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[611] course, was the certainty that whatever was left would be used to feed the Rebel armies and to facilitate raids and incursions on our posts below. The recent foolish as well as culpable burning of Chambersburg — to say nothing of the unauthorized but openly justified arson and butchery at Lawrence — furnished ample precedents; but it is not obvious that the National cause was advanced or the National prestige exalted by this resort to one of the very harshest and most questionable expedients not absolutely forbidden by the laws of civilized warfare.

Sheridan reports this devastation, in a dispatch to Grant, as follows:

Woodstock Va, Oct. 7, 1864--9 P. M.
Lt.-Gen. U. S. Grant:
I have the honor to report my command a this point to-night. I commenced moving back from Port Republic, Mount Crawford, Bridgewater, and Harrisonburg, yesterday morning.

The grain and forage in advance of these points had previously been destroyed.

In moving back to this point, the whole country from the Blue ridge to the North mountain has teen made untenable for a Rebel army. I have destroyed over 2,000 barns filled with wheat and hay and farming implements, over 70 mills filled with flour and wheat; have driven in front of the army over 4,000 head of stock, and have killed and issued to the troops nit less than 3,000 sleep. This destruction embraces the Luray valley and Little Fort valley as well as the main valley.

A large number of horses have been obtained, a proper estimate of which I can not now make.

Lt. John R. Meigs, my engineer officer, was murdered beyond Harrisonburg near Dayton. For this atrocious act, all the houses within an area of five miles were burned.

Since I came into the Valley from Harper's Ferry, every train, every small party, and every straggler, has been bushwhacked by the people; many of whom have protection papers from commanders who have been hitherto in that valley.

The people here are getting sick of the war. Heretofore, they have had no reason to complain, because they have been living in great abundance.

I have not been followed by the enemy to this point, with the exception of a small force of Rebel cavalry that showed themselves some distance behind my rear-guard to-day.

The Richmond Whig thereupon gravely proposed to retaliate by sending incendiaries to fire tile cities of the loyal States, saying:

There is one effectual way, and only one we know of, to arrest and prevent this and every other sort of atrocity — and that is, to burn one of the chief cities of the enemy, say Boston, Philadelphia, or Cincinnati, and let its fate hang over the others as a warning of what may be done, and what will be done to them if the present system of war on the part of the enemy is continued. If we are asked how such a thing can be done, we answer, nothing would be easier. A million of dollars would lay the proudest city of the enemy in ashes. The men to execute the work are already there. There would be no difficulty in finding there, here, or in Canada, suitable persons to take charge of the enterprise and arrange its details. Twenty men, with plans all preconcerted and means provided, selecting some dry, windy night, might fire Boston in a hundred places and wrap it in flames from center to suburb. They might retaliate on Richmond, Charleston, &c. Let them do so if they dare! It is a game at which we can beat them. New York is worth twenty Richmonds. They have a dozen towns to our one; and in their towns is centered nearly all their wealth. It would not be immoral and barbarous. It is not immoral nor barbarous to defend yourself by any means or with any weapon the enemy may employ for your destruction. They choose to substitute the torch for the sword. We may so use their own weapon as to make them repent, literally in sackcloth and ashes, that they ever adopted it. If the Executive is not ready for this, we commend the matter to the secret deliberation of the Congress about to meet.

The atrocity here recommended was actually attempted in New York, a few weeks afterward — several of the great hotels being simultaneously fired by emissaries who had taken lodgings therein for that purpose. Each was quickly extinguished, when little damage had been done.

Sheridan's rear, as he moved down

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