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Fire, sword, and the halter.

General J. D. Imboden.
The years 1862 and 1864 were the most eventful of the war in the Shenandoah Valley. During the spring of the first, “StonewallJackson made his famous twenty-eight days campaign, with 13,000 men, against Generals Milroy, Banks, Fremont and Shields, driving them all out of the valley, with their aggregate forces of about 64,000 men. In 1864 the Federal operations were conducted successively by Generals Sigel, Hunter and Sheridan, when that splendid valley was desolated and scourged with fire and sword. It is proposed in this paper merely to give some account of General David Hunter's performances during his brief command in June and July, 1864, of the Federal forces in the Valley, and to lay before the people of this country, and especially of the Northern States, some facts that may explain why here and there are still found traces of bitter feeling in many a household in the South, not against the government of the United States, but against some of the agents and means employed by them in the name of the government, to crown their arms with success. As long as the present race inhabiting that famous and glorious Valley, and their descendants, retain the characteristics that inspired them with unbounded admiration for, and heroic devotion to, Lee and Jackson, as their ideals of Christian soldiers, the memory of General David Hunter will live and be handed down through the generations to come — it may be, in the long future, only by legend and tradition — in connection with deeds that illustrate how far the passions, fanaticism, and hate engendered by civil war can drag a man down, from the boasted civilization of our age and country, to tile [170] barbarism and implacable personal animosities of that long period of cruel persecution, oppression, and outrage which, by the common consent of mankind, we denominate “The dark ages.” These are strong expressions, but if the facts to be detailed do not justify them, then the people of the Shenandoah Valley, from whom General Hunter sprung, as an offshoot-transplanted to New Jersey--of one of the most honorable, numerous and distinguished family connections in Virginia, have lost the high sense of justice and love of right which even political opponents and belligerent enemies have freely accorded them in peace and war. What I write is history-every fact detailed is true, indisputably true, and sustained by evidence, both Confederate and Federal, that no man living can gainsay, and a denial is boldly challenged, with the assurance that I hold the proofs ready for production whenever, wherever, and however required. Perhaps no one now living was in a better. position to know, at the time of their occurrence, all the details of these transactions than myself.

On the 21st of July, 1863, after General Lee had withdrawn his army from the battle-field of Gettysburg to Virginia, he, by special order, assigned me to the command of “The Valley District,” in Virginia. The “district” embraced all that part of Virginia west of the Blue Ridge Mountain, and so far to the southwest as the James river, in Bottetourt county. It was created as a separate territorial command in 1861-2, for General Jackson, and continued as such after his death up to the close of the war. I held the command of the district up to December, 1864, except at short intervals, when the exigencies of the service required a larger body of troops than I had to be sent into the Valley, under officers of higher rank, who, of course, would assume command of me and the district till called away, when it would revert to me again. The position I thus held in my native valley and among my own people, not only made me cognizant of all that transpired when in command myself, but when officers in higher rank and their troops were sent to defend the Valley, they naturally looked to me for information about the enemy and his doings, and consulted freely with me; so that I knew everything that was going on on our side, and I had a hand in it.

Sigel's defeat at New Market, on the 15th of May, 1864, by a force less than one-half his own, proved in the end a great calamity to the people of the Valley, as it undoubtedly led to a change of Federal commanders; and the women and children of that country who experienced the mild military rule of the gentlemanly and [171] brave German, and of General Hunter successively, had cause to regret that the former lost his command by a disastrous conflict with their husbands, brothers and fathers at New Market, where men fought men from “early morn till dewy eve,” and a successor was appointed, who soon enlarged the field of martial enterprise till it embraced as fit objects of his valor and his vengeance the helpless, unarmed and defenseless: decrepid age, gentle womanhood, and innocent childhood sharing alike the unpitying hostility of an army commander whose prototype their Scotch-Irish ancestors had taught them to abhor by the traditions they had brought over of the career of Claverhouse on the Scottish border — a man whose deeds in the end proved no small impediment to the union of England and Scotland, because of the bitter animosities their cruel nature had excited to such a degree that even time had failed to obliterate them.

About the 1st of June, Hunter, having been reinforced to the full extent of Sigel's losses in men and munitions, began his advance upon Strasburg, up the Valley toward Staunton; Averill and Crook moving simultaneously from the Kanawha region, in West Virginia, so as to effect the junction of all their forces about the middle of the month at Staunton, and thence move on Lynchburg. When Hunter tookup his line of march, I had less than one thousand Confederate soldiers in the Valley, General Breckenridge having not only withdrawn his own troops after the battle of New Market, but taking also my largest regiment, the Sixty-second Virginia, to the aid of General Lee, who was sorely pressed by General Grant with overwhelming numbers on that memorable march from the Rappahannock to the James. Having full information of the combined movements of Hunter, Crook, and Averill, and of their strength and purpose to unite in the Valley, I communicated it to General Lee and the Confederate Secretary of War, announcing my utter inability to cope with them successfully with only about one thousand veteran soldiers. General Lee informed me that he could not then send me any assistance from the army near Richmond, but would direct General William E. Jones, who was in Southwestern Virginia, to come to my aid with every available man he could raise; and that I might retard Hunter's advance as much as possible, he ordered me to call out the “reserves” of Rockingham and Augusta counties. These “reserves” were an improvised militia force composed of old men over fifty years of age, and boys between sixteen and eighteen, and were armed with shot-guns, hunting rifles and such odds and ends of firearms as a state of war had scattered through the country. To this order about seven hundred old men and boys responded, [172] chiefly mounted, and that generally on farm work-horses. My policy was to avoid a collision with any larger body of Hunter's troops than his advance guard, and to inform the people that we were falling back slowly in expectation of large reinforcements then on their way to my support. I knew that any such statement would be repeated to the enemy, and cause him to advance with great caution. On the afternoon of the 2d we had our first skirmish near Lacy Springs, a few miles north of Harrisonburg. The next day, I was pressed so hard that I had to fall back to the south bank of the North river, at Mount Crawford, seventeen miles from Staunton, losing a few men killed and wounded during the afternoon. Hunter camped at Harrisonburg. I made a rather ostentatious display of a purpose to dispute seriously the passage of the river next day, by throwing up some works on the hill tops overlooking the bridge and felling trees in the fords for several miles above and below.

During the night about two thousand men, sent forward by General Jones, joined me. To my dismay I found they were not generally organized in bodies larger than battalions, and in companies and fragments of companies hastily collected from Southwestern Virginia, between Lynchburg and Tennessee, and in large part indifferently armed. Indeed, many of the men were convalescents taken from the hospitals, and furloughed dismounted cavalrymen who had gone home for a remount, and were taken possession of by General Jones wherever he could find them, and hurried by rail through Lynchburg and Staunton to the front. I spent the entire night of the 3d in obtaining a list of all these small bodies of men, out of which by daybreak on the 4th I had composed, on.paper, two brigades and assigned officers to their command. General Jones arrived at my headquarters a little after sunrise, and on reviewing my operations on paper, he adopted them, and at an early hour in the morning the various detachments were aggregated in their respective temporary brigades. During the day General Vaughan, of Tennessee, with from six hundred to eight hundred of his greatly reduced brigade, also joined us. We now had a force of something over four thousand men, including one regular and excellent six-gun battery, and one extemporized artillery company of “reserves,” from Staunton, with five guns. Hunter, with eleven thousand superbly-appointed troops of all arms, was only eight miles distant in our front, and Crook and Averill, with seven thousand more, only two days march in our rear; the two bodies rapidly approaching each other, and we between them in the condition I have just described, and with no hope of further assistance. Obviously our policy was [173] to fight Hunter at the earliest moment, and possibly defeat him, and then turn upon Crook and Averill and do the best we could. Generals Jones, Vaughan and myself were all of the same grade brigadiers, Jones being the senior by a few months, and Vaughan ranking me also by a little older commission than mine. Jones, of course, assumed the command. He was an old army officer, brave as a lion, and had seen much service, and was known as a hard fighter. He was a man, however, of high temper, morose and fretful to such a degree that he was known by the soubriquet of “Grumble Jones.” He held the fighting qualities of the enemy in great contempt, and never would admit the possibility of defeat where the odds against him were not much over two to one. So that when he took command of our little army, consisting of only a part of my brigade, not over one thousand men; Vaughan's Brigade, six hundred to eight hundred men; the two temporary conglomerate brigades under Colonels Brown and Jones, of about one thousand men each, and about seven hundred “reserves,” a total of between four thousand and four thousand five hundred men, including the two batteries, he was entirely confident that he could whip Hunter. We fully expected an attack early on the morning of the 4th. The enemy not appearing, however, up to ten o'clock, I sent a regiment of cavalry — the Eighteenth Virginia, under Colonel George W. Imboden--to Hunter's side of the river to find out what he was doing. In a couple of hours it was ascertained that he had left the main road leading from Winchester to Staunton, and was marching to the southeastward to Port Republic, at the junction of the North and South rivers, which unite there near the foot of the Blue Ridge and form the Shenandoah. This flank movement disappointed and somewhat disconcerted General Jones. It imposed on him the necessity of a night march over roads he had never seen to get in position between Port Republic and Staunton.

As we were in my native county, Augusta, I knew every road, and almost every farm over which Hunter would pass. I did not, therefore, hesitate to urge on General Jones to let me select the point of conflict with Hunter. He consented to this, and I chose the crest of what is known as “Mowry's hill,” an eminence overlooking the beautiful little vale of Long Meadow run, about eight miles northeast of Staunton. To this ground Jones decided to move on the night of the 4th, and in the morning throw up some works to cover our most vulnerable points. He ordered me to place my cavalry close in front of Hunter during the night, as we knew he would camp at Port Republic, and to avoid any risky engagement in the morning, [174] to obstruct his advance as much as I could, so as to give our infantry time to strengthen their position as much as possible before the general battle, which we expected to come off about noon on the 5th. I took position during the night about two miles from Hunter's outposts. He began his march about daybreak, and by sunrise we came in collision with his cavalry so unexpectedly that I became more seriously engaged than I intended or my instructions warranted, and had great difficulty in extricating my command from what, for a little while, was a most perilous position. As it was, I lost one of my best companies, Captain F. M. Imboden's, of the Eighteenth Virginia Cavalry, which was cut off from all support, overpowered and captured.

Our next stand was made near Piedmont, where, to my amazement and against my solemn and angry protest, General Jones had decided to fight, instead of at Mowry's hill, three miles further back. We were formed in echelon, leaving a gap of nearly four hundred yards between our right and left wings. The two first assaults made on our left wing, where Jones commanded in person, were gallantly repulsed, but General Hunter discovering the fatal gap in our line between the right and left wings, rapidly formed a column of attack under cover of some woods, and, sweeping rapidly down on our exposed centre, pierced the line at this point, and striking the right flank of our left wing, doubled the line back on itself, resulting in the wildest confusion and great loss to us. The brave and gallant Jones was instantly killed when most heroically endeavoring to change his alignment to receive the blow he saw descending so portentously on his centre. A braver soldier never lived, and had he survived that day I doubt not he would have manfully admitted the error his over-confidence led him into. I never learned the reason for his change of plans, but infer that it was occasioned by a telegram he had received the night before from General Lee, and which the enemy found on his body, to the effect that no additional troops could be sent to the Valley for several days, and he must therefore fight Hunter as quickly as possible, and beat him back before Crook's and Averill's advent on the scene; and as Hunter had the day before flanked our position at Mount Crawford, making considerable detour by way of Port Republic, I think Jones concluded that his opponent sought to evade a conflict till the last possible moment, thus increasing the probabilities of a junction with Crook and Averill; and that if such was his purpose he would either not attack us at Mowry's hill, or would seek to flank it by another detour either to the right or left. Reasoning thus, and entirely confident that if he could [175] engage Hunter anywhere that day he could beat him, he disregarded topographical considerations of advantage, and sought his enemy at the nearest point.

Our loss was over 1,500 in killed, wounded and captured, but if the pursuit had been more vigorous it would have been far worse for us. The cavalry did make a demonstration after the battle, but my cavalry brigade, and about seventy-five or eighty Tennessee riflemen on foot, and McClanahan's six-gun battery, arrested their charge and drove them back, when we were permitted to move off without further molestation. The next day Hunter proceeded to Staunton, only eleven miles from the battle-field, and was there joined by Crook and Averill, increasing his force to some 18,000 men. We camped that night at Fisherville, seven miles east of Staunton, on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, and next morning fell back to Waynesborough, at the western base of the Blue Ridge, where we supposed Hunter would attempt to cross Rockfish Gap on his way to Lynchburg. Up to his occupation of Staunton, where his army was so much strengthened by Crook and Averill as to relieve his mind of all apprehension of disaster, his conduct had been soldiery, striking his blows only at armed men. But at Staunton he commenced burning private property, and, as will be seen further on, the passion for house-burning grew upon him, and a new system of warfare was inaugurated that a few weeks afterward culminated in the retaliatory burning of Chambersburg. At Staunton his incendiary appetite was appeased by the burning of a large woolen mill that gave employment to many poor women and children, and a large steam flouring mill, and the railway buildings. He made inquiries, it was said, for my own residence; but as I had sold it, a few months before, to a man of “loyal” proclivities, it was spared.

Hunter remained two or three days at Staunton, and on the 9th of June moved toward Lexington, on his route to Lynchburg. On the 8th, General Breckenridge arrived at Rockfish Gap with a small force drawn from General Lee's army, and assumed command, and immediately began preparing for the defense of Lynchburg. General John McCausland, with his cavalry brigade, was ordered to keep in front of Hunter, and delay and harass him as much as possible, a task which he performed with signal ability, skill, and bravery. Hunter having sent General Duffie, with the brigade under his command, into the county of Nelson, east of the Blue Ridge and south of Rockfish Gap, I was ordered in pursuit and to protect Lynchburg, which was almost defenseless, from surprise by this cavalry detachment. The people of Nelson and Amherst [176] counties, never having had the enemy before in their midst, were greatly excited and alarmed, and brought to me the wildest reports of the enemy's doings, and the most exaggerated accounts of his strength. Such information embarrassed me so much from its apparently authentic and yet often contradictory character that I decided to reach Lynchburg as soon as possible, and by a route that would enable me to save from destruction the bridges on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, one of the lines of communication between Richmond and Lynchburg essential to the defense of the latter. I accomplished this object, but failed to encounter Duffie, who recrossed the mountains and joined Hunter at Lexington. On his march from Staunton to Lexington, when near Brownsburg, General Hunter ordered a thing to be done, so abhorrent to all our ideas of war between Christian and civilized powers, that a simple recital of the facts, without further comment, will answer all the purposes of history.

At the breaking out of the war, David S. Creigh, an old man of the highest social position, the father of eleven sons and daughters, beloved by all who knew them for their virtues and intelligence, resided on his estate, near Lewisburg, in Greenbrier county. His reputation was of the highest order. No man in the large county of Greenbrier was better known or more esteemed; few, if any, had more influence. Beside offices of high public trust in civil life, he was an elder in the Presbyterian church of Lewisburg, one of the largest and most respectable in the Synod of Virginia. In the early part of November, 1863, there being a Federal force near Lewisburg, Mr. Creigh, on entering his house one day, found a drunken and dissolute soldier there using the most insulting language to his wife and daughters, and at the same time breaking open trunks and drawers, and helping himself to their contents. At the moment Mr. Creigh entered, the ruffian was attempting to force the trunk of a young lady teacher in the family. Mr. Creigh asked him to desist, stating that it was the property of a lady under his protection. The villain, rising from the trunk, immediately drew a pistol, cocked it, pointed it at Mr. Creigh, and exclaimed: “Go out of this room. What are you doing here? Bring me the keys.” Mr. Creigh attempted to defend himself and family, but a pistol he tried to use for the purpose snapped at the instant the robber fired at him, the ball grazing his face and burying itself in the wall. They then grappled, struggled into the passage, and tumbled down stairs, the robber on top. They rose, and Mr. Creigh attempted to wrest the pistol from the hands of his adversary, when it was [177] accidentally discharged, and the latter wounded. They struggled into the portico, where the ruffian again shot at Mr. Creigh, when a negro woman, who saw it all, run up with an axe in her hand, and begged her master to use it. He took it from her and dispatched the robber. After consultation and advice with friends it was decided to bury the body, and say nothing about it.

The troops left the neighborhood, and did not return till June, 1864, when they were going through to join Hunter. A negro belonging to a neighbor, having heard of the matter, went to their camp and told it. Search was made, the remains found, and Mr. Creigh was arrested. He made a candid statement of the whole matter, and begged to be permitted to introduce witnesses to prove the facts, which was refused, and he was marched off with the army, to be turned over to General Hunter, at Staunton. On the 10th of June, Hunter camped near Brownsburg, on the farm of the Rev. James Morrison. About dark, a rather elderly man knocked at the door, announcing himself as the Rev. Mr. Osborn, of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, a chaplain in the army. He requested to see Mr. Morrison, stating that they had with the army a citizen of Greenbrier, whose name was Creigh, who was about to be executed; his doom had just been announced to him. He stated that Mr. Creigh claimed to be well acquainted with Mr. Morrison, and asked an interest in his prayers, as he was closely confined in a negro cabin, and no communication would be permitted with him. All efforts to visit him that night were in vain. He was first ordered to be executed that night, but was indulged to live till morning, that he might write to his family. The next morning, a little after daylight, he was brought out, put into a wagon, and conveyed up a little vale, about a quarter of a mile north of the house, and in full view of it, and was there hanged and left hanging till after the army had departed, when the wife of the venerable minister-he being too feeble — with such assistance as she could get, took down the body, wrapped it in a blanket, and buried it in a grave dug on the spot. Mr. Creigh had no trial, no witnesses, no counsel nor friends present, but was ordered to be hanged like a dog for an act of duty to his helpless wife and daughters.

From Brownsburg General Hunter proceeded to Lexington, encountering only such delay as McCausland could effect with a single brigade of cavalry. At Lexington he enlarged upon the burning operations begun at Staunton. On his way,.and in the surrounding country, he burnt mills, furnaces, storehouses, granaries, and all farming utensils he could find, beside a great amount of [178] fencing, and a large quantity of grain. In the town he burnt the Virginia Military Institute, and all the professors' houses except the superintendent's (General Smith's), where he had his headquarters, and found a portion of the family too sick to be removed. He had the combustibles collected to burn Washington College, the recipient of the benefactions of the Father of his Country by his will; but, yielding to the appeals of the trustees and citizens, spared the building, but destroyed the philosophical and chemical apparatus, libraries and furniture. He burned the mills and some private stores in the lower part of the town. Captain Towns, an officer in General Hunter's army, took supper with the family of Governor John Letcher. Mrs. Letcher having heard threats that her house would be burned, spoke of it to Captain Towns, who said it could not be possible, and remarked that he would go at once to headquarters and let her know. He went, returned in a half hour, and told her that he was directed by General Hunter to assure her that the house would not be destroyed, and she might, therefore, rest easy. After this, she dismissed her fears, not believing it possible that a man occupying Hunter's position would be guilty of wilful and deliberate falsehood to a lady. It, however, turned out otherwise, for the next morning, at half-past 8 o'clock, his assistant provost marshal, accompanied by a portion of his guard, rode up to the door, and Captain Berry dismounted, rang the door-bell, called for Mrs. Letcher, and informed her that General Hunter had ordered him to burn the house. She replied: “There must be some mistake,” and requested to see the order. He said it was verbal. She asked if its execution could not be delayed till she could see Hunter? He replied: “The order is peremptory, and you have five minutes to leave the house.” Mrs. Letcher then asked if she could be allowed to remove her mother's, her sister's, her own and her children's clothing. This request being refused, she left the house. In a very short time they poured camphene on the parlor floor and ignited it with a match. In the meantime Miss Lizzie Letcher was trying to remove some articles of clothing from the other end of the house, and Berry, finding these in her arms, set fire to them. The wardrobe and bureaus were then fired, and soon the house was enveloped in flames. Governor Letcher's mother, then seventy-eight years old, lived on the adjoining lot. They fired her stable, within forty feet of the dwelling, evidently to burn it, too; but, owing to the active exertions of Captain Towns, who made his men carry water, the house was saved. While Hunter was in Lexington, Captain Mathew X. White, residing near the town, was arrested,. [179] taken about two miles, and, without trial, was shot, on the allegation that he was a bushwhacker. During the first year of the war he commanded the Rockbridge Cavalry, and was a young gentleman of generous impulses and good character. The total destruction of private property in Rockbridge county, by Hunter, was estimated and published in the local papers at the time as over $2,000,000. The burning of the Institute was a public calamity, as it was an educational establishment of great value.

From Lexington he proceeded to Buchanan, in Bottetourt county, and camped on the magnificent estate of Colonel John T. Anderson, an elder brother of General Joseph R. Anderson, of the Tredegar Works, at Richmond. Colonel Anderson's estate, on the banks of the Upper James, and his mansion, were baronial in character. The house crowned a high, wooded hill, was very large, and furnished in a style to dispense that lavish hospitality which was the pride of so many of the old-time Virginians. It was the seat of luxury and refinement, and in all respects a place to make the owner contented with his lot in this world. Colonel Anderson was old-his head as white as snow-and his wife but a few years his junior. He was in no office, and too old to fight-hence was living on his fine estate strictly the life of a private gentleman. He had often, in years gone by, filled prominent representative positions from his county. There was no military or public object on God's earth to be gained by ruining such a man. Yet Hunter, after destroying all that could be destroyed on the plantation when he left it, ordered the grand old mansion, with all its contents, to be laid in ashes.

From Buchanan he proceeded toward Lynchburg, by way of the Peaks of Otter; but on arriving within four miles of the city, where a sharp skirmish occurred between General Crook's command and three brigades under my command, at a place called the Quaker Meeting-House, he ascertained that General Early was in town with Stonewall Jackson's old corps. This was enough for him. That night he began a rapid retreat toward Salem, leaving his cavalry to make demonstrations on Early's lines long enough to give him a good day's start. He thus made his escape with little loss-the heaviest of it consisting of some ten or twelve field-guns that fell into our hands near Salem. He escaped through the mountains into West Virginia, and reached the Ohio by way of the Kanawha Valley. If he had been attacked the evening of the affair at the Quaker Meeting-House, or had been vigorously pursued early next morning, I think the probabilities are that his entire army would have been captured. They were weary from long marching, and, [180] from all accounts, greatly demoralized after the retreat began. Indeed, it was currently reported, and generally believed on our side, that Hunter was, himself, in so much alarm for his personal safety that it incapacitated him to direct the retreat, and that General Crook, in fact, saved their army. After Hunter's retreat, General Early moved down the Valley, and, in July, menaced Washington, before Hunter had time to get around to its defense. But I do not intend to detail Early's operations. After a few days on the north side of the Potomac, he came back to the Virginia side, whither Hunter followed.

I shall conclude this already long narrative by citing a few more instances of Hunter's incendiarism in the Lower Valley. It seems that, smarting under the miserable failure of his grand raid on Lynchburg, where, during a march of over two hundred miles, the largest force he encountered was under Jones at Piedmont, and he routed that, thus leaving the way open to reach Lynchburg within three days, destroy the stores there and go out through West Virginia unmolested, he had failed to do anything but inflict injury on private citizens, and he came back to the Potomac more implacable than when he left it a month before. His first victim was the Hon. Andrew Hunter, of Charlestown, Jefferson county, his own first cousin, and named after the General's father. Mr. Hunter is a lawyer of great eminence, and a man of deservedly large influence in his county and the State. His home, eight miles from Harper's Ferry, in the suburbs of Charlestown, was the most costly and elegant in the place, and his family as refined and cultivated as any in the State. His offense, in General Hunter's eyes, was that he had gone politically with his State, and was in full sympathy with the Confederate cause. The General sent a squadron of cavalry out from Harper's Ferry, took Mr. Hunter prisoner, and held him a month in the common guard-house of his soldiers, without alleging any offense against him not common to nearly all the people of Virginia, and finally discharged him without trial or explanation, after heaping these indignities on him. M/r. Hunter was an old man, and suffered severely from confinement and exposure. While he was thus a prisoner, General Hunter ordered his elegant mansion to be burned to the ground, with all its contents, not even permitting Mrs. Hunter and her daughter to save their clothes and family pictures from the flames; and, to add to the desolation, camped his cavalry within the inclosure of the beautiful grounds, of several acres, surrounding the residence, till the horses had destroyed them.

His next similar exploit was at Shepherdstown, in the same [181] county, where, on the 19th of July, 1864, he caused to be burned the residence of the lion. A. R. Boteler, “Fountain Rock.” Mrs. Boteler was also a cousin of General Hunter. This homestead was an old colonial house, endeared to the family by a thousand tender memories, and contained a splendid library, many pictures, and an invaluable collection of rare and precious manuscripts, illustrating the early history of that part of Virginia, that Colonel Boteler had collected by years of toil. The only members of the family who were there at the time were Colonel Boteler's eldest and widowed daughter, Mrs. Shepherd, who was an invalid, her three children, the eldest five years old and the youngest eighteen months, and Miss Helen Boteler. Colonel Boteler and his son were in the army, and Mrs. Boteler in Baltimore. The ladies and children were at dinner when informed by the servants that a body of cavalry had turned in at the gate, from the turnpike, and were coming up to the house.

It proved to be a small detachment of the First New York Cavalry, commanded by a Captain William F. Martindale, who, on being met at the door by Mrs. Shepherd, coolly told her that he had come to burn the house. She asked him by what authority. He told her by that of General Hunter, and showed her his written order. On reading it, she said: “The order, I see, sir, is for you to burn the houses of Colonel Alexander R. Boteler and Mr. Edmund I. Lee. Now this is not Colonel Boteler's house, but is the property of my mother, Mrs. Boteler, and therefore must not be destroyed, as you have no authority to burn her house.” “It's Colonel Boteler's home, and that's enough for me,” was Martindale's reply. She then said: “I have been obliged to remove all my personal effects here, and have several thousand dollars' worth of property stored in the house and out-buildings, which belongs to me and my children. Can I not be permitted to save it?” But Martindale curtly told her that he intended to “burn everything under roof upon the place.” Meanwhile, some of the soldiers were plundering the house of silver spoons, forks, cups, and whatever they fancied, while others piled the parlor furniture on the floors, and others poured kerosene on the piles and floors, which they then set on fire. They had brought the kerosene with them, in canteens strapped to their saddles. Miss Boteler, being devoted to music, pleaded hard for her piano, as it belonged to her, having been a gift from her grandmother, but she was brutally forbidden to save it; whereupon, although the flames were roaring in the adjoining rooms, and the roof all on fire, she quietly went into the house, and seating herself for the last time before the instrument, [182] sang her favorite hymn: “Thy will be done.” Then shutting down the lid and locking it, she calmly went out upon the lawn, where her sick sister and the frightened little children were sitting under the trees, the only shelter then left for them.

Martindale's written order from Hunter also embraced another Virginia home. He burned it, too. The story is told by the gifted mistress of that household in the following letter, which was delivered to Hunter. I have been furnished a copy, with permission to publish it. This letter will live in history for its eloquence and sublime invective:

Shepherdstown, Va., July 20th, 1864.
General Hunter:--
Yesterday, your underling, Captain Martindale, of the First New York Cavalry, executed your infamous order and burned my house. You have the satisfaction ere this of receiving from him the information that your orders were fulfilled to the letter; the dwelling and every out-building, seven in number, with their contents, being burned. I, therefore, a helpless woman whom you have cruelly wronged, address you, a Major General of the United States Army, and demand why this was done? What was my offense? My husband was absent — an exile. He never had been a politician or in any way engaged in the struggle now going on, his age preventing. This fact your chief-of-staff, David Strother, could have told you. The house was built by my father, a Revolutionary soldier, who served the whole seven years for your independence. There was I born; there the sacred dead repose. It was my house, and my home, and there has your niece (Miss Griffith), who has tarried among us all this horrid war up to the present moment, met with all kindness and hospitality at my hands. Was it for this that you turned me, my young daughter and little son out upon the world without a shelter? Or was it because my husband is the grandson of the Revolutionary patriot and “rebel,” Richard Henry Lee, and the near kinsman of the noblest of Christian warriors, the greatest of generals, Robert E. Lee? Heaven's blessing be upon his head forever! You and your government have failed to conquer, subdue or match him; and, disappointed, rage and malice find vent on the helpless and inoffensive.

Hyena-like, you have torn my heart to pieces! for all hallowed memories clustered around that homestead; and, demon-like, you have done it without even the pretext of revenge, for I never saw or harmed you. Your office is not to lead, like a brave man and soldier, your men to fight in the ranks of war, but your work has been to separate yourself from all danger, and with your incendiary band steal unaware upon helpless women and children, to insult and destroy. Two fair homes did you yesterday ruthlessly lay in ashes, giving not a moment's warning to the startled inmates of your wicked purpose; turning mothers and children out of doors, your very name execrated by your own men for the cruel work you gave them to do.

In the case of Colonel A. R. Boteler, both father and mother were far away. Any heart but that of Captain Martindale (and yours) would have been touched by that little circle, comprising a widowed daughter just risen from her bed of illness, her three little fatherless babes — the oldest not five years old-and her heroic sister. I repeat, any man would have been touched at that sight. But, Captain Martindale! one might as well hope to find mercy and feeling in the heart of a wolf bent on his prey of young lambs, as to search for such qualities in his bosom. You have chosen well your agent for such deeds, and doubtless will promote him! [183]

A colonel of the Federal army has stated that you deprived forty of your officers of their commands because they refused to carry out your malignant mischief. All honor to their names for this, at least! They are men — they have human hearts and blush for such a commander!

I ask who, that does not wish infamy and disgrace attached to him forever, would serve under you! Your name will stand on history's page as the Hunter of weak women and innocent children; the Hunter to destroy defenseless villages and refined and beautiful homes — to torture afresh the agonized hearts of the widows; the Hunter of Africa's poor sons and daughters, to lure them on to ruin and death of soul and body; the Hunter with the relentless heart of a wild beast, the face of a fiend, and the form of a man. Oh, Earth, behold the monster! Can I say, “God forgive you?” No prayer can be offered for you! Were it possible for human lips to raise your name heavenward, angels would thrust the foul thing back again, and demons claim their own. The curses of thousands, the scorn of the manly and upright, and the hatred of the true and honorable, will follow you and yours through all time, and brand your name infamy! infamy!

Again, I demand why have you burned my house? Answer as you must answer before the Searcher of all hearts; why have you added this cruel, wicked deed to your many crimes?

I have only recited the more prominent incidents of Hunter's brief career in the Valley of Virginia. The United States Government could not stand it, his army could not stand it, as many of his prominent officers yet living tell how keenly they felt the stigma such acts-beyond their control-brought on them. Shortly after the date of Mrs. Lee's letter he was removed, to the honor of the service, and General Sheridan was his successor — of his career, perhaps, anon! If the people of Chambersburg will carefully read this record of wanton destruction of private property, this “o'er true tale” of cruel wrong inflicted on the helpless, they will understand why, when goaded to madness, remuneration was demanded at their hands by General Early, and upon its refusal retaliation was inflicted on the nearest community that could be reached, and it was their misfortune to be that community. Contrast Lee in Pennsylvania, in 1863, and Hunter in Virginia, in 1864, and judge them both as history will.

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