Page:A Memoir of the Last Year of the War for Independence in the Confederate States of America.djvu/74

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70
BURNING OF CHAMBERSBURG.

On the 30th of July McCausland reached Charnbersburg, and made the demand as directed, reading to such of the authorities as presented themselves the paper sent by me. The demand was not complied with, the people stating that they were not afraid of having their town burned, and that a Federal force was approaching. The policy pursued by our army on former occasions had been so lenient, that they did not suppose the threat was in earnest this time, and they hoped for speedy relief. McCausland, however, proceeded to carry out his orders, and the greater part of the town was laid in ashes.[1] He then moved in the direction of Cumberland, but, on approaching that town, he found it defended by a force under Kelly too strong for him to attack, and he withdrew towards Hampshire County in Virginia, and crossed the Potomac near the mouth of the South Branch, capturing the garrison at that place and partially destroying the railroad bridge. He then invested the post on the railroad at New Creek, but finding it too strongly fortified to take by assault, he moved to Moorefield in Hardy County, near which place he halted to rest and recruit his men and horses, as the command was now considered safe from pursuit. Averill, however, had been pursuing from Chambersburg with a body of cavalry, and Johnson's brigade was surprised in camp, before day, on the morning of the 7th of August, and routed by Averil's force. This resulted also in the rout of McCausland's brigade, and the loss of the artillery (4 pieces) and about 300 prisoners from the whole command. The balance of the command made its way to Mount Jackson in great disorder, and much weakened. This affair had a very damaging effect upon my cavalry for the rest of the campaign.[2]


  1. For this act I, alone, am responsible, as the officers engaged in it were simply my orders, and had no discretion left thorn. Notwithstanding the lapse of time which has occurred, and the result of the war, I am perfectly satisfied with my conduct on this occasion, and see no reason to regret it.
  2. Grant says, in reference to this expedition under McCausland: "They were met and defeated by General Kelly; and, with diminished numbers, escaped into the mountains of West Virginia;" and he makes no allusion whatever to Averill's affair. There was no defeat by Kelly, but there was one by Averill, as I have stated. This shows how loose Grant is to his facts. So far as we were concerned, the defeat by Averill was worse than it could have been by Kelly.