Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Non-fiction, pictures, notes, index, 220 pp., 2007. Pelican Publishing Company, 1000 Burnmaster Street, Gretna, Louisiana 70053, $24.95 plus shipping and handling.

“In war, as in peace people remain civilized by acknowledging bounds beyond which they must not go,” observed historian Richard Weaver. In today’s current conflict in Iraq, the media publicizes when civilians are injured or killed in cross fire. It outrages the public that innocent lives are wasted. In a civilized conflict, the understood agreement is that the causalities of war should be confined to combatants when possible. F.J.P. Veale states “…that an enemy civilian does not forfeit his rights as a human being merely because the armed forces of his country were unable to defend him.”

However, this was not the case in the War Between the States. War Crimes against Southern Civilians explores how the United States deliberately subjugated the citizens of the Confederate States on countless occasions. Walter Brian Cisco uses primary sources, including but not limited to official records, newspapers, diaries, and personal letters, to expose the Union’s deliberate practice to crush the population living in the South. “Shelling and burning of cities, systematic destruction of entire districts, mass arrests, forced expulsions, wholesale plundering of personal property, even murder became routine (for the Union during the war,)” according to Mr. Cisco. Historian James McPherson estimates that fifty thousand Southern civilians perished in war-related deaths. This is a staggering number by anyone’s standard.

So when and were did these tragedies take place? Each chapter in War Crimes against Southern Civilians delves into the facts surrounding many incidents were local residents are persecuted by the Federal army. Some of the occurrences Mr. Cisco writes about takes place in Missouri, Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Each has supporting documentation that helps tell of the mayhem that takes place.

The complete and utter disregard to human rights is appalling, and to know that it took place just shy of 150 years ago on Southern soil makes the degradation even more distressing. “In waging war on civilians he (Lincoln) returned to the barbarism of the past, but he also dealt a blow to limited, constitutional government from which America has yet to recover. That all Americans are less free today, and live in a more dangerous world, are among his legacies,” as per Mr. Cisco.

This book is not recommended to those who are faint of heart. The indiscretions committed against the Southern civilian population are real and in some cases graphic. But this part of history is sometimes disregarded, no matter how authentic the accounts are. War Crimes against Southern Civilians does an astonishing job telling the truth about the wrongdoings of the United States government and its officers.

Written by Cassie A. Barrow

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