War Crimes Against Southern Civilians (Part 2)

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Down in Franklin County (TN) sometime in late December 1864, a Unionist named Moses Pittman handed Major General Milroy a list of “disloyal” men and women, all apparently personal enemies of Pittman. Beside each name was a “narration of their crimes.” Milroy went down the list, marking with his own hand “what punishment they shall suffer.” By the names of Joel Cunningham and Green Denison he wrote “KILL.” Next to the name of Curtis McCullum was the order “HANG AND BURN.” Charlotte, the sister of Curtis, had “BURN EVERYTHING” written by her name. “SHOOT IF YOU CAN MAKE IT LOOK LIKE AN ACCIDENT,” the general wrote next to the name of Cynthia, Curtis’s wife. There were fifty-three other names on the list. Orders to carry out the murders & other depredations were given to Capt. William H. Lewis on January 7, 1865, with detailed supplemental instructions on destroying and plundering the property of the victims.

Milroy added the names of four other civilians in neighboring Coffee County whom he also wanted executed. Captain Lewis later apprehended three of this group, unarmed, at one of their homes. Leroy Moore and Thomas Saunders were both old men. William Saunders was only fourteen. Each had his hands bound behind his back, was forced to wade into the pond at Huffers Mill, then was shot. Only after three days did soldiers allow families to retrieve the bloated bodies from the water for burial.

On February 7, 1865, Milroy issued more orders, specifying eighteen individuals who were to have their homes and property burned.  Included were the names of thirty-four he wanted shot. Four other names were listed, these to be “hung to the first tree in front of their door and be allowed to hang there for an indefinite period.” The final sentence of Milroy’s order read: “If Willis Taylor is caught he will be turned over to Moses Pittman and he will be allowed to kill him.”                                                                             From War Crimes Against Southern Civilians by Walter Brian Cisco

Major General Robert Huston Milroy served in the eastern front in Virginia against the Confederate corps of Lt. General Richard S. Ewell during the Gettysburg campaign and is most known for his defeat at the Second Battle of Winchester in 1863. He was VIII Corps 2nd division commander under Union General Robert C. Schenck. General Milroy’s harsh mistreatment of Winchester (VA) citizens had been such that even many pro-Unionists had changed their sympathies. This served to further isolate Milroy’s ability to gather intelligence around him. He failed miserably against General Ewell, was relieved of his command, and was called before a court of inquiry to answer for his actions, but after ten months the charges were dropped.

Later General Milroy was transferred to the Western Theatre, “recruiting” for Maj. Gen. George Henry Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland in Nashville in the spring of 1864. He also was in command the defenses of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad in the Department of the Cumberland until the end of the war.

Major General Milroy USA

Major General Milroy USA

War Crimes Against Southern Civilians (Part 1)

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“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