Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 27.djvu/264
256 Southern Historical Society Papers.
another direction for the causes that culminated in this terrible trag- edy. What had they been doing that made the extermination of their command justifiable in the eyes of their opponents?
We find that they had first attracted the attention of the whole country by penetrating to the heart of the Federal army and captur- ing its General with his staff, and carrying them off as prisoners of war; they had fought beneath the very guns that protected the Fed- eral Capitol; that they had crossed the Potomac into Maryland, and celebrated the 4th of July by the victory at Point of Rocks; that when Sheridan was driving Early up the Valley of Virginia, they, had constantly raided his line of communications and captured his outposts. We find from the records of the war that it required as many men to protect, from Mosby's attacks, the lines of communi- cation from Fredericksburg to Washington, from Washington to Harper's Ferry, from Harper's Ferry to Winchester and Strasburg, as General Sheridan had employed in fighting Early 's army in his front.
We learn from these same records that the Federal government had mapped out a plan of campaign that contemplated driving the Confederates up the Valley of Virginia, then repairing the railroad from Strasburg through Front Royal to Washington, so that the victorious troops of Sheridan could be quickly transferred to co-ope- rate with Grant whenever he should be ready to make his final assault upon the Confederate Capitol. It was a great and compre- hensive plan, and, if it could have been carried out, would have re- sulted in the downfall of the Confederacy before the snows of winter had again descended. Until the publication of these official records we never fully appreciated the part Mosby's cavalry played in de- stroying these plans; we never knew the connection between the execution of our comrades and the great military movements around us. What then seemed to us but the crime of an individual officer reeking vengeance upon his helpless captives before the excitement of the battle had worn away, we now know to have been in strict compliance with an official order from the commanding general of the Federal armies. If it were not for the revelations of these records, the survivors of the command to which the men who lie buried here once belonged might hesitate, in speaking to this genera- tion, to connect the deeds of their dead comrades with the defeat of these great military plans. But the history of those times is so