A Bitter Road to Forced Reunion
“If the [Southern] prisons constituted a Northern grievance the South likewise had its hurtful memories. While Northerners blamed the evil genius of slavery for the war, Southerners [like Major T.G. Barker speaking in Charleston in 1870:] pointed the finger of responsibility to “those men who preached the irrepressible conflict to the Northern people” and “helped to bring on that unlawful and unholy invasion of the South.”
The South felt that it had been betrayed. [The Southern Review in 1867 said:] “Assuredly the subjected portions of this imperial republic (so called), with the bitter experience they have of outraged honour, justice, and humanity, on the part of those once their associates and friends, can never again by any possibility trust that vast engine of tyranny, a consolidated popular Union, nor derive from it one ray of hope for their own welfare, or for the happiness of mankind.”
It was to this “deep spirit of hate and oppression toward the Southern people,” and not to the necessities of war, that the South attributed the vast destruction of its property.
The ineradicable sense of injury felt by the South took concrete form in condemning the ravages committed by General Sherman’s army in Georgia and South Carolina. “No tongue will ever tell, no pen can record the horrors of that march,” wrote an intimate associate of General Joseph E. Johnston whose surrender to Sherman is sometimes pictured as a love feast.
“Ten generations of women will transmit, in whispers to their daughters, traditions of unspeakable things.” The hurt was accentuated by Northern pride in the achievement. The South resented the arrogant and jeering tone of the song, “Marching Through Georgia,” and bridled when Northern orators described Sherman’s army going through the conquered land “like a plow of God.” Sherman personified all that the South had suffered.
The most contentious bone . . . was the destruction of Columbia. Sherman’s own defense was to blame General Wade Hampton . . . [and] the charge was made deliberately in Sherman’s official report. “I did it,” he later wrote, “to shake the faith of his people in him, for he was, in my opinion, a braggart, and professed to be the special champion of South Carolina.”
[The South] cherished a hateful image of the martyred Lincoln . . . who carried out in action his prophesy of war and destruction. He and his Cabinet, wrote the Southern Review, had a “perfect comprehension of the passions, prejudices, susceptibilities, vices and virtues . . . of the people upon whom they had to practice. They knew every quiver of the popular pulse . . . They were masters of every artifice that could mystify and mislead, and of every trick that could excite hope, or confidence, or rage . . . They filled their armies, established their financial system, controlled the press, and silenced opposition, by the same ingenious and bold imposture.”
The South sneered at a North which observed the Fourth of July and “at the same time denounced as damnable heresy the doctrines of the Declaration of Independence.” When Chicago was destroyed by fire in 1871 it was considered . . . [a] demonstration of Divine vengeance,” because it had been in Chicago that “the rowdy Lincoln, the prime agent of our woes, was nominated.” [After the death of] General Custer in the massacre of 1876, it was remembered in Virginia that the gallant martyr of the Little Big Horn was also the Custer who had executed seven captured Confederates of Mosby’s command without treating them as prisoners of war.”
(The Road to Reunion, Paul Buck, Little, Brown and Company, 1937, pp. 48-49; 52-55)