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A Will to Destroy Previous Next
Digital History ID 3068


The Civil War witnessed a will to destroy and a spirit of intolerance that conflicted with Americans' self-image as a tolerant people committed to compromise. Not only did the conflict see the use of shrapnel and booby traps, it reportedly saw a few southern women wear necklaces made of Union soldiers' teeth. In a notorious 1862 order, Union General Ulysses S. Grant expelled all Jews from his military department on the grounds that they were speculating in cotton.

While Grant was driving toward the Mississippi from the north, northern naval forces under Captain David G. Farragut (1801-1870) attacked from the south. In April 1862, Farragut steamed past weak Confederate defenses and captured New Orleans. In New Orleans, Union forces met repeated insults from the city's women. Major General Benjamin F. Butler ordered that any woman who behaved disrespectfully should be treated as a prostitute. Reaction in the North was mixed. Southern reaction to "Beast" Butler was predictably harsh.

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