274 Southern Historical Society Papers.
only way of escape was to break through the ranks that enclosed them. McMasters got in the way; they shot him and rode on. It was not their business to ask him what he wanted to do. Such things are the ordinary incidents of war. But there is a wide distinction between acts done in the fury of combat, even if they might have been avoided, and acts of deliberate cruelty done when the passions have cooled. It will be observed that Torbert, Merritt and Lowell, in their reports, contradict each other (i) in regard to the number killed. As they remained on the field, it is strange that there should be so much discrepancy between them. (2) They say nothing about the wounded. This is significant. The usual proportion of wounded to killed is three or four to one. Nobody ever heard of 18 men killed in a fight and none wounded, except in a Sitting Bull massacre. (3) They make no mention of prisoners. On our side the loss was six captured; none were killed or wounded in the fight. I never knew of a cavalry combat, where the bodies came in collision as they did here, in which no prisoners were taken. As the prisoners were murdered, they wouldn't acknowledge that they took any.
Now, I do not believe that Sheridan ever communicated to his generals, to be executed, Grant's order of August i6th, for the rea- son that he knew I could hang 500 of his men where he could hang one of mine. He didn't want to play a game at which I could beat him. As I have said, none of my men were hung before September 23; if Sheridan hung any prisoners before then, they were Early's men; but I don't believe he hung any. Torbert was chief of cav- alry; Merritt commanded a division under him; Custer and Lowell commanded brigades in Merritt's division. They would not have waited until September 23d to begin executing an order of August i6th. Torbert's, Merritt's and Lowell's reports speak of the Front Royal skirmish. Torbert says they killed 2 officers and 9 men, which shows on its face that my men were in uniform; Merritt says they killed 18; Lowell says they killed 13. Custer's brigade was not engaged in the fight, and of course he made no mention of it. But that is no evidence that he had nothing to do with the hanging he was on the ground. As none of the reports speak of the hang- ing, they would equally prove the innocence of Torbert, Merritt and Lowell in fact, of everybody. They were all ashamed of it as a blot on the fame of Sheridan's army. It is no concern of mine whether only one or all of the generals present participated in the crime; they may all have been in part delicto. They can settle that question among themselves. The people of Front Royal considered