• The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia

The Lee Family Digital Archive is the largest online source for primary source materials concerning the Lee family of Virginia. It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online. We are always looking for new letters, diaries, and books to add to our website. Do you have a rare item that you would like to donate or share with us? If so, please contact our editor, Colin Woodward, at  (804) 493-1940, about how you can contribute to this historic project.



Confederate States of America, War Department,

Richmond, Va., July 13, 1864


General R. E. Lee, Commanding Army of Northern Virginia:

General: I submit to you herewith, in accordance with the expressed desire of the President, the evidences of two cases of brutal murder committed by the enemy, acting apparently under due military authority, during the recent expedition of General Hunter into the Valley of Virginia, and your opinion is solicited as to whether any or what measure of punishment or retaliation should be adopted. Both are cases of barbarous violation of the usages of civilized war, and one in particular (that of Captain White) seems imperatively to demand from our military authorities some vindication. You will perceive from the indorsements on the papers that these papers have been the subject of conference, at the desire of the President, between General Bragg and myself. My own opinion, as you are probably aware, dictated not, I think, by any spirit of mere vindictiveness, but adopted on deliberate reflection, as in my judgment the best if not the only mode of compelling our malignant foes to an observance of the laws of war, has caused me to recommend invariably in such cases stern and immediate retaliation. The justice of the opinion has, I think, been confirmed by experience, whenever any officer, roused by outrage to assume the responsibility, has within his command sternly retaliated. General Bragg informs me that such was also his experience while in command in the West. With these views, my judgment would be in the present cases to have two prisoners from the same command, of appropriate rank, executed upon the very spots where the murders were committed. I trust to be excused from any expression of this opinion, which I felt to be the more due because my indorsements on the papers referred to, proceeding on the assumption that my opinions were known to the President, have not taken the responsibility of a positive recommendation. The subject, however, with this explanation, is submitted for your consideration and counsel.

Very respectfully, yours,

James A. Seddon,

Secretary of War   




Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 2, Volume 7, pp. 463-464

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 August 16

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