A review of Union Terror: Debunking the False Justifications for Union Terror Against Southern Civilians in the American Civil War (Shotwell Publishing, 2023), by Jeffrey Addicott.
There have been a number of good books exposing the extent and brutal nature of the Union army’s war against civilians in its invasion and conquest of the South. Karen Stokes, Walter Brian Cisco, Michael Grissom, John B. Walters, Michael R. Bradley, and others have laid the case out irrefutably. It can be proved by using Northern letters, diaries, news reports, and memoirs. You do not need to use a single Southern testimony.
But of course evidence has made little headway against the common American belief that the Union war was a brave and honourable crusade against evil traitors and a dangerous “slave power.” There is even a trend now among fashionable historians to claim that government forces did not really do much damage in the South. It is just one more lie, they say, made up for the neo-Confederate “Myth of the Lost Cause.”
Evidence has no relevance in the powerful myth that covers the bloody establishment of an all-powerful central government. And it does not matter that a multitude of atrocities were against black Southerners, perhaps more so than against the white population. And it does not matter that atrocities were committed against Americans, since Southerners are unworthy Americans, “deplorables.”
If there is ever to be any correction of American understanding of that war, it will be by Dr. Jeffrey F. Addicott’s new book Union Terror. Addicott holds a law degree and various other degrees and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and senior legal advisor to U.S. Special Forces. He has lectured on terrorism and war crimes in over 30 countries around the world and lectured or published articles in the U.S. more than 1,000 times. He is unquestionably an international expert and the most qualified person who has ever taken up the subject of Union war crimes against civilians.
In eight tight factual chapters, Dr. Addicott shows that Union war crimes against noncombatants was widely prevalent from the first, officially approved from the top, and unjustified by any of the excuses that have been offered by previous writers.
The simplest, clearest fact about The War is that it was a brutal act of massive invasion and conquest by the federal government to exploit and deprive fellow Americans of the South of their self-government. Merely “preserving the Union” does not account for all the hatred and greed massively apparent in Northern sources.
The massive abuse of noncombatants by the U.S. Army in the South has no precedent in modern history except by totalitarian governments. A recent commenter on a posted article on Yankee atrocities said: “Sherman did what he had to do.” As an explanation this smacks of fascism like many such statements. It assumes that the government in Washington is sacred beyond the will of the people.
There is often stated a military criticism of the Confederacy that it did not amass forces for offensive operations but scattered troops around for defensive purposes. But constant and widespread Union cavalry looting and burning raids against civilians required keeping a small but effective deterrent force in as many places as possible. U.S. army raiders generally retreated after inflicting civilian damage. Possibly more U.S. soldiers confronted civilians or fought each other over loot than ever met armed foes.
Union armies killed many Southern civilians. Lengthy bombardment of civilians–Fredericksburg, Vicksburg, Atlanta, Charleston–was standard. Something Confederates never did. There was also a considerable amount of civilian hostage-taking and executions by the Union in occupied areas.
Southerners would not be Americans if they had not resisted the armed invasion of their territory and terrorism against their women and children and homesteads. Self-defense is a universally recognised right.
It was simply and clearly a war of invasion and conquest of a self-governing people, any way you slice it. Lincoln justified it by the stupendous lie that the openly debated and voted acts of States were simply a gaggle of lawbreakers resisting his power—a revolutionary power obtained by a 39% vote.
War crimes against civilians and non-military property were the strongest weapon in the Union war. In more than one respect it was atrocities against women, children, and black people that won the war for Lincoln.
Confederate soldiers endured risks and hardships that are today almost incredible. The worst hardship of all was worry that wives and children were homeless and starving, something no Union soldier had to suffer. This naturally made Southern soldiers even more highly motivated to drive out the invader.
It may be that the official callousness of the U.S. government in recent times reflects attitudes that characterised the Union invasion and occupation of the Southern people. Will American opinion ever acknowledge the truth?