Thursday, March 29, 2012

The lack of civil law in East Tennessee

      24, "How long will Union men suffer such beasts to prowl, undisturbed
through this country, deepening its already damning disgrace by deeds
of still blacker infamy?" The lack of civil law in East Tennessee
[For the Chattanooga Daily Gazette.]
Calhoun, Tenn., Aug. 24th, 1864.
Mr. Editor: Scarcely a day passes that does not bring intelligence of
the murder and robbery of some peaceable, local citizen, by a band of
lawless desperadoes, who infest almost every county in East Tennessee,
to the great annoyance of the public peace and security. Murder,
arson, robbery, stealing is now carried to an extent hitherto unknown
to Tennessee, even in the rude state of her Territorial existence.
These crimes which spring naturally out of the present disarranged
state of society, and the want and destitution which extend throughout
the country.
Without the free and untrammeled operations of civil law, which in our
State has been suspended for three years, there can be nothing like
absolute protection against the above offences given to society. Such
crimes naturally spring up where there is no civil law, or where the
proper authorities are unable to enforce its provisions and mandates.
At such times as these, all dishonest and evil disposed persons think
themselves licensed to commit crimes without the associated idea of
punishment which always accompanies the commission of an offence in
the normal condition of society, in which bad men refrain from the
more flagrant violations of civil laws, not because they are less
corrupt, or dishonest, but because the fear of punishment with them
presents a greater incentive to virtuous action, than the hope of
reward, or the approval of society. Such conditions of society, as now
surround us, are indeed deplorable, and is [sic] one that all honest
and well-disposed persons should feel bound to aid in remedying. This
they can only successfully do by re-establishing and rigidly enforcing
civil law. Until this is done, there can be no perfect peace and
security given, and we must expect to suffer from the depredations of
men, who, acknowledging no obligation to the ordinary laws of society,
band themselves together to profit by their depredations upon their
more honest neighbors. From the nature, character and effects of the
present rebellion, greater facilities are afforded the above
characters for the commission of crimes, than are ordinarily, in the
condition of society wherein a state of peace or war. Before the
commencement of the rebellion, bad men were deterred from the
commission of those outrages now every where being perpetrated;
through fear of the offended majesty of civil law. But these
restraints having been removed by those who voted for separation, all
thieves and dishonest men have been let loose upon the country, with
no other or better restraints than in some instances a slight feeling
of corruption such as have at times been called fort h in the hearts
of even savages, and barbarians upon the commission of some of the
more heinous crimes, but in those instances the heart of the savage
was more susceptible of humane and Christian-like feeling and impulses
than those bands of rebel robbers and cut-throats who now infest the
country. Whom we have advised to "conciliate," and against whom we
have been required "to indulge in no harsh opprobrious or denunciatory
Through the corruptions that have been engendered by the rebellion,
the old and hardened culprit has become a worse enemy to the peace of
society, to the morality and civilization than the aborigines of this
country ever were, while the less hardy and accomplish villain has
become emboldened in perpetration of crime until they are now fitted
and prepared for any offence known to the black catalogue of guilt.
They who inaugurated the rebellion by their votes and influence on
many of them directly, and all indirectly guilty of all the atrocities
committed by these bands of prowling thieves and murderers who are now
preying upon the lives and property of our best citizens. [sic] The
men who voted the present miseries of society and forwarded it by both
their money and influence, and although amnestied, still clandestinely
encourage guerrilla bands in their more than fiendish atrocities
against the lives of good citizens, fortified by their treason all
their right, tile and interest to this country, they forfeited their
right to life itself, and should be made to leave the country. How
long will Union men suffer such beasts to prowl, undisturbed through
this country, deepening its already damning disgrace by deeds of still
blacker infamy? How long, loyal sufferers, shall these amnestied
traitors' infamy and perjury disgrace the land of your fathers where
virtue and honesty had assayed to set up in everlasting home, as the
ornament and inheritance of your children? These amnestied gentry took
the oath who nineteen-twentieths of them only to save their property,
but with no intention of obeying its requirements as is no manifested
by them at every rumor or prospect of a rebel raid or federal defeat.
The point has been immeasurably established during the late raid
through this valley. They make publicly loud professions of loyalty,
while their hearts are swollen with another set of willful and
conscious perjury, and as black as the
"Damning drops that fall,
From the denouncing angel's pen."
Shall such vile perpetrators of our country's ruin be permitted longer
to disgrace the soil of East Tennessee? Shall they longer prey upon
the vitals of our country's liberty, corrupting our youth and
insulting the moral force and dignity of civil law, and disregarding
the mandates of even common humanity? None but demons can sympathize
with them, a set of  men lost to every principle of common honesty, to
every moral impulse, to every social and refined feeling, to
everything that elevates and ennobles man, to everything that can lend
interest to society.  I say, shall such men longer linger in this
country, or will the honest people rise in the power and strength of a
manly dignity and drive from the country all such foul miscreants? Let
the vengeance of an enraged and insulted people pursue them with a
lash of burning indignation through life, and let them go to meet the
whip of scorpions with which their future masters will greet their
[a]rival.  Not only are they guilty of the above, but they have filled
the country with a class of worthless vagabonds under the character of
Union refugees, many of them no doubt, original rebels and deserters
from the rebel army, men who had no character at home and who have
succeeded in establishing less standing abroad, who have no honest
calling, without money and destitute of the ordinary means of
subsistence, refusing in many instances to work for a citizen or for
the Government at fair and remunerative prices. They are mendicants
because they will be upon the Government and the charities of an
exhausted and destitute country, and are thus preying upon the virtue,
peace and quiet of society, consuming the little left [in] the country
by the ravages of war. They are loud in their assertions of loyalty
and devotion to the old Government. They are noisy in proclaiming
their sufferings at the hand of rebels in the States of Alabama,
Georgia and North Carolina. Yet, they will not turn a hand to help the
cause of their suffering and bleeding country. But few of them will
enlist even in the home protection service, to defend their homes and
firesides against these bands of thieves and robbers who linger in the
rear of our army. They are more clamorous, at what they, in their
patriotism conceive to be the tardy movements of our army, and the
neglect of the authorities to clear the country of guerrilla hands,
than even our own soldiers. We often hear them indulging in such
expressions as the following, rising from the depths of their
patriotic hearts:  - "Why don't you drive the guerrillas out of the
country, I am afraid to go to bed at night; I do wish you boys would
move on and drive the rebels back; I want to get home so bad," or
"What does keep the army back; it looks like I will never get home."
These dastardly wretches are too cowardly to help defend their country
against innovation and overthrow, or to aid in protecting their homes
and firesides against the lawless acts of a few brigands who linger in
the rear of our army, too refined to to [sic] labor at remunerative
prices, with no honest calling or visible means of subsistence, and
are scarcely less dangerous to the peace and security of the country,
than the acknowledged bandit and robber. Let the honest and well
disposed portion of society look to this class of people, and give
them to understand if they will neither aid the government, nor assist
in restoring and maintaining law and order, they must leave the
country, as well as the more open enemy of the public peace and
security. The more hardened villain, to use a soldier's phrase,
receives his reinforcements from this class of society. They are now
in the preparatory school crime and will soon be able to enter a
higher degree of villainy. I have seen so much of this since I have
been connected with the army that I have become tired of it, and hope
all soldiers who are at Posts besieged by such miscreants in human
shape, will drive them not only out of camps, but out of the country.
I throw the above out as a suggestion. In other conditions of society
this might not be proper, but at such times as these I think such a
policy both necessary and proper.
Chattanooga Daily Gazette, August 28, 1864.

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