War Department, C.S.A.,

Richmond, Va., June 24, 1864


General R. E. Lee:

General: Very distressing accounts reach the Department of the ravages and outrages being committed by comparatively small bands of marauding troops landed from gun-boats of the enemy on the Northern Neck and on this side of the Rappahannock. The larger portion of these marauders are negroes, and they are allowed, and in not a few cases encouraged, by their officers to commit deeds of spoliation, destruction, and infamy unexampled even among the many atrocities heretofore practiced by them in this war. The few men remaining in the country have little power to resist or punish; but they are thoroughly aroused and indignant, and earnestly seek to be supplied with arms, and beg for a nucleus of trained troops, however limited in number, around whom they may rally. I know the difficulty of sparing any troops for such distant enterprises, and that, besides, to throw such a party in the lower counties of the Northern Neck would probably lead only to their capture. Still it is almost impossible to withstand the cry for help of this outraged people or neglect the duty affording them some protection.

It seems to me, and I make the suggestion with deference, that the best plan would be for Colonel Mosby, who is now, I suppose, comparatively inactive in the Valley, to be ordered down with a portion of his command to the upper counties of the Neck proper (say about King George), whence he could operate down the Peninsula, giving countenance to the people capable of arms in organizing, and with them punishing the marauders who may venture into any part of the Neck. He could always keep a road of retreat open for himself and the companies that may be organized, and yet be able to punish any except a large force of the enemy. He might, too, throw on the river a company or so of his men, and organize the reserve corps on this side the Rappahannock, to whom I am endeavoring to send arms. I have not sent any instructions to Colonel Mosby on this subject; but if your judgment approves, I would be pleased if you would yourself direct such operations on his part, or let me know where he is likely to be soonest met, as I will send a courier without delay to him. With the people we would wish to aid this case is as urgent as it is sad and cruel.

Very truly yours,

James A. Seddon,

Secretary of War




Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 40, Part 2, p. 684

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 July 12