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Hall on September 2, 2014

I almost forgot — today, Tuesday, is 150th anniversary of my wife’s uncles, James Bradley Ridge and George B. Ridge, both of Company K, Fifth Connecticut Volunteers, marching into Atlanta at the head of Sherman’s column. Seems like a moment worth remembering. From the regimental history:

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September 2d. We all move forward toward the city of Atlanta, leaving our tents standing. Our regiment has the advance, and the Fifth Regiment Connecticut Veteran Volunteers have the honor of being the first Union regiment to march through the streets of the city of Atlanta. We have certainly earned the honor, for we have made a long and tedious campaign, having been 112 days and nights continually under fire, sleeping many nights in the trenches, fighting at every opportunity, always holding the ground and routing those opposed to us, and finishing the campaign with great honor to ourselves, to the State and to the General Government.
 
General Sherman says that we will rest in the city for thirty days, and I believe him.

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I don’t have any Yankees in my own attic, but my wife does. We have a mixed marriage, you see.

___________

GeneralStarsGray

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24 Responses

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  1. Betty Giragosian said, on September 3, 2014 at 9:48 am

    I am surprised. I thought your attic was filled with Yankees, judging from what you write. Surely you have no Confederates.

    • Andy Hall said, on September 3, 2014 at 9:57 am

      Have a wonderful day, Betty.

      • Suzanne said, on September 3, 2014 at 1:33 pm

        No one – Yankee or Confederate – should commemorate what Sherman did. Today he would be tried for war crimes.

        • Jerry Sudduth Jr said, on September 3, 2014 at 5:25 pm

          He wouldn’t, what he did wasn’t inhumane or brutal. It was war, what he showed to the people of Georgia and the Carolinas is that the Confederate Army could not stop the United States Army from marching through enemy territory therefore questioning the legitimacy
          of the Confederate government in the eyes of the populace his men encountered.

          His men had to have supplies so they lived off the land, that too was and is war as practiced since the time of the Bible. Those aren’t war crimes, it’s war not a parlor game.

          Was it harsh? Absolutely, but war tends to be, anyone who thinks it isn’t is naive.

          Did bad things happen? Yup, they did then and they do now with men at war, but not even approaching the degree to which those men are accused.

          Strange you don’t hear the same outrage from the folks who decry Sherman about Chambersburg, PA, Cynthiana, KY or Lawrence KS.

          • Suzanne said, on September 3, 2014 at 5:53 pm

            You need to study your history about the other battles (or skirmishes). It is obvious you don’t know the true stories. And what Sherman did in his march to the sea was not just “war” as you say. It was a battle against women and children, just like Sheridan’s march in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.

            • Jimmy Dick said, on September 4, 2014 at 9:46 am

              Are those the true stories about how he burned everything to the ground that we hear about so often as the tour advertisements say while at the same time advertising hundreds of antebellum buildings?

            • Jerry Sudduth Jr said, on September 4, 2014 at 11:36 am

              Ma’am,

              With all due respect, I’ve read plenty of history of the Shenandoah Valley campaign and the March to the Sea. These are books written by academic historians or people apply the principles of sound reasoning based off of solid research. I don’t waste my time with people writing to suit an agenda or presenting half-baked ideas on some disjointed concept of human events.

              With those bonafides out of the way, I have never in any of what I read seen where Federal troops committed wide-spread criminal acts on the Southern populace. Individual incidents occurred, as they do in any war where soldiers committed war crimes in these campaigns. The conduct of both sides were fairly restrained considering how bitter the war had gotten by the fall of 1864.

              The United States forces were going after materiel which could aid the Confederate war effort, not directly upon women and children. The actions of the US forces in these campaigns are similar to the conduct of allied forces in the combined bomber offensive against Germany.

              The bombing campaign, like the fall 1864 campaigns was a means to cripple an opponents industrial and logistical framework and to demoralize them. Killing civilians wasn’t the aim, if there were deaths (exceedingly few in the Shenandoah and in Georgia) it was the unfortunate collateral damage that comes with war. War is a nasty business.

              I don’t mean to argue with you as I doubt I’ll change your mind and I know you won’t change mine. It gets old seeing these tired bromides about the ‘evil Yankees’ and what they did in the war. The truth is far less salacious than the myths and exaggerations about Sherman. I’m after the truth, that’s why I read as much as I do, so I can know more and know how it actually was. Not how time and prejudices have distorted it.

              Andy, I’m sorry that my first two posts have been more argumentative than I’d like, I’m a long time reader and finally felt compelled to say something.

            • Andy Hall said, on September 4, 2014 at 12:06 pm

              Suzanne, the “true stories” about Sherman are often just that — stories:

              https://deadconfederates.com/2013/04/04/kerosene-billy-in-fact-and-fiction/

              A couple of additional points are in order here. First, Sherman was not generally as vilified in the South during and immediately after the war as he came to be later, due in large part to Jefferson Davis’ memoirs and the rise of the Lost Cause orthodoxy. Sherman made several visits to the South in later years, and in New Orleans he was hosted (and toasted) by his old nemesis from Georgia, John Bell Hood. Joe Johnston died of pneumonia that developed after he served as a pall bearer at Sherman’s funeral. Those men, who were there and fought Sherman themselves, certainly didn’t see him as a war criminal.

              Second, as Jerry points out, war is harsh, and it should be. Lots of southerners suffered from Sherman’s march through Georgia and Carolinas, but that’s the reality of war. (Ask the folks in Chambersburg about that.) The folks who believe that Sherman (or the Union military in general) engaged in some unprecedented brutality are, frankly, ignorant of the way war (and especially civil war) had been conducted in the “civilized” West since Roman times. Sherman can look pretty bad in isolation, but in the context of war and history up to 1864, the actual violence and destruction that traveled with his army was restrained, indeed.

              Finally, I get reminded somewhat regularly that, as the descendant of Confederate veterans, I have an obligation to defend, praise, and otherwise “honor” them — “the Charge” and all that. It seems to me that the descendents of Connecticut Yankees, like my wife and her family, ought to be able to do the same.

              • Rob Baker said, on September 5, 2014 at 9:54 am

                In all honestly, Sherman did not execute a manner of war any differently than his superiors did in the Second Seminole War, minus the mass deportation of the population. Civil War combat was rather tamed, largely made so by Generals who idolized that grand milieu of the Napoleonic Wars of Europe. The irony there is that U.S. military tradition still hinged on the cultural heritage established by Britain in the “limited age.” The Napoleonic Wars ended that for many Europeans. America was still playing catch-up. Sherman ravaged the South….materially, which exacerbated the war torn economy of the Confederacy.

    • Foxessa said, on September 4, 2014 at 7:13 pm

      OTOH, Sherman and his men were met with ring shouts and other demonstrations of supportive joy on the entire march by the formerlly enslaved. In the meantime he made sure to take out signficant traitors’ plantations such as Howell Cobb.

      • Andy Hall said, on September 4, 2014 at 7:18 pm

        One distinctive aspect of Confederate Heritage is that it ignores the 3.5M enslaved persons in the Confederacy, as if they weren’t there at all. Recently one heritage advocate wrote on FB,

        the censuses of 1810, 1830 and 1850 found that 50% of the South was of Celtic origins, English a 1/3 of the remaining total with the rest being made up from German, French and the Spanish.

        Not part of “the South” in that writer’s mind, clearly.

        • Foxessa said, on September 5, 2014 at 1:17 pm

          As T Jefferson wrote and believed, the “African” had no part in the United States.

          • Jimmy Dick said, on September 6, 2014 at 8:43 am

            TJ may have felt that way, but one glance around him proved that wrong. His food was cooked by black slaves. His income was derived for the most part by the work of black slaves. His house was maintained by black slaves. Practically everything on his plantation was built by black slaves. He slept with a black slave. Leaving Monticello and traveling around Virginia one could see as far as one looked where the overwhelming majority of every structure, the roads, the plantations, the farms, almost everything was built, tended to, maintained, or worked on by black slaves.

            TJ and many other Americans had a gap in their memory, one that they consciously placed there regarding the role of the African in America. In TJ’s case, I think he knew but didn’t want to admit it in society because that would have meant acknowledging their contributions in building America. For a society constructed on white supremacy like the southern states were, blacks had to be kept down because to give them any recognition at all could have led to upsetting that structure.

            • Suzanne said, on September 6, 2014 at 9:13 am

              And have you checked out the slaves that were in the North? I guess you are color blind there.

              • Andy Hall said, on September 6, 2014 at 9:23 am

                Slavery was grim and brutal everywhere. But “the North” did not risk a war to protect the institution, and in the end it was “the North” that crushed it.

                Apart from the border states of Missouri, Kentucky and Maryland, the institution of slavery had been almost completely eliminated in “the North” before the secession of the Deep South states.

              • Suzanne said, on September 6, 2014 at 12:52 pm

                Believe what you will – can’t argue with people with closed minds.

              • Andy Hall said, on September 6, 2014 at 1:06 pm

                I agree entirely.

              • Jimmy Dick said, on September 6, 2014 at 2:08 pm

                Of course I’ve checked out the slaves in the North. I’ve checked out how slavery was abolished in the North too. Let’s see. In 1860 it was in the South…all 15 slave states. Before the middle of 1861 eleven slave states had seceded in order to protect slavery. The people that voted to secede told us that. Got a problem with those facts? Or are you one of the people with a closed mind that thinks the Civil War was over anything but slavery?

  2. Duane Whitlock said, on September 3, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    My great grandfather and his youngest brother also marched in with the 1st Michigan Engineers & Mechanics. We shall celebrate tonight!

  3. msb said, on September 4, 2014 at 1:47 am

    Andy, did they survive the war? I hope so.

  4. Will Hickox said, on September 4, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    That’s quite interesting about your wife’s ancestors. Many historians write genealogy off as contributing little or nothing to scholarship, but I’ve found ancestry.com and similar websites very useful, even essential, in my research projects.

    • Andy Hall said, on September 4, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      I use Ancestry and similar resources *all the time*, much more often to research some other individual than my own relatives. Part of that is because I often focus on “small” stories about individuals, but it’s just invaluable for that.

  5. H. E. Parmer said, on September 7, 2014 at 1:45 am

    This is a portion of a manuscript of reminiscences and family history my great-aunt wrote back in the 50s. My great-great-grandfather owned a large plantation in Giles County, Tennessee; supposedly he was one of the largest slaveholders in the county. Anyway, take it for what it is, keeping in mind she was an elderly woman recounting stories she’d no doubt heard in her childhood.

    … This lovely old mansion [Del Delight] was situated in a valley six miles west of Pulaski, Giles County, on the Lambs Ferry Road, During the War Between the States, it was on the line of Sherman’s March to the Sea.

    There were several wings to this army. One went by Chattanooga, one by Columbia where General Sherman had his headquarters in St. Peters Episcopal Church, and one by Pulaski. In one wing there were 100,000 men that camped on Grandpa’s place. 10,000 a night and they were ten days passing so you can imagine the damage they did. They were en route to the Tennessee river where they crossed to join his main army in Georgia for that infamous march to the sea.

    In some places this army was sixty miles wide. This was in the fall of the year and the crops were laid by. There were hundreds of bales of cotton that they burned – the gin, saw mill, stables, outbuildings, the rail fences for miles and were ready to burn the house when Grandpa came out on the porch and gave a Masonic sign which one of the officers recognized and ordered his men to march on or the house would have been destroyed. They took all of the silver, broke the fine china, threw the books out of the windows, took all the stock, horses, mules, cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry and the 25 peacocks shot for fun, pulled the bungs from the hogshead of sorghum and didn’t leave a thing on the place to eat. If Grandpa hadn’t had a lot of gold money, they would have starved.

    Grandma, Mama and Aunt Jennie wore this money around their waist and you can imagine what a load it was for these frail little women. The other children were too small. For meanness they carried the two little spotted Shetland ponies that Mama and Aunt Jennie rode on to school and two years later were found near the Tennessee River. The boys’ little donkey and jennet came back home. The army was moving so fast they couldn’t keep up, and to everybody’s amazement and delight early one morning they were standing at the lot gate waiting to be let in.

    There were several everlasting springs on this place that made a large stream of water that flowed through the lot. These soldiers said they found this place a paradise and left it a desert waste.

    It seems Freemasonry not only opens doors, it keeps your home from getting burnt.

    Snark aside, it is instructive that this bit of family history says nothing about their slaves’ reaction to all this. From all indications, that “desert waste” — and the family’s fortunes — recovered pretty quickly. Nothing described here is at all unusual for large armies of that time, operating in enemy territory. There’s obvious spitefulness in destroying china, throwing books out the windows, shooting their peacocks and (possibly) planning to burn their mansion, but considering what had gone before, it was fairly understandable that these soldiers held a grudge against what they would have seen as representatives of the social class that started this war. That Del Delight was a large, prosperous plantation could only have aggravated that hostility.

    Notice, though, that there’s no mention of any physical violence or insult being offered. And a late middle-aged man, a few women and some children surely couldn’t have stopped them, if those soldiers had wanted to have a bit of fun.


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