March 3, 1865: Lee in trouble.

Robert E. Lee

New York Times

It is not unsafe, though in the absence of all specific information, to conjecture that SHERMAN may now be directing his march straight upon Raleigh by way of Cheraw and Fayetteville. We learn from the Southern papers, that he is not moving on Charlotte, and that the alarm at that place has therefore subsided. There appears no reason to doubt the truth of this statement, and the obvious inference from it is, that he has turned in a northeasterly direction, deflecting his course somewhat toward Wilmington with the double object of cutting off HARDEE’s progress toward JOHNSTON, and effecting a junction with SCHOFIELD. Moreover, this would be the shortest route to Raleigh, the State capital of North Carolina, where he would once more be planted on LEE’s only line of communication with the South, and where he could establish an excellent secondary base, having direct railroad communication with Wilmington. If he began to move in this direction last week, there can scarcely be any doubt that he has by this time picked up SCHOFIELD, and that the combined force is now moving due north, with a weight that nothing within reach of the Confederacy can stop, or even delay.

From Columbia to Fayetteville is little over one hundred miles, and the Cape Fear River is navigable from this point to Wilmington, so that SHERMAN could here replenish his stores before marching on Raleigh, a precaution which may possibly be necessary, as the intervening country is mostly covered with turpentine forests, is sparsely settled and poor, so that it might be no easy task for an army to live off it. As we said yesterday, there is no probability that his movement northward can be checked by any force JOHNSTON can get together, until he arrives within striking distance of LEE, who may possibly then make a dash at him.

But there is, after all, nothing so likely as that Richmond will be evacuated, and that LEE will confine himself to a policy of delay, avoiding a general engagement, except in a position chosen by himself and fortified. The history of the war proves, beyond question, that no General on either side can calculate on absolutely decisive victories, let his combinations be ever so successful. All our pitched battles have ended in the withdrawal of the worsted party from the field, severely mauled, perhaps, but still not so utterly disorganized as to be incapable of further resistance; and no victory has been achieved, except, perhaps, THOMAS’ at Nashville, which has not cost the victor dearly.

Now a victory which costs LEE dearly and does not accomplish the total destruction of the Union army, would be almost as disastrous for him as a defeat. His army is the only one remaining to the Confederacy, and its strength is already terribly reduced; he has no means of recruiting; and to suppose that, under these circumstances, he will resort to the reckless and dashing strategy of the early part of the war, is to suppose him grown utterly desperate and frantic — a hypothesis which is refuted by all that is known of his character, or by his career. He will, we may be sure, sacrifice everything and every place to the safety of his army. Without Richmond, the army might be kept for a while together; without the army Richmond would be of no use. The exhortations of the Richmond papers to the citizens not to be afraid — that the city will not be evacuated, and that the removal of stores, &c., is merely a precaution called for by ordinary prudence, are not worthy of much attention. It is, of course, desirable that everything like a popular panic should be avoided, inasmuch as it would be difficult to prevent its communicating itself to the army; and we know that the rebel army has never yet abandoned any city without declaring loudly before hand that they never would give it up, but would defend it to the last extremity; that the victor would only enter it over their dead bodies, and to find it a mass of smoking ruins. But there is always behind this froth a good deal of common sense, which has so far deprived the world of any of the satisfaction of witnessing any such displays of heroism, and is likely to do so to the end.

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March 2, 1865: The nation with the most slaves always wins

Slave sale, Charleston SC

The Richmond Daily Dispatch informs us that, despite appearances, the south will certainly win, since the lesson of history is that having slaves is sure to bring victory.

All history has shown that the nation with most slaves in ancient times was, ceteris parabus, the most powerful in war, and it is the remark of one of the best American students of antiquity that if there had been a State in Greece without slaves, the probability is, it would quickly have been overthrown by the neighboring slave States. We find, in the Jewish system, slavery formally established by a Divine decree. Long before the foundation of that system, we find the patriarch Abraham going to battle with a force of slaves, which the Scriptures inform us were “born in his house and bought with his money.”

The Egyptians held slaves, as their monuments prove, and many of these slaves were negroes, as is clear from the representations on the royal sepulchres. The Greeks held vast numbers at the time of their greatest strength, and each nation in proportion to its powers in war. Sparta had eight slaves to one freeman, and Athens nearly as many. The slaves of these nations greatly aided in their splendid conquests. At Pataca five thousand Spartans were attended by thirty- five thousand Helots as light troops.

Slavery increased pari passu in Rome with the greatness of that country until the number of slaves in and around Rome exceeded the freemen in the proportion of twelve and fifteen to one. Industrial pursuits were almost entirely intrusted to slaves and freedmen, and as the country advanced these were enrolled as soldiers and trained as gladiators. It was only with the disappearance of slavery that domination of Rome over the rest of the world passed away; that her manners became corrupt, and she fell an easy prey to northern barbarians.

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Book Review: The Half Has Never Been Told

The Half Has Never Been Told

The Half has Never Been Told: Slavery and the making of American capitalism, by Edward E. Baptist. New York: Basic Books, 2014.

I can’t praise this book enough. Baptist has written one of the best history books I’ve ever read, on the subject of the development of American slavery from its inception until its abolition (however incomplete) in 1865.

It is easy to be misled by cursory treatments of slavery, as well as by the “Gone With the Wind” and “Song of the South” images, to imagine that slavery was a static system, unchanged for 250 years on our continent. Even when we are suspicious of the image of the “happy Negroes” playing their banjoes on the cabin stoop, the underlying misconception of a stable enslaved life, however hard, is still seductive.

Baptist shows how the expansion of American slavery was stimulated by the combination of industrialization, the development of better cotton varieties, and the availability of new land, first in Georgia, then in the western territories of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. This expansion dramatically changed the nature of slavery. Enslavers mortgaged their land, and more importantly the slaves who constituted the majority of their capital investment, in order to buy more slaves and expand the area they cultivated. They then had to extract ever more work from the enslaved people on their plantations in order to service their debt and continue to expand. They invented what Baptist metaphorically refers to as the “whipping machine” – a system of cultivation based on the threat of torture. Slaves, who had worked under a task system in the Atlantic upper south, were now required not to finish a particular job during a day, but rather to work in a large gang under supervision of a driver. When cotton picking season came, each slave had a quota to pick; at the end of the day the driver held the “weigh-in”, and slaves often received one stroke of the whip for every pound they fell short. Slaves who met their quotas got higher quotas.
While the productivity of spinning and weaving mills in England and New England increased dramatically during the first half of the nineteenth century, the productivity of cotton “hands” increased apace. Yet their increased productivity came not from mechanical inventions, but from a system of radically increasing cruelty.

The lives of slaves, once fairly stable in the upper south, at least after their and their ancestors’ kidnapping from Africa, were disrupted by the process of southern and westward expansion. Virginia’s tobacco industry was largely supplanted by the industry of selling human beings as tobacco lands wore out and the demand for field hands increased in the 1800s.

This is not the plantation life of southern myth, where the genteel aristocrats benignly care for their cheerful darkies. The reality of slavery from the late 18th through the first half of the 19th century in America was a story of feverish greed that fueled economic boom and bust, destruction of family lives, systematic rape and exploitation of “fancy” enslaved women, and the institutionalization of torture as a production method.

Baptist tells this story not merely as a history supported with records and statistics, though that support is amply provided. He tells it foremost from the perspective of the enslaved people who made it all possible, using first-hand accounts from escaped slaves and their white contemporaries, records of individual enslaved people, and accounts of former slaves collected by the WPA in the late 1930s. Enslaved people, who were whipped, mutilated, raped, and torn from their homes and families, were themselves the capital investment that generated the wealth of the nation, North and South, and labored to birth the modern industrial economy.

He structures the book based on an essay by Ralph Ellison, in which he said “I propose we view the whole of American life as a drama enacted on the body of a Negro giant who, lying trussed up like Gulliver, forms the stage and the scene upon which and within which the action unfolds.” His chapters are named for organs of that giant body: Feet, that were forced to carry their own enslaved bodies over the Appalachians, the right hand of power, the left hand of subtle ingenuity before power, seed that generated more enslaved bodies, and so on. His writing is poetic and dramatic because the story he tells is one that cannot be told drily. His title comes from a former slave named Lorenzo Ivy, interviewed in 1937 by a WPA worker, who was asked about selling slaves in Danville, Virginia. “They sold slaves here and everywhere. … Truly, son, the half has never been told.”

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March 1, 1865: Slocum gets across Lynch’s creek

Gen. Henry W. Slocum

After a sharp skirmish and some trouble with high water, Slocum crosses Lynch’s creek.

Official Records:

In the Field, Ferily’s Bridge, Lynch’s Creek, March 1, 1865.
General O. O. HOWARD,
Commanding Right Wing:

GENERAL: Slocum has the Twentieth here across Lynch’s Creek and a good bridge. Davis is across the Catawha, and ought to be about fifteen miles behind us. To-morrow all will move forward fifteen miles, which will bring us near Chesterfield, next day at Cheraw, Davis in the meantime closing his gap; push Blair straight, on Cheraw; with the Fifteenth Corps move on the same point, careful to reach the railroad below Cheraw and break it, then on Cheraw. We will cross to the north of Cheraw. The enemy cannot hold Cheraw against us, because it is on a branch road and we can insulate it. Johnston, if there, will not fight with a bridge behind him. We may have to cross the Pedee with a serious enemy in front, but we must not allow the Confederates caster; also Wheeler. I had an original communication from Wade Hampton yesterday, and he is still watching Kilpatrick, who is at Lancaster till Davis gets past. Push with all energy straight on Cheraw, cutting its road below, and I will be up on the 3rd instant.

Yours, truly,

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February 28, 1865: Logan delayed, and a skirmish

John A. Logan
“Black Jack” Logan


Logan is trying to cross Lynch’s Creek, but high water is causing him problems. In the process some of his men had a battle with rebel cavalry, with indecisive results.

Tiller’s Bridge, S. C., February 28, 1865.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN:

Logan is not year across Lynch’s Creek, but the crossing at Kelly’s is almost ready, where he has two divisions. After the brigades of infantry were thrown over the water rose so fast that it could not be bridged. It is now subsiding rapidly.

Captain Duncan met two brigades of rebel cavalry near Mount Elon Post-Office, had a severe skirmish, and returned without being able to strike the railroad. Hampton’s headquarters are reported at Darlington; Hardee at Cheraw, where a captured letter says a fight is expected some time next week. What force Hardee has I am unable to determine.


P. S. -Blair is entirely across Lynch’s Creek.


Tiller’s Bridge, S. C., February 28, 1865.

SIR: I have the honor herewith to report that in compliance with Special Orders, Numbers 51, I assumed command of all the available mounted forces at these headquarters, and marched south on the west side of Lynch’s Creek, crossing the same at Dubose’s Bridge, and proceeded in the direction of Simonsville, on the Florence and Charleston Railroad, for the purpose of destroying the railroad bridges near that place.

Lieutenant John A. McQueen, commanding scouts, being in advance, struck the enemy’s pickets, eight in number, two miles from Dubose’s Bridge, charged and drove them within one mile and a half of Mount Elon, where I learned the enemy, 700 strong, was encamped; I also learned that Butler’s division of cavalry was encamped near Wide Swamp. My information was received from negroes and citizens.

Colonel Aiken, in command of the Fifth [Sixth] South Carolina Cavalry, coming from the direction of Mount Elon, being advised by the citizens of the strength and direction of our party, followed us, coming up with us at dark at the cross-roads three miles south of Mount Elon, engaged us and was repulsed after a brisk engagement, which was mostly a hand to hand conflict on account of the darkness, we being unable to distinguish friend from foe.

List of casualties: Lieutenant John A. McQueen, Company K, Fifteenth Illinois Cavalry, commanding scouts, shot through the abdomen; Henry Irish, private, Company K, Fifteenth Illinois Cavalry, shot through the abdomen; Henry Irish, private, Company K, Fifteenth Illinois Cavalry, shot through the abdomen; William G. Evans, private, Fourth Independent Company Ohio Cavalry, shot through the leg. Missing: Albert White, Fourth Independent Company Ohio Cavalry; Joseph Bedoll, scout; -Dawson, scout.

The enemy’s loss was much greater than ours; among the number Colonel Aiken and Lieutenant Smith were wounded. We captured 1 prisoner, a first sergeant, who stated that their force was 125 or 150 strong. We proceeded south, and deeming it unsafe to remain on the east side of Lynch’s Creek, recrossed at Fields’ Bridge and encamped at Bishopville, and returned to camp by the Lynch’s Creek road. The conduct of the officers and men who accompanied me was unimpeachable.

Captain, Commanding Company K, Fifteenth Illinois Cavalry.


TILLER’S BRIDGE, S. C., February 28, 1865-5 a.m.
Major General F. B. BLAIR,
Commanding Seventeenth Army Corps:

GENERAL: The water has gone down very slowly. Corse thinks he will be able to commence crossing his train to-night. I do not wish you to push forward beyond Big Black Creek unsupported, as I am uncertain what force Hardee has. Do you hear anything from the Twentieth Corps? Captain Duncan has returned without striking the railroad. He had quite a skirmish near Mount Elon Post-Office. Lieutenant Mcqueen was badly wounded. Hampton’s headquarters are said to be at Darlington. Do you find any supplies?

Very respectfully,

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February 27, 1865:

The 13th Amendment

I believe the New York Times
is indulging in what would be called “snark” today:

Published: February 27, 1865

— The country will learn with alarm and disappointment that the Common Council of Jersey City have resolved by a vote of ten to seven,

“That we look upon the recent act of Congress, known as the Amendment to the Constitution, declaring slavery and involuntary servitude as forever abolished throughout all the States, as an untimely measure, adding another firebrand to the burning fire, and tending to put far from us that happy day of peace, prosperity and Union.”

What the effect of this expression of opinion on the fate of the amendment may be, it is impossible as yet to say, as its influence on the public mind, particularly in the Western States, is not yet known. But it is impossible to avoid fearing the worst. We had some hopes at one time that the Common Council could be induced either to “suspend its judgment” or delay the expression of it for a few months, until the ratification of the amendment had been secured at least in the free States. But these expectations have been frustrated; Jersey City has spoken, and we must make the best of it.

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February 27, 1865: Wade Hampton responds to Sherman

Wade Hampton III

Wade Hampton responds to Sherman’s threat of retaliation for the killing of captured foragers.

Official Records:

In the Field, February 27, 1865.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN, U. S. Army:

GENERAL: Your communication of the 24th instant reached me to-day. In it you state that it has been officially reported that your foraging parties are “murdered: after capture. You go onto say that you have “ordered a similar number of prisoners in our hands to be disposed of in like manner; ” that is to say, you have ordered a number of Confederate soldiers to be “marked. ” You characterize your order in proper terms, for the public voice, even in your own country, where it seldom dares to express itself in vindication of truth, honor, or justice, will surely agree with yout in pronouncing you guilty of murder of your order is carried out. Before dismissing this portion of your letter, I beg to assure you that for every soldier of mine “murdered” by you, I shall have executed at once two of yours, giving in all cases preference to any offices who may be in my hands.

In reference to the statement you make regarding the death of your foragers, I have only to say that I know nothing of it; that no orders given by me authorize the killing of prisoners after capture, and that I do not believe my men killed any of yours, except under circumstances in which it was perfectly legitimate and proper that they should kill them. It is a part of the system of the thieves whom you designate as your foragers to fire the dwellings of those citizens whom they have robbed. To check this inhuman system, which is justly execrated by every civilized nation, I have directed my men to shoot down all of your men who are caught burning houses. This order shall remain in force so long as you disgrace the profession of arms by allowing your men to destroy private dwellings.

You say that I cannot, of course, question your right to forage on the country- “It is a right as old as history. ” I do not, sir, question this right. But there is a right older, even, than this, and one more inalienable – the right that every man has to defend his home and to protect those who are dependent on him; and from my heart I wish that every old man and boy in my country who can fire a gun would shoot down, as he would a wild beast, the men who are desolating their land, burning their homes, and insulting their women.

You are particular in defending and claiming “war rights. ” May I ask if you enumerate among these the right to fire upon a defensess city without notice; to burn that city to the ground after it had been
surrendered by the inhabitants who claimed, though in vain, that protection which is always accorded in civilized warfare to non-combatants; to fire the dwelling houses of citizen after robbing them; and the petrate even darker crimes than these – crimes too black to be mentioned?

You have permitted, if your have not ordered, the commissioned of these offenses against humanity and the rules of war; you fired into the city of Columbia without a word of warning; after its surrender by the mayor, who demanded protection to private property, you laid the whole city in ashes, leaving amidst its ruins thousands of old men and helpless women and children, who are likely to perish of starvation and exposure. Your line of march can be traced by the lurid light of burning houses, and in more than one household there is now an agony far more bitter than that of death. The Indian scalped his victim regardless of age or sex, but with all his barbarity he always respected the persons of his female captives. Your soldiers, more savage than the Indian, insult those whose natural protectors are absent.
In conclusion, I have only to request that whenever you have any of my men “murdered” or “disposed of,” for the terms appear to be synonymous with you, you will let me hear of it, that I may know what action to take in the matter. In the meantime I shall hold fifty-six of your men as hostages for those whom you have ordered to be executed.

I am, yours, &c.,

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February 26, 1865: Sherman to Howard — take it slow.

Gen. O.O. Howard

Slocum’s column is still having the worst of the river crossings. Sherman tells Howard not to hurry.

Official Records:

In the Field, Ingraham’s House,, S. C., February 26, 1865.
General HOWARD:

March slow and in order. Send to break the railroad. General Davis is not yet across the Catawba. The freshet carried away his pontoons, and I think he will have to burn a part of his trains. The Twentieth Corps is at Hanging rock, and I think General Kilpatrick is at Lancaster. I will go with the Twentieth Corps by Horton’s Tavern and Blakeny’s Bridge.


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February 25, 1865: Foragers watch out


As we have seen, some of the rebels had been killing captured foragers. Here we have an order cautioning the foragers to keep in good order and be ready to retreat to the column if necessary — and taking advantage of the situation to warn against plunder and drunkenness.

Official Records:

West’s Cross-Roads, S. C., February 25, 1865.
Bvt. Major General JOHN M. CORSE,
Commanding Fourth Division, Fifteenth Army Corps:

GENERAL: It has been ascertained that the enemy have quite a force of cavalry on our flanks and are picking up a large number of our foragers, scouts, and stragglers. Division commanders will please call the attention of officers in charge of forage details to the necessity of holding their men well in hand and in condition to meet an attack y the mounted force of the enemy. A detachment of foragers under command of an intelligent officer, when not drunk or scattered, have nothing to fear from cavalry dashes, but can make good their retreat upon the main column should they encounter a superior force. But when scattered, engaged in the pursuit of plunder, rather than in gathering subsistence for the army, they render themselves an easy prey to an active enemy. In this connection I have the honor to invite your attention to a communication from these headquarters relative to the treatment of certain captured by the enemy from General Kilpatrick. *

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Assistant Adjutant-General.
(Same to Generals Woods, Hazen, and John E, Smith.)

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February 24, 1865: Sherman to Wade Hampton

Wade Hampton III
Wade Hampton


Sherman puts Wade Hampton, commander of the rebel cavalry, on notice that he will retaliate for killing of foragers.

In the Field, February 24, 1865.
Lieutenant General WADE HAMPTON,
Commanding Cavalry Forces, C. S. Army:

GENERAL: It is officially reported to me that our foraging parties are murdered after capture and labeled “Death to all foragers. ” One instance of a lieutenant and seven men near Chesterville, and another of twenty “near a ravine eighty rods from the main road” about three miles from Feasterville.

I have ordered a similar number of prisoners in our hands to be disposed of in like manner. I hold about 1,000 prisoners captured in various ways, and can stand it as long as you; but I hardly think these murders are committed with your knowledge, and would suggest that you give notice to the people at large that every life taken by them simply results in the death of one of your Confederates.

Of course you cannot question my right to “forage on the country. ” It is a war right as old as history. The manner of exercising it varies with circumstances, and if the civil authorities will supply my requisitions I will forbid all foraging. But I find no civil authorities who can respond to calls for forage or provisions, therefore must collect directly of the people.

I have no doubt this is the occasion of much misbehavior on the part of our men, but I cannot permit an enemy to judge or punish with wholesale murder.

Personally I regret the bitter feelings engendered by this war, but they were to be expected, and I simply allege that those who struck the first blow and made war inevitable ought not, in fairness, to reproach us for the natural consequences. I merely assert our war right to forage and my resolve to protect my foragers to the extent of life for life.

I am, with respect, your obedient servant,
Major-General, U. S. Army.

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