Confederate Congress, as well as of the United States Congress, and Edmund I. Lee, a distant relative of General Lee, all in Jefferson County, with their contents, had been burned by his orders, only time enough being given for the ladies to get out of the houses. A number of towns in the South, as well as private country-houses, had been burned by Federal troops, and the accounts had been heralded forth in some of the Northern papers in terms of exaltation, and gloated over by their readers, while they were received with apathy by others. I now came to the conclusion that we had stood this mode of warfare long enough, and that it was time to open the eyes of the people of the North to its enormity by an example in the way of retaliation. I did not select the cases mentioned as having more merit or greater claims for retaliation than others, but because they had occurred within the limits of the country covered by my command, and were brought more immediately to my attention.1 The town of Chambersburg was selected as the one on which retaliation should be made, and McCausland was ordered to proceed with his brigade and that of Johnson's and a battery of artillery to that place, and demand of the municipal authorities the sum of one hundred thousand dollars in gold, or five hundred thousand dollars in United States currency, as a compensation for the destruction of the houses named and their contents; and in default of payment to lay the town in ashes, in retaliation for the burning of those houses and others in Virginia, as well as for the towns which had been burned in other Southern States. A written demand to that effect was also sent to the municipal authorities, and they were informed what would be the result of a failure or a refusal to comply with it. I desired to give the people of Chambersburg an opportunity of saving their town, by making compensation for part of the injury done, and hoped that the payment of such a sum would have the desired effect, and open the eyes of people of other towns at the North to the necessity of urging upon their Government the adoption of a different policy. On July 30th McCausland reached Chambersburg, and made the demand as directed, reading to such of the authorities as presented themselves the paper sent by me. The demand was not complied with, the people stating that they were not afraid of having their town burned, and that a Federal force was approaching. The policy pursued by our army on former occasions had been so lenient that they did not suppose the threat was in earnest at this time, and they hoped for speedy relief. McCausland, however, proceeded to carry out his orders, and the greater part of the town was laid in ashes. He then moved in the direction of Cumberland, but found it defended by a strong force. He then withdrew
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1 ‘I had often seen delicate ladies who had been plundered, insulted, and rendered desolate by the acts of our most atrocious enemies, and, while they did not call for it, yet in the anguished expressions of their features while narrating their misfortunes, there was a mute appeal to every manly sentiment of my bosom for retribution, which I could no longer withstand. On my passage through the lower Valley into Maryland, a lady had said to me, with tears in her eyes: “Our lot is a hard one, and we see no peace; but there are a few green spots in our lives, and they are when the Confederate soldiers come along and we can do something for them.” May God defend and bless these noble women of the Valley, who so often ministered to the wounded, sick, and dying Confederate soldiers, and gave their last morsel of bread to the hungry! They bore with heroic courage the privations, sufferings, persecutions, and dangers to which the war, which was constantly waged in their midst, exposed them, and upon no portion of the Southern people did the disasters, which finally befell our army and country, fall with more crushing effect than on them.’
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