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[664] ridden into the houses. Beautiful homesteads of the parish gentry, with their wonderful tropical gardens, were ruined. Ancient dwellings of black cypress, one hundred years old, were given to the torch as recklessly as were the rude hovels. Choice pictures and works of art, from Europe, select and numerous libraries, objects of peace wholly, were all destroyed. The inhabitants were left to starve, compelled to feed only upon the garbage to be found in the abandoned camps of the soldiers. The corn scraped up from the spots where the horses fed, was the only means of life left to thousands lately in affluence.

Sherman had in his army a service which he seems proud to have exhibited as a novel and unique feature — that of so-called “bummers.” The wretches thus curiously designated, were allowed as irregular foragers to eat up and plunder the country, often going twenty miles from the main columns to burn, to steal, to commit nameless crimes, always assured of welcome to the main body if they returned with horses embellished with strings of poultry or stolen vehicles laden with supplies. How far this worse than brigandish service was recognized by Gen. Sherman may be judged from the fact that, when at the close of the war, his army had a triumphal procession in Washington, the department of “bummers” was represented in the line; and the crowd of admirers that pressed upon it was excessively entertained by men on scraggy mules, laden with broken furniture and household goods, representing the prowess of cut-throats and thieves.1

1 A correspondent of the New York Herald, who accompanied Sherman's march through the Carolinas, gives the following definition of “the bummer :”

Any man who has seen the object that the name applies to, will acknowledge that it was admirably selected. Fancy a ragged man, blackened by the smoke of many a pine-knot fire, mounted on a scraggy mule, without a saddle, with a gun, a knapsack, a butcher-knife, and a plug hat, stealing his way through the pine forests far out on the flanks of a column, keen on the scent of rebels, or bacon, or silver spoons, or corn, or anything valuable, and you have him in your mind. Think how you would admire him if you were a lone woman, with a family of small children, far from help, when he blandly inquired where you kept your valuables. Think how you would smile when he pried open your chests with his bayonet, or knocked to pieces your tables, pianos, and chairs, tore your bed-clothing in three-inch strips, and scattered them about the yard. The “bummers” say it takes too much time to use keys. Colour is no protection from these roughriders. They go through a negro cabin, in search of diamonds and gold watches, with just as much freedom and vivacity as they “loot” the dwelling of a wealthy planter. They appear to be possessed of a spirit of “pure cussedness.” One incident of many will illustrate: A bummer stepped into a house and inquired for sorghum. The lady of the house presented a jug, which he said was too heavy; so he merely filled his canteen. Then taking a huge wad of tobacco from his mouth, he thrust it into the jug. The lady inquired, in wonder, why he spoiled that which he did not want. “Oh, some feller'll come along and taste that sorghum, and think you've poisoned him; then he'll burn your d-d old house.” There are hundreds of these mounted men with the column, and they go everywhere. Some of them are loaded down with silver-ware, gold coin, and other valuables. I hazard nothing in saying three-fifths (in value) of the personal property of the counties we have passed through were taken by Sherman's army.

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