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Letter from Edward Jones Hale Jr. to James Lane, July 31, 1865

Title

Letter from Edward Jones Hale Jr. to James Lane, July 31, 1865

Description

Edward Jones Hale Jr., who fought for the Confederacy, and was the son of the Fayetteville Observer’s editor Edward Joseph Hale, wrote the letter to Confederate general and friend James Lane, on July 31, 1865, from Fayetteville, North Carolina. In the letter, Hale told of the atrocities that General William Sherman of the Union Army and his men committed in Fayetteville, particularly against his father’s properties. Sherman often ordered the burning of newspaper offices that were heavily pro-Confederate, like the Fayetteville Observer, Sherman carried out similar actions in Raleigh. Along with burning newspaper offices, Sherman also burned factories, particularly ones that produced cotton to hurt the South economically, Hale’s father had some stake in cotton factories too. Sherman had one of his top generals, Henry Slocum, perform many of the orders to burn property in Fayetteville. While Sherman and other Union officials saw the burning of such buildings and factories as a strategic goal to win the war, to Hale, and his family, it was quite personal, burning property that was worth “$85 to $100,000 in specie.” Hale made a claim about Sherman receiving proceeds from the bummers’ work but that was never proven. While Hale was upset by Sherman’s actions, he still planned to take the oath to become a citizen of the United States again. The main photo is of E. J. Hale Sr.

Creator

Edward Jones Hale Jr.

Source

Letter from Edward Jones Hale Jr. to James Lane, July 31, 1865, in "Sherman's Bummers and Some of Their Work," Southern Historical Society Papers, XII (July-August-September, 1884): 427-428.

Date

1865-07-31

Contributor

Tim Justice

Type

Document

Coverage

Fayetteville, North Carolina

Cumberland County, North Carolina

Original Format

Correspondence

Text

Fayetteville, N.C., July 31st, 1865.

My Dear General:

It would be impossible to give you an adequate idea of the destruction of property in this good old town. It may not be an average instance; but it is one the force of whose truth we feel only too fully: My Father's property, before the war, was easily convertible into about 85 to 100,000 dollars in specie - he has not now a particle of property which will bring him a dollar of income. His office with everything in it, was burned by Sherman's order - Slocum, who executed the order, with a number of other Generals, sat on the verandah of a hotel opposite watching the progress of the flames, while they hobnobbed over wines stolen from our cellar. A fine brick building adjacent, also belonging to my Father, was burned at the same time. The cotton factory, of which he was a large shareholder, was burned; while his bank, railroad & other stocks are worse than worthless; for the bank stock, at least, may bring him in debt, as the stock-holders are responsible. In fact, he has nothing left--besides the ruins of his town buildings & a few town lots which promise to be of little value, hereafter, in this desolated town, & are of no value, at present--save his residence, which, (with Brother's house,) Sherman made a great parade of saving from a mob (comprised of Corps & Div. Comdrs., a nephew of Henry Ward Beecher, &, so on down) by sending to each house an officer of his Staff, after Brother's house had been pillaged & my Father's to some extent. By some accidental good fortune, however, my Mother secured a guard before the "bummers" had made much progress in the house; & to this circumstance we are indebted for our daily food, several month's supply of which my Father had hid, the night before he left, in the upper rooms of the house, & the greater portion of which was saved.

You have doubtless heard of Sherman's "bummers." The Yankees would have you believe that they were only the straggling pillagers usually found with all armies. Several letters written by officers of Sherman's army, intercepted near this town, give this the lie. In some of these letters were descriptions of the whole bumming process; & from them it appears that it was a regularly organized system, under the authority of Genl. Sherman himself; that 1/5 of the proceeds fell to Gen. Sherman;

another 1/5 to the other Genl. Officers; another 1/5 to the line officers; & the remaining 2/5 to the enlisted men. There were pure-silver bummers, plated-ware bummers, jewelry-bummers, women's-clothing bummers, provision bummers, &, in fine, a bummer or bummers for every kind of steal-able thing - no bummer of one specialty interfering with the stealables of another. A pretty picture of a conquering army, indeed; but true.

Well, I am scribbling away just as if I was talking to you; for I feel, to-night, in humor for having one of our late-at-night tent talks - which poor Ed. Nicholson used to laugh about, while he would mimic you punching the fire & puffing your pipe. Ah! how the pleasures of winter quarters & the bivouac come back to us now, divested of a remembrance of every disagreeable incident. I can see the big tent on the Rapidan - I feel as if I were with you in the cosy little one on Jones's Farm; smoke, smoke, smoke - talk, talk, talk - how we rattled away the hours far into the morning! Is our present humiliating freedom from danger a change for the better?

But I must blow away these [spectrer] of tobacco smoke & battle smoke, & tell you still more about myself - and I know you will pardon so much talk about self when you remember how necessarily egotistical must be the first letter to a friend - after an interval of months - since a parting such as ours at ill-starred Appomattox.

I forgot to say that I have not yet taken the oath; but, of course, will do so eventually. If I live in this Country, as I expect now to do, I shall feel it my duty to demean myself as a good & true citizen.

Yours affectionately,
E.J. Hale, Jr.

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Citation

Edward Jones Hale Jr., “Letter from Edward Jones Hale Jr. to James Lane, July 31, 1865,” Civil War Era NC, accessed November 23, 2014, http://history.ncsu.edu/projects/cwnc/items/show/174.