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.
reports this devastation, in a dispatch to Grant
, as follows:
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.
's rear, as he moved down