Friday, June 27, 2014

Stonewall Jackson and the Black Flag

Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, perhaps having in mind Deuteronomy 20:10-15, once wrote the following comments to Captain Barringer:

I recall, Captain Barringer, the talk you and I once had at my table in Lexington in the heated party struggle of 1860. Though differing in politics, we happened to agree as to the character of this war, if it once began. We both thought it would be internecine in its results. Neither of us had any special concern for slavery, but both agreed that if the sword was once drawn, the South would have no alternative but to defend her homes and firesides, slavery and all. 
I myself see in this war, if the North triumph, a dissolution of the bonds of all society. It is not alone the destruction of our property (which both the nation and the States are bound to protect), but it is the prelude to anarchy, infidelity, and the ultimate loss of free responsible government on this continent. With these convictions, I always thought we ought to meet the Federal invaders on the outer verge of just right and defence, and raise at once the black flag, viz., "No quarter to the violators of our homes and firesides!" It would in the end have proved true humanity and mercy. The Bible is full of such wars, and it is the only policy that would bring the North to its senses.
But I see now clearly enough the people of the South were not prepared for such a policy. I have myself cordially accepted the policy of our leaders. They are great and good men. Possibly, too, as things then stood, no other policy was left open to us than the one pursued by President Davis and General Lee. But all this is now suddenly changed by the cruel and utterly barbarous orders of General Pope, who is not only subsisting his army on the people of Culpepper, and levying contributions upon them, but has laid whole communities under the pains and penalties of death or banishment; and in certain cases directed that houses shall be razed to the ground, and citizens shot without waiting civil process. ...
General Lee is now considering certain special features of my war policy as applicable to the present emergency, and as the only way to check Pope's dastardly system of warfare and plunder. Unfortunately, the Confederate authorities are fully committed to a different policy — in fact, to a very stilted style of waging war. In every aspect the situation is embarrassing. McClellan is nominally in command, and his mode of warfare is in strict conformity to the usages of civilized nations. 
But here is Pope, right under the eye of Mr. Lincoln, violating all the so-called principles of modern warfare, and manifestly expecting to supersede McClellan and desolate the South. With McClellan on one side of Richmond, and Pope on the other, each with a vast army, and with their apparently opposing policies, it is impossible to choose your own special plan of campaign or to change your general military methods. But General Lee is equal to whatever emergency may arise, and I trust implicitly to his great ability and superior wisdom. All I can say is that he has (as I told you) heard certain suggestions of mine, and has promised me to consider their force and application, if circumstances permit.[1]


[1] Cited in Mary Anna Jackson, Life and Letters of General Thomas J. Jackson (Stonewall Jackson) (New York, Harper & Brothers, 1892), 309, 310, 312, 313. Comments written from Barringer's perspective.


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