Yankee Thievery

Time and time again, the Federal soldiers took a pause from their martial duties to help themselves to some Southern souvenirs. Perhaps out of some feeling that the Southerners had not paid enough for, in the Federal view, having started the war, they grabbed what they could when they could. During the days long Battle of Atlanta, Gen. Sherman sent the cavalry of Maj.-Gen. George Stoneman on a raid ostensibly to tear up railroad tracks leading to Macon, Georgia. Stoneman asked if he could also move on afterward to free the prisoners at the notorious prison at Andersonville, Georgia. Sherman agreed.

But, Maj.-Gen. Stoneman had other ideas. He bypassed the railroad station where he was to link up with two other Federal columns and headed straight for the prisons at Macon and Andersonville. Stoneman was very ambitious. He hoped that in freeing the prisoners, he would find his name splashed across the front page of Northern newspapers.

Along the way, Stoneman’s troops stopped to loot roadside homesteads, and strip ladies of their rings and pins. The cavalrymen broke open drawers and trunks. They grabbed “silver and plate of every description.” In some houses, they demanded the lady of the house to produce wine from the cellar. Their saddlebags were stuffed full with loot.

As Stoneman’s men approached the Ocmulgee River, they found it impassable. They turned back north, but ran into a large Confederate force. Eventually, Maj.-Gen. Stoneman was captured with one of his three brigades. He found himself the highest ranking Union officer to be captured. No record indicates whether his saddle bags were full.

Russell S. Bonds, War Like a Thunderbolt (Pennsylvania: Westholme Publ. 2009), p. 202-205