July 10, 1862 (Thursday)
More infamously remembered for its pro-slavery stance, Union General George B. McClellan’s “Harrison Bar Letter” also called for the protection of Southern citizens. Since the rebellion had, in fact, become a war, it should be fought between warriors, leaving the noncombatants unharmed. “It should not be a war upon a population,” wrote McClellan, “but against armed forces and political organizations.”
Specifically, private property (including enslaved men and women) and unarmed persons must be protected, political executions must be stopped. The Federal armies must behave themselves: “All private property taken for military use should be paid or receipted for; pillage and waste should be treated as high crimes; all unnecessary trespass sternly prohibited, and offensive demeanor by the military towards citizens promptly rebuked. Military arrests should not be tolerated, except in places where active hostilities exist, and oaths not required by enactments constitutionally made should be neither demanded nor received.”1)
Of course not a word of this letter had reached General John Pope, now commanding the Army of Virginia in and around the Shenandoah Valley. While McClellan was hoping to turn the wretched periphery of war away from the citizens, General Pope was hoping to turn the periphery into the focal point.
Because this was a war and those who fought it, more or less, honorable gentlemen, decreed Pope, the soldiers officially in the ranks would be treated respectfully under the rules of civilized warfare. The bands of partisans, who dressed in the garb of civilians, but “attack and murder straggling soldiers, molest trains of supplies, destroy railroads, telegraph lines, and bridges, and commit outrages disgraceful to civilized people and revolting to humanity” will receive none of the privileges or immunities that would be offered to soldiers in the field.
While this was hardly a new or surprising idea, General Pope was hardly finished.
Pope saw no difference between a Rebel guerrilla and an “evil-disposed person” who aided the Rebels by encouraging them. And since there was no way to tell the difference between an “evil-disposed person” and a law abiding citizen, all must pay the price.
Pope so ordered “that wherever a railroad, wagon-road, or telegraph, is injured by parties of guerrillas, the citizens living within five miles of the spot shall be turned out in mass to repair the damage.” These same citizens were also ordered to pay for the repairs, as well as the wages of the soldiers who had to be kept from the front to make sure the new laborers did as they were ordered. And Pope was still not finished.
“If a soldier or legitimate follower of the army be fired upon from any house,” resolved Pope, “the house shall be razed to the ground and the inhabitants sent prisoners to the headquarters of this army. [...] Any persons detected in such outrages, either during the act or at any time afterward, shall be shot without awaiting civil process.”2
With the escape of Stonewall Jackson’s force to Richmond, all that was left in the Shenandoah Valley were unorganized bands of partisans. Pope had pulled most of his men out of the Valley, leaving a small brigade at Winchester. But the fear that Jackson had put into his men still remained. Long after Jackson departed the Valley, rumors of his presence were thickly drizzled over everything the Federals tried to do. When it became obvious that he had moved to Richmond, they stopped. But now that the Seven Days Battles were over, the rumors were coming back.
“Reports are current in Fredericksburg this morning,” wrote General Rufus King, “that the Confederate troops under Stonewall Jackson, are advancing in this direction.”3
Like most rumors about Stonewall Jackson, this one was unfounded. Jackson, along with Longstreet’s Corps of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, had been pulled back to their old positions just outside of Richmond. This did not set well with Jackson, who fully believed that McClellan was beaten.
He again sent his envoy, Congressman Alexander Boteler into Richmond to argue in Jackson’s favor for a northward push towards Washington. Rather than talk to Lee about such matters, Jackson wanted Boteler to take this directly to President Davis.
At first Boteler balked at the idea of going over General Lee’s head. But Jackson had already talked to Lee about this. He had heard nothing in response and felt that valuable time was being wasted, just like in the confusion after Manassas.
Boteler met with Davis, but, thus far, nothing had come of it. He couldn’t very well launch such an offensive when the Confederate Army so badly needed to recuperate. Still, Pope’s growing presence might leave them little choice in the matter.4
- “Harrison’s Bar Letter,” July 7, 1862. As printed in McClellan’s Own Story by George B. McClellan, C.L. Webster, 1887. [↩]
- Orders No. 7, July 10, 1862. As found in The Rebellion Record, Vol. 5, p361. [↩]
- Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 12, Part 3, p463. [↩]
- Stonewall Jackson by James I. Robertson, MacMillan, 1997. [↩]