Wednesday, September 7, 2011

150-Years-Ago -- The Gentleman's War after First Manassas

Col. James Cameron, KIA, at First
Manassas. (Library of Congress)
The New Orleans Daily Delta
September 8, 1861

     The Remains of Col. Cameron - The northern papers publish the following correspondence between Gen. McCunn, of the U.S. army, and Col. Stewart [J.E.B. Stuart] of the Confederate army, on the subject of delivering up the remains of the late Col. Cameron, of the N.Y. Seventy-ninth regiment:

Gen. M'Cunn's Letter
Brigade Headquarters
Three miles from Alexandria, Aug. 3, 1861
To Col. Stewart, commanding 1st Virginia Cavalry:
    My Dear Sir - The bearer, Lieut. Jones, of the Thirty-seventh New York volunteers, will hand you this. My object in sending to you is this: Col. Cameron, a warm personal friend of mine, fell in the battle of  Bull Run. His lady and family are in great distress about his body. May I not appeal to you, as a soldier, asking you for the moment to throw away all ceremony, and allow the colonel's orderly, who was with him when he fell in the field, to search for the body of his lamented commander? I make thus free with you because your Lieut. Hanger and his men gave me a most generous description of  your kindness of heart and your good soldierly qualities. I have the honor to remain, my dear colonel, yours most respectfully,
John H. McCunn,
     Commanding Brigade.

Brig. Gen. John H. McCunn, U.S. Army
(Library of Congress)

Reply of Col. Stewart.
Headquarters Fairfax Court-House.
August 4, 1861
Dear General - Your communication of yesterday was duly received under a flag of truce. As the subject matter of your letter belongs properly to higher authority, and had in fact already been the occasion of communication which have been referred to Gen. J.E. Johnston, Confederate States army, my commander. I had no power to act, but felt bound to refer it to the general commanding the Confederate forces, of which my command is part. His endorsement is as follows:
     Military usage has established the mode of communication between belligerents. Whenever the military authorities of the United States make such a request as that perferred, and in the manner establish by military custom, it shall be complied with promptly. As there is an established mode of communication, none other consistently with the dignity of the position in which Gen. Johnston has been placed by the Confederate States, can be agreed to.
     I will add that Gen. McDowell, and also  three citizens sent by  the secretary of war of the United States on a  similar mission, have been informed to the same purport as above. I notice you address me as Colonel  First Virginia Cavalry. The regiment I have the honor to command belongs to the army of the Confederate States. In thank you for the flattering utterances to the universal appreciation of the warm-hearted sons of your native land, of  whom I have no doubt you are an honorable type. Allow me to add, that our president has given the official assurance, and our gallant general is too well known to the authorities of the United States for them  to doubt, that no effort to lessen the horrors of war and to confine it to the strictest civilized usages will be spared. Most respectfully, your obedient servant,
      J.E.B. Stewart,
Col. First Cavlary C.S.A. Com'g.
      To. J.H. McCunn, commanding brigade U.S. forces.

Colonel James Ewell Brown Stuart,
First Virginia Cavalry, C.S.A.
(Library of  Congress)
General M'Cunn to Captain Jones.
Brigade Headquarters, Near Alexandria, Va.,
August 13, 1861.
To Captain Jones, First Virginia Cavlary:
     Dear Sir - I am perhaps overstepping military  custom and usages in thus communicating with you. The holy mission in which I am engaged is my only apology. Col. Cameron was a warm personal friend of mine, and for the sake of his family, and to learn  the spot where his bones were laid, I would do anything in honor and fairness. I do not wish to compromise yourself in the slightest degree, or do anything that a gallant soldier would not deem it his duty to perform. I do not want any favor that your generous Col. (Stewart) would not grant  at once. I simply ask you the great favor to mark the spot where a brave man has fallen, thus to enable his bereaved family to uncover, at the end of this unnatural strife, the ashes of a fond and devoted father, a good and brave man. Capt. Johnston says that you were kind enough to mention to him that you found the body of one of our officers, with the likeness on his person of our secretary of war and his lady and other articles of jewelry, which led you to suspect it was Col.Cameron's remains. Do, my dear captain, do a duty you owe a brave and generous foe, and do an everlasting favor to me. If we cannot have his remains, mark the spot where his body is buried; and if your gallant colonel will send the likenesses by a flag of truce, I will deem it such a favor as only a brave and generous enemy could bestow. Hoping I have not overstepped the duties of a soldier in thus addressing you, I have the honor to remain, my dear sir, yours, truly,
John H. McCunn.

      The above letter was conveyed to Capt. Johnston, of the Thirty-seventh regiment, who returned the following letter to Gen. McCunn, and with it the correspondence ended:
Alexandria, Va., August 14, 1861.
To Gen. McCunn:
     Dear Sir-I have the honor to report that I delivered your letter, as required to Capt. Jones; that Capt. Jones blindfolded me and took me to Fairfax Court-house, where I saw Col. Stewart, of the First Virginia cavalry. Col. Stewart informed me that the likenesses and other things found on Col. Cameron's body were in the possession of one of his officers now in Richmond; that the same would be at once obtained and forwarded to you, and you alone, as Col. Stewart considered that it would not, under any circumstances, render any favor to the secretary of war or any other member of the government. Captain Jones further says that he has marked the spot where the remains of the lamented Col. Cameron are buried, and will remain till the time comes when they will be most willingly given up to his family. All of which I have the honor most respectfully to report.
James W. Johnston,
Captain Co. K, 37th regiment, N.Y.S.V.                                

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