July 18, 1862 – Major General John Pope, commanding the Federal Army of Virginia, issued orders that sparked fury throughout the South and threatened to change the character of the war.
Pope had promised to take the war to civilians aiding and abetting the Confederates in northern Virginia, and now he made good on that promise. He officially issued General Order Nos. 5, 6, and 7 on July 18. Order No. 5 authorized Federals to seize property and supplies from civilians, who would be reimbursed only if they could prove their loyalty to the U.S.:
“Hereafter, as far as practicable, the troops of this command will subsist upon the country in which their operations are carried on. In all cases supplies for this purpose will be taken by the officers to whose department they properly belong, under the orders of the commanding officer of the troops for whose use they are intended. Vouchers will be given to the owners, stating on their face that they will be payable at the close of the war upon sufficient testimony being furnished that such owners have been loyal citizens of the United States since the date of the vouchers…”
Order No. 6 reinforced the previous order for the cavalry:
“Hereafter, in any operations of the cavalry forces in this command, no supply or baggage trains of any description will be used, unless so stated especially in the orders for the movement. Two days cooked rations will be carried on the persons of the men, and all villages and neighborhoods through which they pass will be laid under contribution in the manner specified by General Orders, No. 5, current series, from these headquarters, for the subsistence of men and horses…”
Order No. 7 threatened harsh punishment for anyone consorting with Confederate partisans:
“The people of the Valley of the Shenandoah and throughout the region of operations of this army, living along the lines of railroad and telegraph, and along routes of travel in the rear of United States forces, are notified that they will be held responsible for any injury done the track, line, or road, or for any attacks upon the trains or straggling soldiers, by bands of guerrillas in their neighborhood… If a soldier or legitimate follower of the army be fired upon from any house, the house shall be razed to the ground and the inhabitants sent prisoners to the headquarters of this army. If such an outrage occur at any place distant from settlements, the people within five miles around shall be held accountable, and made to pay an indemnity sufficient for the case; and any person detected in such outrages, either during the act or at any time afterward, shall be shot, without waiting civil process…”
In this order, Pope sought to target partisans in civilian dress who “attack and murder straggling soldiers, molest trains of supplies, destroy railroads, telegraph lines, and bridges, and commit outrages disgraceful to civilized people and revolting to humanity.” These people would not be afforded the rights given to prisoners of war. Going further, Order No. 7 applied the same standard to civilians who aided these partisans.
Five days later, Pope issued General Order No. 11, which directly targeted civilians suspected of disloyalty:
“Commanders of army corps, divisions, brigades, and detached commands will proceed immediately to arrest all disloyal male citizens within their lines, or within their reach in the rear of their respective stations. Such as are willing to take the oath of allegiance to the United States, and will furnish sufficient security for its observance, shall be permitted to remain at their homes, and pursue in good faith their accustomed avocations. Those who refuse shall be conducted south beyond the extreme pickets of the army, and be notified that, if found again anywhere within our lines or at any point in the rear, they will be considered spies, and subjected to the extreme rigor of the military law…”
This order applied to anyone, even a mother writing to a son in the Confederate army. Pope issued one more directive stripping the region of any Federal protection:
“Hereafter, no guards will be placed over private houses or private property of any description whatever… soldiers were called into the field to do battle against the enemy, and it is not expected that their force and energy shall be wasted in protecting private property of those most hostile to the Government.”
All of Pope’s orders were based on Major General Henry W. Halleck’s directives while heading the Department of Missouri, in which Pope had served earlier in the war. These orders, implicitly approved by President Abraham Lincoln before being issued, incurred the wrath of Confederates.
At this time, both sides were working together to develop a system of prisoner exchange. President Jefferson Davis informed General Robert E. Lee that this system would not apply to Pope or any Federal officers carrying out Pope’s orders:
“On the 22d of this month a cartel for a general exchange of prisoners of war was signed between Major-General D. H. Hill, in behalf of the Confederate States, and Major-General John A. Dix, in behalf of the United States. By the terms of that cartel, it is stipulated that all prisoners of war hereafter taken shall be discharged on parole until exchanged. Scarcely had that cartel been signed, when the military authorities of the United States commenced a practice changing the character of the war, from such as becomes civilized nations, into a campaign of indiscriminate robbery and murder… You are therefore instructed to communicate to the commander-in-chief of the armies of the United States the contents of this letter and a copy of the inclosed general order, to the end that he may be notified of our intention not to consider any officers hereafter captured from General Pope’s army as prisoners of war.”
This meant that the Confederate government would consider Pope and his officers to be outlaws, and if captured, they would be treated as felons. Lee, upon reading Pope’s directives, called him a “miscreant” who “ought to be suppressed.” Lee set out to do this by shifting his Army of Northern Virginia northward to take the fight to Pope’s Federals.
Meanwhile, Pope left Washington on the 29th to join his new army and set up what he called “headquarters in the saddle.” His growing number of critics quipped that Pope’s headquarters were where his hindquarters should have been.
CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17013-46; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 197; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 7625-36; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 589; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 184, 186; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 242-43, 245; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 350, 440-41; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 146; 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), Q362; Wikipedia: Northern Virginia Campaign