Southern genealogy-Letter to Town of Rodney, MS. June 5, 1862

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Letter from MG M. Lovell to USN commander about letter sent to the town of Rodney, MS threatening retaliation if US Forces are fired upon.

Jackson, Miss., June 12, 1862.

Mississippi River, near Baton Rouge:

SIR: I have the honor to inclose a copy of a letter received by the mayor of Rodney, notifying him in substance that if the vessels of the United States Navy are fired upon by our troops from or near the town vengeance will be taken upon the women and children, or, as the writer is pleased to term it, "punishment for the offense will be visited upon the town," and this, too, while declaring that "we are not here to war upon unarmed or peaceable persons." Where two nations are at war it has been customary among civilized people to punish the offense of an attack of the armed forces of one upon those of the other by a combat with the attacking party. If such attack be made from a town the assaulting party is not entitled to, and so far as our troops are concerned does not claim, any immunity by reason of the presence of women and children. What we do claim, however, and insist upon, is that when your vessels or transports are fired into by our troops they shall not hasten to the nearest collection of unarmed and peaceable women and children and wreak their vengeance upon them, as was done lately at Grand Gulf by United States vessels in retaliation for an attack with which the town had nothing more to do than had the city of Saint Louis.

My batteries are located at such points upon the river as are deemed best suited for the desired purposes and without reference to or connection with the people of the town. Should the site happen to fall within a village, you of course are at liberty to return the fire. Should it be in the vicinity of one, however, the usages of civilized warfare do not justify its destruction, unless demanded by the necessities of attack or defense.

I cannot bring myself to believe that the barbarous and cowardly policy indicated in the inclosed letter will meet with the approval of any officer of rank or standing in the United States Navy. I have therefore thought proper to transmit it to you under a flag of truce, with the confident expectation that you will direct those under your command to confine their offensive operations as far as possible to our troops, and forbid the wanton destruction of defenseless towns, filled with unoffending non-combatants, unless required by imperious military necessity. The practice of slaying women and children as an act of retaliation has happily fallen into disuse in this country with the disappearance of the Indian tribes, and I trust it will not be revived by the officers of the United States Navy, but that the demolition and pillage of the unoffending little village of Grand Gulf may be permitted to stand alone and without parallel upon record.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,

Major-General, Oommanding.


Baton Rouge, La., June 14, 1862.

This paper is respectfully referred to the flag-officer. and the officer bearing it is directed to wait till to-morrow morning outside our pickets for an answer or no answer. I think the paper frivolous and designed to make an investigation into our plans and an observance of our force.


Brigadier-General of Volunteers.


Off Rodney, Miss., June 5, 1862.

You are doubtless aware that the town of Grand Gulf was fired upon a short time since by some of the vessels of the United States Government as a punishment for permitting a battery to fire upon some of our transport steamers while passing down. I deem it my duty to inform you that should any battery or artillery fire upon any of our vessels while passing up or down from or near the town of Rodney the punishment for the offense will be visited on the town. We are not here to war upon unarmed or peaceable persons, and we would deprecate any event compelling us to fire upon the property of inoffensive people.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Lieutenant Commanding and & Senior Officer Present.

SOURCE: Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 15, pg. 474-475

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