Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 26.djvu/329

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.

'/'Ac /{iirnniif n/ Ckaattbenbtay t ;>r.

" No time was given to remove women or children, the sick nor the dead, but the- work of destruction was at once commenced. They divided into squads and fired every other house, and often every house, if there was any prospect of plunder. They would in -at in the door with iron bars or heavy planks, smash up furniture with an axe, throw oil or fluid upon it, and ply the match. They almost invariably entered every room of each house, rifled the drawers of the bureau, appropriate money, jewelry, watches and any other valuables, and would often present pistols to the heads of inmates and demand money or their lives. Few houses escaped rifling nearly all were plundered of everything thai could be carried away. Many families had the utmost difficulty to get out themselves in time. Several invalids had to be carried out as the red flames licked their couches."


Now, I was there, and I never saw anything of the kind, and I am inclined to think the author of this book was drawing a decid- edly "long bow." He may not be as expert and varied at it as General Eagan in picturing General Miles, but approaches him

M-ntly. I had my eyes and ears open in the two hours the army

was there, and I saw nothing and heard nothing of the atrocities said to have been committed. No doubt wrongs and atrocities were com- mitted by some, but no such thing as deliberate, wanton burning was ever practiced by the Confederate army. The burning of Cham-. bersburg was purely a war measure, as much so as the freeing of the slaves. Of course we all regretted that it was necessary to burn this city to teach our enemies a lesson, and every human heart must have sympathized with those who were so unfortunate as to be located there. It was a measure I have never justified.

The conflagration at its height was one of surpassing grandeur and terror, and had the day not been a calm one, many would have been licked up by the flames in the streets. Tall, black columns of smoke rose up to the very skies; around it were wrapped long streams of flames, writhing and twisting themselves into a thousand fantastic shapes. Here and there gigantic whirlwinds would lift clothing and light substances into the air, and intermingled with the weird scene could be heard the shrieks of women and children. Cows, dogs and cats were consumed in their attempt to escape. It was a picture that may be misrepresented, but cannot be heightened, and must remain forever indelibly impressed upon the mind of those who witnessed it.

I There were 369 buildings consumed, and many of them valuable. '