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 Posted: Wed Feb 5th, 2014 05:13 am
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Hellcat
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Ok, I had to do a lot of backtracking on this one to learn the who and when. So this is from a War Department, Bureau of Military Justice report dated October 8, 1864 from Judge Advocate General Brigadier General Joseph Holt to Secretary Stanton. It's from The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 2 - Volume 7. You can read the full report if you want, it runs from page 930 to 953, though the following is from pages 948-949 (http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar;cc=moawar;q1=greek%20fire;rgn=full%20text;idno=waro0120;didno=waro0120;view=image;seq=0960). What I've seen of the report seems to be concerned with the activities of groups like the Knights of the Golden Circle and the Order of American Knights (were these one and the same?).

Eight. Destruction of Government property. There is no doubt that large quantities of Government property have been burned or otherwise destroyed by the agency of the order in different localities. At Louisville, in the case of the steamer Taylor, and on the Mississippi River steamers belonging to the United States have been burned at the wharves, and generally when loaded with Government stores. Shortly before the arrest of Bowles, the senior of the major-generals of the order in Indiana, he had been engaged in the preparation of "Greek fire," which it was supposed would be found serviceable in the destruction of public property. It was generally understood that the councils of the order in the State of Kentucky that they were to be compensated for such destruction by the rebel Government, by receiving a commission of 10 per cent. of the value of the property so destroyed, and that the value was to be derived from the estimates of the loss made in each case by Northern newspapers.

Greek fire as a terror weapon during the war, big shocker. And yes that was suppose to be sarcasm. This ties a man named Bowles to an organization that sympathized with the Southern cause and to the creation of Greek fire. But does it tie Greek fire to the destruction of steamers on the Mississippi? This only says that federal property was burned or otherwise destroyed, it doesn't say for certain that was through Greek fire.

It does raise a question. If the Confederate government were to compensate for property destruction in Kentucky, did anyone within the government have any kind of foreknowledge as to how that destruction was going to be carried out? The claim says that they were to base the compensation on newspaper reports, which would say that they would have had after knowledge of the destruction, though maybe not of the means through which the destruction was carried out. But if someone within the government had foreknowledge of how the destruction was going to be carried out that could have a number of potential meanings that I can see. First they knew but didn't not necessarily agree with the means of the destruction but weren't going to stop it. Second, they knew and may have approved of the actions of such sympathizers. Third, although the report appears to be pointing to Southern sympathizers, those actually carrying out such acts of destruction were Southern agents acting in Northern controlled territories and were either working in conjunction with such groups or were using them as a cover to perhaps keep thinks from being directly linked back to the Confederate government. My personal belief is that none of these were true and that either the Confederacy merely offered compensation but had no knowledge of how the destruction was going to be carried out or the "councils of the order" were operating on a false belief that the Confederate government was going to compensate for any destruction their organization caused. A false belief not caused by the Confederate government itself but by speculation within the organization itself.

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