previous next

A Retaliatory measure.

Now you would like to know if the men whom I have described justified the burning of your town, in their individual capacity, irrespective of the orders from headquarters, under which they acted. I must say to you frankly that they did, and I never heard one dissenting voice. And why did we justify so harsh a measure? Simply because we had long come to the conclusion that it was time for us to burn something in the enemy's country. In the campaign of the preceding year, when our whole army had passed through your richest section of country, where the peaceful homes and fruitful fields only made the contrast with what he had left the more significant, many a man whose home was in ruins chafed under the orders from General Lee, which forbade him to touch them, but the orders were obeyed, and we left the homes and fields as we found them, the ordinary wear and tear of an army of occupation alone excepted. We had so often before our eyes the reverse of this wherever your army swept through Virginia, that we were thoroughly convinced of the justice of a stern retaliation.

It is no pleasure to me to have to recall the scenes of those days, nor do I do so in any spirit of vindictiveness, but I simply tell the truth in justification of an act which Mr. Hoke claims was without justification. We had followed Kilpatrick (I think it was), in his raid through Madison, Greene and other counties, and had seen the cattle shot or hamstrung in the barnyards, the agricultural implements burned, the feather beds and clothing of the women and children cut in shreds in mere wantonness, farmhouse after farmhouse stripped of every particle of provisions, private carriages cut and broken up, and women in tears lamenting all this. I do not put down here anything that I did not see myself. We had seen a thousand ruined homes in Clark, Jefferson and Frederick counties—barns and houses burned and private property destroyed—but we had no knowledge that this was done by ‘official orders.’ At last when the [156] official order came openly from General Hunter, and the burning and done thereunder, and when our orders of retalliation came they met with the approbation, as I have said, of every man who crossed the Potomac to execute them.

Of course we had nothing personal against your pretty little town. It just so happened that it was the nearest and most accessible place of importance for us to get to. It was the unfortunate victim of circumstances. Had it been further off and some other town nearer that other town would have gone and Chambersburg have been saved.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
R. E. Lee (1)
Kilpatrick (1)
Hunter (1)
Jacob Hoke (1)
Greene (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: