Wednesday, September 28, 1864

General Halleck Writes:

WASHINGTON, September 28, 1864

Major-General SHERMAN, Atlanta, Ga.:
        GENERAL: Your communications of the 20th in regard to the removal of families from Atlanta and the exchange of prisoners, and also the official report of your campaign, are just received. I have not had time as yet to examine your report. The course which you have pursued in removing rebel families from Atlanta and in the exchange of prisoners is fully approved by the War Department. Not only are you justified by the laws and usages of war in removing these people, but I think it was your duty to your own army to do so. Moreover, I am fully of opinion that the nature of your position, the character of the war, the conduct of the enemy, and especially of non-combatants and women of the territory which we have heretofore conquered and occupied, will justify you in gathering up all the forage and provisions which your army may require both for a siege of Atlanta and for your supply in your march farther into the enemy’s country. Let the disloyal families of the country thus stripped go to their husbands, fathers, and natural protectors in the rebel ranks.

We have tried three years of conciliation and kindness without any reciprocation. On the contrary, those thus treated have acted as spies and guerrillas in our rear and within our lines. The safety of our armies and a proper regard for the lives of our soldiers require that we apply to our inexorable foes the severe rules of war. We certainly are not required to treat the so-called non-combatants and rebels better than they themselves treat each other. Even here in Virginia, within fifty miles of Washington, they strip their own families of provisions, leaving them as our army advances to be fed by us or to starve within our lines. We have fed this class of people long enough. Let them go with their husbands and fathers in the rebel ranks, and if they won’t go we must send them to their friends and natural protectors.

I would destroy every mill and factory within my reach which I did not want for my own use. This the rebels have done, not only in Maryland and Pennsylvania, but also in Virginia and other rebel States, when compelled to fall back before our armies. In many sections of the country they have not left a mill to grind grain for their own suffering families, lest we might use them to supply our armies. We must do the same.

I have endeavored to impress these views upon our commanders for the last two years. You are almost the only one who has properly applied them. I do not approve of General Hunter’s course in burning private, houses, or uselessly destroying private property–that is barbarous; but I approve of taking or destroying whatever may serve as supplies to us or to the enemy’s armies.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. W. HALLECK, 
Major-General and Chief of Staff.

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