PROTECTING REBEL PROPERTY.
In connection with my command of the Department of the Rappahannock my conduct and the policy pursued by me toward the inhabitants of the country occupied by our troops, particularly with respect to their property, was another subject of much criticism and general condemnation; not only on account of the protection itself, but of the consequent detailing of soldiers to guard their property was especially and bitterly denounced, and was one of the main subjects on which I have supposed, from the language used against me, the charge of treason was founded.
It was not thought the course I pursued was consistent or could possibly have anything to do with a sincere desire to prosecute the war earnestly and zealously, but must have come from a feeling of tenderness or active sympathy with the enemy and a corresponding disregard for the soldiers committed to my charge; that my care for the property of the man in the secession army was greater than the interest I took in the Union volunteer, who was sacrificing his property and business at home to come and fight those whose property I seemed so much to respect.
One of the Senators from my native State, who had been looked upon as being very kindly disposed toward me, was so much moved by the representations made on this subject as to hold me up to the Senate in a disparaging manner as an unprofitable general, misapplying the public force under his command.
My conduct in the matter was made the subject of a resolution in the House of Representatives, founded on a complaint in a newspaper, directing the subject to be inquired into by the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, which was done.
Much was said about my making my soldiers rebuild some fences, causing some of General Shields' division to come back some 10 miles for this purpose after they had just come off a long and fatiguing march.
It may be recollected with what joy a supposed change in my policy by my successor was hailed throughout the country: "No more rosewater;" "Now the war will be carried on in earnest;" "No more protection to rebel property;" "No more guards over rebel houses;" "Now the army will live off the enemy," and "The enemy will now be made to feel the war," &c., and much more.
There was perhaps no subject in which more discontent was created than this. I seemed to be universally condemned. As a prominent person told me in reference to this matter, "You are become the most odious man in the nation."
I can truly say I have done things I wish I had done differently, and have omitted much I wish I had done; but I was never less in doubt in my life about anything than I am about my conduct in this respect.
I will try and show why. When I first came into command of the department the policy to be pursued toward the inhabitants of the country occupied by our troops, with respect to their property and the supplies we might find necessary to take for the army, was yet to be determined.
I found the system in force in other commands to be to pay those who took the oath of allegiance and not to pay those who did not.
A serious objection to this, in my opinion, was that a weak or a bad man might take the oath and get the money and be a rebel neverthe-
19 R R-VOL XII