Monday, June 09, 2008

Bachman letter, Part 3 of 7

A letter dated Charleston September 14, 1865, written by Rev. Dr. John Bachman, then pastor of the Lutheran Church in that city, presents many facts respecting the devastation and robberies by the enemy in South Carolina

"I, who have witnessed barbarity that are revolting to every feeling of humanity and mercy, was doomed to feel in my own person the effects of the avarice, cruelty, and despotism which characterized the men of that army. I was the only male guardian of the refined and delicate females who had fled there for shelter and protection.

I soon ascertained the plan was adopted in this wholesale system of plunder, insult, blasphemy, and brutality. The first party came was headed by officers, from a colonel to a lieutenant, who acted with seeming politeness, and told me they only came to secure our firearms, and when these were delivered up nothing in the house would be touched. Out of the house, they said they were authorized to press forage for their large army.

I told them that along the whole line of the march of Sherman’s army, from Columbia to Cheraw, it had been ascertained that ladies had been rob and personally insulted. I asked for a guard to protect the females. They said that there was no necessity for this, as the men dare not act contrary to orders. If they did not treat the ladies with proper respect, I might blow their brains out. “But “, said I, “you have taken away our arms, and we are defenseless.” They did not blush much, and made no reply.

Shortly after this came the second party, before the first had left. They demanded the keys to the ladies drawers, took away such articles as they wanted, then locked the drawers and put the keys in their pockets. In the mean time they gathered up spoons, knives, forks towels, table clothes, etc.

As they were carrying them off, I appealed to the officers of the first party; they ordered the men to put back the things; the officer of the second party said he would see them d-------d first; and, without further ado, packed them up, and they glanced at each other and smiled.

The elegant carriages and all the vehicles on the premises were seized and filled with bacon and plunder. The smokehouses were emptied of their contents and carried off. Every head of poultry was seized and flung over their mules; and they presented the hideous picture in some scenes in “Forty Thieves.” Every article of harness they did not wish to cut to pieces.

By this time the second parties had left and the third appeared on the field. They demanded the keys of the drawers, and being informed that they had been carried off, cooly and deliberately proceeded to break open the locks, took what they wanted, and when we uttered words of complaint were cursed. Every horse, mule, and carriage even carts, was taken away, and for hundreds of miles, the last animal that cultivated the widow’s corn field, and vehicles that once bore them to the house of worship, were carried off or broken into pieces and burned.

The first party promised to leave ten days’ provisions, the rest they carried off. An hour afterwards other hordes of marauders from the same army came and demanded the last pound of bacon and the last quart of meal. On Sunday, the Negroes were dressed in their best suits. They were kicked and knocked down and robbed of all their clothing, and they came to us in their shirt sleeves, having lost their hats, clothes and shoes.

Most our own clothes had been hid in the woods. The Negroes who had assisted in removing them were beaten and threaten with death, and compelled to show them were they were concealed. They cut open trunks, threw my manuscript and devotional books into a mud-hole, stole the ladies jewelry, hair ornaments, etc., tore many garments into tatters, or gave the rest to Negro women to bribe them into criminal intercourse. These women afterwards returned to us those articles that, after the mutilations, were scarcely worth preserving.

The plantation, of one hundred and sixty Negroes, was some distance from the house, and to these places successive parties of fifty at a time resorted for three long days and nights, the husbands and fathers being fired at and compelled to fly to the woods.