if we shall spare the public buildings there as we did at Milledgeville.And now we look with interest for the dispatches that would settle the vexed question as to whether Sherman, or his officers, acting under his orders, burned Columbia on the 17th of February. Unfortunately, a paternal government, not thinking it good that the truth should be known, has suppressed all the dispatches between the 16th and the 21st, and every other allusion to the transaction. On the 23d he writes to General Kilpatrick: ‘Let the whole people know the war is now against them, because their armies flee before us and do not defend their country or frontier as they should. It is pretty nonsense for Wheeler and Beauregard and such vain heroes to talk of our warring against women and children. If they claim to be men, they should defend their women and children and prevent us reaching their homes.’ If, therefore, an army defending their country can prevent invaders from reaching their homes and families, the latter have a right to that protection; but if the invaders can break through and reach these homes, these are justified in destroying women and children. Certainly this is a great advance on the doctrine and practice of the dark ages. Another extraordinary moral consequence flows from this insufficiency of the defence: ‘If the enemy fails to defend his country, we may rightfully appropriate what we want.’ Here now is a nice question of martial law or casuistry, solved with the simplicity of an ancient Roman. In other words: ‘When in the enemy's country, the army shall be strictly careful not to seize, capture, or appropriate to military or private uses, any property—that it cannot get!’ Hans Breitmann himself would have respected that general order. ‘They’ (the Southern people) ‘have lost all title to property, and can lose nothing not already forfeited.’ What, nothing? Not merely the houses we had built, the lands we had tilled, the churches we worshipped in—had we forfeited the right to drink of the streams, to behold the sun, to breathe the free air of heaven? What unheard of, what inconceivable crime had we committed that thus closed every gate of mercy and compassion against us, and provoked an utterance which has but one parallel—the death-warrant signed by Philip II against all the Netherlanders? General Sherman has himself told us what it was: we had dared to act on ‘the truth that liberty and government are worth fighting for.’
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