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

this note.

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.

Very truly,

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

Gilmor's Raiders.

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."

Wm. Robinson,

Wend Robinson,

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

Culpepper Pike.

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

nearly so.

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.

Friend Smith.

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.

Good Bye,


Major 8th N. Y. H. Arty.

2nd Brig. 2nd Div. 2nd Corps.

Harper's Ferry, Va.

Dec. 15, 1864.

Dear Captain:

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.

Your Friend,


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.


Capt. & Asst. Provost Marshal.

General Wallace Assumes Command Of The Middle Department Here Begins My Service As An Assistant Provost Marshal Of The Department facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail