Brig. Gen. Philip St. George Cocke to the Citizens of Northern Virginia

22 11 2020



O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, pp. 804-805

Headquarters Potomac Department,
Culpeper Court-House, May 5, 1861.

Commissioned by the governor, with the sanction of the council, and confirmed by the Convention, in the rank of brigadier-general of volunteers, to date from the 21st April, 1861, and placed in command of all the military troops and defenses on the Potomac border of the State, I proceeded, in company with Brigadier-General Ruggles, my second in command, from Richmond, he to take up his headquarters at Fredericksburg, whilst I should take position in front of Washington, and, in connection with the commanding officer at Harper’s Ferry, on my left, thus cover and defend our Potomac border against invasion from the North.

After visiting Alexandria, and making the necessary observations and arrangements at that post, I proceeded to take up my headquarters at this place on Sunday morning, April 28.

The governor’s proclamation of the 3d instant, declaring that “the sovereignty of the Commonwealth of Virginia having been denied, her territorial rights assailed, her soil threatened with invasion by the authorities of Washington, and every artifice employed which could inflame the people of the Northern States to misrepresent our purposes and wishes, it becomes the solemn duty of every citizen of this State to prepare for the impending conflict, and authorizing the commanding general of the military forces of the State to call out and cause to be mustered into the service of Virginia, from time to time, as the public exigencies may require, such additional number of volunteers as he may deem necessary”; and the commanding general, following up the proclamation of the governor, having ordered me to call out and muster into the service of the State volunteer companies from the “counties of Alexandria, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Fauquier, Rappahannock, Culpeper, Madison, Greene, Orange, Albemarle, Kelson, Amherst, Campbell, Bedford, Roanoke, Botetourt, and Craig; the troops from the first five counties to rendezvous at Leesburg and Warrenton; those from the five next named at Culpeper Court-House; those from Albemarle, Amherst, and Kelson at Charlottesville; the remaining at Lynchburg,” the whole will be organized into regiments of rifles or infantry, cavalry and artillery, and be placed temporarily under such field and other officers as may be available, until their proper field officers can be appointed by the governor.

Officers will be sent to the respective rendezvous to muster these troops into service and rapidly to organize the whole force.

Therefore, I call upon the brave men within the geographical limits above indicated to respond instantly to this demand upon their patriotism in defense of all that is held sacred and dear to freemen. Men of the Potomac Military Department, to arms! The once peaceful capital of the United States is now the great rallying point of the armed military power of the North! The Constitution of your country, the sovereign rights of your State, truth, justice, and liberty, are all ignored and outraged amidst the brutal and frenzied cry of the North for force, force!

At this moment hosts of armed men profane by their insolent presence the city, the grave, and the memory of Washington, whilst an unbroken stream of thousands in arms violate the soil of Maryland and murder her citizens in their march to re-enforce and occupy the capital.

And for what? The capital has never been threatened; it is not now threatened. It is beyond and outside the limits of the free and sovereign State of Virginia.

The North has not openly, and according to the usage of civilized nations, declared war on us. We make no war on them; but should Virginia soil or the grave of Washington be polluted by the tread of a single man in arms from north of the Potomac, it will cause open war. Men of the Potomac border, men of the Potomac Military Department, to arms! Your country calls you to her defense. Already you have in spirit responded. You await but the order to march, to rendezvous, to organize, to defend your State, your liberties, and your homes.

Women of Virginia! Cast from your arms all cowards, and breathe the pure and holy, the high and glowing, inspirations of your nature into the hearts and souls of lover, husband, brother, father, friend!

Almighty God! Author and Governor of the world; Thou source of all light, life, truth, justice, and power, be Thou our God! Be Thou with us! Then shall we fear not a world against us!

Brigadier-General, Commanding Potomac Department.



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