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NP: July 14, 1864 Richmond Examiner: A Word to the Cavalry

Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.



July 7th, 1864.


I do not write in hopes of producing anything new upon the question that is now agitating the public mind and daily press, viz:  “What treatment shall be vouchsafed to Yankee raiders?”—but for the purpose of calling the attention of our cavalry to what is expected of them by the army and people.  The policy of our Government in the matter seems now to be settled.  That they will continue to be treated as prisoners of war, whether taken with the torch of the incendiary or the knife of the murderer, with the goods he has stolen or fresh from the unfortunate object of hellish lusts, there seems to be no room for doubt.  And to those who would protect their property and the loved ones at home and execute swift and terrible vengeance upon the dispoiler; there remains but one course, and that is, TO TAKE NO MORE OF THESE MEN PRISONERS.  This course will save the expense of taking care of them, relieve the Government of a disagreeable responsibility and make these raids less frequent.  What good argument can there be advanced why they should not be executed upon the spot!  Have they not departed from the paths of legitimate war, and are committing crimes which the civil law of our State would be quick to punish in its own citizens?  And shall we allow a foreign foe to revel in sin and fiendish crimes in our midst, and when taken in his career, claim the protection of the laws of war, every precept of which he has violated!  If there are any soldiers in our army still adverse to instantly executing these wretches let him but visit the desolated portions of Virginia—behold the blackened ruins of that once lovely homestead—listen to that low, hopeless wail of Virginia’s violated daughters!  Oh!  God, it is enough to tear loose the very strings of my soul and stop the pulsations of my brain!—it makes my blood curdle as it courses through my veins, and the heart sickens at the bare contemplation.  I believe that there is no son of Virginia who will pause a moment for the second thought; but if there be, let him forever disown the name of Virginian; and I believe that soldiers from other States, fighting by our sides, and in sympathy with our down-trodden State, will not be slow to follow our example.  But to Virginians, especially, do I call upon to arise and assert their majesty and make the cowardly foe feel that ‘tis certain death to be caught when the swift heel and bloody hand of the Virginian are upon his track. To you, sir cavalryman do I, in particular, address myself.  To you it is given to follow these marauders in their course and check their career, and it must be you who shall make the name of VIRGINIAN TERRIBLE to our foe.

The infantry and artillery are seldom in circumstances to punish these raiders, and they call upon you to protect their homes and loved ones by executing that vengeance that they would surely visit upon the fiends could they overtake them in their race.  Then, oh cavalrymen of Virginia, be quick in your pursuit, swift in your vengeance, and terrible in the power of your name, and merit the gratitude of every son and daughter of Virginia.

R. B. B.2

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  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: This letter to the editor was sent shortly after the Wilson-Kautz Raid in late June and early July 1864.  The Richmond papers in early July were full of stories detailing Yankee cavalrymen who were captured wearing women’s clothes and carrying all sorts of personal items stolen from homes.  The validity of the reports was never called into question.  It was more important for morale to brand the “Yankee devils” as evil marauders who needed to be stopped at all costs.  That said, there were certainly excesses committed by Union cavalrymen on this and other raids.  I’m not as familiar with the rhetoric on Union cavalry emanating from the Richmond papers at other time periods or other papers in the vicinity of other Union cavalry raids.  If anyone has some examples I’d love to hear from you.
  2. “A Word to the Cavalry.” Richmond Examiner. July 14, 1864, p. 2 col. 5
{ 1 comment… add one }
  • K. S. McPhail April 7, 2014, 9:56 pm

    It seemed to be popular turn of phrase right at that time.
    A quick search of the Daily Dispatch reveals . . .

    “. . .indeed all along in their route, the devils appropriated everything they could lay their thievish hands upon, including all the horses and mules.” – May 17, 1864

    “They rushed into the town yelling like devils.–The people were greatly alarmed, but offered no resistance.” – May 21, 1864

    “It is impossible that a day of retribution should not come for such crimes as are perpetrated by these devils in human shape.” – June 3, 1864

    “Some of the people in the country thus abandoned by them were absolutely without one morsel to eat; whilst their houses had been literally sacked, the bedding being taken by the Yankee devils to the trenches to sleep on, and other kinds of furniture carried there and wantonly destroyed.” – June 8, 1864

    “While with reference to the latter they are not correct, the topography of the country is laid down tolerably enough to show that it was drawn from information furnished by a spy; and this hint should cause our authorities to keep their eyes open, since there are probably more of this species of lurking devils in our midst.” – June 11, 1864

    “The people of Caroline will long remember the passage of the “Union” devils through their borders.” – June 22, 1864

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