HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE MISSOURI,
Saint Louis, January 4, 1862.
Brigadier-General SCHOFIELD, Wellsville, Mo.
GENERAL: It has been represented to me by Union men who live along the North Missouri Railroad that the best way to ascertain who are the bridge-burners would be to appoint a military commission to sit at Wellsville or Mexico who might try parties accused and compel witnesses to attend and give their testimony.
For example it is said that one Wells, who lives at Mexico and is a rank secessionist-although he pretends to be a Union man-has two sons in Price's army, or had-knows, all about who are the bridgeburners in that part of the country and will give evidence if compelled to. Other names have also been given. If you think well of this and suggest the names of officers for such a commission I will order it. I can send one officer from here to act if necessary. It is all-important that these culprits be broughtto justice and I hope you will not leave until you accomplish it. Those condemned can be brought here for punishment. Perhaps it would not be safe to execute any one there.
H. W. HALLECK,
LANCASTER, OHIO, January 5, 1862.
Major General H. W. HALLECK, Saint Lous, Mo.
DEAR SIR: The ground on which you can treat these railroad destroyers as military criminals is that they are within your lines in the guise of peaceful citizens, destroying life and property, and therefore as secret enemies caught in the warlike act amenable to martial law. The secessionists cannot except to it for in Tennessee they hang all the bridge-burners they can catch, and in this case you very truly say severity is mercy.
However, all you want is to protect life and property and perhaps
the best way to do is this: Try by a court-martial all that you have caught; hang at once two or three of the ringleaders in the presence of their fellows; sentence a dozen or twenty or even fifty of the most culpable and repriee them fr a time with the distinct understanding that they will be hanged according to sentence if further depredations are committed by their associates but that they may hope for mercy if there is order and peace. Discharge the least culpable and let them go home and carry the conditions with them with the assurance that if they themselves are caught agein they will find no mercy. And in holding as hostages care should be taken to hold from each neighborhood, family and clique one or more.
The scoundrels engaged at the Little Plattle deserve more severe handling than those you have caught for they deliberately planned ad committed the most cruel, indiscriminate murder of men, women and children.
I am, very resectfully, yours,