Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood
April 1863

Wheeling Intelligencer
April 21, 1863

An Important Order from Brig. Gen. B. S. Roberts.

Headquarters Fourth Brigade, Middle Department, Buckhannon, Va., April 6, 1863.

To The Loyal Citizens Of Upshur, Lewis, Barbour, Randolph, Braxton And Gilmer Counties.

Clear proof has been received at these headquarters that attempts will be made by the rebels and sympathizers, scattered through your towns and counties, to organize a system of brigandage, rapine, theft and plunder against the loyal people of the new State of Western Virginia, and for the destruction of the railroads, bridges, and the property of the United States. Gov. Letcher is the instigator of the plan, and his programme, as ascertained by his instructions that have been captured, is to scatter through your neighborhood the young men whose homes are with you - destroy your property, steal your -horses, and then assemble at places to be agreed upon, where organization into companies is to be made, and in that strength to move rapidly through your least frequented mountain passes and roads, to do the work of pillage and destruction planned in executive council at Richmond.

This system of brigandage is so general in its character, and receiving Executive sanction at Richmond, rises in the degree of its atrocity above merciless piracy on the high seas, and all parties engaged in it are equally outlawed by the rules of civilized war among all nations.

In view of these small dangers and the annoyance to the peaceful and loyal citizens of your counties, and to defeat and punish the infamous designs of Governor Letcher, I recommend through every county I have named, the organization of Union Leagues for defense and offense, if necessary, against the brigands who may attempt this plan of land piracy in Western Virginia. These Leagues, should embrace every good and loyal citizen of your counties. They should adopt rules for instant communication and assembling together when there is danger. They should communicate information at once to the nearest military commanders of the movement of the guerrillas and other enemies, they should arrest all persons arriving among them known to be rebels, coming from the enemy's lines, or going toward them, and send them to the nearest military commands; they should keep under notice the rebels and sympathizers of rebellion, who, living under the protection of the laws of your new State and the United States, basely betray both and covertly serve our enemies. Such traitors, for more ignoble and base than those in open rebellion, are entitled to no sympathy, nor should mercy be shown to them if caught in over acts of treason.

Beyond general Union Leagues in each county, I recommend Vigilance Committees in every town and considerable neighborhood, of all the enterprising young men. They should see that no rebel is at any time absent from his home or farm, and that his horses, cattle and other property are not moved.

Fellow-citizens, I need not tell you that, scattered as you are over large counties, and without organization and accord, you are weak, exposed to danger, both in your person and property. You have been taught this fact by sad experience. But it is possible that you are not aware of your strength and power, organized and acting in concert. This idea constrains me to urge upon you organization and vigilance for your own security - for the good of your new State and the General Government.

You will be a host united, and acting of a determined will to defend your homes, your new State and the Union, you will be stronger than armies with banners and the thunder of artillery.

'Tis not the nature of man to be neutral or an idle spectator of this crisis. The man who says he takes no part in a struggle to save his country, threatened by eight millions of traitors, is dead to loyalty or a rebel at heart. He is our worst enemy - watch him. Compel him to go where his heart is, but where his craven legs refuse to carry him. There he can do you no harm. Here he covertly plots a coward's mischief, and in the dark executes the coward's mission of information and intelligence to our enemies. Drive such men, or rather such counterfeits of men, from among you! In this there is nothing hard or unmerciful, the precept is of divine origin, that "who sows to the wind shall reap a whirlwind."

B. S. Roberts,
Brigadier General Commanding.

Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: Undated: April 1863

West Virginia Archives and History