Letter from General Hunter to Governor Boreman in relation to the recent Editorial Arrests.
Headquarters Dep’t of West Va.
Cumberland, Md. July 13, 1864.
To His Excellency A. I. Boreman,
Governor of West Virginia:
Sir – I have the honor to acknowledge the recipt (receipt) of your communication dated July 10th, 1864, relative to the case of James E. Wharton, Esq., Editor and proprietor of the “Parkersburg Gazette;” and have first to state, in reply, that about two hours previous to the receipt of your letter orders had been given to the Provost Marshal for Mr. Wharton’s release, and he had been released before your letter reached my hand.
And now a few words as to the causes which led to Mr. Wharton’s arrest and the temporary suppression of his journal.
As to the “criticism on your (my) conduct,” in which Mr. Wharton indulged, and to which you refer, I agree with you that there was, of course, no offence whatever. It was merely a matter of taste on his part, nor was it noticed by me until you called my attention thereto as one of the possible cause for my action.
But Mr. Wharton in the editorial which led to the suppression of his paper, stated, first: that “General Hunter with his command have principally passed through our city (Parkersburg) on their way east.” This was contraband news, and was utterly untrue. Much less than one tenth of my command had passed through Parkersburg, and I was detained there for some time after the appearance of the article hurrying forward the balance.
In the second place, Mr. Wharton went on to say in the same article: “We were sorry to see so much suffering among them. They were completely worn out, and many in the division had died of starvation.”
“The sufferings of the soldiers in their movement from Lynchburg to Charleston were terrible, and they half require rest and surgical care.”
That there was “some suffering” amongst the troops is true. The business of the soldier is one in which “suffering” forms an inevitable part. But on careful inquiry, personally and through many officers employed for the purpose, I have failed to discover even a report of any one case of death from hunger; while on the other hand my Medical director, Surgeon Thomas B. Reed, an officer of large military experience and excellent judgement assures me, that despite the certain limited privations and great fatigues of the march the health of the command was, throughout, far better than the average health of soldiers quietly resting in their camps. The worst enemies to health are not privations and fatigue. The licentiousness of an idle camp, or the vicinity to soldiers of an ill regulated town, will swell the Hospital returns far quicker and more seriously than all our men suffered in their march from Lynchburg to near Gauley Bridge where abundant supplies met us, -- supplies which I had expected to find much earlier at Meadows Bluff, but which had been removed from there without authority under the influence of a stampede created by a few score of guerrillas operating against tenfold their own force of state militia.
A part from the falsity of these allegations, therefore, could any statements be more calculated give aid “aid and comfort to the enemy, “ than the announcement that my whole command was “worn out,” and that they “half require rest and surgical care.”
It is my pleasure to believe that no troops in the service of the Union enjoy today a better average of health, morale and spirits, than the forces composing the late expedition towards Lynchburg. While many of the cavalry horses broke down from fatigue and shortness of dry forage; the men appeared only to harden and become more thorough soldiers. There are in every army grumblers, malcontents and alarmists, -- not only in the ranks, but, I regret to say, amongst the officers, and some of a rank that should make them more prudent. That Mr. Wharton heard what he reported, I had no doubt at the time of ordering his arrest, but even that was no justification for the publication of his statements at a time when he knew that my command was again being pushed forward with every energy to meet the enemy.
Having seen statements very similar to those of the “Parkersburg Gazette,” in certain of the Wheeling and other papers, I would suggest, if in consonance with your judgement, that a copy of this letter should be furnished to whatever paper you are in the habit of using for making communications to the public. As the greater portion of my command are West Virginia troops, it would seem an act both of justice and charity to disabuse their friends and families of the harrowing pictures of distress and starvation which have been put forth.
Fully satisfied last evening of Mr. Wharton’s thorough loyalty and good service to the cause of the Union in the past, I ordered his release early this morning, -- Mr. Wharton it is reported to me, fully realizes, on reflection, the impropriety of the statements in the article which led to his arrest.
I have the honor to be, sir,
With very sincere respect,
Your most obd’t servant,
Major General Commanding
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: July 1864