Wells reaches Strasburg, and Valley civilians react to Lincoln’s (other) proclamation

Posted on December 14, 2013 by


On December 13, Col. Wells’ advance had reached Strasburg…

I have the honor to report some slight skirmishing in our front to-day with the pickets. The First New York went into Woodstock to-day, and captured 12 prisoners – 7 (infantry) of Ewell’s corps, who report themselves as having been sent into the valley on detached service, and 5 cavalry of Major O’Ferrall’s battalion. The forage trains arrived safely to-night; the wagons and prisoners go to-morrow.

Some citizens state that Imboden has recently been re-enforced; also that the enemy intend occupying the valley immediately, in force. So far we have only Gilmor, White, and O’Ferrall, with their battalions. They have been running against our pickets to-day. Everything is well.

Since writing the above, Colonel Boyd reports 10 prisoners, making 22 to-day.

Regretfully, Wells goes quiet in dispatches until December 18. Fortunately, William H. Beach, of the 1st New York, helps to fill in the gaps. On the 13th, for example, Beach adds character to the stories of the skirmishing, and provides details about some of the men captured. That evening, the scouting parties “returned to Mrs. Kindrick’s farm near Strasburg.” The next day, “there were some scouts, but the command rested near Strasburg.”

The Federal advance had slowed to a crawl , in part, I suspect, because of the weather… but, I wonder if it’s because Wells was holding back, waiting for a guide or two, to be sent from Martinsburg or Harpers Ferry.

In civilian circles, however, I find an entry by Laura Lee, on Dec. 14th (150 years ago, today), rather interesting. She notes that wagons are coming and going, daily…

The wagons are sent back as fast as they are emptied, and 15 or 20 full ones go up the Valley everyday with a large escort of cavalry, who are as audacious as they can be.

It sounds as if Wells is moving as lightly as possible, pulling daily provisions, as needed, from his quartermaster stores in Winchester.

What’s even more interesting, to me, in Laura Lee’s remarks that day, is this…

Lincoln’s message and proclamation are out. Beautiful documents both.

No, that’s not a reference to the Emancipation Proclamation, but another proclamation, which was issued on December 8.

I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do proclaim, declare, and make known to all persons who have, directly or by implication, participated in the existing rebellion, except as hereinafter excepted, that a full pardon is hereby granted to them and each of them, with restoration of all rights of property, except as to slaves, and in property cases where rights of third parties shall have intervened, and upon the condition that every such person shall take and subscribe an oath, and thenceforward keep and maintain said oath inviolate; and which oath shall be registered for permanent preservation, and shall be of the tenor and effect following, to wit:–

“I, ____________, do solemnly swear, in presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Union of the States thereunder; and that I will, in like manner, abide by and faithfully support all acts of congress passed during the existing rebellion with reference to slaves, so long and so far as not repealed, modified, or held void by congress, or by decision of the supreme court; and that I will, in like manner, abide by and faithfully support all proclamations of the President made during the existing rebellion having reference to slaves, so long and so far as not modified or declared void by decision of the supreme court. So help me God.” The persons excepted from the benefits of the foregoing provisions are all who are, or shall have been, civil or diplomatic officers or agents of the so-called Confederate government; all who have left judicial stations under the United States to aid the rebellion; all who are, or shall have been, military or naval officers of said so-called Confederate government above the rank of colonel in the army or of lieutenant in the navy; all who left seats in the United States congress to aid the rebellion; all who resigned commissions in the army or navy of the United States and afterwards aided the rebellion; and all who have engaged in any way in treating colored persons, or white persons in charge of such, otherwise than lawfully as prisoners of war, and which persons may have been found in the United States service as soldiers, seamen, or in any other capacity.

And I do further proclaim, declare, and make known that whenever, in any of the States of Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina, a number of persons, not less than one tenth in number of the votes cast in such state at the presidential election of the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty, each having taken the oath aforesaid, and not having since violated it, and being a qualified voter by the election law of the state existing immediately before the so-called act of secession, and excluding all others, shall reëstablish a state government which shall be republican, and in nowise contravening said oath, such shall be recognized as the true government of the state, and the state shall receive thereunder the benefits of the constitutional provision which declares that “the United States shall guaranty to every state in this Union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or the executive, (when the legislature cannot be convened,) against domestic violence.”

Some might ask… “Why do you find Laura Lee’s reaction interesting?” Fact is, she typically leans quite clearly “Confederate”. Furthermore, newspaper articles from Staunton aren’t so receptive. So, again… what does she see, as one who “leans Confederate”, these documents so beautiful? So, again, why did Laura find Lincoln’s documents “beautiful”? Consider this, especially, when, in her next diary entry she refers to “wretched Yankees”.

Winchester Unionist Julia Chase, however… I get her reaction (which she noted in her diary on December 10), she was realistic in saying… “It is thought by some that many will embrace the offer, the secessionists that it will only be something for the South to laugh over. Time will determine it.”

We’ll see if we can catch up to Gilmor, in a couple of days.