McDowell Admonishes His Command Re: Depredations

1 11 2020

CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, AND RETURNS RELATING TO OPERATIONS IN MARYLAND, PENNSYLVANIA, VIRGINIA, AND WEST VIRGINIA FROM APRIL 16 TO JULY 31, 1861

CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – UNION

O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, pp. 743-744

General Orders,
No. 18.

Hdqrs. Dep’t Northeastern Virginia,
Fairfax Court-House, July 18,1861.

It is with the deepest mortification the general commanding finds it necessary to reiterate his orders for the preservation of the property of the inhabitants of the district occupied by the troops under his command. Hardly had we arrived at this place when, to the horror of every right-minded person, several houses were broken open and others were in flames by the act of some of those who, it has been the boast of the loyal, came here to protect the oppressed and free the country from the domination of a hated party.

The property of this people is at the mercy of troops who we rightfully say are the most intelligent, best-educated, and most law-abiding of any that were ever under arms. But do not, therefore, the acts of yesterday cast the deeper stain upon them?
It has been claimed by some that their particular corps were not engaged in these acts. This is of but little moment; since the individuals are not found out, we are all alike disgraced.

Commanders of regiments will select a commissioned officer as regimental provost-marshal, and ten men as a permanent police force under him, whose special and sole duty it shall be to preserve the property from depredation, and arrest all wrong doers, of whatever regiment or corps they may be. Any one found committing the slightest depredations, killing pigs or poultry, or trespassing on the property of the inhabitants, will be reported to headquarters, and the least that will be done to them will be to send them to the Alexandria jail.

It is again ordered that no one shall arrest or attempt to arrest any citizen not in arms at this time, or search or attempt to search any house, or even to enter the same, without permission.

The troops must behave themselves with as much forbearance and propriety as if they were at their own homes. They are here to fight the enemies of the country, not to judge and punish the unarmed and helpless, however guilty they may be. When necessary, that will be done by the proper persons.

By command of Brigadier-General McDowell:

JAMES B. FRY,
Assistant Adjutant-General.


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1 11 2020
Lisa Fulton

Just a few moments ago, while searching for newspaper articles about the Potomac area in the fall of 1861, I saw this notice added to general war news:
From the Philadelphia Inquirer, 05 October 1861:
“An army order has just been issued announcing that all depredations upon private property will be severely punished; that no remission of the death penalty for such outrages will be exercised, and that the commanders of guards over such property will be held responsible as principals.”

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