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1863 February 28: Rosecrans’ Letter on the War for the Union

February 27, 2013

The February 28, 1863, Polk County Press carried this article on page 2.  This letter appeared in the Chicago Tribune on February 12, 1863.  It is one of several open letters that General William S. Rosecrans wrote concerning the peace pronouncements of the Ohio and Indiana legislatures.

The February 28, 1863, issue of The Prescott Journal is missing from the microfilm, so we only have articles from the Press this week.

The War for the Union.


COLUMBUS, OHIO, February 10th, 1863.—The following letter from Gen. Rosecrans, in response to the resolution of the General Assembly was received by Gov. Todd [sic],¹ to-day:

MURFREESBORO, Feb. 3, 1863. }

To the Honorable, the General Assembly of the State of Ohio.

The resolution of thanks passed by your honorable body to the army of the Cumberland, its commanding general and his staff, have been duly received and published to the troops of his command.  On behalf of all, I return you heartfelt thanks.

This is indeed a war for the maintenance of the Constitution and the laws—nay for for national existence—against those who have despised our honest friendship, deceived our just hopes, and driven us to defend our country and our homes.  By foul and willful slanders on our motives and intentions, persistently repeated, they have arrayed against our own fellow citizens, bound to us by the triple ties of consanguinity, geographical position, and commercial interests.

Let no man among us be base enough to forget this, or fool enough to trust an oligarchy of traitors, to their friends, to civil liberty and human freedom.  Voluntary exiles from home and friends for the defence and safety of all, we long for the time when gentle peace shall again spread her wings over our land ;  but we know no such blessing is possible while the unjust and arbitrary power of the rebel leaders confronts and threatens us.

Crafty as the fox, cruel as the tiger, they cried “no coercion,” while preparing to strike us.  Bully like, they said they could whip us five to one ;  and now when driven back, they whine out “no invasion,” and promise us of the West permission to navigate the Mississippi River, if we will be “good boys,” and do as they bid us.

Whenever they have the power, they drive before them into their ranks the Southern people, and they would also drive us.  Trust them not.  Were they able, they would invade and destroy us without mercy.  Absolutely assured of these things, I am amazed that any one could think of “peace on any terms.”  He who entertains the sentiment is fit only to be a slave ;  he who utters it at this time, moreover, is a traitor to his country, who deserves the scorn and contempt of all honorable men.  When the power of the unscrupulous rebel leaders is removed, and the people are free to consider and act for their own interests, which are common with ours under this government, there will be no great difficulty in fraternization.

Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans (cropped), from the Library of Congress

Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans (cropped), from the Library of Congress (see footnote 2)

Between our tastes and social life there are fewer differences than between those of the people of the northern and southern provinces of England and Ireland.  Hoping the time may speedily come when the power of the perfidious and cruel tyrant of this rebellion having been overthrown, a peace may be laid on the broad foundation of national unity and equal justice to all, under the Constitution and laws, I remain you fellow-citizen,

W. W. [sic] ROSECRANS, Maj. Gen.

1.  David Tod (1805-1868) was the 25th governor of Ohio. He was a Democrat who supported the war effort and gained the nickname “the soldier’s friend.”
2.  The portrait of General Rosecrans is from the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. It is the work of the Brady National Photographic Art Gallery in Washington, D.C., and was taken during the Civil War (1861-1865).

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