A LIFE OF GEN. ROBERT E. LEE.
BY JOHN ESTEN COOKE.
"Duty is the sublimest word in our language."
"Human virtue should be equal to human calamity." LEE. 1876
THE WAR ADVANCES NORTHWARD.
I. Lee's Protest
General Lee remained in front of Richmond, watching General McClellan, but intelligence soon reached him from the upper Rappahannock that another army was advancing in that quarter, and had already occupied the county of Culpepper, with the obvious intention of capturing Gordonsville, the point of junction of the Orange and Alexandria and Virginia Central Railroads, and advancing thence upon Richmond.
The great defeat on the Chickahominy had only inspired the Federal authorities with new energy. Three hundred thousand new troops were called for, large bounties were held out as an inducement to enlistment, negro-slaves in regions occupied by the United States armies were directed to be enrolled as troops, and military commanders were authorized to seize upon whatever was "necessary or convenient for their commands," without compensation to the owners. This indicated the policy upon which it was now intended to conduct the war, and the army occupying Culpepper proceeded to carry out the new policy in every particular.
This force consisted of the troops which had served under
Fremont--a necleus--and reenforcements from the army of McClellan, together with the troops under General
Burnside, were hastening to unite with the newly-formed army. It was styled the "Army of Virginia," and was placed under command of
Major-General John Pope, who had hitherto served in the West.
General Pope had procured the command, it is said, by impressing the authorities with a high opinion of his energy and activity. In these qualities, General McClellan was supposed to be deficient; and the new commander, coming from a region where the war was conducted on a different plan, it was said, would be able to infuse new life into the languid movements in Virginia. General Pope had taken special pains to allay the fears of the Federal authorities for the safety of Washington. He intended to "lie off on the flanks" of Lee's army, he said, and render it impossible for the rebels to advance upon the capital while he occupied that threatening position. When asked if, with an army like General McClellan's, he would find any difficulty in marching through the South to New Orleans, General Pope replied without hesitation, "I should suppose not."
This confident view of things seems to have procured General Pope his appointment, and it will soon be seen that he proceeded to conduct military operations upon principles very different from those announced by General McClellan. War, as carried on by General Pope, was to be war _a l'outrance._ General McClellan had written: "The war should not be at all a war upon population, but against armed forces ... all private property, taken for military use, should be paid for; pillage and waste should be treated as high crimes; all unnecessary trespass sternly prohibited, and offensive demeanor by the military toward citizens promptly rebuked." The new commander intended to act upon a very different principle, and to show that he possessed more activity and resolution than his predecessor.
General Pope's assumption of the command was signalized by much pomp and animated general orders. He arrived in a train decked out with streamers, and issued an order in which he said to the troops: "I desire you to dismiss from your minds certain phrases which I am sorry to find much in vogue among you. I hear constantly of taking strong positions and holding them, _of lines of retreat and bases of supplies_. Let us discard such ideas. The strongest position which a soldier should desire to occupy is the one from which he can most easily advance upon the enemy. Let us study the probable line of retreat of our opponents, _and leave our own to take care of itself. Let us look before, and not behind. Disaster and shame look in the rear_." The result, as will be seen, furnished a grotesque commentary upon that portion of General Pope's order which we have italicized. In an address to the army, he added further: "I have come to you from the West, where we have always seen the backs of our enemies--from an army whose business it has been to seek the adversary, and beat him when found--where policy has been attack, and not defence. I presume I have been called here to pursue the same system."
Such was the tenor of General Pope's orders on assuming command--orders which were either intended seriously as an announcement of his real intentions, or as a blind to persuade the Confederates that his force was large.
Unfortunately for the region in which he now came to operate, General Pope did not confine himself to these flourishes of rhetoric. He proceeded to inaugurate a military policy in vivid contrast to General McClellan's. His "expatriation orders" directed that all male citizens disloyal to the United States should be immediately arrested; the oath of allegiance to the United States Government should be proffered them, and, "if they furnished sufficient security for its observance," they should be set free again. If they refused the oath, they should be sent beyond the Federal lines; and, if afterward found within his lines, they should be treated as spies, "and shot, their property to be seized and applied to the public use." All communication with persons living within the Southern lines was forbidden; such communication should subject the individual guilty of it to be treated as _a spy_. Lastly, General Pope's subordinates were directed to arrest prominent citizens, and hold them as hostages for the good behavior of the population. If his soldiers were "bushwhacked"--that is to say, attacked on their foraging expeditions--the prominent citizens thus held as hostages were to _suffer death_.
It is obvious that war carried on upon such principles is rapine. General Pope ventured, however, upon the new programme; and a foreign periodical, commenting upon the result, declared that this commander had prosecuted hostilities against the South "in a way that cast mankind two centuries back toward barbarism." We shall not pause to view the great outrages committed by the Federal troops in Culpepper. They have received thus much comment rather to introduce the following communication to the Federal authorities, from General Lee, than to record what is known now to the Old World as well as the New. Profoundly outraged and indignant at these cruel and oppressive acts, General Lee, by direction of the Confederate authorities, addressed, on the 2d of August, the following note to
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE C.S., /
NEAR RICHMOND, VA., _August_ 2, 1862.;
_To the General commanding the U.S. Army, Washington_:
GENERAL: In obedience to the order of his Excellency, the
President of the Confederate States, I have the honor to make you the following communication:
On the 22d of July last a cartel for a general exchange of prisoners was signed by Major-General John A. Dix, on behalf of the United States, and by Major-General D.H. Hill, on the part of this government. By the terms of that cartel it is stipulated that all prisoners of war hereafter taken shall be discharged on parole until exchanged. Scarcely had the cartel been signed, when the military authorities of the United States commenced a practice changing the character of the war, from such as becomes civilized nations, into a campaign of indiscriminate robbery and murder.
A general order issued by the Secretary of War of the United States, in the city of Washington, on the very day that the cartel was signed in Virginia, directs the military commanders of the United States to take the property of our people, for the convenience and use of the army, without compensation.
A general order issued by
Major-General Pope, on the 23d of July last, the day after the date of the cartel, directs the murder of our peaceful citizens as spies, if found quietly tilling their farms in his rear, even outside of his lines.
And one of his brigadier-generals, Steinwehr, has seized innocent and peaceful inhabitants, to be held as hostages, to the end that they may be murdered in cold blood if any of his soldiers are killed by some unknown persons whom he designates as "bushwhackers." Some of the military authorities seem to suppose that their end will be better attained by a savage war in which no quarter is to be given, and no age or sex is to be spared, than by such hostilities as are alone recognized to be lawful in modern times. We find ourselves driven by our enemies by steady progress toward a practice which we abhor, and which we are vainly struggling to avoid.
Under these circumstances, this Government has issued the accompanying general order, which I am directed by the President to transmit to you, recognizing
Major-General Pope and his commissioned officers to be in the position which they have chosen for themselves--that of robbers and murderers, and not that of public enemies, entitled, if captured, to be treated as prisoners of war. The President also instructs me to inform you that we renounce our right of retaliation on the innocent, and will continue to treat the private soldiers of General Pope's army as prisoners of war; but if, after notice to your Government that they confine repressive measures to the punishment of commissioned officers who are willing to participate in these crimes, the savage practices threatened in the orders alluded to be persisted in, we shall reluctantly be forced to the last resort of accepting the war on the terms chosen by our enemies, until the voice of an outraged humanity shall compel a respect for the recognized usages of war. While the President considers that the facts referred to would justify a refusal on our part to execute the cartel by which we have agreed to liberate an excess of prisoners of war in our hands, a sacred regard for plighted faith, which shrinks from the semblance of breaking a promise, precludes a resort to such an extremity, nor is it his desire to extend to any other forces of the United States the punishment merited by
General Pope and such commissioned officers as choose to participate in the execution of his infamous order.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R.E. LEE, _General commanding_.
This communication requires no comment. It had the desired effect, although
General Halleck returned it as couched in language too insulting to be received. On the 15th of August, the United States War Department so far disapproved of General Pope's orders as to direct that "no officer or soldier might, without proper authority, leave his colors or ranks to take private property, or to enter a private house for the purpose, under penalty of death."