Sherman’s Plunder and Death
THE LETTER from Union Lieutnant Thomas J. Myers: Feb 26, 1865 of the Morrill Tariff
"Camp near Camden, S. C.
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
[meaning the Honourable & Chivalrous people of the South]
have been stripped of most of their valuables. Gold watches, silver
pitchers, cups, spoons, forks, &c., are as common in camp
The terms of plunder are as follows: Each company is required
to exhibit the results of its operations at any given place–one-fifth
and first choice falls to the share of the commander-in-chief
and staff; one-fifth to the corps commanders and staff; one-fifth
to field officers of regiments, and two-fifths to the company.
Officers are not allowed to join these expeditions without disguising
themselves as privates. One of our corps commanders borrowed a
suit of rough clothes from one of my men, and was successful in
this place. He got a large quantity of silver (among other things
an old-time milk pitcher) and a very fine gold watch from a Mrs
DeSaussure, at this place. DeSaussure was one of the F. F. V.s
of South Carolina, and was made to fork over 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, subordinate officers
and privates keep back every thing that they can carry about their
persons, such as rings, earrings, breast pins, &c., of which,
if I ever get home, I have about a quart. I am not joking–I have
at least a quart of jewelry for you and all the girls, and some
No. 1 diamond rings and pins among them.
General Sherman has silver and gold enough to start a bank. His
share in gold watches 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 had valuables of every description, down to embroidered
ladies’ pocket handkerchiefs. I have my share of them, too. We
took gold and silver enough from the damned rebels to have redeemed
their infernal currency twice over. This, (the currency), whenever
we came across it, we burned, as we considered it utterly worthless.
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 damned niggers, as a general rule, prefer to stay
at home, particularly after they found out that we only wanted
the able-bodied men, (and to tell the truth, the youngest and
best-looking women). Sometimes we took off whole families and
plantations of niggers, by way of repaying secessionists. But
the useless part of them we soon manage to lose; [one very effective
was to "shoot at their bobbing heads as they swam rivers"
after the army units crossed over], sometimes in crossing rivers,
sometimes in other ways.
I shall write to 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 children. Don’t show this letter out
of the family.
Your affectionate husband, Thomas J Myers, Lieut.,
P.S. I will send this by the first flag of truce to be mailed,
unless I have an opportunity of sending it at Hilton Head. Tell
Sallie I am saving a pearl bracelet and ear-rings for her; but
Lambert got the necklace and breast pin of 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."