Sunday, December 8, 2013

December 8, 1863 (Monday): Something Must Be Given Them to Eat

Culpeper Court House (Library of Congress)

Colonel C. ROSS SMITH,
Chief of Staff, Hdqrs. Cavalry Corps:
All quiet on the lines and in front.
    I respectfully call the attention of the proper authorities to the condition of the citizens of Culpeper and its environs. Almost all of them are suffering for the necessaries of life, and some will starve soon if their, condition is not bettered by issues the commissaries. Very few, if any will take the oath of allegiance to the United States Government;some refuse from prejudice, others from fear of their neighbors, who, they say, would persecute them for the action. Nor would administering the oath of allegiance to such people do any good, for they would not probably consider themselves bound by it, as they reason that it is forced upon them. I do not allow these people to go out of the town limits, as they steal through the lines, and, being rabid female rebels, give the enemy information. Something must be given them to eat, though.
     Very respectfully,

      W. MERRITT,
      Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 29, Part 2, Page 592.

Conditions in the Culpeper area had become severe.  Both armies took note of it.  Lee had called on the government in Richmond to allocate a portion to civilians from the supplies set aside for the army.  And here, Wesley Merritt, the Union Cavalry officer, takes not of the condition of the local population, raising the possibility of starvation.  He also is reluctant to allow women to pass through the lines, as the spirit of rebellion remained active and he feared information getting through to the Confederates if he allowed them through the lines.

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