Southern History Series: Review: The Day Dixie Died

Editor’s Note: Everything by Thomas Goodrich is worth reading especially Hellstorm: The Death of Nazi Germany, 1944-1947 which is the German counterpart of this book. I highly recommended these books which fundamentally shaped my attitude toward American imperialism.

Thomas and Debra Goodrich, The Day Dixie Died: Southern Occupation, 1865-1866

Thomas and Debra Goodrich’s book The Day Dixie Died: Southern Occupation, 1865-1866 is one of a small handful of books that tells the truth about what really happened in the South in 1865.

Northern mainstream historians prefer to focus exclusively on a morality tale of black suffering, noble Yankees, the preservation of the Glorious Union, Lincoln’s assassination, the abolition of slavery and the wickedness of Southern opposition to Reconstruction.

The Southern reader is always left with the gut feeling that something is being deliberately omitted from their happy narrative of progress. Court historians are not telling the whole story. There is a sneaking suspicion that history is being written from the perspective of the victors.

What about the losers? If the Union won the War Between the States, then the Confederates were the losers. In The Day Dixie Died, Thomas and Debra Goodrich describe in vivid detail what life was like for the losing side in the year that followed Appomattox.

Here are some highlights:

John Wilkes Booth, The Conspirators, and Lincoln’s Assassination

In his last public speech, Abraham Lincoln endorsed the idea of making African-Americans into citizens with voting rights in Louisiana. John Wilkes Booth was among the audience and told a friend that day, “That means nigger citizenship. Now, by God, I’ll put him through. That is the last speech he will ever make.”

In a last ditch effort to save the Confederacy, John Wilkes Booth (who was a member of the Confederate Secret Service) and his fellow conspirators plotted to decapitate the Union government by assassinating President Abraham Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward.

In Ford’s Theater, Booth famously shot and killed Lincoln. The Shakespearean actor leapt from the stage, raised his dagger of his head, and yelled “Sic semper tyrannis, The South is Avenged.” Lewis Powell attempted to assassinate William Seward and succeeded in stabbing him several times. George Atzerodt was assigned to assassinate Andrew Johnson, but got drunk and abandoned the idea at the last moment.

Booth was hunted down and was fatally shot in the head outside a tobacco barn in Port Royal, Virginia. He told the Union solider who shot him, “Tell my mother I die for my country.”

Among the items found on Booth was a diary. The April 21 entry reads:

“After being hunted like a dog through swamps, woods, and … chased by gun boats till I was forced to return wet, cold, and starving, with every mans hand against me, I am here in despair. And why; For doing what Brutus was honored for, what made Tell a Hero. And yet I for striking down a greater tyrant than they ever knew am looked upon as a common cuttthroat … I hoped for no gain. I knew no private wrong. I struck for my country and that alone … I do not repent the blow I struck. I may before my God but not to man.”

Lewis Powell, George Atzerdot, Mary Surratt and David Herold were arrested in connection with Booth’s conspiracy and were executed in a military show trial. Mary Surratt, who was the first woman ever executed by the United States government, was an innocent tavern owner.

Northern mobs extracted their own version of justice across the Union. In Buffalo, the home of ex-president Millard Fillmore was splashed in gallons of black ink. In Staten Island, a gang invaded the home of ex-president John Tyler and ransacked his parlor.

From Maine to Minnesota, scores of Confederate sympathizers, Democrats and critics of Republicans and the Lincoln administration were shot, stabbed, hung or beaten to death in an orgy of patriotic violence. Every home in Nashville and New Orleans was forced to fly the Stars and Stripes. Union soldiers marched on Raleigh with the intention of burning the city to the ground like Columbia. Only the muzzles of cannons and German Sherman’s tireless efforts prevented a massacre of Southern civilians.

Occupied Richmond

In the War Between the States, 178,000 black troops fought for the Union Army and 19,000 served in the Union Navy. 70,000 of these black Union soldiers died in the war from disease or combat injuries.

African-Americans were 10 percent of the Union Army. These black soldiers served under the command of White abolitionists who led them into battle to kill Confederate soldiers in the South.

Black soldiers were given the honor of being the first troops to enter defeated Richmond on April 3, 1865:

“Bervet Brigadier General Draper’s brigade of colored troops, Brevet Major General Kautz’s division, were the first infantry to enter Richmond. The gallant 36th U.S. Colored Troops, under Lieutenant Colonel B.F. Pratt, has the honor of being the first regiment. Captain Bicnnef’s company has the pride of leading the advance…

By that point, Virginia was a vast tomb for countless thousands of dead Confederate soldiers. When Abraham Lincoln arrived for the ceremonial lowering of the Stars and Bars, Richmond was buried in a sea of black. The city was in funeral mode when Robert E. Lee arrived with the ragged remnants of the Army of Northern Virginia.

A witness of the event described the scene:

“By some strange intuition, it was known that General Lee was among them, and a crowd collected all along the route he would take, silent and bareheaded. There was no excitement, no hurrahing; but, as the great chief passed, a deep, loving murmur, greater than these, rose from the very hearts of the crowd. Taking off his hat and simply bowing his head, the man great in adversity passed silently to his own door; it closed upon him, and his people had seen him for the last time in his battle harness.”

Robert E. Lee, the man would have been remembered as our George Washington if had won, died in 1870.

Occupied Charleston

A Boston correspondent who arrived in Charleston after the war described “a city of ruins, of desolation, of vacant houses … of rotting wharves, of deserted warehouses, of wild-weed grown gardens, of miles of grass-grown streets, of acres of pitiful and voiceful barrenness.” Most of the citizens of Charleston were exiled, widowed, orphaned, crippled or dead.

Robert Gould Shaw, who was famously played by Matthew Broderick in Glory, died leading the Massachusetts 54th All-Black Regiment in the Battle of Fort Wagner outside Charleston.

The black survivors were invited back to participate in the occupation:

“Leading the first Union troops to enter Charleston was a black Union soldier who rode a mule up Meeting Street, carrying a banner emblazoned “Liberty.” Black soldiers with the famous Massachusetts Fifty-Fourth Regiment, survivors of the bloody assault on Fort Wagner outside Charleston, marched behind him singing “John Brown’s Body,” the abolitionist anthem.”

William Lloyd Garrison and Henry Ward Beecher arrived in Charleston on April 14, 1865 to witness Robert Anderson’s raising of the Stars and Stripes at Fort Sumter. After the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, Beecher gave the keynote address which culminated in a bloodthirsty call for vengeance.

He wasn’t referring to the starving and vanquished inhabitants of Charleston who might have sympathized with his call for vengeance, but to the thousands of Yankees who had died in the course of “preserving the Union.” The survivors wandered around the ruins of Charleston like ghosts as the patriotic celebrations lasted through the night and into the next day.

“In Charleston, a wanderer found the churchyard there symbolic of the city itself – sunken grass, broken headstone, a “mangy cur … slinking” amid the markers. Then he noted a particular grave: “All around the little plat is a border of myrtle, sweet in rich greenness, but untrimmed and broken and goat-eaten. It is the grave of the father of the Rebellion, and on the marble slab there is cut the one word, – CALHOUN” … Time was when South Carolina guarded this grave as a holy spot. Now it lies in ruin.”

As John C. Calhoun’s grave was overwhelmed by weeds, African-Americans taunted the local Whites in their “Jubilee” and paraded through the ruined streets of Charleston behind a wagon pulling a coffin marked “Slavery is Dead.”

War Crime Trials

Henry Wirz, the Confederate commander in charge of Andersonville, was put on trial for war crimes by a military tribunal and was publicly executed before a crowd of 250 spectators.

If Wirz had implicated Jefferson Davis for being responsible for the conditions at Andersonville, his sentence would have been commuted and he would walked away. He refused, “I would not become a traitor to him or anyone else to save my life.”

Wirz stoically marched to his death at the gallows:

“On the morning of November 10, 1865. Wirz was roused by guards in his cell at the Old Capitol Prison. “As they were leaving the room,” wrote a witness, “Witz turned to the mantel, and with as much nonchalance as if he had been in a bar-room, took up a bottle of whisky, and pouring out a liberal draught, drank it down with apparent relish. Then taking a chew of tobacco, he took his place in the procession.”

“He disappointed all those who expected to see him quiver at the brink of death …,” wrote a reporter for the New York Times, only one of a flock of correspondents scribbling away. “His step was steady, his demeanor calm, his tongue silent … He met his fate with unblanched eye, unmoving feature, and a calm, deliberate prayer for all those whom he has deemed his persecutors.”

13 percent of Confederate POWs died in Northern prison camps like Elmira amid a cornucopia of food. 11 percent of Union POWs died in Confederate prison camps like Andersonville while there were food riots in neighboring cities in the Lower Chattahoochee Valley.

Ruffin’s Suicide

Edmund Ruffin, the fiery Virginia secessionist who fired the first cannon shot at Fort Sumter, committed suicide. Before he blew his brains out with that rifle, Ruffin left behind a letter for posterity:

“I here declare my unmitigated hatred to Yankee rule — to all political, social and business connection with the Yankees and to the Yankee race. Would that I could impress these sentiments, in their full force, on every living Southerner and bequeath them to every one yet to be born! May such sentiments be held universally in the outraged and down-trodden South, though in silence and stillness, until the now far-distant day shall arrive for just retribution for Yankee usurpation, oppression and atrocious outrages, and for deliverance and vengeance for the now ruined, subjugated and enslaved Southern States!

…And now with my latest writing and utterance, and with what will be near my latest breath, I here repeat and would willingly proclaim my unmitigated hatred to yankee rule–to all political, social and business connections with Yankees, and the perfidious, malignant and vile Yankee race.”

Ruffin saw what was coming.

He committed seppuku like Yukio Mishima.

Mass Starvation

1 out of every 4 Southern White men of military age died or was seriously wounded in the War Between the States. At least 45,000 amputees came home unable to work in an economy where Confederate currency had become worthless.

The inevitable result of such of a male holocaust on the battlefield and the destruction of the Confederate infrastructure by the Union Army was the mass starvation of women and children on the homefront:

In Georgia:

“There seemed no limit to the privation; an estimated thirty-five thousand people in an around Atlanta had to be fed by government rations or starve.

We had nothing to eat but musty meal and hardtack,” a man from Georgia recalled. “We just kept from starving and that was all.” Another Georgian acknowledged, ” We did not starve; but, like thousands of others, “we most starved’”

In South Carolina:

“In South Carolina, “hundreds of mortal beings are perishing around us each day for want of food and raimant …,” the Charleston Courier reported. There are numbers of White families who know not where to get their next meal.”

In Alabama:

“Near Huntsville, Alabama, families of dead Rebel soldiers were dying of starvation.”

In Missouri and Arkansas:

“In the Ozarks of Missouri and Arkansas, much of the scattered and decimated population was surviving on “greens, slippery elm bark, and roots.”

In Virginia and North Carolina:

In North Carolina, a reporter for the New York Herald watched as “wasted women” lurked around train stations, “moving like clothed skeletons around the cars to gather up any corn which … may escape from the sack.” In neighboring Virginia, “here a tired woman, with a babe in one arm and a little toddler clinging to her skirts … There a twelve-year-old boy, dragging a wooden cart … Aged women, hobbling along … shy young girls, with basket and bag, blushing under the impudent leers and coarse jets of the loafing soldiery.”

In Louisiana:

A Texas cavalryman along the Red River in Louisiana reported that women and children were living in the woods without shelter or adequate clothing. “There are many,” said the soldier, “that have been in easy circumstances who are actually living on blackberries.”

Not surprisingly, food of any sort in the ravaged Red River Valley was a delicacy, and Yankee soldiers sailing to Shreveport soon found sport in the situation:

“In front of every farm-house would be a large assemblage of whites and blacks, of all ages and assorted sizes. Our boys amused themselves by throwing “hard-tack” to them, and then what running and tumbling and scrambling would ensue! little nigs and little whites, little dogs and big dogs, all joined in the race, and by the time the “hard-tack” was secured it was difficult to determine what were the original ingredients.”

The Imprisonment of Jefferson Davis

President Jefferson Davis and the remnants of the Confederate government were hunted down and captured near Irwinville, Georgia.

Davis spent the next two years in prison at Fort Monroe on the coast of Virginia. President Obama designated Fort Monroe a national monument because it was a refuge for runaway slaves.

As a prisoner of the victorious Union, President Davis was forced to suffer the indignity of wearing the shackles of a common criminal. The scene is described in the book:

“These are not orders for a soldier,” shouted the prisoner, losing all control of himself. “They are orders for a jailer – for a hangman … I plead against this degradation. Kill me! Kill!” he cried passionately, throwing his arms wide open and exposing his breasts, “rather than inflict on me, and on my people through this insult worse than death.” …

“It required six men to accomplish it, he the while struggling like a maniac,” recalled a witness to the scene. “Mr. Davis was thrown on his back on the cot …,” said another present, “and the blacksmith welded the irons on his wrists and ankles.”

Other Topics

The above is a sample of the topics discussed in this must read book.

If your curiosity has been aroused, you can also find discussions of other neglected subjects such as the mass crime wave that followed abolition, more on “swallowing the dog,” the looting of plantations, the carpetbagger invasion, the epidemic of black-on-white rape, the anarchic collapse of Texas, partisan warfare in Missouri and Kentucky, Jesse James getting shot in the chest after attempting to surrender, the race war in Memphis, the mass starvation of freedmen, the brutal dictatorship of “Parson” Brownlow in Tennessee and black troops removing buttons from the uniforms of Confederate veterans.

The Day Dixie Died ends on a fitting note: in the context of military occupation, economic collapse and social revolution, which is downplayed by mainstream historians, the formation of the Ku Klux Klan in Tennessee, America’s very first revolutionary pro-White organization.

Buy this book. I’m sure you will enjoy it.

Thomas and Debra Goodrich continue with the story of the rise of the Klan here:

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    • “Yankees, bringing Liberty and Justice since 1865™”

      Ironically, their military service before 1861, and after 1865, has been less than exemplary. The sixteen states that went to war against Dixie in 1861, send the least number of recruits to the armed forces, of any region.

      I doubt they could find enough veterans in most Northern towns, outside of the big cities, to make a Memorial Day parade.

  1. “Enjoy” is perhaps not the most apt word to use. The phrase “rightly outraged” would be better to describe the proper reaction to reading what was done to the people of the South. Some crimes may never be revenged, but should still never be forgot.

    • By enjoy, I mean I read so many books that whitewash that era or outright misrepresent it that it is a relief to read someone who writes about it from a Southern perspective. It gives you a sense of what mainstream historians are ignoring and downplaying

      • “It gives you a sense of what mainstream historians are ignoring and downplaying”

        If the North was right, then they wouldn’t do any of this. Or constantly make excuses that no criminal would find valid. A great many Northerners wouldn’t be wracked with subconscious guilt, either.

  2. Ugh. When I think of all of that suffering, it only drives home to me how sad our disorganized, selfish remnant has become.

    We will probably never have another General Lee to look to for hope, leadership and inspiration.

    Our movement “leaders” certainly fall short.

    Maybe I took too many little black pills, but I think it might be too late.

    But Dixie isn’t dead until we give it up.

  3. Does anyone ever wonder why post WWII Germany has been treated almost the same way as the American South after its unsuccessful war for independence? The window dressing is different but the iron fist is the same fist. The total destruction of two populations that were highly capable, highly successful, relentless, and strong-willed. The biggest threat to our controllers is the most capable and fiercest of their enemies. Ones that will keep popping up and never go away. The intention is always to destroy but if you can’t control them after their surrender, they’re never defeated so the warfare continues….. and continues…..

    Perhaps one day in the future, many will start seeing things they never saw before. Symbols rule the world and symbols take many forms. We may never know the language but we certainly can start connecting the dots.

    They reigned in a lot of potential rebels with those two nukes, didn’t they?

  4. HW, your description of how the Civil War is taught to us Northerners is spot on. I never knew much about the Southern view of the conflict. I only had a vague unease that something was missing, and couldn’t figure out why secession was such a horrible crime. To “preserve democracy” by forcing people to stay that didn’t want to belong is what dictators do. That’s not democratic, of course, but history is written by the victors. The victors also get to program the children in school, and present their views in the media. So we get only half of the story, told to us in a version where the North is totally heroic and the South is completely despotic.

    I’m grateful that the truth cannot remain hidden. Your writing about the history not taught to most of us is extremely valuable to me.

    • If Southern secession was wrong, then the American Revolution was wrong as well; and we know that isn’t true. That being said, I am more concerned about the survival of my people wherever they may be, than any resurrection of some geo-political entity from the past. If that’s part of it, then so be it, but I think we’re going to have to come up with something new.

  5. “patriotic celebrations”

    For which country? America, or Yankeedom?

    Most Northerners can’t tell the difference between the two nations. And many conflate, deliberately, or out of habit, or conditioning, the two.

  6. The passage I’ll post below is one I’d planned to post at your recent entry about Missouri’s “Little Dixie,” Mr. W. It’s from Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi” and my be read in full and in context at

    My decision to post the passage at the present entry has been prompted by a passage you quoted here, the passage in which John Calhoun is characterized as “the father of the Rebellion” (i.e., the South’s secession). At Wikipedia, quite some time ago, I read that Calhoun’s father had taught Calhoun that slave ownership was a sign of rank. Not long after that, when I first encountered the Twain passage, I was struck that it (the Twain passage) rather ratified that.

    Here goes:

    During the two or two and a half years of my apprenticeship [as a steamboat pilot] I served under many pilots, and had experience of many kinds of steamboatmen and many varieties of steamboats; for it was not always convenient for Mr. Bixby to have me with him, and in such cases he sent me with somebody else.

    The figure that comes before me oftenest, out of the shadows of that vanished time, is that of Brown, of the steamer Pennsylvania—the man referred to in a former chapter, whose memory was so good and tiresome. He was a middle-aged, long, slim bony, smooth-shaven, horse-faced, ignorant, stingy, malicious, snarling, fault-hunting, mote-magnifying tyrant. I early got the habit of coming on watch with dread at my heart.

    I still remember the first time I ever entered the presence of that man. … I ascended to the pilot-house in high feather, and very proud to be semi-officially a member of the executive family of so fast and famous a boat. Brown was at the wheel. I paused in the middle of the room, all fixed to make my bow, but Brown did not look around … I stepped softly to the high bench and took a seat.

    There was silence for ten minutes; then my new boss turned and inspected me deliberately and painstakingly from head to heel for about—as it seemed to me—a quarter of an hour. …

    “Are you Horace Bigsby’s cub?”

    “Yes, sir.”

    After this there was a pause and another inspection. Then:

    “What’s your name?”

    I told him. He repeated it after me. It was probably the only thing he ever forgot; for although I was with him many months he never addressed himself to me in any other way than “Here!” and then his command followed.

    “Where was you born?”

    “In Florida, Missouri.”

    “Here! You going to set there all day?”

    I lit in the middle of the floor, shot there by the electric suddenness of the surprise. As soon as I could get my voice I said apologetically: “I have had no orders, sir.”

    “You’ve had no orders! My, what a fine bird we are! We must have orders! Our father was a gentleman—owned slaves—and we’ve been to school. Yes, we are a gentleman, too, and got to have orders! Orders, is it? ORDERS is what you want! Dodd ern my skin, I’ll learn you to swell yourself up and blow around here about your dod-derned orders! G’way from the wheel!” (I had approached it without knowing it.)

    I moved back a step or two and stood as in a dream, all my senses stupefied by this frantic assault.

    So that’s the passage, Mr. W. Just thought you might find it interesting, as I did. According to Wikipedia, Missouri’s Monroe County, where sits the now-uninhabited village of Florida, is considered part of the “heart” of Little Dixie by the Missouri Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Twain, of course, is associated with Hannibal, Missouri, to which his family moved when he was four; but Florida, as the passage above indicates, is where he was born.

  7. I will add this book to my collection HW.
    You should check out “The sack and destruction of Columbia, South Carolina” by William Gilmore Simms”.

  8. Southern whites is the demographic that all the others love to hate, offend and desecrate the graves and memorials of their dead. Even Illegal aliens seem to get better press and treatment. But in a way that is good as this nation descends into godless anarchy. We may be the only ones to survive what is coming because we are hated and set apart from the rest.

    Keep the truth coming Mr Wallace. The South was right. God allows slavery and the South had the right to secede (our “July 4th”) from a union they had voluntarily joined.

    • The slavery loving god you speak of is a jewish creation and does not exist. True Aryans don’t need slaves.

      • Powell,

        One of the few times I disagree with you. Our God is God. What is a true aryan?

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