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Union Correspondence Relating to Arrest of Rev. J.R. Stewart, Alexandria, VA, February 9, 1862.

ALEXANDRIA, February 9, 1862.
Hon. W. H. SEWARD, Secretary of State:
To-day the Rev. J. H. Stewart was arrested in the pulpit of Saint Paul's Church in Alexandria for omitting the prayer for the President of the United States by your detective here, Mr .Morton. The omission of that prayer occurred in the same church in my presence weeks since. I reported the fact to the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac for the information of the Government, but did not deem it an act that authorized or called for my interference. Had it been a matter of duty I would cheerfully have taken such measures as the circumstances called for and will execute any instructions as may be given in the case, but as it now stands I conceive my rightful authority has been interfered with and the quiet and police order of the city disturbed. May I ask to be put in possession of the Government's views in such cases. My own views and object in the performance of duty here has been to win rather than force back the affections and adherence of Southern people to the Constitution amid its blessings. This I have and still believe the true policy to reinstate the Constitution in all its integrity.

Brigadier. General.

ALEXANDRIA., February 9, 1862.
Hon. F. W. SEWARD, Assistant Secretary of State:
Attended church over which Reverend Mr. Stewart is pastor. He omitted to read prayer for the President of the United States, also for Congress. I requested him to read them twice. He declined. Ordered him under arrest as a state prisoner, he is a Northern secessionist.

ALEXANDRIA, VA., February 12, 1862.
Hon. WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.
SIR: In compliance with your request I respectfully submit to you the following report of the arrest of a secessionist on Sunday last in this city whose arrest and subsequent release by order of General Montgomery occasioned considerable excitement.

The Rev. J. R. Stewart, an Episcopal clergyman officiating at Saint Paul's Church, has long been notoriously known in this city as an open and avowed secessionist, denying the authority of the Government of the United States and recognizing that of the (so-called) Confederate States and of Bishop Meade who has seceded. He has habitually refused to read the prayer for the President of the United States as established by the authority of the church and only omitted to pray for Jeff. Davis and his Government (as he avowed to his congregation one week before) because they (the church) were so peculiarly circumstanced. His congregation is made up almost wholly of rebel citizens of Alexandria, well known for their habitual mockery of the Stars and Stripes and their insolent bearing toward Union citizens and U. S. soldiers.

Learning the truth of these statements beyond a question I attended Saint Paul's Church on Sunday morning and when Stewart omitted to read the prayer for the President of the United States as required by the church service I arose and respectfully requested him to do so. He paying no attention to my request I again requested him to read the prayer with the same result. Immediately Captain Farnsworth, of the Eighth Illinois Cavalry, who was present and to me an entire stranger, arose and demanded that he should read the prayer. Still refusing Captain Farnsworth ordered his sergeant to arrest and take him to the quarters of Colonel Farnsworth, of the same regiment, which order was immediately executed. Fearing a collision between the congregation and the military present I immediately directed Captain Farnsworth to hold him only as a state prisoner subject to your order.

After arriving at the headquarters of Colonel Farnsworth, Stewart sent for Brigadier-General Montgomery, military governor of the city, who soon called in. At the request of General Montgomery, Stewart was delivered to his custody and was not long after by him discharged from arrest I am informed unconditionally.

This arrest I believe was approved and applauded by the Union citizens of Alexandria and by the military officers here with scarcely an exception.

In this connection I deem it proper for me to attempt to give you some correct idea of the condition of things in this city and to call the attention of the Government to the abuses (as they seem to me) which are practiced almost constantly. There are a large number of secession sympathizers resident here who openly and defiantly boast of being secessionists and avow their disposition to aid the rebels all in their power and to do us all the harm they can. Many of them, especially the females, are in the practice of insulting the soldiers of the United States, denouncing our flag and the authority which upholds it. Yet these people are freely granted passes to go to and fro to Washington and wherever else they desire by the military authorities.

The divisions of Generals Heintzelman, Sumner and Franklin are within from two to four miles of Alexandria, and many of the men of those divisions are obliged to visit here constantly to procure their letters, supplies, express matter, &c. Two regiments of troops are quartered in Alexandria, yet in all parts of the city may be found the vilest of whisky dens and rum holes and other vile places of corrupt debauch to demoralize the soldiers, carrying on their trades not only without opposition but with (many of them) absolute protection. In consequence the streets leading from the city toward the camps of those divisions are almost constantly filled with staggering, drunken soldiers, poisoned and rendered unfit to serve their country in this trying hour; their money filched from them, the Army disgraced and weakened, and all under the eye and protection of military officers of the General Government.

Under this state of things I have no doubt that Alexandria is made a rendezvous by rebels and a depot whence information and correspondence is obtained and constantly kept up. Rebels who are in active correspondence and close league with the enemy have been arrested and passes from high military functionaries found upon them.

In conclusion I beg to suggest the great importance to the cause of the Union that more stringent measures should be adopted and a wiser policy pursued in the military administration of the affairs at this point.

I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,
Special Government Agent.

SOURCE: Official Records, Series 2, Volume 2.

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