Saturday, October 12, 2013

"'We hate you with a cordial hatred.'"

On October 21, 1862, Colonel R. A. Cameron of the 34th Indiana Infantry left Helena, Arkansas, with a small group of men, and under a flag of truce journeyed toward the Confederate lines. Cameron carried dispatches from Generals Samuel Curtis and William T. Sherman addressed to Major General Thomas C. Hindman. After a three- day trek, Cameron was escorted to Major General Theophilus H. Holmes in Little Rock. Often derided and purportedly nicknamed “Grannie” by his troops, Holmes came across as a stern warrior with very decided opinions in Cameron’s account.

The two men met for over two hours one morning, and Cameron detailed their conversation in his report. After complaining “‘that in the route of General Curtis’ army houses were ransacked, women’s and children’s apparel taken without provocation, and all kinds of damage done to the property of citizens,’ Cameron responded by saying that such actions were certainly not ordered or condoned and that “Texans in his army had stolen the people’s meat and chickens.”

Holmes assured Cameron that his men would follow “the rules of warfare” as long as they fought organized forces “‘but…should we be beaten, and our army under Lee in Virginia and Bragg in Kentucky be crushed, we would rise as individuals and each man take upon himself the task of expelling the invaders.’” Colonel Cameron expressed doubt that the Confederate people were as “desperate” as Holmes. “ ‘Yes,’ said the general, ‘we hate you with a cordial hatred. You may conquer us and parcel out our lands among your soldiers, but you must remember that one incident of history, to wit, that of all the Russians who settled in Poland not one died a natural death.’ I [Cameron] replied I could not, and knew our people did not, reciprocate the hatred he expressed. The general then entertained me with his former love for our flag and his present hatred at the sight of it, but fell into a pleasant vein in regard to his old acquaintances in the Federal Army whom he knew.”

This exchange is from the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Vol. 13, pp. 769-770.

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