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Federal Atrocities in the Civil war. From the New Orleans, La., Picayune, August 10, 1902.

General Smith's Ferocious policy in the Philippines anticipated by Sherman in Tennessee and Mississippi— Cold—Blooded Murder near Memphis in 1862—Other Typical incidents.

By Hon. J. P. Young,
Judge of the Circuit Court, Memphis, Tenn.
Judge Young served as a private soldier in the 7th Tennessee Cavalry, and shared the memorable campaigns of the great Forrest, although he was only nineteen years of age when the war closed.—Ed.

Mr. Sibley, of Pennsylvania, in criticising General Jacob H. Smith, of the American Army in the Philippines, during a recent debate in Congress for cruelty to noncombatants, said: ‘When I have read, as I have within the past forty-eight hours, that a general wearing the uniform of the United States Army, one who stands under the shadow of our flag, issues orders not to conciliate a province, but to leave it a howling wilderness, and to kill all above ten years of age, then it seems to me that humanity must have marched backward for eighteen centuries.’

Mr. Sibley must have read American history to very little purpose if he wound go back more than a half century to find prototypes of General Smith wearing the uniform of the United States and issuing orders to kill noncombatants and burn their homes.

Nor were they criticised in Congress nor court-martialed for those acts of violence. But the victims in these cases were only white citizens of the southern part of the United States, and not brown-skinned Filipinos.

It is not for the purpose of reopening old sores, now happily healed, but to show that General Jacob H. Smith is not the only modern Duke of Alva, that these facts are recited. [305]

General Smith had an illustrious example. General W. T. Sherman said: ‘War is hell’; and General Sherman knew, for he certainly endeavored to make it so. On October 29, 1864, General Sherman issued the following official order, viz.:

headquarters Military Division of the Mississippi, in the field, Rome, Ga., October 29, 1864.
Brigadier-General Watkins, Caloun, Ga.,—Cannot you send over about Fairmount and Adairsville, burn ten or twelve houses of known secessionists, kill a few at random and let them know that it will be repeated every time a train is fired on from Resaca to Kingston?

W. T. Sherman, Major-General Commanding.

That order is printed in the war record, serial volumn No. 79, page 494, and each of the instances hereinafter mentioned are likewise not legends, but taken from the same official publication.

On October 19, 1864, he wrote to General James H. Wilson from Summerville, Ga.: ‘I am going into the very bowels of the Confederacy, and propose to leave a trail that will be recognized fifty years hence.’

To Colonel A. Beckwith he wrote of same date: ‘I propose to abandon Atlanta and the railroad back to Chattanooga, and sally forth to ruin Georgia, and bring up on the seashore.’ To General Grant he wrote on that date—‘I am perfecting arrangements to break up the railroad in front of Dalton, .including the city of Atlanta, and push into Georgia, break up all its railroads and depots, capture its horses and negroes and make desolation everywhere.’

All these promises he literally fulfilled, as witness the pages. of history. But coming back to Memphis, we find General Sherman issuing the following special orders, No. 283, as shown in war record, No. 17, part 2, page 280:

headquarters first Division, district of West Tennessee, Memphis, October 8, 1862.
The 46th Ohio, Colonel Walcutt, will embark to-night on [306] board the steamboat, and before daylight drop down to a point on the Arkansas shore, about fifteen miles below this, near Elmgrove Postoffice, and there disembark. He will then proceed to destroy all the houses, farms and corn fields from that point up to Hopefield.

This is done to let the guerrillas, who attacked the Catahoula, feel that certain destruction awaits the country for firing on steamboats. By order of Major-General Sherman.

J. H. Hammond, Assistant Adjutant-General.

But a darker chapter yet remains to record. On September 7, 1862, a detachment of the 6th Illinois Cavalry, under Major Reuben Loomis, appeared at a point on the Hernando Road, twelve miles below Memphis, where a skirmish had occurred the day before. Two aged men, Alfred Hutchinson and Mr. Gillespie, together with a frail young man named William White, were then burying a Federal officer who had been killed in the skirmish near the latter's house. The house was fired, and when the ladies screamed, young White came on the scene. Major Loomis ordered his men to shoot White in the presence of his wife and mother. The men hesitated to commit the butchery, and the major threatened them with death unless they fired. Several of them then fired, but with faltering hands, slightly wounding White, who ran and caught an apple tree for support.

The major, despite the entreaties of Miss Linnie Hutchinson, who put her arms around the young man's neck and told the major that he was a unionist and helpless, deliberately shot young White to death right before his wife and mother's eyes with his own pistol. He then ordered his men to shoot the two old men, but they flatly refused and they escaped.

After burning all the houses in the vicinity the detachment left.

Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson, of the 6th Illinois, in reporting the affair to General Sherman the same day, said:

Here (Hernando) I arrested twelve men, and having fifteen of my command whose horses were unfit for further rapid travel, I sent them with the prisoners, under Lieutenant Nathaniel B. Cunningham, of Company G, to Memphis, who, however, were [307] subsequently fired upon when within about twelve miles of that place.

Lieutenant Cunningham was immediately killed, but his death was avenged by a detachment sent out under Major Loomis by your order.

War Record 17, part I, page 55.

On August 8, 1862, General Granville M. Dodge writes from Trenton, Tenn.: ‘I believe our policy is to burn up those counties (Dyer, Lauderdale and Hickman). They pay no attention to the oath and feed and guide the rebels.’ (War record No. 17, part 1, page 30.)

On August 28, 1862, General Gordon Granger reports from Rienzi, Miss.:

Two things are most necessary and important: First, there must be some definite and fixed policy on our part to combat and break up this infernal guerrilla system of theives.

It is bound soon to waste an entire army away, and for no equivalent. We must push every man, woman and child before us, or put every man to death found in our lines.

We have, in fact, soon to come to a war of subjugation, and the sooner the better.

War Record No. 17, part 1, pages 40 and 41.

The records are full of these instances, but the above are sufficient for illustration. General Jacob H. Smith is undoubtedly cruel, but why should Congress make a scapegoat of him for the sins of the army?

The above-named generals were not only not court-martialed, but were promoted, and one at least received a vote of thanks by Congress.

If we are going to humanize the methods of warfare pursued by our army, let us do it. Beyond question, it ought to be done. But if the old order of things is to continue, then in administering condemnations to the soldiers let us begin at the beginning and condemn all down the line. We need not go back to the tragic scene on Calvary, as stated by Mr. Sibley, to find a single example in General Jacob H. Smith.

Memphis, August 1, 1902.
editor Confederate column, Picayune,—Among the incidents mentioned in the article sent you a few days ago was [308] the tragic killing of young White, about twelve miles south of Memphis, in the border land between the lines. I have just found an old letter written by an eye witness, in the person of Miss Mary Hutchinson, who graphically describes the occurrence and bloody deed. Believing that you will appreciate the time-worn letter, and in printing it illustrate the heroism of our Confederate girls under the most trying situations, I send it to you, I will add that Mr. Alfred Hutchinson and Squire Gillespie were both Presbyterian elders, and their great faith and determination, in the face of deadly peril, are worthy of the iron pikemen of Cromwell. I have been told that they looked their would-be murderers calmly in the eye and said:

‘We are old men, and have no means with which to defend ourselves. If it be “God's will” that we shall be slain, we are ready.’

This staggered their tormentors, and one man in the column replied to the order to fire, ‘I will be d—d if I will do it.’

The heroism of Miss Linnie Hutchinson, a frail, beautiful girl (whom I knew well), in throwing herself between the leveled guns and young White, and peading for his life, was superb. When they reached her father's house and fired it, she was permitted to bring out her trunk and a few articles, all of which were then burned in the yard by order of Major Reuben Loomis, of the 6th Illinois Cavalry, and, comparing with that fellow, General Jacob H. Smith is an angel of light. But retribution finally overtook him, he being slain by one of his captains. Here is the letter:

my dear Mr. young,—In 1862, about the 1st of September, a company of cavalry, about fifteen men, were sent out to Hernando, Miss., where they found a young lady on the eve of leaving the place with a large Saratoga trunk, well packed with her own wearing apparel.

The soldiers took possession of the trunk and arrested a citizen (I have forgotten his name), took also a wagon and team on the place, put the prisoners and trunk in it, and started towards Memphis. About 5 o'clock P. M., one mile from the state line, on the Widow White's plantation, and about 200 yards beyond her house, they were fired into by some of Blythe's [309] Scouts, thought to have been John Mayfield, a Mr. Clinton and Ed Fort. The lieutenant in charge of the company and the citizen prisoner were both killed. The Federals, not knowing how strong their enemy was, fled in confusion, leaving their dead in the road. Mrs. White's family was composed of herself, a daughter about eighteen years of age, and a son, who had married a few days previously a beautiful and wealthy girl. Mr. White was a strong Union man, and refused to go into the Confederate Army or to give the Confederacy any aid.

The Yankee officer, having been killed near Mrs. White's house, and young White being in sympathy with the Federals, he decided to bury the officer, and requested my father (Esquire Hutchinson) and Esquire Gillespie, both very old men, and the only immediate neighbors left in the country, to assist him. After holding a consultation, it was agreed to bury the citizen first and hold the Federal officer a short time until his friends could have an opportunity to claim his body if desired.

My father's family consisted of himself, my sister Linnie, and the writer. Whilst the men were filling the grave where the citizen was buried, say 200 yards distant from Mrs. White's house, and in her private burying ground, the Federals returned in considerable force, and finding them, began to curse and abuse the rebels with language and threats too horrible to mention. My sister Linnie was at Mrs. White's at the time. Leaving the grave, a company of soldiers dashed towards the house, yelling and cursing and acting in a manner which frightened the ladies very much. The officer in charge ordered the house to be burned. Esquire Gillespie, Willie White and my father hurriedly filled the grave. My father, however, advised Willie White to get out of their way, because he being a young man and also having his horse saddled, might cause them to do him harm.

He followed the advice and rode away to the rear of his residence, but when the house had been fired and he heard the pleadings and screams of the ladies, he quickly dismounted and returned to them, leaving his horse hitched in the woods. Unfortunately, he entered the yard from the direction the scouts had fired on and killed the lieutenant, which seemed to infuriate them, because the officer in command ordered him to be shot down. Willie White explained his connection with the affair [310] and pleaded his loyalty to the Union and begged to have a chance to prove it all.

My sister Linnie ran in between Willie and the guns, telling them how faithful he had been to their cause, and how he had disgraced himself by being a Union man and refusing to go into the Confederate Army. They would not listen to her, however, and the officer cursed her, saying: ‘If she does not get out of the way, kill her, too.’

“Nothing but blood and ashes will satisfy us for killing Lieutenant Cunningham.” Before they fired, the captain ordered a part of the soldiers to go back to the grave and kill every d-n man to be found. My sister, dreadfully alarmed for the safety of our father, ran with all her might, begging the men not to kill him. Immediately after she left, Willie White was shot and wounded in the shoulder, which cut an artery, but he jumped over the fence and attempted to escape. His mother, wife and sister, on their knees, begged and pleaded for his life to be spared, but the Yankees followed and killed the poor boy as he stood by a tree holding on for support.

The house was a two-story frame building, and while it was burning the soldiers compelled the ladies to remain in the yard. They complained of the great heat, and begged to be allowed to get out of the yard, but they said, ‘No; stay there and cook.’ After they had slaughtered Willie White they returned and told his wife and mother of the horrible cruelties they had inflicted, and told her if anyone buried him or gave her a shelter they would be treated likewise. Before the squad which had been ordered to kill my father and Esquire Gillespie reached them, my sister Linnie called to them and explained their purpose, and begged them to get away; but both of the old men stood erect with their hands on their spades, and with a short prayer committed themselves into the hands of Almighty God. The soldiers were ordered to get ready, but when the command was given to fire, not a gun went off. The officer cursed the men and threatened to have them all shot, but one bold, manly fellow said, ‘I will be d—d before I shoot these helpless old men.’ Nor were they hurt. When the rest of the company joined the squad from the yard and found the dead lieutenant not buried, they began cursing again and said it was the purpose to leave his body for the [311] hogs, and for that reason they would see that the hogs ate Willie White's body. With repeated threats against anyone who wanted to bury his body, they ordered the two old men to move off as prisoners. A squad was sent to burn my father's house. As they marched along towards Memphis they met a regiment of infantry, when squads were set to work burning houses and killing stock and chickens.

When they reached Horn Lake depot, the stores and depot and the beautiful Mayfield home were burned. They awoke Mrs. Mayfield and her little children about midnight, and after the house was in ashes, said: ‘We will kill anyone who gives you shelter.’

In the meantime Mrs. White had been hunting a place of shelter, and after walking about four miles through fields and creek bottoms, expecting every moment to be overtaken and probably murdered, she and her daughter and Willie White's widow and Linnie reached the home of a relative just before daylight, but in a state of exhaustion and collapse.

Before arriving at Memphis, the Federals released my father and Esquire Gillespie, and they returned home on foot. My father found his home in ashes, and my sister being cared for by the old family servants. They admonished my father and Esquire Gillespie ‘to be very careful, and not let any more ‘rebels’ shoot their men; if they did, no excuse would spare their lives.’

Notwithstanding their threats, my father called to his aid one of his old negro men and went in search of young White's body. They found him lying by a tree, where he had been horribly murdered. He had six bullet holes in his head, one in each eye, and six saber cuts on his body, besides wounds on his shoulders.

Father and the old servant brought him home and kept him until his brother-in-law came out from Memphis under a flag of truce, when the three dug a grave and laid him to rest.

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