Women Will Howl

by Fred Ray on July 19, 2008 · 4 comments

The Yankees may not have sowed salt through Georgia, but they did some other appallingly cruel things, many of which have been forgotten. One was the forced deportation of over three hundred civilians, mostly women, from the mill towns of Roswell and New Manchester, Georgia. Many of these women, most of them poor and very young, never returned home and we still don’t know what happened to them. Author Mary Deborah Petite explores this event in her new book Women Will Howl.

In July 1864, General William T. Sherman ordered the arrest and deportation of hundreds of women from the villages of Roswell and New Manchester, Georgia. Branded traitors for their work in the cotton mills which supplied much needed material to the Confederacy, these innocent civilians were torn from their homes and shipped to cities in the North. Drawing on new material not yet published and an exhaustive search of primary sources, this new book by Mary Deborah Petite focuses on the tragic events at Roswell and New Manchester, but encompasses much more. The dramatic story begins with the founding of the Roswell “colony” in the 1830s and continues through the dark days of July 1864 to the war’s end and the rebuilding of the Roswell mills. The book includes information on many of the mill workers and explains why the names and experiences of so many others have been lost to history.

Dispelling myth and mystery, The Women Will Howl presents a true and accurate history of this unforgettable story.

Discover for yourself:

  • The history of Roswell & the King Family
  • The hardships of mill life
  • The shift in Federal war policies that paved the way
    for the events at Roswell and New Manchester
  • Military operations leading to the capture of Roswell
  • The occupation and destruction of New Manchester
  • William T. Sherman, his role and motivations
  • The facts surrounding the arrest and deportation
  • The journey to Louisville and beyond

When “Uncle Billy” said that war was hell he wasn’t kidding. I had no idea the Union “harsh war” strategy of 1864 went this far. Haven’t read this one, but plan to. The web site is excellent and is a model for what one should be.


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

elektratig July 20, 2008 at 12:41 pm

Fred,

May I be ornery here?

At least from the description, it seems to me that the author overlooks the most interesting question: were the women “innocent”? If in fact they they worked at jobs that “supplied much needed material to the Confederacy,” why isn’t it equally fair to argue that they knowingly aided and abetted treason? Perhaps they didn’t kill anyone themselves, but did their efforts sustain Confederate troops who did?

Perhaps a case can be made for their innocence, but that’s an argument that needs to be made, not a conclusion to be assumed.

While I recognize that their treatment may have been “tragic,” as the author says, I wonder about your characterization of it as “appalling cruel.” Ohio may have its drawbacks, but I hadn’t realized it was the Gulag.

Sorry, but the whole Sherman-was-a-monster thing annoys me.

Reply

Fred Ray July 20, 2008 at 2:12 pm

Sounds pretty onery to me. Destroying a mill providing Confederate war material is one thing, but the forced deportation of a couple of hundred unfortunate young women is something else altogether.

If that’s the standard of “guilt” then isn’t it pretty much a carte blanche to do anything you want to civilians? They didn’t even get the courtesy of a drumhead court martial. Many were never heard from again.

Reply

elektratig July 22, 2008 at 8:23 pm

Fred,

To begin with, I regret and apologize for my harsh tone. I didn’t follow rule no. 1 — put away the draft post or comment for 24 hours and think about it.

That said, I’m not sure that I retreat from the substance of what I said. It continues to strike me as superficial to approach the topic as a human interest sob story rather than to use it as a vehicle to investigate the responsibility of (for example) southern women for encouraging their men to continue fighting a ruinous war — an interesting and hot topic.

I suppose my standard of guilt might be overbroad. On the other hand, perhaps another way to look at it is that most whites in the south were guilty of aiding and abetting treason in one way or another, and that the north treated 99% with remarkable leniency — perhaps too much so given southern terror after the War and the terrible failure of Reconstruction.

I would welcome a discussion and analysis of such issues, but that doesn’t seem to be how the author approached it.

I guess I’m violating my rule again, but hopefully I sound more temperate.

Reply

Fred Ray July 23, 2008 at 10:00 pm

You’re certainly painting with a broad brush to assume these young women were somehow committing treason by having a job. Most seem to have been 20 or under, so they would have been minors in 1861 (and could not vote anyway), so it’s a bit much to hold them responsible for the war. As for it being a “sob story,” perhaps your view might be different if it were one of your family.

But if you’re going to use a judicial analysis, shouldn’t they have had even some basic due process and a trial? Treason is a serious offense, defined in the Constitution.

No, I think it goes back to the “harsh war” policy of 1864, which in effect authorized war against the Southern people, military and civilian alike, and pretty much gave discretion to field commanders like Sherman to take whatever measures they deemed necessary. As I said, I had no idea it went this far.

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