Sesqui moment of the day: The war gets harder in Va…. with a parallel in Mississippi

Posted on July 20, 2012 by


I feel a need to bring up my blog post from July 4. Remember what John Mead Gould was thinking?

He also resented the treatment of the Southern people he had encountered, despite what he considered, “kindness” of Union soldiers toward those same people. With all of this in mind, he began to reconsider the approach… a much harder war began to seem necessary…

I also recall the words of the chaplain of the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry, that I quoted in a post on July 1

“…march through the city of Winchester, in close order, with drums beating; and in no case whatever will any soldier be permitted to leave the ranks.” This was to prevent that salutary vengeance which the incensed soldiers would have taken on all houses from which men and women had fired on our soldiers in the retreat. Perhaps it was best, but that infamous town never met its deserts. Luckily Satan will get his own some day.

Keep these things especially in mind when you get to that part, below, about “pretext of being peaceful citizens.

Some key players in the Union army had enough, and the first phase of the removal of kid gloves in the east was at hand.


Washington, July 20 [?], 1862.


The people of the valley of the Shenandoah and throughout the region of operations of this army living along the lines of railroad and telegraph and along the routes of travel in rear of the United States forces are notified that they will be held responsible for any injury lone to the track, line, or road, or for any attacks upon trains or straggling soldiers by bands of guerrillas in their neighborhood. No privileges and immunities of warfare apply to lawless bands of individuals not forming part of the organized forces of the enemy nor wearing the garb of soldiers, who, seeking and obtaining safety on pretext of being peaceful citizens, steal out in rear of the army, 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. Evil-disposed persons in rear of our armies who do not themselves engage directly in these lawless acts encourage them by refusing to interfere or to give any information by which such acts can be prevented or the perpetrators punished.

Safety of life and property of all persons living in rear of our advancing armies depends upon the maintenance of peace and quiet among themselves and upon the unmolested movements through their midst of all pertaining to the military service. They are to understand distinctly that this security of travel is their only warrant of personal safety.

It is therefore ordered that wherever a railroad, wagon road, or telegraph is injured by parties of guerrillas the citizens living within 5 miles of the spot shall be turned out in mass to repair the damage, and shall, beside, pay to the United States in money or in property, to be levied by military force, the full amount of the pay and subsistence of the whole force necessary to coerce the performance of the work during the time occupied in completing it.

If a soldier or legitimate follower of the army be fired upon from any house the house shall be razed to the ground, and the inhabitants sent prisoners to the headquarters of this army. If such an outrage occur at any place distant from settlements, the people within 5 miles around shall be held accountable and made to pay an indemnity sufficient for the case.

Any persons detected in such outrages, either during the act or at any time afterward, shall be shot, without awaiting civil process. No such acts can influence the result of this war, and they can only lead to heavy afflictions to the population to no purpose.

It is therefore enjoined upon all persons, both for the security of their property and the safety of their own persons, that they act vigorously and cordially together to prevent the perpetration of such outrages.

Whilst it is the wish of the general commanding this army that all peaceably disposed persons who remain at their homes and pursue their accustomed avocations shall be subjected to no improper burden of war, yet their own safety must of necessity depend upon the strict preservation of peace and order among themselves; and they are to understand that nothing will deter him from enforcing promptly and to the full extent every provision of this order.

By command of Major-General Pope:
Colonel, Assistant Adjutant-General, and Chief-of-Staff.

The warning had been issued. 

What I also find interesting is that at about the same time, down the way a bit, in Mississippi, Union soldiers like one of my own cousins (roundabout from my McKinney ancestors of Pennsylvania), Charles Wright Wills – an officer in an Illinois regiment – were happy to see a similar order in their area of operations. Enter General Order No. 92, issued by Gen. William S. Rosecrans:


July 14, 1862

General Orders No. 92:

For the information of all in the command, the following explanations are given, in reference to the rights and duties of citizens of the States in which we may be stationed.

1. All citizens of the States claiming the rights, and holding themselves bound to the duties of citizens of the United States are entitled to the same protection of person and property, which we claim for ourselves.

2. We hold citizens to the performance of active duties, only when they receive protection; if left without protection, they are bound only to good will and abstinence from all acts of hostility to the Government.

3. Persons denying that they are citizens of the United States, repudiating the duties of citizens, by words or actions, are entitled no rights, save those which the laws of war and humanity accord to their characters.

If they claim to belong to a hostile government, they have the rights of belligerents, and can neither justify claim, nor have anything more from the army. If they are found making war, without lawful organization or commission, they are enemies of mankind, and have the rights due to pirates and robbers, which it will be a duty to accord them.

It is not our purpose to admit the slaves of loyal masters within our lines, or use them without compensation, or prevent their recovery, when consistent with the interest of the service.

The slaves of our enemies may come or go wherever they please, provided they do not interfere with the rules and orders of camp and discipline. They deserve more at our hands than their masters.

By order of General ROSECRANS,

(Signed) W.L. Elliott,

Brig. Gen’l and Chief of Staff

Cousin Charles shared some thoughts on the order, when he wrote, on July 17, 1862, from camp at Rienzi:


I think there is more point and policy in that General Order 92 than in any one that has yet been issued in the West, or East either for that matter; but still I do not think it remarkable for perspicuity, and it is neither as strong nor as definite as the army demands. If I know anything of the “laws of war and humanity,” the soldiers will bless “92” for one thing, in relieving them from guarding the property of secessionists, and if they don’t make sundry potato patches, cabbage gardens and fields of roasting ears that I know of, “hop”,’twill surprise me much. There will be some wondrous sudden conversations to Unionism when these butternuts get the drift of that order. An old pup in this town that drank “Southern Independence or the World in Flames” the other evening, in the presence of several United States officers has Union soldiers guarding his property, to preserve it from Northern vandals, and he has used language equally insulting, times without number, yet the guard is kept up. I suppose to conciliate him.

Note that reference to Unionism… ahhhh… of course, I couldn’t let that slide, but cousin Charles is referring to that false brand of Unionism that more often emerged in the wake of such orders.

…but wait… we haven’t heard the last of Pope. There’s more to follow… coming up over the next few days…

Source matter: Wills quote from Army Life of an Illinois Soldier Including a Day-by-Day Record of Sherman’s march to the Sea; Letters and Diary of Charles W. Wills, compiled by Mary F. Kellogg (with Foreword by John Y. Simon), 1996 (original publish date, 1906).