The Ordeal of Charles P. Stone

February 9, 1862 – Federal troops led by General George Sykes arrested Brigadier General Charles P. Stone in the early morning hours after new “evidence” surfaced confirming Stone’s disloyalty to the Union.

Brig Gen Charles P. Stone | Image Credit:
Brig Gen Charles P. Stone | Image Credit:

By the end of January, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton had been convinced that Stone should not be arrested. However, in the first week of February, General-in-Chief George B. McClellan’s chief intelligence agent, Allan Pinkerton, reported a claim by a resident of Leesburg, Virginia, that Stone was “very popular with the Rebel officers at Leesburg and with all secessionists in that vicinity.”

The resident alleged that many fellow Leesburg residents doubted Stone’s loyalty, and their doubts had been verified by the Ball’s Bluff disaster. Pinkerton also revealed evidence that Stone had violated the Confiscation Act by returning fugitive slaves to their masters in Virginia. To the Radical Republicans on the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, this was inexcusable. The Radicals also noted Stone’s angry exchange with Massachusetts Governor John Andrew, who criticized Stone for prohibiting fugitive slaves from finding refuge within the Massachusetts regiments.

McClellan had initially tried protecting Stone, but when Pinkerton uncovered this additional information, he submitted the report to Stanton. Stanton, an ally of the Radicals on the Joint Committee, issued a second order to arrest Stone. This time McClellan complied. He had the provost marshal verbally direct Sykes, Stone’s West Point classmate and friend, to arrest him. Sykes was not informed why this needed to be done.

Around midnight on the early morning of the 9th, Sykes and 18 soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry placed Stone under arrest as he returned to his room at Willard’s Hotel in Washington. Sykes advised Stone to change into civilian clothes because he was being taken to Fort Lafayette in New York Harbor. Stone replied, “Why, Fort Lafayette is where they send secessionists.”

Stone was allowed to say goodbye to his wife before the troops escorted him to a nearby facility for detainment. Later that morning, the Federals took Stone by railroad to New York, and he arrived at the fort two days later. He spent 189 days in confinement at Lafayette and then Fort Hamilton without formal charges filed against him or the right to a trial. Although he eventually returned to service, his career was effectively destroyed. Many considered this an unjust, unconstitutional, and even tyrannical persecution by the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War.



Bailey, Ronald H., Forward to Richmond: McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 70-72; (multiple dates); Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 168-69; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 362-63; Schultz, Fred L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 720; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q162

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