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Correspondence between General Butler and a feminine secessionist.

Locustville, Accomac Co., Va., March 10, 1864.
General B. F. Butler:
Sir: My school has been closed since Christmas, because, as I understood the oath required of us, I could not conscientiously take it. Having heard since then that one of your officers explains the oath as meaning simply that we consent to the acts of the United States Government, and pledge passive obedience to the same, I take the liberty of addressing this to you to ascertain if you so construe the oath. I cannot understand how a woman can “support, protect, and defend the Union,” except by speaking or writing in favor of the present war, which I could never do, because my sympathies are with the South. If by those words you understand merely passive submission, I am ready to take the oath, and abide by it sacredly.

Very respectfully,


headquarters eighteenth army corps, Department of Virginia and North-Carolina, Fortress Monroe, March 14, 1864.
my dear madam: I am truly sorry that any Union officer of mine has attempted to fritter away the effect of the oath of allegiance to the Government of the United States, and to inform you that it means nothing more than passive obedience to the same.

That officer is equally mistaken. The oath of allegiance means fealty, pledge of faith to, love, affection, and reverence for the Government, all comprised in the word patriotism, in its highest and truest sense, which every true American feels for his or her Government.

You say: “I cannot understand how a woman can support, protect, and defend the Union, except by speaking or writing in favor of the present war, which I could never do, because my sympathies are with the South.”

That last phrase, madam, shows why you cannot understand “how a woman can support, protect, and defend the Union.”

Were you loyal at heart, you would at once understand. The Southern women who are rebels understand well “how to support, protect, and defend” the Confederacy, “without either speaking or writing.” Some of them act as spies, some smuggle quinine in their underclothes, some smuggle information through the lines in their dresses, some tend sick soldiers for the Confederacy, some get up subscriptions for rebel gunboats.

Perhaps it may all be comprised in the phrase: “Where there is a will there is a way.”

Now, then, you could “support, protect, and defend the Union” by teaching the scholars of your school to love and reverence the Government, to be proud of their country, to glory in its flag, and to be true to its Constitution. But, as you don't understand that yourself, you can't teach it to them, and, therefore, I am to learn from your letter that your school has [63] been closed since Christmas, and with my consent, until you change your sentiments, and are a loyal woman in heart, it never shall be opened.

I would advise you, madam, forthwith to go where your “sympathies” are. I am only doubtful whether it is not my duty to send you.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

B. F. Butler, Major-General Commanding. To Mrs. Mary L. graves, Locustville, Accomac County, Virginia.

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