Ulysses S. Grant and Loudoun County Quakers

Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) Lieutenant General of the Union Army

“During all of the trying winter of 1860-1, when the Southerners were so defiant that they would not allow within their borders the expression of a sentiment hostile to their views, it was a brave man indeed who could stand up and proclaim his loyalty to the Union.” – Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) quoted from his Memoirs (Chapter 16)

Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant could have been thinking about the Quakers of Loudoun County, Virginia, when he wrote the above sentence in his 1885 Memoirs. In late 1864 Grant instigated a policy to speed the end of war by destroying crops and livestock in the Confederate breadbasket of the Shenandoah Valley. The subsequent burning of barns, crops and mills, and driving away of livestock, caused great suffering, including to the Union supporting Quakers of Loudoun County. Nest of Abolitionists includes a page devoted to Carrie Taylor’s account of the burning raid.

As a harbinger to that “Burning Raid” order, in August 1864 General Grant had ordered his cavalry commander, Major General Philip Sheridan, to arrest male citizens and destroy or carry off property in Loudoun County, Virginia, an area from which John Singleton Mosby was recruiting Confederate guerrillas for his 43rd Battalion. A record of that order is in the compiled war records kept by the U.S. Library of Congress. Copies of several pertinant war memos shown below are taken from the Cornell University website which has the records online. Here is a link to those records:

Official Records Chapter LV, Part 1, page 811
union cavalry general philip sheridan civil war
U.S. Cavalry Corps Commander, Major General Philip Sheridan

Yet in spite of his sweeping order to round up the fighting aged men of Loudoun County, General U.S. Grant was not intractable. We can trace the interactions Samuel M. Janney of Lincoln (Goose Creek) had with the U.S. War Department and the subsequent change of military policy by looking at Janney’s Memoirs and then comparing the Memoirs with government memos kept in the Official Records archives.

Samuel M. Janney’s Memoirs can be read online from a version found here. The Memoirs‘ paragraphs covering August 21-25, 1864, (pages 219-221) pertain to Janney’s efforts to exempt Quakers from arrest by the U.S. military. They are excerpted below:

  On First-day, the 21st of Eighth month, 1864, as some of our Friends were going home from meeting they met a detachment of Federal cavalry, commanded by Major Waite, of Illinois. They had with them a number of citizen prisoners, whom they had arrested at or near their homes, and they added to the number several members of our Society then on their way from meeting. They passed near our house, but I was not at home.

  Early the next morning I went to Purcelville and found the troops and prisoners near that place in a piece of woods, where they had spent the night. I spoke to the Major on behalf of the citizens he had arrested, desiring that they might be liberated. He said he would release those I would vouch for as Union men, a number of whom had already been singled out for liberation before my arrival on the ground. As most of the others were strangers to me, and the whole of them were just on the point of marching, no opportunity was afforded to obtain their release. I solicited the liberation of Dr. B., not vouching for his loyalty, but on the ground of his usefulness in the neighborhood and the scarcity of physicians. My request was not granted, and the troops, with their prisoners, moved on.

        In the afternoon of the same day I was notified by two of Moseby’s [sic] Confederate cavalry that I must report to Moseby within fifteen days unless Dr. B. was released. They said other Union men would be held responsible for the return of such of the prisoners as were secessionists. I told them there was no need of placing me under any restraint, as I had already made application for the release of the doctor and other prisoners, and that I was then preparing to go to Washington for the same purpose. They exacted no promise from me, and took leave.

        My wife and I had been expecting to go to Alexandria on a visit, and intended to start about the middle of the week, but I thought it best to proceed at once, and let her follow me in a few days. I had a passport from the President of the United States, authorizing me to cross the Potomac and go to Baltimore. When I arrived near the river, I met some Union men returning from the ferry at Point of Rocks, who told me no person was allowed to go over, and although one of them had a pass from General Augur, they were warned by the Federal troops to leave the river, and a gun was fired over their heads from the opposite side. I concluded, however, to go on, and when I reached the ferry the guards on the Maryland side hallooed to know what I wanted. I replied: “I wish to go over on important business. I have a pass from the President of the United States. Ask the captain to come over.” The captain came, and agreed, after some hesitation, to allow me to proceed to Washington, accompanied by a young friend.

        On Fourth-day morning I waited on General Augur, in Washington, who treated me with courtesy and kindness, expressed his apprehensions that the arrest of the citizens in Loudoun would lead to unpleasant consequences, and gave me a letter to C. A. Dana, Assistant Secretary of War.

        I immediately waited on him, and was kindly received. He said the order originated with Lieutenant General Grant, and was intended only to bring out of Loudoun such citizens as were liable to rebel conscription. He felt some hesitation about releasing the prisoners, although some of them were old men, beyond the age for military service.

        He proposed that I should go to General Sheridan, commander of the military district in which Loudoun is included. His headquarters being near Harper’s Ferry, the Secretary gave me a passport, together with General Augur’s letter and his own endorsement.

  On Fifth-day morning, the 25th, accompanied by a citizen of Jefferson County, I went by railroad to Harper’s Ferry, thence proceeded about two miles beyond, where I found General Sheridan’s headquarters in a tent, and his army encamped in sight. He received me courteously, read the letter, and heard my statement. Then he remarked: “We must all bear the burdens imposed by this war. I and my soldiers have to bear our burden in the field of battle; thousands of bereaved families have to bear theirs in the loss of near and dear kindred; and you people of Loudoun must not complain if you have to bear your share.” I told him the Union men of Loudoun were truly loyal, and we did not wish to embarrass the Government; we thought, however, that no advantage, but much injury, would result from the manner in which General Grant’s order had been executed. He said the old men should be released, and also the doctors, of whom there were two among the prisoners; as to the rest, he would telegraph to General Augur in relation to them. After a pleasant interview we took leave, and next day returned to Washington.

civil war assistant secretary of war charles anderson dana

Assistant Secretary of War Charles Anderson Dana, pictured left, (1819-1897) doesn’t mention Samuel Janney by name, but he assuredly had an interview with Janney, as mentioned in the Memoirs. The only discrepancy is a few days’ difference on the date in August, 1864, but Janney would have been referring to notes, or his memory, almost 20 years after the event. Dana apparently was impressed and convinced by Janney’s argument to spare Quakers in Loudoun. He sent a memo to General Grant, who was in the field outside Richmond:

Official Records Chapter LV, Part 1, page 856

After receiving Dana’s telegraphed memo, Lieut. General U.S. Grant then sent out this follow-up directive to Major General Sheridan, modifying his earlier order:     

Official Records Chapter LV, Part 1, pages 869-870

Samuel Janney’s efforts resulted in a concession to the loyal Quakers of Loudoun County. Lieut. General Ulysses S. Grant, in the midst of the devastating Overland Campaign, took time to consider the “brave man indeed who could stand up and proclaim his loyalty to the Union.”

Samuel M. Janney lincoln virginia
Samuel M. Janney, Lincoln, Virginia