Correspondence Between Lt. Gen Wade Hampton and Maj.
Gen W. T. Sherman, February 1865.
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
In the Field, February 24, 1865.
Lieut. Gen. WADE HAMPTON,
Commanding Cavalry Forces, C. S. Army:
GENERAL: It is officially
reported to me that our foraging parties are murdered after capture and
labeled "Death to all foragers." One instance of a lieutenant and seven
men near Chesterville. and another of twenty "near a ravine eighty rods
from time main road" about three miles from Feasterville. I have
ordered a similar number of prisoners in our hands to be disposed of in
like manner. I hold about 1,000 prisoners captured in various ways, and
can stand it as long as you; but I hardly think these murders are
committed with your knowledge, and would suggest that you give notice
to the people at large that every life taken by them simply results in
the death of one of your Confederates. Of course you cannot question my
right to "forage on the country." It is a war right as old as history.
The manner of exercising it varies with circumstances, and if the civil
authorities will supply my requisitions I will forbid all foraging. But
I find no civil authorities who can respond to calls for forage or
provisions, therefore must collect directly of the people. I have no
doubt this is the occasion of much misbehavior on the part of our men,
but I cannot permit an enemy to judge or punish with wholesale murder.
Personally I regret the bitter feelings engendered by this war, but
they were to be expected and I simply allege that those who struck the
first blow and made war inevitable ought not, in fairness, to reproach
us for the natural consequences. I merely assert our war right to
forage and my resolve to protect my foragers to the extent of life for
I am, with respect, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN,
Major-General, U. S. Army.
OR Series 1, Volume 47 Part II, pg.: 546
the Field, February 27,
Maj. Gen. W. T. SHERMAN, U. S.
GENERAL: Your communication of
24th instant reached me to-day. In it you state that it has been
officially reported that your foraging parties are “murdered”
after capture. You go on to say that
you have “ordered a similar number of
prisoners in our hands to be disposed of in like manner;” that is
to say, you have ordered a number of Confederate soldiers to be
“murdered” You characterize your order
in proper terms, for the public voice,
even in your own country, where it seldom dares to express itself in
vindication of truth, honor, or justice, will surely agree with you
in pronouncing you guilty of murder if your order is carried out.
Before dismissing this portion of your letter, I beg to assure you
that for every soldier of mine “murdered” by you, I shall have
executed at once two of yours, giving in all cases preference to any
officers who may be in my hands.
In reference to the statement you
regarding the death of your foragers, I have only to say that I know
nothing of it; that no orders given by me authorize the killing of
prisoners after capture, and that I do not believe my men killed any
of yours, except under circumstances in which it was perfectly
legitimate and proper that they should kill them. It is a part of the
system of the thieves whom you designate as your foragers to fire the dwellings of those citizens whom they
robbed. To check this inhuman system, which is justly execrated by
every civilized nation, I have directed my men to shoot down all of
your men who are caught burning houses. This order shall remain in
force so long as you disgrace the profession of arms by allowing your
men to destroy private dwellings.
You say that I cannot, of course,
question your right to forage on the country-- “It is a right as
old as history.” I do not, sir, question this right. But there is a
right older, even, than this, and one more inalienable--the right
that every man has to defend his home and to protect those who are
dependent on him; and from my heart I wish that every old man and
boy in my country who can fire a gun would shoot
down, as he would a wild beast, the men
who are desolating their land, burning their homes, and insulting
You are particular in defining
claiming “war rights.” May I ask if you enumerate among these the
right to fire upon a defenseless city without notice; to burn that
city to the ground after it had been surrendered by the inhabitants
who claimed, though in vain, that protection which is always accorded
in civilized warfare to non-combatants; to fire the dwelling houses
of citizens after robbing them; and to perpetrate even darker crimes
than these--crimes too black to be mentioned?
You have permitted, if you have
ordered, the commission of these offenses against humanity and the
rules of war; you fired into the city of Columbia without a word of
warning; after its surrender by the mayor, who demanded protection to
private property, you laid the whole city in ashes, leaving amidst
its ruins thousands of old men and helpless women and children, who
are likely to perish of starvation and
exposure. Your line of march can be
traced by the lurid light of burning houses, and in more than one
household there is now an agony far more bitter than that of death.
The Indian scalped his victim regardless of age or sex, but with all
his barbarity he always persons of his female captives. Your
soldiers, more savage than the Indian, insult those whose natural
protectors are absent.
In conclusion, I have only to
that whenever you have any of my men “murdered” or “disposed
of” for the terms appear to be synonymous with you, you will let me
hear of it, that I may know what action to take in the matter. In the
meantime I shall hold fifty-six of your men as hostages for those
whom you have ordered to be executed.
I am, yours, &c
OR Series 1, Volume 47 Part II, pg.:
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