Lincoln’s Hard Hand of War


Author: Brion McClanahan

A Review of Joseph W. Danielson, War’s Desolating Scourage: The Union’s Occupation of North Alabama, University Press of Kansas, 2012; Charles A. Misulia, Columbus Georgia 1865: The Last True Battle of the Civil War, The University of Alabama Press, 2010.

On Easter Sunday, April 16, 1865, Union forces under the command of General James Harrison Wilson attacked, captured, and sacked Columbus, GA in the last major battle of the War east of the Mississippi. Wilson’s campaign began in North Alabama and quickly moved South.

By this point in the War, Alabama could offer little resistance. Even the great Forrest could not stop Wilson at Selma. The “army” defending Columbus–like Forrest’s army at Selma–was little more than young boys and old men. Hastily constructed forts on the Alabama side of the Chattahoochee River were unmanned.

Myths, Misunderstandings and Outright lies about owning Gold. Are you at risk?

The Battle of Columbus began well enough for the Confederate defenders. They duped the Union cavalry into trying to cross a bridge packed with oil soaked cotton bales. As the Union charged the position, a Confederate battery overlooking the bridge opened fire and the bales were set ablaze. This temporarily halted the assault, but when the rest of the cavalry showed up later that day, Wilson decided on a night attack.

The Union army ultimately overwhelmed their disoriented and disorganized foes and the occupied the city. Much has been made of Sherman’s “March to the Sea” in 1865, but very few are aware of Wilson’s Alabama campaign and the “hard hand of war” in the Yellowhammer State or the Battle of Columbus.

Historians Joseph Danielson and Charles Misulia have brought this little-known companion to Sherman’s swath of destruction to light.

Danielson begins his narrative in of the Union occupation of North Alabama in 1862. His picture of defiant Southern belles and recalcitrant civilians meshes nicely with Gary Gallagher’s portrayal of Southern nationalism and morale in his Confederate War. Daielson explains that while the Union army initially adopted a conciliatory policy in relation to Southern property and civil liberties, that soon gave way to tough measures after Southern civilians bristled at “Lincoln’s hordes.” Union soldiers began ransacking houses, stealing goods, and confiscating food. By 1864, one North Alabama woman remarked that Union soldiers had left her “poor children [with] nothing but a little piece of fried middling, and bread and water.” Fall harvests were seized while many Union soldiers walked away with clothes and shoes from helpless Southern women.

This story was repeated many times across the hills of North Alabama. Southern women who believed that a chivalric code would protect them from attack soon found out that Union soldiers did not subscribe to the same standards as their Southern men. “Lincoln’s hordes” took liberties with Southern women, burned their homes, and subjected them to physical violence. Their crime: supporting their men in the cause of independence. Their resolve was so strong that Union soldiers often marveled that it was the women, not the men, who were the most ardent patriots in North Alabama. If anyone were to read Drew Gilpin Faust’s nonsensical The Creation of Confederate Nationalism, they would believe that Southern women failed to support the cause and instead took to rioting across the South to find bread that had been confiscated by the Confederate government. Danielson has done much to dispel that myth.

Danielson concludes that “For a region where no major battle had occurred, the Confederate people, towns, and countryside suffered greatly.” Women chided their men for surrendering, took to bed out of grief, and refused to write in their journals for months after the war was over.

The hard hand of Union military occupation eventually transitioned to a punishing campaign across the State which culminated in the Battle of Columbus on Easter Sunday 1865.

Misulia provides a thorough blow by blow narrative of the event and its aftermath. Once the Confederate army failed in its defense of the city, the Union cavalry proceeded to loot and destroy anything of value, including almost every mill and factory in town. The only exception was the city’s grist mill. Wilson and his men occupied the finest homes in town, destroyed several bank vaults to steal now worthless Confederate money, tore apart storefronts in an effort to secure jewelry and clothing, and walked off with livestock and other valuables. The great conflagration of the city began when careless soldiers began detonating the thousands of pounds of munitions they captured in the raid. Some raiding also took place in the surrounding areas. Present day Phenix City was looted while many slaves looked on in horror as “ugly haired” men raided their plantations. One slave recalled, “they just rambled through the house a-cussin’ an’ a-carryin’ on, an’ breakin’ up all the dishes. The ole master, he run away.”

Alcohol fueled much of this thuggish behavior, and while Misulia argues that most of the soldiers behaved themselves, the simple fact that so much destruction was leveled on the city says more about Union command that the Union soldiers themselves. Wilson not only condoned their behavior, he encouraged it, as did General Ormsby M. Mitchel who oversaw Union occupation of North Alabama. The plundering began at the top.

These crimes are often brushed aside as a regrettable but necessary part of war. George W. Bush era crony Karl Rove praised the Union war effort in a review of Danielson’s book, calling the Confederate soldier the “enemy.”

Rove’s opinion is indicative of a larger problem, one that a careful reading of both Danielson’s and Misulia’s books can correct. Danielson is not pro-South, far from it, but he honestly portrayed Union actions in North Alabama. Misulia is not a professional historian which gives him an advantage over the academic crowd: he does not have to answer to the overlords of acceptable opinion in American history departments. Both books correct the notion that Southerners were traitors who deserved the beating they took, that the Union army was a virtuous band of moral crusaders, and that the majority of Southerners were duped by the plantation oligarchy into fighting and supporting a war they did not want. Certainly Rove did not gather this from the book, but his Republican colored glasses hid the real tragedy of the conflict.

Antebellum Southerners were Americans who had a different vision of American government and society, and the War set the South back both physically and economically for decades. Did any group of Americans deserve that? And if not, could there have been another way? Perhaps the “hard hand of war” imposed upon the South by “Lincoln’s hordes” was unnecessary. At the very least, Americans should consider it barbaric, but that would require a reassessment of the modern American historical narrative.

Reprinted with the author’s permission.

The post Lincoln’s Hard Hand of War appeared first on LewRockwell.

To Visit Source of Story Click >>> LewRockwell


  1. Woah! I’m really digging the template/theme of this site. It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s very hard to get that “perfect balance” between usability and appearance. I must say that you’ve done a superb job with this. Also, the blog loads super quick for me on Internet explorer. Excellent Blog!

  2. Aw, this was a really nice post. In thought I would like to put in writing like this moreover – taking time and precise effort to make a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and by no means appear to get something done.

  3. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I do not know who you are but definitely you’re going to a famous blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!

  4. Magnificent beat ! I would like to apprentice while you amend your website, how could i subscribe for a blog website? The account helped me a acceptable deal. I had been a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast offered bright clear concept

  5. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four emails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove me from that service? Many thanks!

  6. Hello, I’m really excited I discovered this blog, I basically encountered you by accident, when I was researching on Aol for mobdro for pc. Anyhow I’m here now and would really love to say thanks for a tremendous write-up and the all-round interesting website (I likewise like the theme/design), I do not have time to browse it entirely at the minute though I have book-marked it and even added your RSS feeds, so once I have plenty of time I will be returning to go through a lot more. Make sure you do continue the excellent work.

  7. I’m actually enjoying the theme/design of your site. Do you ever encounter any browser interface issues? Quite a few of my own blog visitors have complained regarding my garageband for mac site not working appropriately in Explorer yet appears excellent in Opera. Do you have any kind of solutions to aid fix that issue?

  8. I was speaking with a friend of mine around this article and even about garageband pc as well. I do think you made a number of good points in this case, we’re excited to read more stuff from you.