War Department, C.S.A.,

Richmond, Va., March 5, 1864


General R. E. Lee,

Commanding, &c.:


General: I inclose to you herewith a slip from one of the morning papers containing an account of the disposal of a portion of the enemy’s force which recently attacked this city, and a copy of the papers found on the body of Colonel Dahlgren, who was killed. The diabolical character of those papers and of the enterprise they indicate seems to require at our hands something more than a mere informal publication in our newspapers. My own inclinations are toward the execution of at least a portion of those captured at the time Colonel Dalhgren was killed, and a publication of these papers as its justification. At any rate, a formal publication from the highest official position should issue, calling the attention of our people and that of the civilized world to the atrocious modes of warfare adopted by our enemies. General Bragg’s views coincide with my own on this subject. The question of what is best to be done is a grave and important one, and I desire to have the benefit of your views and any suggestions you may make. It is not for the purpose of evading or sharing any responsibility which may attach to the action to be taken that I seek to know your views, but simply that in determining what is best to be done I may have the aid of your wisdom and experience, as well as your judgment of what would be the sentiment of the army on a course of severe but just retribution. You will, of course, appreciate to what consequences such a course may not rightfully, yet not unnaturally, considering the unscrupulousness and malignity of our foes, lead, and estimate such results in forming your judgment.

Very respectfully, yours,  

James A. Seddon,

Secretary of War



Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume, 33, p. 218


Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 March 14