previous next

The Yankees in Stafford.
their conduct during the "occupation," &c.

[correspondence of Richmond Dispatch.]
Stafford County, Va., June 17th, 1863.
The long agony is over! "Othello's 'occupation' gone." Black Republican rule and ruin of this once fertile section terminated, and, we trust, forever. No longer are sight and sense outraged by Yankee presence or Yankee insolence. No longer do the high hills of Stafford reverberate with the sound of the invader's cannon, or her quiet valleys echo to the tramp of the blue-coated vandals. Free as their own free air, rescued and disenthralled, the galling chain of tyrannical usurpation broken into fragments by Southern swords, with the bitter memory of terrible wrongs, and the barren wastes of present desolation within and around them, the long-suffering inhabitants of this old Virginia county can only exult in their deliverance, and exhibit with cheerful heroism the effects of their constancy to the great principles and the glorious cause of our beloved Confederacy.

As a participant in the endurance of the past seven months, allow me a few paragraphs on Yankee occupation in this vicinity. I only fear the Anglo-Saxon tongue, though its distinguishing characteristic is force, will scarcely furnish a sufficient vocabulary of infamy with which to portray the winter and spring campaign of the Grand Army of the Potomac upon unprotected homes, cultivated farms, Confederate woods, and non-combatants generally, physical, agricultural and material. With some few exceptions, locality and an efficient guard the restraining cause, every estate within the enemy's lines has been injured; crops, if any on them, "appropriated," (i. e, stolen,) leaving simply a bare subsistence — a certain number of bushels of corn per head; horses and cattle, left from the last occupation, again carried off; pigs and calves killed and devoured by nightly marauders; flocks unmercifully sheared by Yankee cut throats, and poultry gone the way of all fowl, without leave or license or knowledge of the owners. Depredation was the order of the day and night. Forests have been levelled and wholly disappeared before the axe of the soldier. Scarcely a tree is visible for miles on the Potomac and far back into the country. --On one farm, thickly wooded, but ten trees are left; others have not one; and apart from the immense amount of firewood used by the enemy in camp, it is estimated that hundreds of cords were conveyed to Washington by speculators for their profit and our loss — a novel and involuntary mode of heaping coals of fire upon the heads of our foes. Cultivation in many places, and almost habitation, has been rendered temporarily impossible.

In my immediate vicinity, private residences have escaped internal desecration and pillage, but a number have not been so fortunate. On the slightest pretext houses have been searched, rifled of their contents, partially destroyed or burned. Others have been seized as hospitals, and occupied for weeks by the miserable wounded wretches and their callous, indifferent surgeons. Imagine a home of refinement and peace suddenly become the scene of furious conflict, the centre of opposing batteries, and all the fearful carnage of a battle-field; and then, if unharmed by shot and shell, taken as a slaughter house, the inmates compelled to crowd into one or two apartments, the rest within and without filled with mangled enemies, on the beds, sofas, floors, or the ground, their amputated limbs and flowing blood visible on every side, night made hideous by the dying groans of Yankee invaders, and day only more horrible with the sight as well as sound of their writhing agonies.

The battle is terrible; but from the hospital, good Lord, deliver us! This is one of the dark scenes. Privations, trials, annoyances of hourly occurrence, tested patience to its limit. Suspicion and surveillance constantly excited and exercised with ceaseless activity by pickets and officers. Threatened arrests were continual. To one residence, of which the only inmates were ladies and children, the Commanding General sent a written order that if any more signals were made to the "rebels" opposite, the house and all the out buildings would be immediately burned.--Without proof that any such had been made, and with the knowledge that they neither could nor would be under existing circumstances, the Yankee General issues his brutal threat. At another abode the ladies were told by an officer that if any lights were visible from the windows at night the whole family would be arrested. In King George, as well as Stafford, when an army movement was anticipated, all gentlemen three miles outside of the lines were arrested and required to take the oath of allegiance or be sent to Washington. Though not exposed to unexpected raids, our situation was very much that of a continual one. We were already desolated, and beheld the evidence of the pillage of the Northern Neck in the gangs of negroes and numbers of horses rifled from the women and children, the rich and poor, of that recently-visited section. A gentleman remarked the other day that in a part of the country twelve miles square there was but one horse and two worthless mules left. Physicians' horses shared the fate of all others. In regard to Kilpatrick's late thieving expedition, one Federal officer said to a Confederate lady, "it was most disgraceful, and would be strictly inquired into." The astonished lady replied that it was but in keeping with the actions of the Yankees wherever they had penetrated, and her own experience verified it as a customary style of Yankee warfare. Stealing and Yankee were synonymous terms to Confederate ears.

Such, in brief, (for particulars would make a volume,) are some of the inducements to reconstruction and Union pursued in the occupation district. The inevitable results you know. Retribution will not be long delayed. Indignation and wrath swells every Southern heart at the recital of unmitigated cruelties, unprovoked insults, and aggravated wrongs. Let tribulation and anguish be meted out in no small measure to our wicked and barbarous foes. The Yankee is an outrage on humanity — a crime against civilization. The war he wages is a sin against God as well as a tyranny to man. Let him feel in his own home what war is. If the hosts of his slain cannot quench the insane thirst for subjugation, let desolated lands and blazing cities in the track of Confederate armies waken his fear of retaliation and startle his avaricious soul. It is necessary, it is just, it is unavoidable. Present and future have but one aim, one hope, one determination, which animates and energizes every Southern heart — Independence. And only thus can it be accomplished.

I know that even now, with the indomitable tenacity of a noble purpose, our hero-leaders press forward to their crowning work. Faith, valor, and victory, are theirs. And the field is almost won! Already the distant murmur of that glorious shout of triumph comes to our expectant ears. On every breeze swells the note of proud achievement, the herald of final and fulfilled success. The day is breaking, the shadows flee away. True, we have had our night of sorrow and suffering, and the "perfect day" still lingers amid the encompassing clouds of strife which yet darken our horizon; but the clear light is there, and we wait in calm assurance its gladdening, glorious beam. "Joy cometh in the morning." Though our joy, national and individual, will be always softened by the memory of our noble dead, by the tender sadness that must ever mourn the loss of our beloved General, our gallant Stonewall, I little thought when the victorious guns at Chancellorsville sent their thunders to our hills, that soon we should be sorrowing for our hero, that a life so precious should be closed; his work all done; his last, greatest battle gained, and from the summit of earthly honor and human admiration, our best and bravest should be called to come up higher. It is hard to say, "Thy will be done," when he is taken. There is no second Jackson. Like the aloe plant, it needs a century of growth to produce in perfect development such a specimen of manhood, such a combination of great qualities, in symmetrical proportion and adjustment Language can never portray the chieftain or express the grief of his countrymen, but every heart in the Confederacy hallows his name and embalms his deeds with unfading, reverential love and tenderness. He has become one of "the great heir's of memory." Dying in his prime, when the blossom of promise yet hung on the bough beside the matured fruit, we may the words of energy over him that were spoken of a former genius and benefactor--"From his grave comes forth the breath of his power, and strengthens us, awakening in us the most ardent impulse to continue lovingly, forever and ever, the work which he began. Thus he will ever live for his nation and the human race, in that which he accomplished and planned." --Stonewall is dead, but the cause lives, and his name and fame are bound up in its vindication. A sacrifice to its sacred principles as truly as if an invader's bullet had laid him low, his blood cries from the soil of our dear mother State to even stronger efforts and more heroin action in sustaining the grand and holy faith for which he prayed and fought and fell. Jackson's men have even a greater incentive than before to conquer or die. The thought of him will nerve them to superhuman endurance and courage. "Charge, and remember Jackson!" will be their battle cry of victory, before which no foe can stand an instant. His spirit will still animate them, and the host of noble leaders left us continue to realize and illustrate as he did Nelson's proud motto: Palmam quimeruit ferat. The Yankees say Southern men fight like devils. They are mistaken. Much as their action is calculated to rouse the fiercest passions of hatred and revenge, and often as their dense masses have been swept to destruction by the terrible onslaught of Southern soldiery, it is "Dieu et mon droit" that the Southerner is contending for with such unyielding and defiant heroism. Not like devils, but like Heaven-inspired champions, do such men fight. The principles of constitutional liberty and the faith of a pare Christianity have been intrusted to their arms. And where or how can they falter or fail when such the contest and such the reward?

‘ "For Right is Right, since God it God;
And Right the day must win;
To doubt would be disloyalty,
To falter would be sin."

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)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Stafford Court House (Virginia, United States) (2)
Stafford (Virginia, United States) (1)
Chancellorsville (Virginia, United States) (1)
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.
Jackson (2)
Stonewall (1)
Stafford (1)
Saxon (1)
Physicians (1)
Nelson (1)
Kilpatrick (1)
Dieu (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
June 17th, 1863 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: