O.R., ser. 1, vol. 22, part 2, pp. 1058-1060
NEAR CAMP BRAGS, ARKANSAS,
November 6, 1863.
President DAVIS, Richmond:
If truth needed an apology, I would apologize. Your earnest desire to preserve unimpaired the boundaries of the Confederate States is well known, and that you seek that, by striving to preserve in the council and in the field a morality which shall deserve success is equally well known. This fact alone emboldens me to call your attention to some most unpleasant truths.
When Jo. Shelby, or any of the old jayhawking captains, makes a raid into Missouri, he and all his followers adopt the pirates’ law of property. Mankind are considered but objects of prey, and, astonishing and painful as the knowledge must be, they rob indiscriminately friend and foe. If such work is not soon arrested, it may be continued indefinitely, for not a friend will be left in all that country to be ruined. Shelby boasts that on the last raid he completely “gutted Boonville;” also that many Southern families, hearing of his approach, had removed their goods out of doors, expecting him to burn their houses. In fact, sir, the Shelby-Marmaduke raids in that country have transferred to the Confederate uniform all the dread and terror which used to attach to the Lincoln blue. The last horse is taken from the widow and orphan, whose husband and father has fallen in the country’s service. No respect is shown to age, sex, or condition. Women are insulted and abused. On the other hand, General Steele, the Federal commander, is winning golden opinions by his forbearance, justice, and urbanity. I state this without amplifying. Any one can judge what will follow. If I dare venture a suggestion, it would be that the men who have thus deported themselves should be removed from the district, for their very names have become omens of evil. If you wish to get at the truth of these things, send a commission in a legal way. Every word will be attested by a cloud of witnesses. Yet these men have friends in high, very high, places; that constitutes the difficulty. That is the only reason why I trouble you with it. The evil must be remedied; you alone have the wisdom and power to do it. I have written of these things at greater length to General Harris and Col. Waldo P. Johnson, the latter of whom, I think, must have considerable knowledge on the subject, acquired in the neighborhood where the raiders under Marmaduke did much of their mischief. There are too many men implicated in these wrongs, too much whisky drank in high places, too much disorganization in this army corps for these things to be redressed here by the powers that be. I feel as if I knew that in all of these things General Smith is above reproach; yet, as these culprits, from their positions, are the only conduits which the law has provided through which he is to receive his information of the status and condition of things in the army, it is almost impossible for him to correct these things.
In the beginning of the war I thought and hoped everything could be carried on with that decency and regularity that characterized the old army in the field. I soon learned that where untrained officers had to discipline untried men, all of whom were their equals, many their superiors, no such thing was possible. I became reconciled to it, and am so still; but, soon after, I. resigned rather than command a regiment in a mob, and Price’s Missouri State Guard became nothing more. Things must change, or this army will soon be nothing less. In the late Shelby raid, which extended to the Missouri River, not one recruit was added to the list from the State of Missouri, which can be attributed to nothing but the bad conduct of this army, under its present commander.
Having traveled extensively through Illinois recently, I found everything working there just as we would desire. Your army and Government have a spotless name, and the respect of all, and the sympathy of many there. Then to return here, and find our own dear and faithful women in dread of our army is too bad. My high regard for your character makes me think that whatever is right has your sanction; whatever is wrong has your condemnation. Then I conclude that, with. an army of which you are the chief, private property must be respected, and, when taken, which can only be for army use, it must be paid for, or some receipt given binding the Government. Also that the very name of woman must be sacred. I will not insult my glorious chief by intimating that it could be possible for him not to hold to these propositions, especially the latter. However, should you discover in anything that 1 am not orthodox, your permission to retire from the army will set all to rights with me.
Permit me to reiterate: I do not wish to trust either myself, my men, or my cause to any drunken officer. I do not wish to belong to a mob, or an army which, by its conduct, cannot be distinguished from one. I will neither aid nor abet any man, or set of men, nor any army, that allows women either to be insulted or robbed.
May the great Head of the Church guide and guard you is the daily
prayer of your humble, obedient servant,
Colonel, Provisional Army of the Confederate States of America.
JANUARY 19, 1864.
For attention. For the particular case, it would be well to send a copy of the within to General E. Kirby Smith, that he may have due inquiry made, with a view to the suppression of such shameful outrages as are described.