“Of all the enormities committed by Americans in the nineteenth century-including slavery and the Indian wars-the worst was the invasion of the South, which destroyed some twenty billion dollars of private and public property and resulted in the deaths of some two million people, most of whom were civilians-both black and white” –David Aiken, editor of A City Laid Waste: The Capture, Sack, and Destruction of the City of Columbia

Let us look at the state of Tennessee starting in 1862: former U.S. Senator Andrew Johnson was appointed the military governor of Tennessee on March 2, 1862, by President Lincoln.

The clergy in Nashville were among the first to feel Johnson’s wrath. A group that included Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Christian Church ministers and educators was ushered into the governor’s office, where he demanded they declare allegiance to the country at war with their own. When they refused, the pastors were jailed. “They are the enemies of our government,” Johnson explained to the provost marshal, “and should receive such consideration only as attaches to a person guilty of so infamous a crime.” Episcopal rector George Harris was arrested by military authorities and told he must “pray for the President of the United States or be hung.” Harris was able to escape into exile. His church, Holy Trinity on Sixth Avenue South, was seized by the U.S. Army and used for the storage of munitions. The Methodist publishing house was commandeered for the printing of government documents. First Baptist Church was converted into a hospital before being destroyed.

Holy Trinity Church Nashville Tennessee

Holy Trinity Church Nashville Tennessee

One fall day in 1862, Dr. William Bass was leaving the Nashville home of William Harding when passing Union soldiers demanded he halt. When the doctor kept walking, they shot him. The controlled press concocted a story about his death being the result of a guerrilla raid, but it soon retracted that tale when confronted with the facts. “The brutality exhibited by the Federal soldiers in this affair awakens the intensest indignation,” wrote another physician. “I never witnessed its like.” He went on to express surprise that military authorities did not interfere with the victim’s funeral.

From War Crimes Against Southern Civilians by Walter Brian Cisco