• 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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.



Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia,

July 18, 1864


Honorable Secretary of War, Richmond:

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 13th instant and the accompanying papers relative to the murder by the enemy of Mr. Creigh and Captain White.

I have on several occasions expressed to the Department my views as to the system of retaliation, and revolting as are the circumstances attending the murder of the citizens above mentioned, I can see nothing to distinguish them from other outrages of a like character that have from time to time been brought to the attention of our Government. As I have said before, if the guilty parties could be taken, either the officer who commands or the soldier who executes such atrocities, I should not hesitate to advise the infliction of the extreme punishment they deserve, but I cannot think it right or politic to make the innocent, after they have surrendered as prisoners of war, suffer for the guilty.

I think, however, that something should be done, if possible, to put a stop to the barbarities of the enemy. I can see no remedy except in refusing to make prisoners of any soldiers belonging to commands in which these outrages are perpetrated. It is true the innocent may sometimes suffer by this course, but it will have a tendency to make those who do not approve the savage usages of their comrades exert all their influence to restrain them. The papers referred to are herewith returned.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

                R E Lee





Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 2, Volume 7, p. 473   

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 August 16

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