Sunday, February 16, 2014

February 16, 1864: " . . . for every man you hang, I will hang 10 of the United States Army."

Major General George E. Pickett, C.S. Army
On this day 150 years ago, George E. Pickett responded to a Union commander's concerns about war crimes by threatening to hang every Union soldier in his custody.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF NORTH CAROLINA,
Petersburg, Va., February 16, 1864.

Major General JOHN J. PECK, U. S. ARMY,

Commanding at New Berne:

GENERAL: Your communication of the 11th of February is received. I have the honor to state in reply that the paragraph from a newspaper inclosed therein is not only without foundation in fact but so ridiculous that I should scarcely have supposed it worthy of consideration; but I would respectfully inform you that had I caught any negro who had killed officer, soldier, or citizen of the Confederate States I should have caused him to be immediately executed.

To your threat expressed in the following extract from your communication, viz: "Believing that this atrocity has been perpetrated without your knowledge, and that you will take prompt steps to disavow this violation of the usages of war and to bring the offenders to justice, I shall refrain from executing a rebel soldier until I learn your action in the premises," I have merely to say that I have in my hands and subject to my orders, captured in the recent operations in this department, some 450 officers and men of the United States Army, and for every man you hang, I will hang 10 of the United States Army.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

G. E. PICKETT,

Major-General, Commanding.
By the time Pickett sent this message on February 16, 1864, a total of 20 of the original 53 members of F Company, 2nd North Carolina Union Volunteers taken prisoner on February 1, 1864, had already been hanged in accordance with Pickett's orders.

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