… Yankee History…
… Mosby’s Rangers did not carry bayonets …
Two Brothers – One North, One South
Two Brothers – One North, One South
By David H. Jones
Walt Whitman feared that the real war would never get in the books: the true stories that depicted the courage and humanity of soldiers who fought, bled, and died in the American Civil War.
Regarding the opening statement of this “review”, let me tell you that Whitman did his best to distort and vilify in his own book which included some “Civil War” anecdotes which the author presents as true. The book is entitled “Two Rivulets” and the piece by Whitman supposedly involves an attack by the command of the famous “Gray Ghost of the Confederacy”, Col. John Singleton Mosby. Below is Whitman’s piece as written.
Two Rivulets by Walt Whitman 1876
A Glimpse of War’s Hell-Scenes – In One of the late movements of our troops in the Valley, (near Upperville, I think,) a strong force of Moseby’s mounted guerillas attack’d a train of wounded, and the guard of cavalry convoying them. The ambulances contain’d about 60 wounded, quite a number of them officer of rank. The rebels were in strength, and the capture of the train and its partial guard after a short snap was effectually accomplish’d.
No sooner had our men surrender’d, the rebels instantly commenced robbing the train, and murdering their prisoners, even the wounded. Here is the scene, or a sample of it, ten minutes after. Among the wounded officers in the ambulances were one, a Lieutenant of regulars, and another of higher rank. These two were dragg’d out on the ground on their backs, and were now surrounded by guerillas, a demoniac crowd, each member of which was stabbing them in different parts of their bodies. One of the officers had his feet pinn’d firmly to the ground by bayonets stuck through them and thrust into the ground. These two officers, as afterwards found on examination, had receiv’d about twenty such thrusts, some of them through the mouth, face, &c. The wounded had all be dragg’d (to give a better chance also for plunder,) out of their wagons; some had been effectually dispatch’d, and their bodies lying their lifeless and bloody. Others, not yet dead, but horribly mutilated, were moaning and groaning. Of our men who surrender’d, most had been thus maim’d or slaughter’d.
At this instant a force of our cavalry, who had been following the train at some interval, charged suddenly upon the Secesh captors, who proceeded at once to make the best escape they could. Most of them got away, but we bagged two officers and seventeen men, as it were in the very acts just described. The sight was one which admitted of little discussion, as may be imagined. The seventeen captured men and two officers were put under guard for the night, but it was decided there and then that they should die.
The next morning the two officers were taken in the town, separate places, put in the centre of the street, and shot. The seventeen men were taken to an open ground, a little to one side. They were placed in a hollow square, encompass’d by two of our cavalry regiments, one of which regiments had three days before found the bloody corpses of three of their men hamstrung and hung up by the heels to limbs of trees by Moseby’s guerillas, and the other had not long before had twelve men, after surrendering, shot and then hung by the neck to limbs of trees, and jeering inscriptions pinn’d to the breast of one of the corpses, who had been a sergeant. These three, and those twelve, had been found, I say, by these environing regiments. Now, with revolvers, the form’d he grim cordon of their seventeen prisoners. The latter were placed in the midst of the hollow square, were unfasten’d and the ironical remark made to them that they were not to be given “a chance for themselves.” A few ran for it. But what use? From every side the deadly pills came. In a few minutes the seventeen corpses strew’d the hollow square.
Needless to say, this event never happened nor did the resulting executions – although six of Mosby’s men and one boy of 17 who never rode with Mosby but was believed to have been a member of his “gang” were shot and hanged illegally.
So it would seem to me that this is just one more example of “Yankee history” which was served up by a man who should have known better but preferred the lie of the noble Union and its gallant defenders to the truth about war criminals and tyranny. So much for the great poet – he should have stuck to poetry and left history alone.