Address from General Early to his troops.
The following address has been issued by Lieutenant-General Early
to his troops.
It fully discloses the secret of the recent reverse in the Valley
— the conduct of our men in stopping to plunder the enemy's camp:
Headquarters Valley District,
October 22, 1864.
Soldiers of the Army of the Valley:
I had hoped to have congratulated you on the splendid victory won by you on the morning of the 19th at Belle grove
, on Cedar creek
, when you surprised routed two corps of Sheridan
's army and drove back several miles the remaining corps, capturing eighteen pieces of artillery, one thousand five hundred prisoners, a number of colors, a large quantity of small arms, and many wagons and with the entire camps of the two routed corps, but I have the mortification of announcing to you that, by your subsequent misconduct, all the benefits of that victory were lost and a serious disaster incurred.
Had you remained steadfast to your duty and your colors, the victory would have been one of the most brilliant and decisive of the war you would have gloriously retrieved the reverses at Winchester
and Fisher's Hill
, and entitled yourselves to the admiration and gratitude of your country.
But many of you, including some commissioned officers, yielding to disgraceful propensity for plunder, deserted your colors to appropriate to yourselves the abandoned property of the enemy, and subsequently those who had previously remained at them posts, seeing their ranks thinned by the absence of the plunderers, when the enemy, late in the with his shattered columns, made but a to retrieve the fortunes of the day, yielded to a freedless panic and fled the field in, confusion thereby converting a splendid victory into a disaster.
Had any respectable number of you listened to the appeals made to you, and made a stand, even at the last moment, the disaster would have been arrested and the substantial fruits of victory secured; but under the insane dread of being flanked, and a stricken terror of the enemy's cavalry, you would listen to no appeal, threat, or order, and allowed a small body of cavalry to penetrate to our train and carry off a number of pieces of artillery and wagons which your disorder left unprotected.--You have thus obscured that glorious farms won in conjunction with the gallant men of the Army of Southern Virginia
, who still remain proudly defiant in the trenches around Richmond
Before you can again claim them as comrades, you will have to erase from your escutcheons the blemishes which now obscure them; and this you can do if you will but be true to your formes reputation, your country and your homes.
You who have fought at Manassas
, and from the Wilderness
to the banks of James
rivers and especially you who were with the immortal Jackson
in all his triumphs, are capable of better things.
Accuse yourselves, then, to a sense of your manhood and appreciation of the sacred cause in which you are engaged!
Yield to the mandates of discipline; resolve to stand by your colors in future at all hazards, and you can yet retrieve your reputation and strike effective blows for your country and its cause.
Let every man spurn from him the vile plunder gathered on the field of the 19th; and let no man, whatever his rank, whether combatant or non-combatant, dare exhibit his spoils of that day. They will be badges of his dishonor; the insignia of his disgrace.
The officer who pauses in the career of victory to place a guard over a sutler's wagon, for his private use, is as bad as the soldier who halts to for himself the abandoned clothing or money of a flying foe, and they both sell the honor of the army and the blood of their country for a paltry price.
He who follows his colors into the ranks of the enemy in pursuit of victory, disdaining the miserable passion for gathering booty, comes out of the battle with his honor untarnished; and though barefooted and ragged, is far more to be envied than he that is laden with rich spoils gathered in the trail of his victorious comrades.
There were some exceptions to the general misconduct on the afternoon of the 19th, but it would be difficult to specify them all. Let those who did their duty be satisfied with the consciousness of having done it, and mourn that their efforts were paralyzed by the misbehavior of others.
Let them be consoled, to some extent, by the reflection that the enemy has nothing to boast of on his part.
The artillery and wagons taken were not won by his valor.
His camps were destroyed, his army terribly shattered and demoralized, his losses far heavier than ours, even in proportion to the relative strength of the armies; his plans materially impeded; and he was unable to pursue by reason of his crippled condition.
Soldiers of the Army of the Valley
, I do not speak to you in anger; I wish to speak in kindness, though in sorrow.
My purpose is to show you the causes of our late misfortune, and point out the way to avoid similar ones in future, and ensure success to our arms.
Success can only
be secured by the enforcement and observance of the most rigid discipline.
Officers, whatever their rank, must not only give orders, but set the example of obeying them, and the men must follow that example.
Fellow-soldiers, I am ready to lead you again in defence of our common cause, and I appeal to you, by the remembrance of the glorious career in which you have formerly participated, by the woes of your bleeding country, the ruined homes and devastated fields you see around you, the cries of anguish which come up from the widows and orphans of your dead comrades, the horrors which await you and all that is yours in the future if your country is subjugated, and your hopes of freedom for yourselves and your posterity, to render a cheerful and willing obedience to the rules of discipline, and to shoulder your musket again with the determination never more to turn your backs upon the foe, but to do battle like men and soldiers until the last vestige of the footsteps of our barbarous and cruel enemies is crashed from the soil they desecrate and the independence of our country is firmly established.
If you will do this, and rely upon the protecting care of a just and merciful God, all will be well; you will again be what you once were, and I will be proud to lead you once more to battle.