MILITARY REMINISCENCES OF THE CIVIL WAR
BY JACOB DOLSON COX, A.M., LL.D.
Formerly Major-General commanding Twenty-Third Army Corps
An impracticable country--Movements suspended--Experienced troops ordered away--My orders from Washington--Rosecrans objects--A disappointment--Winter organization of the Department--Sifting our material--Courts-martial--Regimental schools--Drill and picket duty--A military execution--Effect upon the army--Political sentiments of the people--Rules of conduct toward them--Case of Mr. Parks--Mr. Summers--Mr. Patrick--Mr. Lewis Ruffner--Mr. Doddridge--Mr. B. F. Smith--A house divided against itself--Major Smith's journal--The contrabands--A fugitive-slave case--Embarrassments as to military jurisdiction.
Floyd's retreat was continued to the vicinity of Newberne and Dublin Depot, where the Virginia and East Tennessee Railway crosses the upper waters of New River. He reported the country absolutely destitute of everything and the roads so broken up that he could not supply his troops at any distance from the railroad. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. v. pp. 287,288.] Rosecrans was of a similar opinion, and on the 19th of November signified to General McClellan [Footnote: _id_., p. 657.] his purpose to hold Gauley Bridge, Cheat Mountain, and
Romney as the frontier of his department, and to devote the winter to the instruction and discipline of his troops, and the sifting out of incompetent officers. About the 1st of December he fixed his headquarters at Wheeling, [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 669, 685. On January 21 I called attention to the anomaly of bounding the department by the Kanawha River on the south, and correction was at once made by General McClellan. _Id_., p. 706.] assigning the District of the Kanawha to my command, with headquarters at
Charleston. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 670, 691.] This gave me substantially the same territorial jurisdiction I had in the summer, but with a larger body of troops.
Before we left Gauley Bridge, however, I received orders direct from army headquarters at Washington to take my three oldest Ohio regiments and report to
General Buell in Kentucky. This was exactly in accordance with my own strong desire to join a large army on one of the principal lines of operation. I therefore went joyfully to Rosecrans, supposing, of course, that he also had received orders to send me away. To my intense chagrin I found that he not only was without such orders, but that he was, naturally enough, disposed to take umbrage at the sending of orders direct to me. He protested against the irregularity, and insisted that if his forces were to be reduced, he should himself indicate those which were to go. He carried his point on the matter, and was directed to send eight regiments to Buell. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. v. p. 671.] He insisted that I should stay, and whilst the reasons he gave were sufficiently complimentary, it was none the less a great disappointment to have to abandon the hope of service in a more important field. [Footnote: _Id._ pp. 259, 657.] There was nothing to be done but to summon philosophy to my aid, and to hope that all would turn out for the best. Before Rosecrans left Gauley Bridge four more regiments were added to the eight already ordered away, together with four batteries of artillery. Some new regiments had joined us, and the aggregate of troops remaining was perhaps not much below the number present when Rosecrans reached Carnifex Ferry in September; but most of them were freshly organized regiments, with whom the work of drill and discipline had to begin at first lessons. Three of the batteries taken away were regulars, and the other was Loomis's Michigan battery, one of the oldest and best instructed of our volunteer batteries. The places of these were not supplied. The good policy of these reductions is not to be questioned; for it was agreed that nothing aggressive could be done in the mountains during the winter, and it was wise to use part of the forces elsewhere.--Yet for those of us who had hoped to go with the troops, and now found ourselves condemned to the apparently insignificant duty of garrisoning West Virginia, the effect was, for the time, a very depressing one.
General Schenck had left us on account of sickness, and did not return. His brigade was again commanded by Colonel Scammon, as it had been at Carnifex Ferry, and was stationed at Fayette C. H. One regiment was at Tompkins farm, another at Gauley Bridge, two others at intervals between that post and Charleston, where were three regiments out of what had been my own brigade. Three partially organized West Virginia regiments of infantry and one of cavalry were placed at recruiting stations in the rear, and one Ohio regiment was posted at Barboursville. The chain of posts which had been established in the summer between Weston and Cross Lanes was not kept up; but the Thirty-sixth Ohio, Colonel George Crook, was stationed at Cross Lanes, reporting to me, as did all the other troops enumerated above.
The Cheat Mountain district continued in command of General Milroy, his principal posts being at Beverly and Huttonsville, with small garrisons holding the mountain passes.
General Kelley remained also in command of the railroad district covering the communication with Washington by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. General J. J. Reynolds was assigned to command a new division organizing at Romney, but was soon transferred to another department.
Such was the general organization of the department for the winter, and we soon settled down to regular work in fitting the troops for the next campaign. Courtsmartial were organized to try offenders of all grades, and under charges of conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline, worthless officers were driven from the service and negligent ones disciplined. Regimental schools were opened, and strenuous efforts were made to increase the military knowledge and skill of the whole command. Careful drill was enforced, and picket and outpost duty systematically taught. Each post became a busy camp of instruction, and the regiments repeated under more favorable circumstances the work of the original camp in Ohio.
The work of the military courts gave me one very unpleasant duty to perform, which, happily, was of rare occurrence and never again fell to my lot except on a single occasion in North Carolina near the close of the war. A soldier of the First Kentucky Volunteers was condemned to death for desertion, mutiny, and a murderous assault upon another soldier. The circumstances were a little peculiar, and gave rise to fears that his regiment might resist the execution. I have already mentioned the affair of Captain Gibbs [Footnote: Appointed Captain and Assistant Commissary of Subsistence, U. S. Vols., October 1.] who had shot down a mutinous man of the Second Kentucky at Gauley Bridge in the summer, and who had been acquitted by a court-martial. The camp is very like a city in which popular impressions and rumors have quick circulation and large influence. The two Kentucky regiments were so closely related as to be almost one, and were subject to the same influences. A bitter feeling toward Captain Gibbs prevailed in them both, and camp demagogues busied themselves in trying to make mischief by commenting on the fact that the officer was acquitted whilst the private was condemned. There was not a particle of justice in this, for the one had simply suppressed a mutiny, whereas the other was inciting one. But it is not necessary for complaints to be just among those who are very imperfectly informed in regard to the facts, and very unpleasant reports were received as to the condition of things in the regiment to which the condemned man belonged.
It is the military custom, in executions by shooting, to select the firing party from the regiment to which the condemned man belongs. To have changed the rule would have looked like timidity, and I determined that it must not be done, but resolved upon an order of procedure which would provide, as far as possible, against the chances of interference. On such occasions the troops are usually paraded upon three sides of a hollow square, without arms, the place of execution being in the middle of the open side, where the prisoner kneels upon his coffin. The place chosen was in the meadows on the lower side of the Elk River, opposite Charleston, a short distance from the regimental camp. The camps of two other regiments at the post were half a mile from the place of execution. These regiments were, therefore, marched to the field with their arms. That to which the prisoner belonged was marched without arms to its position as the centre of the parade, and the others were formed on their right and left at right angles, thus forming the three sides of the enclosure. The arms of these last regiments were stacked immediately behind them where they could be seized in a moment, but the parade was formed without
muskets. Captain Gibbs was on duty as commissary at my headquarters, and his appearance with the staff would have been unpleasant to himself as well as a possible cause of excitement in the Kentucky regiment. To solve the difficulty without making a significant exception, I ordered only the personal staff and the adjutant-general with the chief surgeon to accompany me, leaving out the administrative officers of both quartermaster's and commissary's departments.
When the parade was formed, I took my place with my staff at the right of the line, and, as upon a review, rode slowly down the whole line, on the inside of the square. In going along the front of the First Kentucky, I took especial pains to meet the eyes of the men as they were turned to me in passing, desirous of impressing them with my own feeling that it was a solemn but inevitable duty. Immediately after we returned to our places, the music of the dead-march was heard, and an ambulance was seen approaching from the camp, escorted by the provost-marshal and the execution party with the music. The solemn strains, the slow funereal step of the soldiers, the closed ambulance, the statue-like stillness of the paraded troops made an impression deeper and more awful than a battle scene, because the excitement was hushed and repressed. The ambulance stopped, the man was helped out at the back, and led by the provost-marshal to his place upon the coffin, where he was blindfolded. The firing party silently took its place. The muskets were cocked and aimed, while the noise of the retiring ambulance covered the sound. The provost-marshal, with a merciful deception, told the prisoner he must wait a moment and he would return to him before the final order, but stepping quickly out of the range of the muskets, he gave the signal with his handkerchief, and the man fell dead at the volley, which sounded like a single discharge. The detail of soldiers for the firing had been carefully instructed that steadiness and accuracy made the most merciful way of doing their unwelcome duty. The surgeon made his official inspection of the body, which was placed in the coffin and removed in the ambulance. The drums and fifes broke the spell with quick marching music, the regiments took their arms, sharp words of command rattled along the lines, which broke by platoons into column and moved rapidly off the field.
I confess it was a relief to have the painful task ended, and especially to have it ended in the most perfect order and discipline. The moral effect was very great, for our men were so intelligent that they fully appreciated the judicial character of the act, and the imposing solemnity of the parade and execution made the impression all the more profound. As it was accompanied and followed by a searching test of the capacity and character of their officers, of which they daily saw the effects in the retirement of some from the service and in the increased industry and studious devotion to duty of all, it gave a new tone to the whole command. I spared no effort to make the feeling pervade every regiment and company, that the cause of the country, their own success and honor, and even their own personal safety depended upon their entering the next campaign with such improved discipline and instruction as should make them always superior to an equal number of the enemy. Leaves of absence and furloughs were limited as closely as possible, and I set the example of remaining without interruption on duty, though there were many reasons why a visit home was very desirable. My wife made me a visit at Charleston in mid-winter, and this naturally brought me into more frequent social relations to the people, and led me to observe more closely their attitude to the government and its cause.
Before the secession of Virginia a very large majority of the inhabitants of the Kanawha valley were Unionists; but the attachment to the state organization had become so exaggerated in all slave-holding communities, that most of the well-to-do people yielded to the plea that they must "go with their State." The same state pride led this class of people to oppose the division of Virginia and the forming of the new State on the west of the mountains. The better class of society in Charleston, therefore, as in other towns, was found to be disloyal, and in sympathy with the rebellion. The young men were very generally in the Confederate army; the young women were full of the most romantic devotion to their absent brothers and friends, and made it a point of honor to avow their sentiments. The older people were less demonstrative, and the men who had a stake in the country generally professed acquiescence in the position of West Virginia within the Union, and a desire to bring back their sons from the Confederate service. The necessity of strict watch upon the communications sent through the lines brought to my notice a great deal of family history full of suffering and anxiety, and showed that that was indeed a fearful situation for a family when its young men were not only separated from them by military service in the field, but could only be heard from by the infrequent chances of communication under flags of truce, and with all the restrictions and reserves necessary to the method. The rule I adopted in dealing personally with non-combatants of either sex was to avoid all controversy or discussion, to state with perfect frankness but courteously my own attitude and sense of duty, and to apply all such stringent rules as a state of war compels with an evenness of temper and tone of dispassionate government which should make as little chafing as possible. Most intelligent people, when they are not excited, are disposed to recognize the obligations imposed upon a military officer in such circumstances, and it was rarely the case that any unpleasant collisions occurred.
The following incident will illustrate some of the embarrassments likely to occur. When I reached Charleston in July previous, I was visited by the wife of a gentleman named Parks, who told me that her husband had left the valley with General Wise, but not in any military capacity, being fearful that he might suffer arrest at our hands on account of his sympathy with the Confederates. I told her, what I had told to a formal deputation of citizens, that I did not propose to meddle with non-combatants if they in good faith remained at home, minding their own business, and carefully abstaining from giving aid or information to the enemy. I had, on general principles, a dislike for test oaths, and preferred to make conduct the test, and to base my treatment of people on that, rather than on oaths which the most unscrupulous would be first to take. Had her husband known this, she said, he would not have left home, and begged that she might be allowed to send an open letter through the lines to him to bring him back. I allowed her to do so at the first proper opportunity, and Mr. Parks at once returned. In the latter part of September, however, Governor Peirpoint of West Virginia thought it necessary to arrest some prominent citizens, known as Secessionists, and hold them as hostages for Union men that the Confederate troops had seized and sent to Richmond. It happened that Mr. Parks was arrested as one of these hostages, without any knowledge on the part of the civil authorities of the circumstances under which he had returned home. I was ignorant of his arrest till I received a letter from the lady, complaining bitterly of what seemed to her a breach of faith. I was at Sewell Mountain at the time, but lost no time in writing her a careful explanation of the complete disconnection between his arrest by the civil authorities as a hostage, and a promise of non-interference with him on my part as an officer of the United States army. I also showed her that the arrest of non-combatant Union men by the Confederate forces was the real cause of her husband's unpleasant predicament. In view of the circumstances, however, I thought it right to request the Governor to substitute some other hostage for Mr. Parks, so that there might not be the least question whether the letter or the spirit of my military safeguard had been broken, and the result was that the gentleman was very soon at home again.
The most prominent citizen of the valley was the Hon. George Summers, who had represented it in the Congress of the United States, and had opposed secession in the Virginia Convention with a vigor that had brought him into personal peril. When, however, secession was an accomplished fact, his ideas of allegiance to his State so far influenced him that he was unwilling to take active part in public affairs, and sought absolute retirement at his pleasant home a little below Charleston on the Kanawha. His house was on a hill overlooking the beautiful valley, broad enough at this point to give room for ample fields in the rich bottom lands. I had called upon him, as I passed with my troops when I went up the valley. He was a dignified and able man, just past middle life, but in full physical and mental force, and capable of exerting a very great influence if he could have thrown himself heartily into public activity. But he was utterly saddened and depressed by the outbreak of civil war, and deliberately chose the part of suffering in seclusion whatever it might bring, unable to rouse himself to a combative part. As a slave-holder, he was bitter against the anti-slavery movement, and as a Unionist he condemned the Secessionists. He was very glad to have the Kanawha valley in the possession of the National troops, now that Wise had made the effort to occupy it for the Confederacy; though he had tried to procure the adoption of a policy which should leave it neutral ground,--a policy as impossible here as in Kentucky. The result was that he was distrusted by both sides, for in civil war each acts upon the maxim that "he that is not for us is against us." I renewed my acquaintance with him in the winter, making his house the limit of an occasional ride for exercise. I appreciated his feelings, and respected his desire to set an example of obedient private citizenship with renunciation of all other or more active influence.
There were other men of social prominence who had less hesitation in throwing themselves actively upon the National side. Mr. Patrick was an elderly man, of considerable wealth, whose home was a very similar one to Mr. Summers', a little nearer to Charleston upon the same road. His wife was of old Virginia stock, a relative of Chief Justice Marshall, and a pronounced Southern woman, though too good a wife to make her sympathies give annoyance to her husband or his guests. Lewis Ruffner was also a prominent Union man, and among the leaders of the movement to make West Virginia a separate State. Mr. Doddridge, long the cashier and manager of the Bank at Charleston, whose family was an old and well-known one, was an outspoken Unionist, and in the next year, when the war put an end for the time to banking in the valley, he became a paymaster in the National army. Colonel Benjamin F. Smith was a noteworthy character also. He was a leading lawyer, a man of vigorous and aggressive character, and of tough fibre both physically and mentally. He shared the wish of Summers to keep West Virginia out of the conflict if possible, but when we had driven Wise out of the valley, he took a pronounced position in favor of the new state movement. A little afterward he was appointed District Attorney for the United States. Although the loyal people had such competent leaders, the majority of the men of wealth and of the families recognized as socially eminent were avowed Secessionists. They were a small minority of the whole people, but in all slave-holding communities social rank is so powerful that their influence was out of proportion to their numbers. Even the leaders of the Unionists found their own "house divided against itself," for scarce one of them but had a son in Wise's legion, and the Twenty-second Virginia Regiment was largely composed of the young men of Charleston and the vicinity. I have already referred to the journal of
Major Smith which fell into my hands as "captured rebel mail," and its pages are full of pathetic evidence of the conflicting emotions which such a situation excited. He was the son of B. F. Smith, whom I have just mentioned, and whilst in Floyd's camp in front of us at Sewell Mountain he wrote: "My source of constant trouble is that my father will be in danger. Wicked and unscrupulous men, with whom he has lived in friendship for years, absolutely thirst for his blood, as I truly believe. He and Summers, as one of their friends remarked to me to-day, are especial objects of hatred and aversion to men here. I am actually leading a set of men one of whose avowed objects is the arrest and the judicial or lynch murder of my father!" In the next month he heard "the startling news" that his father had fully identified himself with the new state movement, and writes: "Those with whom I was connected, call and curse him as a traitor,--and he knew it would be so! Why my dear father has chosen to place me in this terrible situation is beyond my comprehension. I have been shocked beyond description in contemplating the awful consequences to the peace, safety, and happiness of both of us!" The family distress and grief revealed by accident in this case is only an example of what was common in all the families of prominent Union men. In some cases, as in that of Major Smith, the young men resigned their commissions and made their way home, finding the mental and moral strain too great to bear; but in many more, pride and the influence of comrades kept them in the Confederate service with the enlisted men who could not resign, and with hearts sorely torn by conflicting duties, they fought it out to the end.
The slavery question was the vexed one which troubled the relations of the army and the people in all the border States. My own position was that of the party which had
elected Mr. Lincoln. We disclaimed any purpose of meddling with the institution in the States which remained loyal to the Union, whilst we held it to be within the war powers of the government to abolish it in the rebellious States. We also took satisfaction in enforcing the law which freed the "contrabands" who were employed by their masters in any service within the Confederate armies. These principles were generally understood and acquiesced in by the West Virginians; but it was impossible to come to any agreement in regard to fugitive slaves who took refuge in our camps. The soldiers and many of the officers would encourage the negroes to assert their freedom, and would resist attempts to recapture them. The owners, if Union men, would insist that the fugitives should be apprehended and restored to them by military authority. This was simply impossible, for the public sentiment of the army as a whole was so completely with the slaves that any such order would have been evaded and made a farcical dead letter. The commanders who made such orders uniformly suffered from doing it; for the temper of the volunteer army was such that the orders were looked upon as evidence of sympathy with the rebellion, and destroyed the usefulness of the general by creating an incurable distrust of him among his own men. Yet nearly all the department commanders felt obliged at first, by what they regarded as the letter of the law, to order that fugitive slaves claimed by loyal citizens should be arrested, if within the camps, and delivered up.
Within the district of the Kanawha I tried to avoid the difficulty by stringent orders that slaves should be kept out of the camps; but I declined to order the troops to arrest and return them. I had two little controversies on the subject, and in both of them I had to come in collision with Colonel Benjamin Smith. After they were over we became good friends, but the facts are too important an illustration of the war-time and its troubles to be omitted.
The first raised the question of "contraband." A negro man was brought into my camp by my advance-guard as we were following Floyd to Sewell Mountain in September. He was the body-servant of Major Smith, and had deserted the major, with the intention of getting back to his family at Charleston. In our camp he soon learned that he was free, under the Act of Congress, and he remained with us, the servants about headquarters giving him food. When I returned to Gauley Bridge, Mr. Smith appeared and demanded the return of the man to him, claiming him as his slave. He, however, admitted that he had been servant to
Major Smith in the rebel army with his consent. The man refused to go with him, and I refused to use compulsion, informing Mr. Smith that the Act of Congress made him free. The claimant then went to General Rosecrans, and I was surprised by the receipt, shortly after, of a note from headquarters directing the giving up of the man. [Footnote: Letter of Major Darr, acting A. A. G., November 18.] On my stating the facts the matter was dropped, and I heard no more of it for a month, the man meanwhile disappearing. Soon after my headquarters were moved to
Charleston, in December, I received another note from headquarters, again directing the delivery of the fugitive. [Footnote: Letter of Captain Hartsuff, A. A. G., December 13.] Again I gave a temperate and clear statement of the facts, adding that I had reason to believe the man had now taken advantage of his liberty to go to Ohio. Mr. Smith's case thus ended, but it left him with a good deal of irritation at what he thought a wrong done to him as well as insubordination on my part.
In March following, another case arose, and I received a paper from headquarters containing an alleged statement of the facts, and referred to me in usual course for report. I had been absent from Charleston when the incidents occurred, but made careful inquiry satisfying myself of the truth, and perhaps cannot give an intelligent explanation better than by quoting the report itself, for its tone shows the sort of annoyance I felt, and it exhibits some of the conditions of an army command involving administrative duties that were far from pleasant.
I said: "The document is in the handwriting of B. F. Smith, Esq., U. S. District Attorney, residing here, though signed only by John Slack, Jr., and William Kelly; the former an acting deputy U. S. marshal, the latter the jailer at the county jail. Its composition is so peculiar that it is difficult to tell what part of the statement is Slack's or Kelly's and what is Colonel Smith's, and therefore I do not know whom to hold responsible for the misstatements contained in it.
"Mr. Slack is a respectable young man, who I believe would do his duty as far as he understands it, but who has not energy enough to keep him from being the tool of others. Mr. Kelly, the jailer, is sufficiently described when I state the fact that he has attempted to add to his profits as turnkey by selling bad whisky to soldiers put in his calaboose, at the rate of five dollars per pint bottle. Mr. Smith, the District Attorney, has lost no opportunity of being annoying to the military officers here, since the controversy about the negro man captured from his son, Major Isaac Smith of the rebel army. This reference to the parties concerned is necessary to enable the commanding general to understand the _animus_ of their complaints.
"The facts are substantially as follows: Henry H. Hopkins is a notorious Secessionist living near Coal River, and a man of considerable property. Some time before his arrest he sent the negro man mentioned in the complaint _South_, in charge of some Logan County 'bushwhackers.' On his way and in McDowell County the man managed to escape and returned into Hopkins's neighborhood, near Boone C. H., where he took his wife and three children alleged to have been the property of a woman named Smoot, and brought them to this post. Upon his representation that he had escaped from armed rebels in McDowell County, and without further knowledge of the facts, the Post Quartermaster set him at work. About the 19th of February Hopkins came to town with Mrs. Smoot, and without notice to the quartermaster or any color of authority by any civil process, procured the aid of Kelly, the jailer, seized the negro and took him to Wright's hotel. The provost-marshal, knowing that Hopkins was an active Secessionist and that he had been personally engaged in the combat at Boone C. H. last fall, ordered his arrest. Shortly after, he was waited upon by B. F. Smith, Esq., U. S. District Attorney, who stated that he had known Mr. Hopkins for a good many years and was confident he was a good Union man, although in fact the deputy-marshal at the very time held a warrant for the arrest of Hopkins for treason and conspiracy, under an indictment found in the U. S. Court, of which, to say the least of it, it is very strange Mr. Smith should have been ignorant. At the request of the provost-marshal, the warrant was served on Hopkins, who was admitted to bail in the sum of $2000, which is most inadequate security for the appearance of a man of Hopkins's wealth and influence, accused of such a crime. After the arrest of Hopkins, the negro being left to himself returned to his quarters, but sometime during the night stole a skiff and attempted to escape with his family down the Kanawha River. The circumstances of his accident in the river, the drowning of his family and his subsequent capture, I have not been able to investigate fully.
"The only matter of controversy now is in regard to the horse. The bar-keeper at the tavern denies that he has said it was taken by Wagon-master West (a man who has since been discharged by the Post Quartermaster), and I have been unable to trace it, although every effort has been made in perfect good faith to do so. The man West was put under arrest, to see if that would make him admit anything with regard to it, but without effect. I advised Slack to procure some one who knew the horse to pass through the government stables and teams, and if he recognized the animal to let me know at once, and I would give an order to him to obtain it. The statement that 'Slack says he told Cox he could not find him, that a soldier or employee in his command got him, and if proper measures were taken he could be had,' is both impudent and false, and I respectfully submit that it is not, in matter or manner, such a complaint as the Commanding General should call upon me to reply to.
"The statement of these civil officials at once gives me the opportunity and makes it my duty to state to the Commanding General that the only occasions on which these gentlemen show any vitality, is when some Secessionist's runaway negroes are to be caught. For any purpose of ordinary municipal magistracy they seem utterly incompetent. I have urged the organization of the county and of the town, but to no effect. Every street that is mended, every bridge that is repaired, or wharf that is put in order, must be done by the army at the expense of the U. S. government. They will not elect officers to look after the poor, but leave us to feed the starving near our camps. They will establish no police, and by force of public opinion keep suitors out of the courts ordered to be held by Governor Peirpoint. Yet a U. S. Commissioner, without any warrant or even pretended jurisdiction, will stop any vagrant negro, drive him through the streets in person, and say that he does it as a U. S. officer! Of course we simply look on and have had no controversy with them, unless driven to it by direct efforts on their part to interfere with our necessary regulations.
"The simple fact is that a few men of property who are avowed Secessionists control the town and make its public sentiment. By this means they practically control these officers also. Many of the negroes employed at the salt-works, and under hire in other capacities in the vicinity, are the slaves of rebels who are either in the rebel army or fled with it from the valley. The great problem upon which the Secessionists remaining here are exercising their ingenuity is to find the means of using the U. S. Commissioner and Marshal to secure to them the services of these persons without cost or legitimate contract of hiring, for the present profit of these gentlemen here, and the future advantage of their compatriots across the lines.
"Colonel Smith and Mr. Slack say that they made the statement at the express request of Major Darr of the Commanding General's staff. A simple inquiry by the Major would have saved me the necessity of writing this long letter."
It is due to General Rosecrans to say that although he had been anything but an anti-slavery man before the war, he made no pressure upon me to violate my own sense of right in these or similar cases, and they ended with my reports of the facts and of my reasons for the course I pursued. The side lights thrown upon the situation by the letter last quoted will be more instructive than any analysis I could now give, and the spice of flavor which my evident annoyance gave it only helps to revive more perfectly the local color of the time. In the case of Mr. Smith's "negro boy Mike," I had the satisfaction of finding in the intercepted correspondence of his son the major, the express recognition of the man's right to liberty by reason of his use in the enemy's service, and could not deny myself the pleasure of calling attention to it in my letters to headquarters.
My experience during the winter begot in me a rooted dislike for the military administration of the border districts, and strengthened my wish to be in the most active work at the front, where the problems were the strictly military ones of attack and defence in the presence of the armed enemy. [Footnote: I did not lack evidence that a steady rule, based on principles frankly avowed and easily understood, was rapidly bringing the people to be content to be in the Union, even those most inclined to secession. This result I am gratified to find attested by General Lee and General Floyd, who in dispatches very lately printed confessed the effect my administration had in quieting the valley during the first months of my occupation. Official Records, vol. li. pt. ii. pp. 220, 225.] Not that the winter was without compensating pleasures, for we were recipients of much social attention of a very kindly and agreeable sort, and carried away cherished memories of refined family circles in which the collision of opinions and the chafing of official relations were forgotten in hearty efforts to please. With the unconditionally loyal people our sympathies were very deep, for we found them greatly torn and disturbed in the conflict of duties and divided affections, where scarce a single household stood as a unit in devotion to the cause, and where the triumph of either side must necessarily bring affliction to some of them.