In The Hard Hand of War, Grimsley describes “hard war” as “operations aimed at the destruction of enemy economic resources (whether publicly or privately owned), forced evacuations, or confiscation of property without recompense” (Grimsley, The Hard Hand of War, 5). The Northern forces came to choose such a war policy due to the failure of the conciliatory policy towards southern civilians which was enacted in an effort to subdue the rebels while maintaining the loyalty of the southern civilians and unionists. “The success of the conciliatory policy depended on two variables: the willingness of Northern soldiers to leave [southern] civilians alone and the willingness to leave soldiers alone” (46) neither of these conditions was a priority during the early stages of the war. In some cases, southern civilian property was stolen and occasionally destroyed. This became a precursor to harsher “hard war” policies to come later (119).
One such “hard war” policy that was widely controversial in the North was the president’s Emancipation Proclamation signed on January 1st 1863. Grimsley points out that “No Union foray against Southern property was more far reaching in its effects than the decision to attack slavery” and while such establishments as factories, or fields of corn, even the demolition of whole towns can eventually be restored, “emancipation, however, carried implications that went well beyond the immediate subduing of the rebellion” (120).