With Blood and Fire: Life behind Union Lines in Middle Tennessee, 1863-65

Michael R. Bradley

  • With Blood and Fire: Life behind Union Lines in Middle Tennessee, 1863-65

Ideological cleansing. Military and paramilitary units committing mass murders. Bodies left unburied. Ethnic and racial conflict. Prisoners executed without trial. Mass deportations. Civilian dwellings destroyed for political purposes. Civilian informers touching off military raids. Rape. Torture. Looting.

Is the scene of these crimes East Timor—1999? Kosovo—1998? Bosnia—1995? Viet Nam—1973? No, this was Middle Tennessee, 1863-1865.

The popular view of the Civil War is one of armies clashing and flags waving while civilians stand clear of the action. Except for events such as Major General William T. Sherman's "March through Georgia" or Major Generals David Hunter and Philip Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley, civilians are usually seen as above the fray. The destruction in Georgia and the Shenandoah Valley is looked upon as a matter of military necessity, an attack on the enemy infrastructure, similar to a modern bombing campaign. Beyond incidental acts, civilians are not viewed as having been directly affected by the war.

By August of 1863, General Alpheus Williams, whose division was formerly a part of the Army of the Potomac, was in command of defending the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, and he continued on what he considered to be dull and thankless duty until the following spring. When Williams was reassigned to combat duty in 1864, Major General Robert H. Milroy was assigned to command the defenses of the N&C Railroad. After Milroy's arrival, the provost marshal records are filled with accounts of civilian suffering for their pro-Confederate views, misdeeds, and crimes, both proven and alleged. Milroy instituted a program he called "Blood and Fire." In a letter he stated, "Blood and fire is the medicine I use. I shoot the men who are friendly with and harbor bushwhackers and burn their houses."

Milroy's tenure in command became a reign of terror. The records of the provost marshal illustrate a side of the war that varies immensely from the usual battles, campaigns, and marches. For civilians living behind the lines, the war was a story of murder, robbery, and betrayal. It was truly an experience from which they never recovered but that they at best endured.

Book
Author Michael R. Bradley
Pages 232
Images 11
Maps 2
Bibliography Yes
Index Yes

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Tags: 9781572493230, Michael R. Bradley