July 23, 1862 (Wednesday)
“Have you yet considered the order I proposed to issue yesterday,” wrote Union General John Pope to President Lincoln, “which directs all male citizens living within the lines of the army under my command and in the rear of it to be arrested?” Pope was at it again, the polar opposite of General George B. McClellan, who wanted to leave the Southern citizens, loyal or not, to their own business. Pope explained that those who took “the oath of allegiance and give sufficient security for its observance [were] to be allowed to remain at home and pursue their accustomed avocations; such as do not, to be conducted South and put within the lines of the enemy, with a notification that if hereafter found within the lines or in the rear of the United States forces they will be considered and treated as spies.”
The troubles of launching an invasion into enemy territory had plagued armies since the dawn of war. Pope, who had studied the tribulations of the Greeks, Romans, Genghis Khan, and Napoleon, was now experiencing these anxieties for himself.
“I find it impossible to make any movement, however insignificant the force, without having it immediately communicated to the enemy,” complained the General. “A thousand open enemies cannot inflict the injury upon our arms which can be done by one concealed enemy in our midst.” Headquartered in Washington, he met with Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and received the authority he needed to release General Orders No. 11.1
This was not the first such order that Pope had issued. The first, General Orders No. 5, was issued on July 18. It allowed his Army of Virginia to subsist off of the land. This greatly reduced the need of supply lines coming from Washington. The citizens whose supplies and food were commandeered were to be given vouchers for the amount taken, which would be repaid come the end of the war.
General Orders No. 6, issued the same day, immediately took advantage of this new policy. Pope ordered all of his cavalry to do away with the use of supply wagons. This was, no doubt, in response to the bumbling of General John Hatch.
But it was General Orders No. 7 that most enraged the South. Issued on or around July 20, it took the war to the people. In it, Pope decried guerrilla troops, denying them the right to be treated as soldiers. This was fairly normal, but since Pope could not tell the difference between a partisan ranger and a normal citizen, he 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.” They were also to pay for the repairs out of their own coffers. If one of his men were fired upon from a house, the house would be destroyed, and whomever did the firing would be shot immediately.2
This was warfare in its most brutal, unforgiving form. It appalled the South. This was not how gentlemen waged wars. This is how barbarians and savages fought.
When General Stonewall Jackson, in command of 11,000 Confederate troops at Gordonsville, twenty-five miles south of General Pope’s Army of Virginia, 45,000-strong, heard of the new Federal measures, he did not stand with his mouth agape, stunned that any human being could fathom, let alone enact, so vulgar a campaign. He simply accepted it as fact and created a plan to do the same. If this was how the war was to be pursued, he would pursue it with vigor.
In a conversation with his brother-in-law, Rufus Barringer, while on the way to Gordonsville, Jackson unburdened himself. “I always thought,” said Jackson, “we ought to meet the Federal invaders on the outer verge of just right and defense, and raise at once the black flag, viz., ‘No quarter to the violators of our homes and firesides!’ It would in the end have proved true humanity and mercy. The Bible is full of such wars, and it is the only policy that would bring the North to its senses.”
Though this is what he had wanted from the first firing of Rebel guns upon Fort Sumter, he now realized that the Southern people had not been ready for such a war. The offended outrage that Pope was edging slightly closer to Jackson’s idea of raising the black flag only proved it.
Temporarily forgetting that he just advocated an even harsher policy than Pope’s, Jackson continued: “But all this is now suddenly changed by the cruel and utterly barbarous orders of General Pope, who is not only subsisting his army on the people of Culpeper, and levying contributions upon them, but has laid whole communities under the pains and penalties of death or banishment; and in certain cases directed that houses shall be razed to the ground, and citizens shot without waiting civil process.”
The plan that Jackson had submitted to General Lee, would unfurl his black flag in the north. He thought it “unwise to attempt to defend the whole of our extended lines, especially our extended coast and water line.” Jackson realized that the Federal Navy was many times larger than the South’s. Additionally, “our limited supply of both troops and munitions of war would ultimately be exhausted in a prolonged, gigantic struggle.”
Jackson’s policy was not simply for his own troops or even for General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. It was for the entire Confederate military. Along with giving no quarter to the invaders, he would give up “many exposed points and all untenable positions,” to concentrate all Southern armies in a few camps.
The crux of his plan, however, was ceaseless aggressions upon the North in the form of small, counter invasions. “I would organize our whole available fighting force, so selected and located, into two, four, or more light movable columns, specially armed and trained and equipped for sudden moves and for long and rapid marches,” explained Jackson. “These light movable columns I would hurl against the enemy as they entered our borders; but only when sure of victory, and when the loss of an army was impossible.”
So far, this seemed little different from any typical wartime policy. But there was more. These columns would not simply halt at the Mason-Dixon Line: “I would hurl these thunderbolts of war against the rich cities and teeming regions of our Federal friends. I would seek to avoid all regular battles. I would subsist my troops, as far as possible, on the Northern people. I would lay heavy contributions in money on their cities.”
Jackson would parole the rank and file under threat of death if the parole was violated and take noted leaders “held mainly as hostages for ransom or for retaliation.”
At all times, one of these columns would be invading the north. Just as one was turning back, another would be moving into Federal territory hundreds of miles away. “And so I would make it hot for our friends at their homes and firesides, all the way to Kansas— ‘bleeding Kansas;’ and doubly so for Ohio and Pennsylvania.”
At the start of the war, Jackson believed that the Southern people had no stomach for such a campaign, “but now our people begin to learn something of war.” Now, “they begin to realize the scope and design of the Abolition element.” Their eyes have been opened by the machinations of “Ben Butler, Fremont, and Pope.”
Following the victory at Richmond, Jackson felt his plan best suited “the temper of our people and the dash and daring of the Southern soldier, and I would right now seize the golden moment to show the North what they may expect.”3
- Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 12, Part 3, p500-501. The order itself, which was nearly identical in language to this letter is in Vol. 12, Part 2, p52. [↩]
- Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 12, Part 2, p50-51. General Orders No. 7 is dated July 10 and may have been written and even issued then. [↩]
- Life and Letters of General Thomas J. Jackson by Mary Anna Jackson, Harper & Brothers, 1892. [↩]