to save the trains, including those of the railroad, as well as to give warning to General Averell, one piece of artillery was directed to take position on the Pittsburg pike, a mile from town, covered by the infantry, about thirty-five men, and the cavalry, twenty-four men, which was my whole strength, excepting one gun, ordered to cover the rear of the trains, then not all on the road. The gun that was on the pike opened on the enemy about 3.30 a. m. Major C. H. Meneely, commissary of musters, was present to carry out my instructions. I respectfully call attention to the report of Lieutenant H. T. McLean, commanding officer, inclosed.
The enemy were held in check about two hours, my people slowly retiring through the town, being careful not to fire a shot within its limits, in order that there should be no excuse for firing buildings or committing any barbarities upon the people. The enemy, consisting of Brigadier-General McCausland's brigade of five regiments, and four pieces of artillery, and Brigadier General B. T. Johnson's brigade of two regiments, four battalions, with two pieces of artillery, numbering 2,600 in all, formed line of battle on the fair grounds, men dismounted, and after firing two or three cannon shots into the town, entered the same at about 5.30 a. m. with from 400 to 500 mounted and dismounted men. It is certain that both McCausland and Johnson were present.
The chief burgess being absent, some of the principal citizens were arrested by Major Gilmor and notified that by order of Major-General Early $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in currency was required to ransom the town. He was told by these gentlemen that there was not probably $50,000 in currency at hand; to with he replied that "The town must be burnt." Details were made and placed under charge of officers and fires kindled, it is said, almost simultaneously in fifty different places. In some instances the first warning to occupants of buildings came from the fire and smoke beneath them, thus barely escaping with their lives. Some of the officers and men refused, or were persuaded not to carry out their barbarous orders, and assisted people in fleeing from the flames, but generally an inhuman and savage ferocity characterized their actions. The sufferers, with few exceptions, only saved the clothing on their persons. Thus was consummated this premeditated deed of barbarity. At about 11 a. m. enemy drew in their pickets, and a little later their pillaging and burning parties retired toward McConnellsburg; General Averell entered three hours after from the direction of Fayetteville.
A lieutenant from Georgia, attached to a Virginia regiment, who deserted to our lines, states that it was understood by their troops that all building were to be burned from the moment Pennsylvania soil was touched.
Accompanying I invite attention to a telegram to General Averell, with his reply, also a statement made by an intelligent sergeant on duty at these headquarters, who was in Chambersburg during the rebel occupation, and part of time a prisoner.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
D. N. COUCH,
Major-General, Commanding Department.
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Chief of Staff.