a glance at the trials of the Loyal people of the Valley
— a Plan of organization for defence.
for the first time for months I have been able to get a Dispatch,
and am scarcely less pleased with the face of my old friend than with the tone of the editorial encouraging our people to organize for local protection.
Many have been desirous to do so in this neighborhood, but have failed so far from our condition not being clearly understood by our commission granting powers; and the armed man caught here without the protection of being in the regular service receives the full benefit of Averill
as this region has been several times, and may be again, occupied by the enemy, and as this enemy is tolerably unscrupulous, we have a large proportion of time serving people, who try to "run with the hare and hunt with the hounds." most of these people live in Winchester
, and oppose any step which may lead some Milroy
like gentleman to appropriate their parlor furniture, or to stop the supplies of delicacies and they are in the habit of receiving through the hands of sons, daughters kindred or friends in Yankeedom for they show the liveliest regard for the domestic and social ties strained, but not severed, by this unnatural war. These gentlemen, whose private and safely-invested fortunes allow them to take time to wide, while we plundered country folk struggle for life, have, unfortunately, an undue influence, or rather have their assertions believed because nothing is said in contradiction of them.
Their main argument strongly resembles that of the wolves to the sheep, and, so fat, we country people have paid the sheep's penalty.
Grave men, acquainted with history, soberly say "if we keep a few men mere, it will only provoke the Yankees
; it will therefore be better not to have any, and then, these will not be likely to do us so much harm," as if they would not do us all the harm possible, under any circumstances.
In town, the number of witnesses and interference of Union men, who fear retaliation, protect property to a certain extent — though half a dozen Yankees may do as they please there, and no citizen will dare to oppose them.-- but in the country, where there are no witnesses, and very few Union people, the will of the officers is the only restraint upon the acts of their commands, and the grossest outrages, robberies, and murders have been committed with impunity.--the sufferers have in many instances handed together to avenge their wrongs, to harass these bands of marauders, and to try to get back enough from those who have plundered them to keep their families from nakedness and starvation.
Sometimes the Yankees
receive information from, or are guided by, Union men belonging to the neighborhood, who also carry, or get the Yankees
to carry, their grain, &c., to the enemy's posts.
When our men discover these acts, they do not scruple to take the offenders' horses, but woe to them if the tender conscience (in wrongs towards Yankees) town people discover it. Complaints are at once sent to Martinsburg and to the South, bach,
against them, and the man whose aged father has been incurred, and gray haired mother outraged by these Yankee miscreants, is denounced as a common cut threat and horse thief, because he way lays.
Yankees wherever and whenever he can, and has taken the horse of a man who had a Union flag upon his house, made parties for the Yankees
, rode with them himself, had his wife and daughters going about constantly with or among them, and kept employees who betrayed our soldiers to the enemy.
This is not a suppositional case, but one which I know to be true, and is only one of many.
Fortunately "the voice of others in praise or blame" does not entirely deprive us of the only protection we solitary country families have for months at a time.
And could you see the glad faces, hear the hearty welcome, and fervent "God bless and keep you safe," which greet and follow these hunted men when one ventures to a house — which would be burnt if known to shelter him — see the women take the covers from their beds and cut up their own flannel clothes to make him shirts, you would under stand how, in spite of misrepresentations, they keep the field and fight for those who can only reward them by sharing the little that is left to any who will not stoop to the baseness of seeking Yankee protection at the expense of conscience, which little the Yankee
bushwhacked aloud keeps them from leaving the main roads to carry off or destroy.
Here a home guard would be different from what it would be with you. We could not only protect ourselves against small bands, but could harass the enemy's border, which is only a three hours easy ride from us. After thinking over the matter, and talking freely with those who know by experience what we want.
I have set down the following as the main points, and wish from my soul, I had power to impress them upon these who, by a stroke of the pen, can place as where, if taken, we will not be killed, as poor Edwards
was a short time ago, but be regarded as prisoners of war:
a plan to organize the Bordermen of the Valley of Virginia.
None shall engage in this service except those who are from age, or physical disability, exempt from conscription, or are the only male members over sixteen years of age in families living in the border counties.
- 2. These men shall equip and support themselves, and shall be kept together, or be allowed to stay at home, at the discretion of their commanding officer.
They must have agreed upon signals and places of meeting.
- 3. They shall not be required to leave that part of the Valley extending from Strasburg to the Potomac: but may do so if they choose.
- 4. They shall select their own officers, and the relations between officers and men shall be the same as in all other branches of the service.
The men shall be subject to their own officers only, and the officers shall be responsible to the General commanding this Department.
- 5. After retaining enough for themselves, they shall hand over all captured arms, horses, supplies, &c. to the Government, receiving a stipulated price in return.
The officer so handing over, shall declare upon his honor, that he has kept back no more than is necessary for his command.
- 6. In paying for captured articles, one tenth of their value shall be given to the captain, and the remaining nine-tenths be divided equality between him and his men.
They shall furnish guides and scouts through the region from Strasbourg to the Potomac whenever required to do so by a written order from the General commanding this department.
- 8. Every commanding officer shall, upon receiving important information regarding the movements of the enemy, immediately send a report thereof to the commander of the nearest regular force — the bearer receiving the pay and radons of a cavalry man while performing the duty.
- 9. Whenever performing duty under orders of the General commanding in the department, they shall receive the pay and rations of cavalrymen.
It may be necessary to explain some parts more fully.
The men must be allowed to choose their own officers, because in such hazardous service they will not follow any except these in whom they have perfect confidence, and this confidence can only be felt towards those whom experience has taught them to trust.
The one man over sixteen in each border family is intended for those who have helpless families dependent upon them who cannot and will not go into the regular service, because they will leave them exposed to want and outrage.
To give you some idea of these outrages, yesterday about two hundred Yankees went to the house of Mr. James Jones
and destroyed everything in it, because they "harbored rebels"--that is, fed and sheltered their own sons when they came home from our army to see their mother.
And we must not provoke these men by keeping soldiers here, lest they should do us more harm!
You may wonder why the people here do not move South.
We have no hearses, and no money to pay the ruinous prices charged there for food, and think it better to live on our enemies here than to go there to be the recipients of the cold charity of strangers.
Living where even most delicately nurtured women have to perform the duties of men, and to undergo the sufferings and privations of soldiers, do not judge too harshly if so rough a life show somewhat plainly in the rough speech of a