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    General James Shields: Autograph Letter Signed to Major General Nathaniel P. Banks Concerning the Union Occupation of Virginia.
    ALS. "Jas. Shields." Three pages, 7.75" x 9.75", Strasburg, Virginia; April 8, 1864. In this detailed and important letter to Major General Banks, General Shields writes concerning discusses a local man whose loyalty has become suspect and then offers his thoughts on how the Union army should treat the people of Virginia, especially those who support the Confederacy.

    "Dear Genl
    Your polite and considerate letter with accompanying documents was handed me yesterday by Col Grafton - I was formerly well acquainted with Chas. Green. During your absence in Washington he called upon me with documents testifying to his loyalty. On the 17th ult I was preparing a movement south for next day. He offered to accompany me as a guide. He was proud to have been twice or three times arrested by the Rebels - to have succored Union men - & I knew nothing of his being clerk or perhaps deputy clerk of the Court. I believe him to be a loyal man. There is something under this that looks to me like a local feud.
    But of course his safeguard does not extend to his position as clerk. I will most respectfully decline giving any safeguards or assurances hereafter unless authorized by you. There may have been imposition practiced in this case but I think not for garbled as the statement is he is not charged with any overt act, and I believe him to be a quiet peaceable man. One thing I have ascertained, and it is quite natural. Men who had to fly or were able to fly return with very strong feelings and sometimes try to exercise them in the name of loyalty against old rivals. I would not like to encourage this feeling. The government as you know has released all held captive for their political opinions. This measure is very distasteful to those behind who aided in their arrest. This too is natural. With regard to courts of all kinds, and the records of those courts and the rights and interests of society which depend upon them. I would respectfully submit whether it is not in accordance with your proclamation of the policy of the government and our duty as soldiers to abstain from any interference with them. When referred to on this subject I pointed to your proclamation and said we have come to destroy your armies and overthrow your government but not to interfere with your people if they do not interfere with us. Yesterday I sent instructions to Col Lewis provost Marshall, Winchester, that whenever a Union man was expelled from his house or kept away from his home or threatened by his neighbors to arrest such persons - two or more as might be engaged as ringleaders in this and keep them as hostages until the safety these loyal men should be assured. So with regard to the prisoners in Jacksons hands captured for Union sentiments I instructed him to ascertain whether the leading men of Winchester were making efforts to get them back and if not to let them know that I would recommend reprisals. I have taken the liberty of going more at length into this matter because I feel that now as Head of this Dept a very delicate duty will devolve upon you, and one from which I beg leave excuse myself if I have erred
    1st The security to be given to loyal citizens in all parts of your dept. without instituting enquiries or promoting recriminations, amongst neighbors for the past
    2nd Full security to be extended to all who will pursue their usual avocations
    3rd The noninterference of the military power with the courts of justice and civil functionaries until required by the constituted authorities recognized by the Government of the United States
    4th The recovery of the captives for opinion taken in the hands of Jackson.
    5th The course to be pursued with regard to negros who go between our lines and are claimed by their masters.
    I was in hopes of being able to join you today, but I dare not risk the attempt. Any aid I can render you in establishing general rules on these delicate points will be cheerfully given, but I would respectfully caution against a rule for a particular case. The rules I think ought to be general.
    I have the honor to be Respectfully Your friend


    Brig. Genl"

    On March 14, 1862, President Lincoln issued an executive order forming all troops in General George B. McClellan's department into corps. Major General Banks thus became a corps commander now commanded by Brig. Gen Alpheus Williams and the division of Brigadier General Shields, which was added to Banks's command. After Stonewall Jackson was turned back at the First Battle of Kernstown on March 23, Banks was instead ordered to pursue Jackson up the valley, to prevent him from reinforcing the defenses of Richmond. When Banks's men reached the southern Valley at the end of a difficult supply line, the president recalled them to Strasburg, at the northern end, where Banks was stationed when Shields wrote this letter.

    A fascinating letter highlighting how Union forces interacted with inhabitants of Confederate states they occupied.
    Condition: The letter has remnants of previous mounting on back; otherwise good.

    More Information: James Shields (1806-1879) was an Irish American Democratic politician and United States Army officer, who once challenged Abraham Lincoln to a duel and is the only person in U.S. history to serve as a Senator for three different states, Illinois, Minnesota, and Missouri. He commanded the 2nd Division of the V Corps, Army of the Potomac, during the Valley Campaign of 1862. Shields was wounded at the Battle of Kernstown on March 22, 1862, but his troops inflicted inflicted the only tactical defeat of General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson during the campaign (or the war). The day after Kernstown, he was promoted to major general, but the promotion was withdrawn, reconsidered, and then finally rejected. Largely a result of his promotion being rejected, Shields resigned from the army.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2019
    2nd Saturday
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