An Atrocious Edict.
--The commanding officer
of the U. S. Steamer Winona
, Lieut. E. T. Nichols
lately addressed an insolent letter to the authorities of Rodney, Miss.
, of which the following is an extract:
You are doubtless aware that the town of Grand Gull was fired upon a short time since by some of the vessels of the United States Government as a punishment for permitting a battery to fire upon some of our transport steamers while passing down.
I deem it my duty to inform you that should any battery or artillery fire upon any of our vessels while passing up or down from or near the town of Rodney
, the punishment for the offence will be visited on the town.
We are not here to war upon unarmed or peaceable persons, and we would deprecate any event compelling us to fire upon the property of inoffensive people.
This infamous letter was replied to by Major Gen. Lovell
, as follows:
When two nations are at war, it has become customary among civilized people "to punish the offence" of an attack by the armed forces of one upon those of the other by a combat with the attacking party.
If such attack be made from a town, the assaulting party is not entitled to, and, so far as our troops are concerned, does not claim any immunity by reason of the presence of women and children; what we do claim, however, and insist upon, is that whenever your vessels or transports are fired into by our troops, they shall not fasten to the nearest collection of ‘"unarmed and peaceable"’ women and children, and wreak their vengeance upon them, as was done lately at Grand Gulf
by United States
vessels in retaliation for an attack with which the town had nothing more to do than had the city of St. Louis
My batteries are located at such points upon the river as are deemed best suited for the desired purposes, and without reference to, or connection with, the people of the towns.
Should the site happen to fall within a village, you, of course, are at liberty to return the fire; should it be in the vicinity of one, however, the usages of civilized warfare do not justify its destruction unless demanded by the necessities of attack or defence.
I cannot bring myself to believe that the barbarous and cowardly policy indicated in the enclosed letter will meet with the approval of any officer of rank or standing in the U. S. Navy.
I have therefore thought proper to transmit it to you under a flag of truce, with the confident expectation that you will direct those under your command to confine their offensive operations as far as possible to our troops, and forbid the wanton destruction of defenseless towns, filled with unoffending non-combatants, unless required by imperious military necessity.
The practice of slaying women and children as act of retaliation, has happily fallen into disuse in this country with the disappearance of the Indian
tribes, and I trust it will not be revived by the officers of the United States Navy, but that the demolition and plunder of the unoffending little village of Grand Gulf
may be permitted to stand alone and without parallel upon the record.