From the Richmond Sentinel, 3/5/1864
The papers found on the person of Col. DAHLGREN, copies of which we publish today, reveal clearly the character and objects of the late expedition against the city, and make more evident the grossness of its folly and the completeness of its failure. The enemy moved from Culpeper, according to the progamme, in two columns of picked men, three hours apart in time, and diverging in direction. Col. DAHLGREN led the advance column. A part of his object was to destroy our artillery at Frederick Hall; but he found the artillery in hollow square, with missiles outward, and he passed on. Another purpose was to cross the James River with his main force, and move down in great secrecy on both banks and take Richmond by surprise. The trusty guide, and "intelligent contraband," it seems, with which he was provided, promised him a good ford near the Dover Mills, where he could cross with ease. He did not succeed in finding the ford or crossing the river; but in his wrath, he hung the poor negro. Turning down the James, on the North side, with his undivided column, he was soundly chastised on Tuesday evening by our city troops, and driven back before our regulars could get a chance.
KILPATRICK, for his part, had no better success. He did not destroy the bridges over the North and South Anna. He, too, was whipped and driven back. He had traveled with more celerity than DAHLGREN, and was in place on Tuesday morning. This only enabled him to reach his conclusions a day earlier than his coadjutor; for, Tuesday night, he fled on his iron-gray, across the Chickahominy, where, on Wednesday, DAHLGREN was happy to follow him.
DAHLGREN, in his orders to his troops, told them that, possibly, Gen. CUSTER might follow him. Gen. CUSTER is as yet unaccounted for; ad this fact gives some color to the reports, that a body of the enemy is somewhere west of the Fredericksburg railroad.
Of the purposes that were to be accomplished if these officers had led their columns to a meeting in Richmond, DAHLGREN takes pains to inform his men, and we have fallen heirs to the information. The Yankee prisoners on Belle Island were to be liberated and turned loose upon the hateful city to sack, burn and destroy. The soldiers were to scatter firebrands every where. Our bridges were to be burned. Our President – Commander-in-Chief of our army – was to be killed. His cabinet were to share his fate. So far as they were concerned, the black flag was to be raised, and no quarter given.
Man proposes but God disposes. LINCOLN, through his armed emissaries, has told us what he would like to do, and he has made the attempt to do it. Morally, therefore, he and his officers are guilty of the crime. As for DAHLGREN, he has paid the penalty. He has found the death he came to deal. Instead of writing his name among the stars as he fondly hoped, he has been buried like a dog, without a priest or coffin, in the swamps of Virginia. His name will stink and his memory will rot. The odium due to him attaches in greater force to his superiors, both civil and military. Let LINCOLN and KILPATRICK remember that they have bidden their subordinates give no quarter to the Confederate chiefs! Perhaps even a Scotch cap and military cloak will not prevent a just and stern vengeance from overtaking them for this revolting outrage on civilization and the rules of war!
The orders of DAHLGREN to kill and destroy such stock and horses as they might not be able to drive away with them, and to burn all the mills he could find, is second in execrable infamy only to what we have above noted. It is a war against women and children, and against those very Yankee prisoners concerning whose rations they affect so much hypocritical concern. What right has LINCOLN, after sending his creatures on such an errand, to open his lips, if this destruction of food, and of the means of producing it, be made to fall alone on his subjects here?
What course should our Government pursue under this revelation of the enormous infamy of our enemies? It is a question not to be put aside; nor is it a question to be answered under impulse. We commend it to the attention of our authorities; for it is of a nature that requires a prompt decision.
The orders which DAHLGREN proclaimed to his men, and the purposes avowed, are unexampled in the history of the world – Cities have, indeed, been sacked; but it was only after an obstinate and useless resistance had inflamed the passions of the soldiers, and made them uncontrollable by their commanders. DAHLGREN expected to take Richmond by sudden surprise – not after an obstinate defense, or, indeed, any defence. – Yet, he proclaimed that it was his purpose to sack, burn, destroy; to turn loose ten thousand reckless men, without officers, with full license to riot at will. What imagination can paint the horrors of which this city would have been the scene on Monday, if DAHLGREN'S enterprise had succeeded? History furnishes no example of the murder, arson, robbery, rape and conflagration which would have prevailed. The President and his Cabinet were doomed by name, and were to fall at the hands of the troops. Does any one believe that any official, of any grade, would have escaped the mob of prisoners? DAHLGREN has died, but DAHLGREN was not the only guilty man. His address was to his officers and his men. He told them his purpose, and gave them leave to withdraw if they disapproved the undertaking. They elected to follow him, and became partners of his crimes. His annunciation became theirs. We have come of these men in our hands. What shall we do with them? – What do they deserve? Tried by the rule of war of what they are guilty? They are murderers, incendiaries, outlaws, detested and arrested in the execution of their crimes. They have forfeited the character of soldiers, and they should not be treated as such.