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Explanation of the rout.

And how was it that the burners of Chambersburg were thus ignominiously routed, scattered and captured by a foe whom I have said they despised. The answer is a simple one. It was through the carelessness of our commanding officer, and was inexcusable. It happened in this way, and I am again in position to give the exact facts. When we camped in the little valley, a detail was called on for picket duty. That duty fell to the lot of Lieut. Samuel G. Bonn, of my company. No truer man or more charming gentleman ever wore a saber in our cavalry than he. After the war he settled in Macon, Ga., became a prosperous merchant, and died some years ago. He went out on picket post with about 10 men, some two or three miles from our camp. This was the only guard between Averill [162] and our sleeping men, it must be remembered, that when this little band went on the outpost they were worn out with the fatigue of the nearly incessant marching for the four or five previous days and nights. So wearied were the men that after that first night's duty, Lieutenant Bonn sent word to camp and begged to be relieved, stating that his men were absolutely unfit for duty. I take it for granted this message was sent to headquarters, but whether it was or no it was an unjustifiable piece of cruelty to keep those wearied men on duty. His appeal was unheeded. He told men, after the surprise was over, that the men on the outpost actually went to sleep upon their horses and that, in addition to all this, no provisions was made for their rations.

While in this condition, just before the dawn of day, they heard the welcome sound of what they supposed was the relief picket coming from our camp, and soon they welcomed 20 or 30 troopers in gray in their midst. Their rejoicing was short-lived, for, as their supposed friends surrounded them, they quickly drew their revolvers and in an instant our men were prisoners. To run down the outpost of two men was the work of a moment and then there was nothing between Averill and the men who burned Chambersburg but a few moments of darkness and a couple of miles of dusty road. These men in gray were what in those days were known as ‘Jesse Scouts.’ They were familiar with this country—knew the little mountain roads and had clothed themselves in the Confederate gray—and had managed to slip in between our main body and the picket post and then played the part of the ‘relief.’

As we were captured we were gathered together in a circle and soon poor Bonn, with his pickets, was brought in looking unhappy and dejected. He felt keenly the responsibility of his position, but after his story was told no one ever attached any blame to him. About 500 of our brigade were captured and taken to Camp Chase, Ohio, where for eight long, miserable, weary months we bewailed the day that Chambersburg was founded, builded and burned. One more little episode in which I am happy to say I agree with Mr. Hoke's statement and I am [163] done. When we arrived at Hancock, tribute was also laid on that little town, and it was soon rumored in our regiment that in default thereof McCausland had determined to burn it. The spirit of indignation aroused by this report was intense and had the threat been carried out there would have been a fight right then and there without the participation of the boys in blue.

And now, with thanks for your patience, I can only say in conclusion what I have said in the beginning, that this is not intended as anything but what an individual Confederate saw, and that it has been written in the same spirit in which you asked for it and that is the spirit of kindness and good will. I am, very truly yours,

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Samuel G. Bonn (3)
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Fielder C. Slingluff (1)
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