December 8, 1864,
AUGUSTA, December 8, 1864.
General S. COOPER,
GENERAL: I have just returned from the Western District of North Carolina. I regret to report a bad state of affairs prevailing there. The country is full of deserters and tories, who are growing bolder every day and committing great outrages, defying the Government and openly avowing that they are acting under orders from the enemy. If active measures are not adopted before the leaves come out, it will be impossible to disperse and capture them. The troops in Colonel Palmer's command are all North Carolinians. He has part of Sixty-second and Sixty-fourth Regiments North Carolina Volunteers, who are really deserters and stragglers, as they were absent when these regiments were captured at Cumberland Gap. They will not answer to hunt down these deserters and tories. I recommend that a Virginia regiment be sent up there as soon as it can be spared to clear the mountains near the North Carolina line. Soldiers from all the different armies are finding their way up to these mountains and never return to their commands. As an instance, I will quote the case of a Captain Poor, who has fifty men in his company, all from the Twenty-fifth North Carolina Regiment, of the Army of Northern Virginia. He says he is hunting up deserters. Every one of these men are deserters. They must be taken by compulsion, for they will never return willingly. All the deserters are harbored by the natives, especially by the women. A rigid system of police should be established, and the houses of all these harborers of deserters burnt down, and no soldier or individual liable to military duty should be allowed to remain in the district without a pass from the commanding officer. When these malefactors and deserters are taken they are sent to Asheville and tried, and the proceedings of the court having to be revised by Lieutenant-General Holmes, causes great delay, and many of these criminals who ought to be disposed of at once find their way back to the mountains. I feel very confident that unless a force is kept actively engaged in the work of dislodging these deserters and making the mountains untenable for them, that it will be an invitation to all the deserters and stragglers to make the mountains their place of refuge from the army. Colonel Palmer understands the nature of the country, and if the department would call him to Richmond and hear his views I feel confident his suggestions would be valuable.
I have the honor to remain, general, your obedient servant,
Lieutenant-Colonel and Assistant Adjutant-General
visits since 01/31/2004