HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
August 12, 1864. (Via Woodstock, Va.)
General J. A. EARLY:
Dispatch of 11th received. Anderson has been advised; communicate with him.
R. E. LEE.
WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A.,
Richmond, Va., August 13, 1864.
Lieutenant General J. A. EARLY,
GENERAL: You have doubtless seen some notice of an infamous burning, by a force from the gun-boats of the enemy, of the residence, with its effects, of the widow and orphans of my late brother, Major John Seddon, on the Rappahannock, some four miles below Fredericksburg.
I send herewith a copy of a letter* from Mr. William A. Little, the brother of Mrs. Seddon, and a gentleman of high character and undoubted veracity, giving a full account of the outrage, and also a copy of the order* under which the deed was done, left with the manager by the officer, ascertained to be a Major Whelan, of a Pennsylvania regiment, who commanded the party, purporting to set forth the cause of the destruction and by whose order done. As the fact was done under the pretext of retaliation for a deed committed under totally different circumstances, and with certainly recent provocation fresh in the minds of your soldiers to justify them, by those under your command, I have thought it most appropriate to inform you accurately of the facts, and to rely on you, should opportunity offer, to exact fitting retribution.
I many not be insensible to the bias of personal feeling in this matter, for it stings me to the quick, I confess, to have relationship or connection with me the source to helpless relatives of such grievous wrongs; but in the exercise of the calmest judgment I can command, I must denounce this as one of the very meanest, pettiest, and most malignant atrocities committed by our miscreant invaders during the war. The pretense, I understand, has been presented by their lying prints that they mistakenly supposed the property to be mine, or to be owned by my living brother, with an interest on my part in it. For this there is not the least foundation in fact.
Thousands in the Army of the Potomac knew all about the house and its owners, and among the wretches present and assisting in the vandal act was recognized the commander of one of the gun-boats, who marines, some weeks since, and then learned the name and condition of the owners, and were prevented apparently from outrage only by a general paper of protection General Patrick had given when acting with the army around it; besides, several citizens of character on the river, as General Smith informs me he has satisfactorily learned, were taken by the enemy, and on inquiry had given the fullest information who were the real owners and occupants of the house, and that I had no interest whatever in the property, not being even executor of my brother's estate. General Graham, of Brandon notoriety, was on board as chief officer, and after having this information and holding a sort of
*Not found as inclosures.