Tuesday, December 4, 2012

December 5, 1862 (Friday): America's Zola

General Charles P. Stone

Major General GEORGE B. McCLELLAN, U. S. Army, New York.

NEW YORK, December 5, 1862.
    GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 1st instant.
The order for your arrest in February last was given by the Secretary of War. I had the order in his handwriting several days before it was finally carried into effect.
     When the order was first given by the Secretary, he informed me that it was at the solicitation of the Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War and based upon testimony taken by them.
On the evening when you were arrested I submitted to the Secretary the written result of the examination of a refugee from Leesburg. This information, ot a certain extent, agreed with the evidence stated to have been taken by the committee, and upon its being imparted to the Secretary he again instructed me to cause you to be arrested, which I at once did.
    At the time I stated to the Secretary that I could not from the information in my possession understand how charges could be framed against you; that the case was too indefinite.
    On several occasions after your arrest I called the attention of the Secretary to the propriety of giving you a prompt trial, but the reply always was either that there was no time to attend to the case or that the Congressional committee were still engaged in collecting additional evidence in your case, and were not yet fully prepared to frame the charges.
    I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

   Major-General, U. S. Army.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 5, Part 1, Page 345.

General Stone was taken to Fort Lafayette by an armed party under orders from General Sykes on February 9, 1862 without charges.  The Committee on the Conduct of the War, influenced by dubious testimony, had pushed for the arrest because Stone had been accused of conspiring with the enemy to cause the defeat of his men at Ball's Bluff in October of 1861.  Although his confinement without charges was in violation of military law, the Lincoln administration repeatedly refused requests to charge or release him.  General Baker, a senator from Oregon and friend of the President's, had rashly attacked at Ball's Bluff and was killed.  He caused the debacle but the Republicans would not assign him blame and scapegoated Stone, a Democrat who had offended Republicans by his mild treatment of Virginians in the territory occupied by his troops.  Eventually Congress passed a law mandating the administration charge or release Stone within 80 daysInstead of releasing him immediately, the administration kept him an additional 80 days.  Stone was told McClellan had ordered his arrest, which was technically true, but the direct order came from the Secretary of War.  President Lincoln denied he had known of the case, but records of the Committee on the Conduct of the War show they met immediately prior to Stone's arrest with both the President and Secretary of State and carried with them transcripts of their sessions.  Although Stone was technically free, his career was ruined.  Although officers such as Grant would request his services later in the war, his only assignment was with Banks in the Red River Campaign and then the administration had him trailed by private detectives.  After the war he served as a general in the Egyptian Army and on his return to this country was the engineer in charge of building the pedestal the Statue of Liberty sits on in New York Harbor within sight of Fort Lafeyette, the place of his imprisonment.

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