|L. D. Phillips to Edward L Pierce -
Impressment Raid No. 8
May 13, 1862
War of the Rebellion Records
Doctor Pope's Plantation,
Saint Helena, Tuesday, May 13, 1862---9 a.m.
Dear Mr. Pierce: it was late Sunday evening when Mr. Philbrick came in bearing General Stevens'
circular, and the accompanying note from yourself. This was the first notice we had of the movement.
We could do nothing till the arrival of the squad which Mr. Philbrick said was to come that very night to
execute the order. About midnight Captain Stevens rode up to our door and was quietly admitted. He
said the squad was on the road and handed me the "descriptive list" to be filled out. "How and when
shall it be done?" I asked. "You know best about that and will act accordingly," was his reply. Clearly
the military relied upon us to make the seizure, and as the event proved, the work was all ours. A few
minutes later the squad of ten men stole into our yard. I detailed four of them to go over to Wells', and
led the remainder into the house to pass the rest of the night, taking the precaution to close the
shutters of the room, that they might not be seen in the morning. I then marched the squad of four
over to Mrs. Jenkins' plantation, returned and turned in for two or three hours' sleep till sunrise, at
which hour I had agreed with the doctor to go over to the Indian Hill Plantation, before the negroes
went out to their work, while he did the same at Doctor Pope's that the alarm might not spread from
one place to the other and the men take themselves to the woods. Reaching the negro quarters
before 6 o'clock, I find the poeple quietly at work, the men and boys grinding corn for the morning
meal, the women cooking in their cabins. The corporal and his squad are to follow in a few minutes. I
gather the men quietly and tell them that General Stevens has sent for them to come immediately to
Beaufort, and that we must all obey the general's orders. By this time the corporal comes up and bids
them "fall in." They move reluctantly, they must have their jackets, their shoes, etc. The women are
sent to fetch them, as I am afraid we shall lose the men if they go out of our sight. This causes some
delay and gives time for the whole population to collect, and we move off, the whole village, old men,
women, and boys, in tears, following at our heals. The wives and mothers of the conscripts, giving
way to their feelings, break into the loudest lamentations and rush upon the men, clinging to them with
the agony of separation. Their very ignorance and long degradation fill them with the worst
forebodings. They declare they will never see them again and are deaf to all the explanations I offer.
Some of them, setting up such a shrieking as only this people could, throw themselves on the ground
and abandon themselves to the wildest expressions of grief. One woman, whom I was obliged to turn
back several times by the shoulders, declared she knew they were not going to Beaufort; something
worse was to be done to them; she would see for herself. Hurrying back to Doctor Ppoe's, I took the
sergeant and one soldier in our buggy over to Capt. John Tripp's. Here the people were at work in the
field. The men were called from their work and their names taken. While the line was forming between
the cotton rows I went to another part of the field to speak a few words of cheer to old Lucy, for I saw
her two boys were among the levy. She is a great favorite of mine and has learned with very little aid
from me to read through her spectacles. She clung to her hoe for support, and weeping bitterly, like
Rachel of old, refused to be comforted for her boys were not, and she was left alone with her old man.
The men were not allowed to go home, the women and children bring to them the few things that
were needed for their forced march. The private was left to escort them, while the sergeant and I got
in to drive to the next estate. I whipped up to avoid witnessing another scene of violent separation, but
for a long distance we could hear the prolonged crying and wailing. When we came to Thomas J.
Tripp's I found the old foreman, but the men, as he hinted, had fled to the woods. I left a message with
him to advise them to come up and see me at Doctor Pope's, and in the afternoon, somewhat to my
surprise, they appeared and took up their line of march without escort to Beaufort Ferry.
At Marion Chaplin's the same plan was pursued, the men being found in the fields, collected,
impressed, and marched off. As I rode home I meditated a suitable form of resignation to be
presented to yourself. In the afternoon I revisited Indian Hill and was made glad to find that the people
did not hate us with a perfect hatred. Their confidence in our power to protect them is certainly
loosened. The old foreman there siad it reminded him of what his master said we should do, referring
to the old Cuba story. I found him afterward urging his people to have confidence in God, who could
clear up the darkest sky. I have heard several contrast the present state of things with their former
condition to our disadvantage. The rude separation of husband and wife, children and parents, must
needs remind them of what we have always stigmatized as the worst feature of slavery. Many other
incidents are fresh in my mind and will always cling to me to remind me of the worst day's work I ever
did, but, "aduno disce omnes," these I have narrated are fair examples of all.
The plea of military necessity has been stretched to cover up many a mistake and some acts of
criminal injustice, but never,in my judgment, did major-general fall into a sadder blunder and rarely
has humanity been outraged by an act of more unfeeling barbarity.
Believe me, my dear sir, very truly, yours,
L. D. Phillips