acted upon was to arrest no one and to prosecute no one further who had been arrested when turned over to me for holding merely in the abstradct disloyal opinions, nor even where they expressed them conscientiously and in a general way, but to seize only such as were actively engaged against us, in some mode giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
The effect of this policy has been as I am fully satisfied to improve greatly the popular sentiment, and to strengthen our cause in hat part of Virginia where I regret to say it was much needed. Recently as I have reason to believe several arrests have been made by the military upon mere general suspicion of the party holding (and perhaps expressing in a general way merely) unsound opinions as to the great issue between us and the North, and I am satisifed evil conseuqences will result from it. Gentlemen of high characterand social position I understand are under arrest now at Winchester without any opporutnity or means whatever afforded them of having their cases examined and determined. Others also oflike character I have reason to believe will soon be taken into custody.
Without trubling you therefore further in detail with the reasons which induceme to believe these arrests will be productive of much mischief I beg leave to suggest that something in the way of a commission, made in part at least of civilians of intelligence and undoubted loiyalty, be constituted to examine into these cases promptly and make proper disposition of them by either remitting them to the civil authorities where prosecutions ca be mantained or turning them over to the proper higher military authorities, or in proper cases discharging them from custody. The law of Virginia is very defective on this subject, and in these border counties with the enemy around them it is quite out of the question to pursue the ordinary slow course of prosecuting such cases.
A reply if addressed to Charlestown, Jefferson County, Va., will reachme, though it may not be important thatne if proper instructions be given to the military authorities.
Your obedient servant,
ADJUTANT AND INSPECTOR GENERAL'S OFFICE,
Richmond, September 7, 1861.
General R. E. LEE, Commanding Forces, &c., Stanton, Va.
GENERAL: A letter relative to the supposed exeuction by the enemy of two citizens of which a copy* is herewith transmitted to you has been received by the President, who instructs me to direct that you will send a flag to the general commanding the forces of the enemy in front of you, report to him the case and require that he deliver to you as criminals the persons who perpetrated the offense or avow his responsbility for the act; and in the latter case that you will retaliate, retaining in your possession for that purpose of the enemy twice the number of those of our citizens that were thus ignominously executed.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Adjutant and Inspector-General.
87 R R-SERIES II, VOL II