Monday, October 24, 2016

Major-General John A. Dix to Edwin M. Stanton, December 17, 1864

Head-quarters, Department of the East, New York City,
December 17,1864.
Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War:

Sir, — I have just received your letter of the 15th instant, advising me that the President does not approve that part of my General Order No. 97 “which instructs all military commanders on the frontier, in certain cases therein specified, to cross the boundary between the United States and Canada, and directs pursuit into neutral territory.” I shall immediately revoke the portion of the Order thus disapproved.

I beg leave most respectfully to represent that the revocation of this direction to military commanders on the frontier removes all hope of capturing marauders who cross the boundary-line for the purpose of committing depredations on our side. When St. Alban's was attacked, the banks robbed, and several of the citizens shot — one of them mortally — a telegraphic despatch was immediately sent to me, and was promptly answered by me; and yet, so rapid were the movements of the marauders, that before my Order reached the pursuers the guilty parties had been arrested and delivered up, with the stolen property, amounting to several hundred thousand dollars, to the Canadian authorities. When it is considered that St. Alban's is several miles within the boundary-line, it will be perceived that the pursuit of marauders will be wholly unavailing from points directly on the frontier, if authority to pursue is to be waited for.

When I issued Order No. 97 I had satisfactory information from Toronto that a predatory expedition had been organized against Ogdensburg, separated from Canada by the River St. Lawrence, less than a mile in width. If the local commander, in case of an attack on the place, is required to telegraph for orders to me, it is quite manifest that the marauders will be beyond his reach before he will receive my answer.

There are strong manifestations of a purpose on the part of our citizens on the frontier to take the pursuit and capture of marauders into their own hands; and a desire to prevent these unauthorized acts of individuals was one of my motives in giving the authority in question to the local commanders.

I do not state these considerations with the expectation of inducing the President to review his decision, which has, no doubt, been well considered, but that he may understand my reasons for giving a direction which has incurred his disapproval.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

John A. Dix, Major-general.

SOURCE: Morgan Dix, Memoirs of John Adams Dix, Volume 2, p. 114

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