A Sampler of Civil War Literature
»Guerrilla Action

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The War in the Border States
Military Background

January 17, 1863, page 42 (1)

We illustrate on pages 40 and 41 "The War in the West."

On the left hand, we see some of our Union troops passing through a Border State town. Not a store is open; no vehicles are encountered by them in their march, there is no hurry and bustle of business; all seems to bear evidence of the rebels having hastily left and taken with them every sign of life. One might fancy that not a soul had remained, until some of the concealed inmates, seeing that our errand is not plunder, or murder, or cruelty, emerge from cellars and other hiding-places, and gather courage to beg, in heart-rending tones of despair, for something, be it ever so little, to appease their gnawing hunger. Our gallant soldiers, though not provided with more than sufficient for themselves, can not witness such suffering, nor listen to that plaintive appeal without responding to it. Each gives all he can spare, and blessings are invoked upon their kind hearts. Oh! It is pitiful to see the little children clutch at the hard crust and devour it as eagerly as if it were the daintiest morsel, and delicate women, hitherto accustomed to every luxury, now bereft of every thing but a few rags scarce enough to cover them. But the soldiers’ power to alleviate their distress in very limited, and the best they can do goes a very little way. They march on with their memory full of what they have just seen, and the cries of misery ringing in their ears.

On the right hand are the ruins of one of the houses of a town that has been recently bombarded. Others are also visible which have escaped complete destruction, but still bear mournful evidence of what they have undergone. Scarcely a window is left in any of the dwellings; and the church-spire is pierced with many a hole. It looks almost like the ghost of a town-— mere spectre of what it once was. In the fore-ground we see a mother and her two children mourning over a body they have just found, which she recognizes as that of her husband. She came forth from the place of concealment where he so carefully put her and the little ones, while he thought he would go and try to save a few of the things most necessary to their comfort, and the first object which meets her gaze as she ventures out, after the noise of firing has ceased, is that lifeless form. There he lies among the smouldering ruins, for the first time deaf to the sound of his wife’s loved voice. The children call upon his name in vain; no answer comes from those dead lips and, frightened at the silence, they shrink timidly together, awe-struck, unable to comprehend why their father lies so quiet and motionless. They look to their mother for comfort, and a heart-broken wail of anguish is the only sound which greets their ears. Fragments of shell are lying all around them, and there is scarcely any thing left which they can recognize, and which could tell them that this was once their happy home.

In the corner above this a guerrilla raid is represented—the dread and horror of all the peaceful inhabitants of the country—who lay waste all within their reach, and bear away every thing of value on which they can lay their hands; who commit murder indiscriminately in order to obtain their object; and to whom an act of cruelty and outrage is a good joke. To cause the innocent to suffer, to perform deeds of unparalleled atrocity and wickedness, is their daily work.

On the opposite corner a party of rebel cavalry is seen approaching, and men, women, children, and negroes are all flying from their home to the friendly woods for protection. The men would willingly stay and defend their homes to the very last; but cui bono? Do we not hear daily of cases in which Union men have been seized, tied with ropes, and at the point of the bayonet obliged to join the rebel army?

In the lower corners the work of destruction still goes on. The left shows us a town being shelled. Once lively and prosperous, it will soon be nothing but a heap of smoking ashes. The handsome houses which once rose so proudly in air will soon be leveled to the ground. Hardly a trace of their former grandeur will be found in the blackened, unsightly ruins.

On the other side a bridge is burning; with each plank which falls helplessly into the water go the chances of communication from side to side. It is the same with railroads; one after another is destroyed, and in a country so vast as this, without such means of facilitating intercourse between one distant part and another, the work of progress and civilization ceases, education is neglected, and all advancement stops.

At the bottom is a planter’s late residence; now there is no sign of life there save a few birds flitting about, an occasional bat, and some rats who may have their own way there undisturbed. Some human bones lying about would seem to tell of some tragedy having been enacted there, but no living voice remains to relate how it is that the place looks so desolate, and why the grass is allowed to grow in the path, and the garden untended and full of weeds.

Here it is, in the Border States, that the real sufferers of the war are to be found. We, in our comfortable homes, can hardly form an idea of the acute distress which it entails upon the people of that section.

God grant that this terrible rebellion, with all its fearful consequences, may speedily be crushed; that our beloved country may once more be restored to peace and prosperity; that the awful work of destruction and of wasting lives may cease; and that the wail of newly–made widows and orphans may be heard no more among us!

 

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