HDQRS. CAVALRY DIVISION, DEPT. OF VA. AND N. C.,
Camp Jones' Neck, July 9, 1864.
Captain L. SIEBERT, A. A. G., Third Division, Cavalry Corps:
CAPTAIN: Your letter, calling for a statement of alleged depredations, so far as my division is concerned on the recent expedition against the enemy's communications, has been received. As your communication is not accompanied by any specific instances cited, my statement therefore must necessarily be general. Whatever depredations were committed or captures made, none were authorized except what was absolutely necessary for the service of the expedition. This authority is clearly set forth in the standing orders of this division, copies of which are submitted.* Every effort was made by me that could be, without neglecting the more important duties of the expedition, to prevent the depredations that I felt were going on, but it must be apparent even to the enemy how impossible it is to check entirely the evil dispositions of men that exist in every command, however few or many, on an expedition such as we were engaged in, where we were constantly on the move, marching over forty miles per day, with an enemy harassing our front and rear occupying the attention of the officers. I do not think that in any instance the outrages committed by our men exceed those committed by Morgan's command in his raid through Indiana and Ohio last year, of which I was personally cognizant, and what has occurred in this way on the expedition is not more than attend the invasions of a territory by whatever foe.
Whenever my attention was called to individual instances of plunder, steps were immediately taken to punish the depredators; but the failure to get any conclusive testimony of guilt only shows the difficulty of detection. At Dinwiddie Court-House a lady reported to me that her husband's watch had been stolen by a soldier whom she pointed out. The man was instantly arrested and closely searched in my presence, but no watch was found upon him. If the lady's testimony can be obtained, that soldier can still be punished by a court-martial or commission. Until we started on the return my division had the advance. General Wilson called my attention to the fact that there was much pillaging found to have taken place after my command had passed. On the return the Third Division had the advance, and my attention was repeatedly called to houses that had been robbed before my command came up. One instance was particularly noteworthy. Doctor Niblett's, on the 27th ultimo, was found to have been robbed of everything valuable; but the provost-marshal was unable to get any clue to the perpetrators, even with the doctor's assistance. I find, therefore, that these irregularities are not incident to any particular command.
Every effort will be made hereafter to correct this evil in my command, but I can only hope to be partially successful. The absolute necessity of detaching small parties to collect subsistence and forage, the giving out of horses, dismounting of men, and seeking for remounts, gives opportunity for plundering, the entire correction for which there does not seem to be any means. Inspections immediately after former expeditions having failed in the desired results, such investigation after ten days would be useless, particularly in this instance, where everything was abandoned that could in any way hamper our retreat.
AUGUST V. KAUTZ,
Brigadier-General and Chief of Cavalry.
*See Part II, p. 45.
8 R R-VOL XL, PT III