I have ordered troops to cross the river. They come as your friends and your brothers — as enemies only to armed Rebels who are preying upon you. Your homes, your families, and your property, are safe under our protection. All your rights shall be religiously respected. Notwithstanding all that has been said by the traitors to induce you to believe that our advent among you will be signalized by interference with your slaves, understand one thing clearly — not only will we abstain from all such interference, but we will, on the contrary, with an iron hand, crush any attempt at insurrection on their part.Those volunteer officers, however, who had not been blessed with a West Point training, did not always view the matter in precisely this light. Directly after1 Gen. Butler's accession to command at Fortress Monroe, three negro slaves came within his lines from the Rebel lines adjacent; stating that they were held as property by Col. Mallory, of the Confederate forces in his front, who was about to send them to the North Carolina seaboard, to work on the Rebel fortifications there in progress, intended to bar that coast against our arms. Gen. Butler heard their story, was satisfied of its truth, and said: “These men are contraband of war:2 set them at work.” He was, very soon afterward, invited to a conference by Maj. Carey, commanding opposite; and accordingly met the Major (in whom he recognized an old political compatriot) a mile from the fort. Maj. Carey, as agent of his absent friend Mallory, demanded a return of those negroes; which Gen. Butler courteously but firmly declined; and, after due debate, the conference terminated fruitlessly. Very naturally, the transit of negroes from Slavery to Fortress Monroe was thenceforth almost continuous. Gen. Butler wrote3 forthwith to Lt.-Gen. Scott, soliciting advice and direction. In this letter, he said:
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1 May 22, 1861.
2 In this matter, he [Gen. Butler] has struck this Southern Insurrection in a place which is as vulnerable as the heel of Achilles; and we dare say that, in receiving and seizing the slaves of Rebels as contraband of war, this Southern Confederacy will be substantially suppressed with the pacification of Virginia. --N. Y. Herald, May 31, 1861.
3 May 27, 1861.
4 These fugitive slaves, at this rate, will soon prove more powerful in suffocating this Southern White insurrection than all the armies of Gen. Scott. This man Butler, in this thing, has proved himself the greatest lawyer we have between a prior of epaulets. --N. Y. Herald, June 28, 1861.
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