Northern Paper Discusses Rumors of Southern Atrocities of the Rebellion 1862

Rumors abounded in Civil War America, and those on the home front found it difficult to get accurate information about battles, loved ones, and events. In addition, exaggerated caricatures of the enemy often filled papers and gave those on the home front increased reasons to support their own cause and despise the enemy. This piece, published in a Union paper, depicted the supposedly inhuman and callous nature of the Confederate enemy that Northern soldiers faced. It labels Southerners—soldiers, politicians, and home-front women— as immoral, savage, and willing to do anything. Dehumanizing the enemy was a common tactic in both the North and South.


We are not at all disappointed in the moral character of the rebellion or civil war now raging in our country. War in any form, and for any object, is bad enough; but we early foresaw that a war by professedly Christian Slaveholders for the permanent support and extension of slavery—the only true designation of this contest—in such a land and age as ours, would probably be attended with outrages and horrors very like those of the first French Revolution. We deem it our duty to chronicle a few specimens too well attested to doubt their substantial truth.

HIRING INDIANS TO FIGHT US.—Rebel emissaries were early sent to enlist the Indians; and most of the tribes have caught the bait, and promised active aid. A body of 1300 Indian warriors, armed with rifle, bowie-knife and tomahawk, and with their faces painted one half red, and the other black, joined at one time the rebel camp at Arkansas. In our Revolutionary war there were in the British Parliament men brave and humane enough to denounce their own government for employing Indians in their savage warfare; but the South is eager to get such allies, and to bring them, with their barbarous weapons, into the field.

THE REBEL MODE OF WARFARE.—''If, turning from this revolting spectacle, we fix our gaze,'' says the Washington Intelligencer, ''upon the kind of war which the secessionists themselves wage in Missouri, and in a greater or less degree wherever they have the power, we shall be brought to the conclusion, that the presence of Indian savages cannot greatly intensify the horrors of the internecine strife into which they willingly plunge every State or community that they cannot entirely control or possess. The condition into which they have brought Missouri is thus described by the St. Louis Republican: 'The Secessionists of Missouri have undertaken to make this State too hot for those who love the Union and the Constitution of our fathers. Pretending to build the edifice of disunion on the doctrine of State rights, they wage war upon the State as well as upon individuals. And their way of waging war! Shooting into passenger trains; lying in wait in ambush and behind stumps, to fire upon some defenceless traveller; placing kegs of powder upon railroad tracks; calling citizens out of their beds at night to tar and feather or hang them; robbing fields of their crops, orchards of their fruits, farms of their stock; burning bridges and depots; setting fire to barns and dwellings, and establishing such a reign of terror as is making women and children frantic, and driving peace-loving inhabitants from their homes by scores and hundreds.'

''The condition of affairs in Southwest Missouri is deplorable. Numberless atrocities and excesses are daily committed by the rebel forces and those in league and sympathy with them. It is estimated that four-fifths of the horses in possession of the rebel troops, who are generally mounted, were stolen. Foraging parties levy their contributions on friends and foes alike. Frequent robberies of stores have been committed. Large quantities of grain have been taken, and all the flouring mills have been pressed to perform a share in the exactions. This system of plunder is but a small part of the aggravations which afflict the inhabitants in the region indicated. Their fears are excited by roving bands of Indians accompanying the rebel horde. It is averred that a Cherokee named Fry has a commission in his deer skin pouch ensuring him a reward of $50 for the scalp usually worn by Dr. Stemmer, of Jasper county.''

TREATMENT OF WOUNDED AND PRISONERS.—A writer who ''gives only accounts taken from officers of what they themselves saw'' at Bull Run, avows that ''the proofs are overwhelming and incontrovertible, that our wounded men; were systematically murdered, that our surgeons were systematically shot down, that our ambulances were systematically blown up by shells, and that at the last, our hospital, a church building, was charged on by cavalry, who rode up and fired their revolvers through the windows at the wounded men as they lay on the floors, and at the surgeons who were attending to their wants, and that the enemy eventually set fire to the building, and burned it, and in it scores of wounded and dying men.''

During the battle ''they carried American flags to deceive our men, and when small squads that had got separated from their regiments, approached these flags, they were fired upon and slaughtered. The Rebels, also, fired upon the wounded, standing them up for targets, and then firing at them. One of the Connecticut men saw this done. A number of the 2d New York saw the Rebels' sharpshooters fire upon and kill two vivandieres who were giving wine and water to the wounded. They also shot at ambulances bring off the wounded, attacked flags of truce sent out to succor the suffering, fired point-blank at the buildings used as hospitals, and it is said by some, that they fired the buildings. Capt. Haggerty was killed in a charge. When his body was found, his throat was cut from ear to ear, and his ears and nose were cut off. Many of the wounded were found thus disfigured. The faces of our dead were found horribly mauled with the butt-ends of muskets, and their bodies filled with wounds, evidently inflicted after they had fallen on the field. Poor Capt. Downey, being overpowered by numbers, threw down his arms and surrendered. 'We take no prisoners, d—n ye,' was the reply; and he was literally blown to pieces, no less than sixteen balls entering his body.''

''We have had,'' says the N. Y. Observer, ''a conversation with a young gentleman who was an active participant in the fight at Bull Run. We have known him well for many years, and have entire confidence in his veracity. He confirms the statements that have been denied respecting the atrocities perpetrated by the rebels on our wounded. His own observation enabled him to testify that our wounded were butchered while they were lying helpless, and pleading for mercy. It is painful to repeat such statements; but, when they come to us in a way to compel us to believe them, it is a duty to make them known to the shame of the men who do such deeds, even in the excitement of war.''

FEMALE BRUTALITY.—It would seem as if the rebellion made in some cases monsters even of women. ''A benevolent (!) lady offers in one case a liberal premium for human scalps sufficient to make a bed-quilt!'' The N. Y. Commercial Advertiser says on reliable authority, that ''an officer took possession of the valuable trunks of a rebel officer, with his beautiful uniform, linen, watch, bowie-knife, Bible (!) and letters; and one of the letters (opened to find a direction) written by a lady, closed with this sentence, 'If you succeed in killing a Yankee, I wish you would skin him and tan the hide; I have something in mind that I want to make of it.'''

REWARDS FOR BRUTALITY.—The Southern Congress some time ago offered 'a bounty of twenty dollars for each person on board any armed ship or vessel belonging to the United States, at the commencement of any engagement, which shall be burned, sunk or destroyed by any vessel commissioned as aforesaid, for each and every prisoner by them captured and brought into port.' We believe that such a piece of barbarism as this never before disgraced the statute-book of a professedly civilized people.

Source: Advocate of Peace 14 (January/February 1862): 22.

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