Sunday, June 15, 2008

Bachman letter, part 6 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. So much relates to the march of Sherman’s army through part of the state is here presented:

"My trials, however, were not yet over. I had already suffered much in a pecuniary point of view. I had been collecting a library on natural history during a long life. The most valuable of these books had been presented by various societies in England, France, Germany, Russia, etc., who had honored me with membership, and they or the author presented me with these works, which had never been for sale, and could not be purchased.

My herbarium, the labor of myself and the ladies of the house for many years, was also among these books. I had left them as a legacy to the library of Newberry College, and concluded to send them at once. They were detained in Columbia and there the torch was applied, and all were burned. The stealing and burning of books appear to be one of the programmes which the army acted. I had assisted in laying the foundation and dedicating the Lutheran Church at Columbia, and there near its walls, had recently been laid the remains of one who was dearer to me than life itself. To set that brick church on fire from below was impossible. The building stood by itself on a square but little built up. One of Sherman’s bummers was sent up to the roof. He was seen applying the torch to the copula. The church was burned to the ground, and the grave of my loved one desecrated. The story had circulated that the citizens had set their own city on fire; General Sherman had his army under control. The burning was by his orders, and ceased when he gave the command.

I was now doomed to experience in person the effects of avarice and barbarous cruelty. The robbers had been informed in the neighborhood that the family which I was protecting had buried one thousand dollars in gold and silver. They first demanded my watch, which I had effectually secured from their grasp. They then asked me where the money had been hid. I told them I knew nothing about it, and did not believe there was a thousand dollars worth in all, and what there had been carried off by the owner, Colonel Cash. All this was literally true.

They then concluded to try an experiment on me which had proved so successful in hundreds of other instances. Coolly and deliberately they prepared to inflict torture on a defenseless, gray-headed old man. They carried me behind the stable and once again demanded where the money was buried, or “I should be sent to hell in five minutes.” They cocked their pistols and held them to my head. I told them to fire away.

One of them, a square built, broad face, large mouth clumsy lieutenant, who had the face of a demon, and who did not utter five words without awful blasphemy, now kicked me in the stomach until I fell breathless and prostrate. As soon as I was able, I rose again. He once more asked me where the silver was. I answered as before “I don’t know.” With his heavy elephant foot he now kicked me back until I fell again. Once more I arose, and he put the same question to me. I was nearly breathless, but answered as before.

Thus was I either kicked or knocked down seven or eight times. I then told him it was perfectly useless for him to continue his threats and blows. He might shoot me if he chose. I was ready and did not budge an inch, but requested him not to bruise and batter an unarmed defenseless man.

“Now,” said he, “I’ll try a new plan. How would you like to have both of your arms cut off,” He did not wait for an answer, but his heavy sheath sword, struck me on my left arm, near the shoulder. I heard it crack; it hung powerless at my side, and I supposed it was broken. He then repeated the blow to the other arm. The pain was excruciating, and it was several days before I could carve my food or take my arm out of a sling, and it was black and blue for weeks. (I refer to Dr. Kollock of Cheraw.)

At that moment the ladies, headed by my daughter, who had only been made aware of the brutality practice upon me, rushed from the house, and came flying to my rescue. “You dare not murder my father,” said my child; “he has been a minister in the same church for fifty years, and God has protected him.” “Do you believe in a God miss?” said one of the brutal wretches; “I don’t believe in a God, a heaven, nor hell.” “Carry me,” said I, “to your General.”

I did not intend to go to Sherman, who was at Cheraw, from whom, I was informed; no redress could be obtained, but to a general in the neighborhood, said to be a religious man. Our horses and carriages had all been taken away and I was too much bruised to be able to walk. The other young officers came crowding around me very officiously, telling me they would represent the case to the General, and they would have him shot by ten o’clock the next morning.

I saw the winks and glances that were interchanged between them. Every one gave a different name to the officers. The brute remained unpunished, as I saw him on the following morning, as insolent and profane as he had been on the proceeding day.