The Romney Petition
January 25, 1862.
To Brigadier-General Loring,
GENERAL: The undersigned officers of your command beg leave to present their condition to your consideration as it exists at Romney.
It is unnecessary to detail to you, who participated in it all, the service performed by the Army of the Northwest during the last eight months. The unwritten (it will never be truly written) history of that remarkable campaign would show, if truly portrayed, a degree of severity, of hardship, of toil, of exposure and suffering that finds no parallel in the prosecution of the present war, if indeed it is equaled in any war. And the alacrity and good-will with which the men of your command bore all this hardship, exposure, and deprivation would have done honor to our sires in the most trying times of the Revolution.
After being worn down with unremitting toil and wasted by death and disease, the remainder were about preparing quarters to shield them from the storms of winter in a rigorous climate. Many had prepared comparatively comfortable quarters, when they were called upon to march to Winchester and join the force under General Jackson. This they did about the 1st of December, with the same alacrity which had characterized their former conduct, making a march of some 150 miles at that inclement season of the year.
After reaching Winchester, as expected, was ordered in the direction of the enemy, when all cheerfully obeyed the order, with the confident expectation that so soon as the object of the expedition was attained they would be marched to some comfortable position, where they could enjoy a short respite and recruit their wasted energies for the spring campaign.
The terrible exposure and suffering on this expedition can never be known to those who did not participate in it. When men pass night after night in. the coldest period of a cold climate without tents, blankets, or even an ax to cut wood with, and without food for twenty-four hours, and with some of the men nearly two days at a time, and attended by toilsome marches, it is not to be thought strange that some regiments which left Winchester with nearly 600 men should now, short as the time has been, report less than 200 men for duty. Instead of finding, as expected, a little repose during midwinter, we are ordered to remain at this place. Our position at and near Romney is one of the most disagreeable and unfavorable that could well be imagined. We can only get an encampment upon the worst of wet, spouty land, much of which when it rains is naught but one sheet of water and a consequent corresponding depth of mud, and this, too, without the advantage of sufficient wood, the men having to drag that indispensable article down from high up on the mountain side.
We are within a few miles of the enemy and of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which imposes upon our men the continued hardship of very heavy picket duty, which will in a short time tell terribly upon their health and strength. We regard Romney as a place difficult to hold, and of no strategical importance after it is held. Besides, the country around it for some distance has already been by the enemy exhausted of its supplies. Your army could be maintained much more comfortably, and at much less expense, and with every military advantage, at almost any other place. Another consideration we would endeavor to impress upon your mind: All must be profoundly impressed with the paramount importance of raising an army for the next summer’s campaign. When we left Winchester, a very large proportion of your army, with the benefit of a short furlough, would have enlisted for the war, but now, with the present prospect before them, we doubt if one single man would re-enlist. But if they are yet removed to a position where their spirits could be revived, many, we think, will go for the war. In view of all these considerations and many others that might be presented, we ask that you present the condition of your command to the War Department, and earnestly ask that it may be ordered to some more favorable position.
WM. B. TALIAFERRO,
SAML. V. FULKERSON,
VAN H. MANNING,
J. W. ANDERSON,
A. V. SCOTT,
JESSE S. BURKS,
P. B. ADAMS,
J. Y. JONES,
R. H. CUNNINGHAM, JR.,
JOHN A. CAMPBELL,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHWEST,
As this is a respectful communication, and presents for the consideration of the honorable Secretary of War the true condition of this army, and coming from so high a source, expressing the united feeling of the army, I deem it proper to respectfully forward it for his information. I am most anxious to re-enlist this fine army, equal to any I ever saw, and am satisfied if something is not done to relieve it, it will be found impossible to induce the army to do so, but with some regard for its comfort, a large portion, if not the whole, may be prevailed upon.
At the earliest possible moment I shall write more fully.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. W. LORING,
HEADQUARTERS VALLEY DISTRICT,
Respectfully forwarded, but disapproved.
T. J. JACKSON,