Sherman puts Wade Hampton, commander of the rebel cavalry, on notice that he will retaliate for killing of foragers.
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
In the Field, February 24, 1865.
Lieutenant General WADE HAMPTON,
Commanding Cavalry Forces, C. S. Army:
GENERAL: It is officially reported to me that our foraging parties are murdered after capture and labeled “Death to all foragers. ” One instance of a lieutenant and seven men near Chesterville, and another of twenty “near a ravine eighty rods from the main road” about three miles from Feasterville.
I have ordered a similar number of prisoners in our hands to be disposed of in like manner. I hold about 1,000 prisoners captured in various ways, and can stand it as long as you; but I hardly think these murders are committed with your knowledge, and would suggest that you give notice to the people at large that every life taken by them simply results in the death of one of your Confederates.
Of course you cannot question my right to “forage on the country. ” It is a war right as old as history. The manner of exercising it varies with circumstances, and if the civil authorities will supply my requisitions I will forbid all foraging. But I find no civil authorities who can respond to calls for forage or provisions, therefore must collect directly of the people.
I have no doubt this is the occasion of much misbehavior on the part of our men, but I cannot permit an enemy to judge or punish with wholesale murder.
Personally I regret the bitter feelings engendered by this war, but they were to be expected, and I simply allege that those who struck the first blow and made war inevitable ought not, in fairness, to reproach us for the natural consequences. I merely assert our war right to forage and my resolve to protect my foragers to the extent of life for life.
I am, with respect, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN,
Major-General, U. S. Army.