Harper's Weekly 04/30/1864


RETALIATION.

With the fine tact of simple honesty the Pres-
ident, in his little speech at the opening of the
Fair in Baltimore, said exactly what we all wish-
ed to hear. The massacre at Fort Pillow had
raised the question in every mind, does the Uni-
ted States mean to allow its soldiers to be butch-
ered in cold blood? The President replies, that
whoever is good enough to fight for us is good
enough to be protected by us; and that in this
case, when the facts are substantiated, there
shall be retaliation. In what way we can retal-
iate it is not easy to say. There is no evidence
from Richmond, and there will be none, that
Forrest's murders differ from those of Quan-
trell
. On the other hand, we must not forget
that the same papers which brought the Presi-
dent's speech promising retaliation brought us
also the return of the rebel General in Florida,
containing, for the relief of friends at home, the
names and injuries of our wounded men in his
hands, and that the list included the colored sol-
diers of the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massa-
chusetts regiments.


But if public opinion has justified a stronger
policy from the beginning—if the criminally
stupid promises of M`Clellan and Halleck to
protect slavery and to repel the negroes coming
to our lines had never been made, we should
not now be confronted with this question, be-
cause the rebels would never have dared to mas-
sacre our soldiers after surrender. But yet to
be deterred from retaliation from fear of still
further crimes upon the part of the rebels is
simple inhumanity. Let us either at once re-
lease every colored soldier and the officers of
their regiments from duty, or make the enemy
feel that they are our soldiers. It is very sad
that rebel prisoners of war should be shot for
the crimes of Forrest. But it is very sad, no
less, that soldiers fighting for our flag have been
buried alive after surrendering, and it is still
sadder that such barbarities should be encour-
aged by refraining from retaliation. Do we
mean to allow Mr. Jefferson Davis, or this
man Forrest, or Quantrell, to dictate who
shall, and who shall not, fight for the American
flag? The massacre at Fort Pillow is a direct
challenge to our Government to prove whether
it is in earnest or not in emancipating slaves
and employing colored troops. There should
be no possibility of mistake in the reply. Let
the action of the Government be as prompt and
terrible as it will be final. Then the battles of
this campaign will begin with the clear convic-
tion upon the part of the rebels that we mean
what we say; and that the flag will protect to
the last, and by every means of war, including
retaliation of blood, every soldier who fights for
us beneath it.



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