Dead Yankees as Economic Stimulus


From John Hennessy:

[Apologies for the quiet of late–vacations and a heavy workload have conspired to limit attention to Mysteries and Conundrums. Things should ease up soon.]

In my meanderings through newspapers this week I came across this item from the Fredericksburg News in January 1867. It was written while the Union burial corps was at work moving the Union dead at Fredericksburg to the new National Cemetery on Willis Hill (the southernmost portion of Marye’s Heights). The article drips of bitterness and speaks to the continued wretched condition of the local economy.

Camp of the Union burial corps along Sunken Road after the war.

PAYMENT OF “BURIAL CORPS”– Eleven thousand six hundred dollars, we hear, were paid out here on Saturday to the “Burial Corps for their pious labors in re-burying the Federal dead during the months of October and November.  But for General Lee’s mercy to citizens in refusing to fire on Fredericksburg on the night of December 15, 1862, ten times as many would have required the services of a Burial Corps; and that interesting “Corps” would have had occupation, and pay to spend in Fredericksburg for some time to come.  Burnside, it seems, was our benefactor.  But for the stupid slaughter of his own soldiers, there would not have been so much money paid out in impoverished Fredericksburg.  The field on this side of Marye’s Heights, on which was grown the corn our charity sent to starving Ireland in 1847, has yielded a rich harvest in the Irish invaders slain, whose dead bodies covered its fair surface in December ’62, and now the money paid for their re-interment on the “Heights” they could not take, will bring a circulating medium to the Confederates whom they robbed and whose houses they sacked.”

This piece highlights a couple of things that warrant a future post–the idea that Lee’s army did not fire into Fredericksburg, and the irony that the fields that produced food sent to relieve the Irish famine in 1847 would later witness the deaths of so many Irishmen on December 13, 1862.  More on both soon.

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3 thoughts on “Dead Yankees as Economic Stimulus

  1. I thought that Lee had actually ordered his artilley to fire on Fredericksburg, to back light any advancing federals in case of a night assault? His artillery were not successful in setting the town on fire, but there is some conjecture as to why.

    Enjoyed the article. So much attention is paid to the war and Civil War events, that what happened after the war is often an afterthought, if even a thought.

  2. In his report after the battle Pendelton, Lee’s Chief of Artillery, describes how McLaws wished to detect efforts of working parties near the Confederate lines and to frustrate them. Some incendiary shells were to be used, if necessary, to fire some buildings nearby to illuminate the scene. When the anticipated renewal of combat on the 14th did not occur it was not necessary to use the shells.

    In describing where the buildings were, Pendelton says they were “near our lines and next to the town”. From that description I would guess he is referring to the few isolated buildings between the town proper and Marye’s Heights. I could be wrong, but I suspect the design was to set fire to those specific buildings (which were not in the town itself) and then only if there was a strong suspicion works were being constructed which could serve as a jumping off point to the attack which many believed would occur on the 14th.

    One interesting reference is to the shells being ordered up from the ordinance work shop. I had not seen reference to that and I will have to go back to Porter Alexander’s book to find out more about what it consisted of and where it was located.

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