Jubal A. Early writes to Edmund Jennings Lee II about the burning of Montgomery Blair's house during Confederate incursions into Maryland and Pennsylvania. Early acknowledges responsibility for burning places like Chambersburg, PA, but denies that he had anything to do with the burning of Blair's house.
Yours of the 24th with the enclosures has been received. I made no speech at Williamsport on the occasion referred to in the extract from the "Age" -- I had sent to Hagerstown and had several prominent Republicans [unclear: arrested] as [unclear: hostages] for some persons arrested by Hunter near [unclear: Hedgeville]. With them came several persons to intercede with me for the release of the arrested parties on [unclear: parol], and among those who came to intercede with me were Mr Hamilton, now senator from Maryland, Mr Romaine, and Judge [unclear: Thompson Warren].-- I had a good deal of conversation with the parties, but had no idea of making a speech, and did not suppose any one would so regard my remarks.-- If [unclear: you] heard that any publication was made in regard to what I said it has escaped my memory.-- I certainly said nothing to authorize the idea that I had ordered or sanctioned the burning of Montgomery Blair's House.- It is very possible that I may have said that the burning of his house stood on a different [unclear: footing] from the plundering of his father's house. But if so, it was not intended to convey the idea that I had ordered the burning, but was much intended as an excuse for the act by my men if any of them committed it.- If I had thought proper to burn the house myself, I would have had abundant justification for it in the fact that Mr. Davis' house in Mississippi had been burned by the Yankee troops, the Institute at Lexington had been burned, and many private houses of citizens of Virginia had been burned by Hunter, as I had seen in the line of his march.
The reasons why I did not burn Blair's house were 1st because, in my [unclear: then] position, I did not wish to do any act which might seem to give [unclear: authority] for any liscence on the part of my troops, and thus relax the reins of discipline; and 2nd, because it was then well known that the Blairs were opposed to some of the harsh measures [unclear: pursued] by their party, and for that reason were in very bad [unclear: odom] with the Radical portion-- In fact, it was not long before Montgomery Blair was compelled to retire from the Cabinet-- I did not think it would be true [unclear: piling] to retaliate on him, and in fact I supposed such retaliation would have gratified the extreme Radicals.-- But as he was then a member of the cabinet, I had no doubt of my right to retaliate on him if I thought [unclear: proper].-- A gentleman now living in the Valley, who followed my force, but was not in the service, came to me and asked permission to burn the house, but I refused it [unclear: puncuptarily]. The house was a new one just finished as I [unclear: understand], and I believe was not furnished at all.--
I did put a guard on it, and the fire was [unclear: discovered] and pointed out to me, as we were moving back, by one of my staff-officers who now resides at Staunton, and knows that I did not intend to burn the house. I have abundant testimony to show what were my purposes, if I thought proper to produce it; but really I do not care whether Mr. Montgomery Blair believes my statement or not-- My [unclear: card] in regard to the matter was not published to propitiate him, or to clear myself of a charge of vandalism, but simply to vindicate the truth of history--
Nor do I care care whether the present editor of the "Mail" thinks my [unclear: card] consistent with the statement published in the "Age"-- If his sympathy for the Southern cause had taken the shape of service under my command, instead of much very unfruitful sympathy as we were accustomed to meet within Maryland, he would have learned that I never shirked any responsibility for any act of mine-- I have assumed the responsibility of the burning of Chambersburg, and also of Thad. Stevens' iron-works-- Though I am informed Stevens always believed that Barksdale of Mississippi burned his works-- I also approved the burning of Governor Bradford's house by one of my subordinates, though I did not know of it until the act was consummated-- Subsequently, if I had had an opportunity I would have done much more burning in the enemy's country.--
If I had burned Blair's house, I would have been entirely justified in doing so, and would have assumed the responsibility at once. I did not do it for the reasons before stated, and I have never known to this day whether the burning was done by my men or some person in the neighborhood hostile to the Blairs-- It is very possible that some of my men did it-- If so they abundant provocation in the sight of their own houses or the houses of their friends that had been consigned to the flames of the enemy in the line of their march into Maryland. If you think proper, you can show this letter to the editor of the "Mail," and he can show it to Judge Blair if he thinks proper.
Your servt [unclear: Truly]
E.J. Lee Jr. Esquire