Letter from D. H. Hill to Union General Foster
OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 2, vol 5, Part 1 (Prisoners of War) p. 389-390
GOLDSBOROUGH, N. C., March 24, 1863.
Major General J. G. FOSTER, Federal Army.
SIR: Two communications have been referred to me as the successor of General French. The prisoners from Swindell’s company and the Seventh North Carolina are true prisoners of war and if not paroled I will retaliate five-fold. In regard to your first communication touching the burning of Plymouth you seem to have forgotten two things. You forget, sir, that you are a Yankee and that Plymouth is a Southern town. It is no business of yours if we choose to burn one of our own towns. A meddling Yankee troubles himself about everybody’s matters except his own and repents of everybody’s sins except his own. We are a different people. Should the Yankees burn a Union village in Connecticut or a cod-fish town in Massachusetts we would not meddle with them but rather bid them God-speed in their work of purifying the atmosphere. Your second act of forgetfulness consists in your not remembering that you are the most atrocious house-burner as yet unhung in the wide universe. Let me remind you of the fact that you have made two raids when you were weary of debauching in your negro harem and when you knew that your forces outnumbered the Confederates five to one. Your whole line of march has been marked by burning churches, school-houses, private residences, barns, stables, gin-houses, negro cabins, fences in the row, &c. Your men have plundered the country of all that it contained and wantonly destroyed what they could not carry off. Before you started on your freebooting expedition toward Tarborough you addressed your soldiers in the town of Washingtonand told them that you were going to take them to a rich country full of plunder. With such a hint to your thieves it is not wonderful that your raid was characterized by rapine, pillage, arson and murder. Learning last December that there was but a single weak brigade on this line you tore yourself from the arms of sable beauty and moved out with 15,000 men on a grand marauding foray. You partially burned Kinston and entirely destroyed the village of White Hall. The elegant mansion of the planter and the hut of the poor farmer and fisherman were alike consumed by your brigands. How matchless is the impudence which in view of this wholesale arson can complain of the burning of Plymouth in the heat of action! But there is another species of effrontery which New England itself cannot excel. When you return to your harem from one of these Union-restoring excursions you write to your Government the deliberate lie that you have discovered a large and increasing Union sentiment in this State. No one knows better than yourself that there is not a respectable man in North Carolina in any condition of life who is not utterly and irrevocably opposed to union with your hated and hateful people. A few wealthy men have meanly and falsely professed Union sentiments to save their property and a few ignorant fishermen have joined your ranks but to betray you when the opportunity offers. No one knows better than yourself that our people are true as steel and that our poorer classes have excelled the wealthy in their devotion to our cause. You knowingly and willfully lie when you speak of a Union sentiment in this brave, noble and patriotic State. Wherever the trained and disciplined soldiers of North Carolina have met the Federal forces you have been scattered as leaves before t he hurricane.
In conclusion let me inform you that I will receive no more white flags from you except the one which covers your surrender of the scene of your lust, your debauchery and your crimes. No one dislikes New England more cordially than I do, but there are thousands of honorable men even there who abhor your career fully as much as I do.
Sincerely and truly, your enemy,
D. H. HILL,
Major-General, C. S. Army