Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Yankee's Letter to His Wife Regarding the Looting and Pillaging by the Union Troops during Sherman's March


Here is a letter by a Yankee lieutenant to his wife while camped near Camden, SC on February 26, 1865. This letter is addressed to Mrs. Thomas J. Myers, Boston, Mass.

My Dear Wife,...

I have no time for particulars. We have had a glorious time in this State. Unrestricted license to burn and plunder was the order of the day. The chivalry have been stripped of most of their valuables. Gold watches, silver pitchers, cups, spoons, forks, and so forth are as common in camp as blackberries. The terms of plunder are as follows: the valuables procured are estimated by companies. Each company is required to exhibit the result of its operations at any given place. One fifth and first choice falls to the commander in chief and staff; one fifth to corps commander and staff; one fifth to field officers; and two fifths to the company.

Officers are not allowed to join in these expeditions unless disguised as privates. One of our corps commanders borrowed a rough suit of clothes from one of my men and was successful in his place. He got a large quantity of silver among other things, an old milk pitcher, and a very fine watch from a Mr. DeSaussure of this place. DeSaussure is one of the first families of South Carolina and was made to fork out liberally.

Officers over the rank of captain are not made to put their plunder in the estimate for general distribution. This is very unfair and for that reason in order to protect themselves the subordinate officers and privates keep everything back that they can carry about their persons such as rings earrings, breastpins, and so forth; of which, if I live to get home, I have a quart - I am not joking - I have at least a quart of jewelry for you and the girls and some No. 1 diamond pins and rings among them.

General Sherman has gold and silver enough to start a bank. His share in gold watches and chains alone at Columbia was two hundred and seventy five. But, I said I could not go into particulars. All the general officers and many besides have valuables of every description down to ladies pocket handkerchiefs. I have my share of them too. We took gold and silver enough from the d_ _ _ _ d rebels to have redeemed their infernal currency twice over. I wish all the jewelry this army has could be carried to the Old Bay State. It would deck her out in glorious style, but alas, it will be scattered all over the North and Middle States.

The d_ _ _ _d _iggers, as a general thing, preferred to stay at home particularly after they found out that we wanted only the able bodied men and to tell the truth the youngest and best looking women. Sometimes we took them off by way of repaying influential Secessionists. But, a part of these we managed to lose sometimes in crossing rivers - sometimes in other ways.

I shall write you again from Wilmington, Goldsboro, or some other place in North Carolina. The order to march has arrived and I must close hurriedly. Love to grandmother and Aunt Charlotte. Take care of yourself and the children. Don’t show this letter outside of the family.

Your affectionate husband Thomas J. Myers, Lieutenant

PS: I will send this by flag of truce to be mailed, unless I have an opportunity of sending it to Hilton Head. Tell Lottie I am saving a pearl bracelet and earrings for her. But, Lambert got the necklace and breastpin from the same set. I am trying to trade him out of them. These were taken from the Misses Jamison, daughters of the President of the South Carolina Secession Convention. We found these on our trip through Georgia. TJM”

Source: “Butler and his Cavalry in the War of Secession, 1861-1865” by Ulysses Robert Brooks, published in 1909.

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