Sunday, January 5, 2014

Civil War burning of Darien was branded a war crime by both armies

Ruins at Darien, Georgia
On June 11, 1863, Union forces led by Col. James Montgomery burned the historic town of Darien, Georgia, to the ground.

There were no Confederate soldiers in Darien when the atrocity took place, only women, children and the elderly. The city was shelled before it was torched and one woman had a hole torn in her dress by a cannon ball but miraculously was not injured.

Among the regiments taking part in the burning of Darien was the famed 54th Massachusetts Infantry, a Union regiment composed of black soldiers. Its commander, Col. Robert Gould Shaw, called the incident a "dirty piece of business." He had objected to the action, but Montgomery had directed that his orders be carried out, telling Shaw that Southerners must be "swept away by the hand of God, like the Jews of old."

Col. James Montgomery 
Shaw protested the incident to his superiors in the Union army, questioning the honor and legality of the wanton destruction of a town occupied only by civilians.

Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard also protested the incident in a July 1863 letter to Union General Quincy A. Gillmore:

...Ravaging and burning private property are acts of licentiousness unauthorized by the laws of war and the belligerent who wages war in that manner must regarded as carrying on war like a furious barbarian.

Gillmore's response was to give Montgomery command of a brigade during the coming invasion of Florida that culminated at the Battle of Olustee on February 20, 1864.

Please click here to learn more about the burning of Darien, Georgia:

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