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[541] Western Virginia. These laws you must maintain.

Let every citizen, without reference to past political opinions, unite with his neighbors to keep those laws in operation, and thus prevent the country from being desolated by plunder and violence, whether committed in the name of Secessionism or Unionism.

I conjure all those who have hitherto advocated the doctrine of secessionism, as a political opinion, to consider that now its advocacy means war against the peace and interests of Western Virginia; it is an invitation to the Southern Confederates to come in and subdue you, and proclaims that there can be no law nor right until this is done.

My mission among you is that of a fellow-citizen, charged by the Government to expel the arbitrary force which domineered over you, to restore that law and order of which you have been robbed, and to maintain your right to govern yourselves under the Constitution and laws of the United States.

To put an end to the savage war waged by individuals, who, without warrant of military authority, lurk in the bushes and waylay messengers, or shoot sentries, I shall be obliged to hold the neighborhood in which these outrages are committed as responsible, and, unless they raise the hue and cry and pursue the offenders, deal with them as accessories to the crime.

Unarmed and peaceful citizens shall be protected, the rights of private property respected, and only those who are found enemies of the Government of the United States, and the peace of Western Virginia, will be disturbed. Of these I shall require absolute certainty that they will do no mischief.

Put a stop to needless arrests and the spread of malicious reports. Let each town and district choose five of its most reliable and energetic citizens a Committee of Public Safety, to act in concert with the civil and military authorities, and be responsible for the preservation of peace and good order.

Citizens of Western Virginia, your fate is mainly in your own hands. If you allow yourselves to be trampled under foot by hordes of disturbers, plunderers, and murderers, your land will become a desolation. If you stand firm for law and order, and maintain your rights, you may dwell together peacefully and happily as in former days.

W. S. Rosecrans, Brig.-Gun. Commanding A. O. W. V.

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