Tuesday, December 25, 2012

December 25, 1862 (Thursday): A Truce Broken

General Horatio P. Van Cleve

Near Nashville, Tenn., December 25, 1862.
MAJOR:Pursuant to directions from Major-General Rosecrans, I have the honor to report the circumstances connected with the capture of a portion of the outposts in my front on the 15th instant, and the alleged detention of Lieutenant-Colonel Hawkins, of the Confederate Army, while at my lines with a flag of truce. Colonel Hawkins came to my outposts about 2 p.m. of the 15th instant, with communication for the general commanding, accompanied by several civilians and ladies, who desired to go to Nashville. Word was immediately sent to department headquarters, but, before a messenger could return, a scouting party of the First Alabama Cavalry attacked and captured all the cavalry outposts,and immediately retreated to the rebel lines. Colonel Hawkins was at this time waiting at my outposts for the arrival of a staff officer from the general commanding, and, when the enemy retreated, went with them beyond my lines. He presented himself the next morning at my infantry outposts, when he was placed under guard by Colonel Knifler [Knefler?], Seventy-ninth Pennsylvania [Indiana?] Volunteers, and the case reported to me for instructions. Colonel Knifler [Knefler?] believed Colonel Hawkins was in some respect responsible for the attack on the pickets the day before, and proposed to guard against a repetition of the occurrence. Soon after, Lieutenant-Colonel Hepburn, of General Rosecrans' staff, arrived, and Colonel Hawkins' dispatches received, and he sent beyond our lines. Of his subsequent arrest by Captain Knox and Lieutenant-Colonel Dickinson I know nothing, no report of
the occurrence having been made to me. Colonel Hawkins, while at my outpost, was treated with the utmost courtesy, and was not placed under arrest until he presented himself at my infantry outposts under suspicious circumstances, before the position formerly occupied by my cavalry had been retaken, and was very shortly released.
      Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     H. P. VAN CLEVE,
     Brigadier-General, Commanding Fifth Division.

    Assistant Adjutant-General, Left Wing.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 20, Part 1, Page 83.

Flags of truce were usually not an issue, but in this case two Union companies had been captured on December 15th following the arrival of a Confederate officer (Hawkins) under a flag of truce. The correspondance related to the matter is extensive and fraught with accusations of violations of the usages of war.  Bragg finally proposed setting up regular hours (Monday and Thursday from 12-4) in order to reduce misunderstandings.

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