Jul. 15 Letter from George B. McClellan

Camp near Huttonsville, Va., July 15, 1861.

To the Commanding OFFICER of Forces near Staunton, Va.:

SIR: I have to-day received orders from the Commander-in-Chief of the U. S. Army respecting the disposition to be made of the prisoners of war now in my hands. These orders are substantially that the non-commissioned officers and privates shall be permitted to return to their homes, provided they willingly subscribe an oath or affirmation bringing them not to bear arms or serve in any military capacity against the United States until released from this obligation according to the ordinary usages of war; the officers to be permitted to return to their homes upon giving a similar parole of honor. From this privilege are expected, however, such officers as may have recently left the United States service with the intention of taking arms against the United Sates. Such officers will for the present be sent to Fort McHenry, where they will, without doubt, be kindly treated.

There are at Beverly some thirty-three officers, five surgeons, and about six hundred non-commissioned officers and privates. There are others at Laurel Hill, &c., the numbers of whom I do not yet accurately know. With the wounded the number will probably amount to at least eight hundred men, besides officers.

It is my desire to arrange you for the return to their homes of such of these as may accept the terms offered them. I would be glad to know what transportation, &c., you can provide for them, and at what point I may expect it. If no other arrangement will be convenient to you, I will provide wagons and tents, as well as cooking utensils, for the party, with the understanding that the proper authorities shall undertake to return them to me. The wagons and tents will probably be of those captured at Camp Garnett. Please inform me how many days’ rations it will be necessary to furnish to the party. I will be glad also to arrange for the return of the wounded as soon as their condition will permit it. In the mean time their friends may rest assured that every attention will be paid to them.

You will, ere this, no doubt, be informed of the unhappy fate of General Garnett, who fell while acting the part of a gallant soldier. His remains are now at Grafton, preserved in ice, where they will await the instructions of his relatives, should they desire to remove them to his home.

While I am determined to play my part in this unhappy contest to the utmost of my energy and ability, permit me to assure you of my desired to do all in my power to alleviate its miseries, and to confine its effects to those who constitute the organized armies and meet in battle. It is my intention to cause the persons and property of private citizens to be respected, and to render the condition of prisoners and wounded as little oppressive and miserable as possible. I trust that I shall be met in the same spirit, and this contest shall remain free from the usual horrible features of civil war.

I send this by Lieutenant R. G. Lipford, of the Forty-fourth Regiment Virginia Volunteers, who chances to be the captured officer most convenient. I have not yet taken his final parole, but have given him a special one for the purpose of conveying this letter and bringing back an immediate reply. Upon his return he will be accorded the same parole as the others. For obvious reasons I request that your reply be transmitted by Lieutenant Lipford.

I will proceed, with as little delay as possible, to the release of the prisoners, and, if ready to forward before your reply reaches me, will take it form granted that you accede to my proposals in regard to the return of the property sent with them.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Major-General, U. S. Army, Commanding Department of the Ohio.


The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I, Vol. II. With additions and corrections. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902.