eral Orders, Numbers 11, headquarters Army of the Potomac, February 11, 1863. It is scarcely necessary to describe to the commanding general the full extnet of this destitution, since no one can better understand than he the rigorous exermity to which a community, strictly agricultural in its character and unfortunately situated between or within the lines of two hostile armies, now quarted upon by one and now by the other, and at all times robbed and plundered by the strangglers of both, must, in the course of nearly three years of warfare, be reduced. It may be sufficient here to say that in a circle whose radius is not less than fifty miles, of which the commanding general's headquarters may be taken as the center, including the counties of Fauquier, Rappahannock, Culpeper, and portions of Fairfax, Madison, Orange, Spotsylvania, Stafford, and Prince William, and containing a population before the war of over 60,000 whites, living for the most part in affluence and surrounded with all the comforts and luxuries of peace and welth, there remains at the present time less than half of that number, most of whom, specially in this vicinity, are daily dependent for their bread on the charities of the offficers and soldiers of this army, with no hope for the future, since their corps, their farms, and their houses have been laid waste by the revages of war. Such has been the price of, such the reward of, rebelion. And yet humanity and justice demand that these people shall not be driven to the limits of despair. Under the fourth section of General Orders, Numbers 11, Army of the Potomac, above referred to, before subsistance stores may be sold or issued to citizens residing within the limits of this army, it is required that a certificate under oath of the purchaser shall be given that he is without the means of subsistance, and that he is unable to suitan life without being allowed to make such purchases, and aoath of allegiance before any sales or issues can be made. I would respectfully submit whether an oath taken by compulsion of hunger and dreaded starvation is binding upon the conscience. Would such an oath be binding by any rule of law? Is such on oath expedient? Can it in any degree answer the purpose for which it is required? Again, should we demand of these people on oath of allegiance to the Government to-day and leave them unprotected to-morrow? Is it just that we should require from them to swear fealty to the country and leave them to be robbed by the enemy for taking that oath? Do not all Government guarantee protection if they demand allegiance? Are not the two terms as inseparable as representation and taxation? Many of these people are helpless women and children; many of them are loyal, while a majority would wilingly take the required oath if they could be assured that their persons and property would be protected from the enemy. But it is impossible for the Government at the present time to give such guarantees of protection. The lines of our army this month may be the lines of the enemy the next, who will, in the future, as he has in the past, persecute those people for taking the oath, and plunder them till they recant and swear allegiance to the obligarchy of the South. Hence, in order to obviate all of these objections, I would respectfully suggest to the commanding general that the oath of allegiance required by section 4, General Orders, Numbers 11, headquarters Army of the Potomac, 1863, above referred to, be changed to an oath of neutrality, which I apprehend lies within his power to do, in compliance with the spirit of the tenth section, General Orders, Numbers 100, War Department, April 24, 1863.
I am, general, most respectfully, your obedient servnat,
J. C. RICE,