book report: Bitterly Divided (3) by David Williams

As David Williams in the book Bitterly Divided tells over and over again, a Confederacy based on secession will struggle with ever smaller secessions. A big issue was desertion in the Confederate army.
In April 1863, a brigade commander in the Army of Northern Virginia told General Lee that his regiments were being reduced by desertion far more quickly than they ad ever been by combat...By late 1863, close to half the Confederate army had deserted and, according to one soldier, half those desertions were caused by depressing letters from home. Less than a year later, President Jefferson Davis publicly admitted that "two-thirds of our men are absent...most of them without leave." p.106

In response to resistance within the Confederacy, the supporters resorted to terror, lynching and kangaroo courts that turned out executions.
In February 1863, pro-Confederates slaughtered 180 peace men in central Texas for no other crime, wrote one Texan, than "loving the flag of Washington." A Hays County refugee recalled that vigilantes would shoot "Union men to see which way they would fall," slice open the throats "of loyal men, that they might listen to the music of the death rattle," and lynch "crowds of faithful citizens just to observe the varieties of the death gasp." The man compared what he had witnessed to France's Reign of Terror after the French Revolution...Such was the split between slaveholders and nonslaveholders in parts of the state that the violence amounted to open class warfare. pp. 138-9
Desertion did more for the union army than weaken the opposing army, they were strengthened by loyal Southerners. "In total, about three hundred thousand southern whites joined the Union armies, a number almost equaling that of all of the Federals killed during the war." pp.150-151. Additionally, escaped slaves were more than willing to assist the Federals in the Union army or by hampering efforts on the plantations. As the Rebels had no tolerance for dissent in their own lands they had none for turncoats of slaves either and were opportunity for war-time atrocities.
In Arkansas, at the battle of Poison Springs, eyewitnesses reported black prisoners of war being "murdered on the spot." The same occurred at the Battle of Saltville in Virginia. When Fort Williams fell to the Rebels in North Carolina, a Union lieutenant recalled that "the negro soldiers who had surrendered were drawn up in line at the breastworks and shot down as the stood." During the Battle of the Crater outside Petersburg, Virginia, attacking Confederates ran their bayonets through wounded black soldiers. p. 203
He also mentions the battle of Fort Pillow, which got its own book report by me here. Things were bad for anyone in the POW camp, Andersonville, but worse for blacks.
An inmate at Andersonville witnessed the treatment of one black captive who fell into Rebel hands after the Battle of Olustee: "One fellow had a hand shot off and some deranged brutes had cut off his ears and nose. The doctors refused to dress his woulnds or even amputate his shattered arm; he was naked in the prison and finally died from his numerous wounds." Blacks held in Confederate prison camps died at a rate of 35 percent, more than twice the average for white captives. p.205
Like the white deserters from the South, blacks made significant contributions in manpower to the Union armies, "over two hundred thousand blacks had joined Union forces by March 1865." p.208

In light of anecdotes like these, it doesn't seem that the secession was about state's rights, but my reading has never supported that.


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