General Wallace's Letter To Secretary Of War Charles A Dana
Coleman's Eutaw House,
Baltimore, Nov. 19, 1864.
Hon. C. A. Dana,
Asst. Sec. of War.
Dear Sir.--Lt. Smith, my Chief of Detectives, will hand you
It is necessary to one of his schemes, based upon a late
discovery, that he should have a pass from the Secretary of
the Navy to go through the lines of the blockade on the
Potomac. The pass should cover a vessel, a crew of six or
seven men and two or three hundred dollars' worth of goods.
I have every confidence that Lt. Smith will uncover a good
About his honesty there is no doubt.
Your friend, LEW WALLACE,
Major General Commanding.
The above letter is in General Wallace's own handwriting. I prize it
more than any commission or brevet commission that I have.
I needed just such an extended privilege as General Wallace asked for,
and in March following I obtained it.
Colonel John S. Mosby's Guerillas were the most annoying and expensive
antagonists we had. He operated along the line of the Baltimore & Ohio
Railroad west of Washington, and also with a detachment between the
Potomac and Rappahannock. My probings extended into the territory
covered by him. I made a study of his tactics and was preparing to
counteract him. His men were at home in the district; it was, in fact,
their home. They were, or many of them were, farmers, who might be
innocently tilling the soil as our scouting parties passed, but who, at
Colonel Mosby's whistle, if the chance was propitious, would jump on
horse and surprise us before long. Small bodies of troops were taken
unawares. They never offered a front to large bodies; they would swoop
down on a defenceless train, or destroy railroad bridges.
Mosby was a valuable asset to the Confederacy, worth many times Harry
I think, without doubt, it took twenty or thirty thousand of our men to
guard against his intermittent incursions.
Mosby was an educated man. An impression was abroad then that he was a
barbarian; he was not. He was loyally doing for the South what I would
have done for the North. I captured his foraging order, on one occasion
and it opened my eyes for it was evidence of as civilized methods of war
as was ever manifested. In this order he provided for payment for
private property which he took.
I planned to organize a body of men to compete with Mosby, and I asked
for a command to operate independently of district lines, or military
I had been locating Mosby's men (their homes), from all sorts of sources
of information, preparing to capture them in detail. I was planning to
take them at their disadvantage, when they were at the plough, and not
when they were in the saddle. Here is part of my list so tabulated:
"Members of Mosby."
John Robinson--Three miles above Front Royal, on the Culpepper
Pike. Father is a farmer.
Geo. Reger--Black Rock below the Pike, with his brother, John
Jack Downing--1/2 mile from Geo. Reger's on Black Rock, in a
fine brick house.
William Wright--Four miles below Front Royal, on the Linden
Road, with his Grandmother, Luanda Wright.
James Fold--Below Flint Hill, six or seven miles from Front
Royal near the Pike. Father is a farmer.
James Hawes--On Culpepper Pike, seven miles from Front Royal,
is a laborer, lives in Mr. Gibson's house.
Bresley Esom--Seven miles from Front Royal, one mile from
George Esom--Same place as Bresley.
John Clark--Nine miles from Front Royal, to right of Culpepper
Pike, on the mountain. Father is a farmer.
John Maddox--Four miles from Front Royal on Hominy Road, is a
George Leech--Three miles from Front Royal, on the Culpepper
Pike. Shoemaker shop.
James Bolton--Eight or nine miles from Front Royal, on
Culpepper Pike, left hand side. Father is a blacksmith.
James Anderson--Resides with Bolton.
William Blackwell--Formerly on Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.
You will see later on in Paine's statement that I quizzed him on the
same subject. I presume my information was not always reliable, but was
The following is quoted from an interrupted Confederate letter, in
speaking of Mosby:
"He is well off for Greenbacks since he captured those
paymasters on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad line. When the
plunder secured on that occasion came to be divided up every
officer and man who assisted got $1,922.50. A good deal of
this money you have already got back. I will tell you how. Old
men and women residents in the neighborhood of Upperville, who
have gone within your lines and taken the oath of allegiance,
have been sent by Mosby and many of his men to Berlin, to
purchase goods: such as hats, &c., and have paid for these in
captured Greenbacks, and got the goods out to the Battalion."
This information was correct. I captured one man's part of the plunder
entire, or nearly so. The money was yet in its original shape, as issued
to these paymasters from the Treasury Department. I took it there and
they were able to identify the packages.
The capture was made in this way: One of Mosby's men named Dr. John A.
Kline, of Loudoun County, Virginia, came to Baltimore. He was
accompanied by his mother, Mrs. Mary A. Kline, and a niece, Nannie O.
Bannon. He became intoxicated, talked too much, and the whole party was
arrested. They were searched, the women by one of my female officers,
and the money, about two thousand dollars, was found on the mother, in a
belt worn next to her skin. We confined the women in a hotel, but were
finally forced to send them to jail, as the mother got intoxicated, and
so disturbed the other guests.
Kline was sentenced to ten years hard labor. The mother was confined
until the close of the war.
Appleton, for 1864, speaks of the train robbery, on page 156, as
"All that district of country west of Washington and
immediately south of the Potomac River, was infested with
guerrillas throughout the year. Colonel Mosby was their
leader. Many of their expeditions were conducted with great
boldness. Sometimes they came within a few miles of
"On one occasion during the year they captured a passenger
train on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, between Harper's
Ferry and Martinsburg. A rail was removed, and the train thus
running off the track was brought to a stop. Their proceedings
have been thus graphically described," etc.
"They then made a final search, and saw the work was complete;
the train had been burned, a paymaster with sixty-three
thousand dollars robbed, the passengers plundered of their
hats, coats, boots, watches and money, and locking and burning
the mail, express, and baggage, they made us a boisterous
The matter of my suggestion for a party to compete with Mosby, went
through all the channels, up to Major General Halleck, the President's
military adviser. I was informed that General Halleck approved of it, to
give me a commission as Captain and Assistant Adjutant General, to
report to the Adjutant General. This was suggested to overcome rank
restrictions. The matter, however, was delayed (I will refer to it again
in March, 1865). The war ended without this scheme being accomplished.
Meantime I declined to accept several tenders of commissions in
promotion, expecting to realize this greater recognition.
The following tenders of promotion were declined:
Headquarters 8th N. Y. Arty.
before Petersburg, Va.,
Nov. 22, 1864.
How are you old boy and how have you enjoyed yourself since I
last saw you? I am well, and full of fight as ever. We have
done some fighting since we came into the field, and would
like to have you with us.
There is a Captain's commission waiting for you if you will
accept it. If you will send answer to me immediately, I will
get it for you.
The officers of the Regiment would like to have you come. The
Regiment is commanded by Major Baker, our Colonel (Willett)
Commands the 1st Brigade, 2nd Div. 2nd Corps.
We have some good times and some d----d hard times, but I
think it will pay.
I hope you will join us as Captain.
J. W. HOLMES,
Major 8th N. Y. H. Arty.
2nd Brig. 2nd Div. 2nd Corps.
Harper's Ferry, Va.
Dec. 15, 1864.
I suppose I have the right to address you by the above title
now. Your Commission as Captain came yesterday and you will
receive it by same mail as you do this.
J. H. GRAHAM.
Headquarters, Middle Department,
8th Army Corps.
Baltimore, Nov. 20, 1864.
Special Order No. 171.
Lieut. H. B. Smith, 5th N. Y. Arty. Comdg. Detective Corps 8th
Army Corps, and one man as guard will at once proceed to
Washington, D. C., in charge of prisoner J. J. Chancellor, on
arrival at that point he will report with Chancellor, without
delay, to Hon. C. A. Dana, Asst. Secretary of War. Having
completed his duties at that place he will at once return with
the guard to these headquarters.
Quartermasters will furnish necessary transportation.
By command of Major General Wallace.
WM. H. WIEGEL,
Capt. & Asst. Provost Marshal.
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