“Every house… is a nest of treason.”: General Orders No. 42 for the Cavalry Corps

On this day (November 5) in 1863, Major-General Alfred Pleasonton issued General Orders No. 42 from his headquarters:

The loss in officers and men sustained in this corps at the hands of guerrillas during the past few days demands the careful attention of all to prevent a recurrence in the future. The command is admonished that we are here in the field for military and not social purposes. Visiting in the families of the country in which our operations are conducted, riding for pleasure, either alone or in small parties, or even any unnecessary exposure when in the line of duty, are directly in violation of every recognized military principle. They will, therefore, be abstained from in future. Every house within or without the lines of the army is a nest of treason, and every grove lurking place for guerrilla bands. They are on that account to be watched and avoided.

Division commanders are expressly directed to give to this matter their earnest attention.

In the transmission of orders or the conduct of the public business, care will be taken that individuals or small parties are not unnecessarily exposed, and every effort will be made to confine all officers and men to such close attention to their duties as will remove all temptation to go beyond the lines of their immediate command.

Any infringement of the spirit of this order will be reported to these headquarters, that the appropriate remedy for such neglect of duty may be promptly applied.

By command of Major-General Pleasonton:
C. C. Suydam,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

In context of these orders, Northern Virginia was entering its third fall of the war. No place for picnics and leisurely rides through the country.

(General Orders No. 42 is cited from OR, Series I, Volume 29, Part II, Serial 49, page 423.)

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

4 thoughts on ““Every house… is a nest of treason.”: General Orders No. 42 for the Cavalry Corps

  1. No doubt, the instance in which Nathan Brittles learned that it would be a bad idea to go picnic-ing in hostile country. A philosophy to which he adhered, even to his days at Fort Starke. 🙂

  2. It would be nice to know what actually led to this. In a case where the men did not learn check OR 25, 1, 1109, and OR 33, 267-268.Both incidents almost certainly happened at the same house. I detail the early event in my newst book and the 2nd is detailed in Timothy Reese’s book, Sykes’ Regular Infantry. One of the men wounded in the first incident was Asa Isham, historian of the 7th Michigan Cavalry. in truth, good looking women were almost certainly the lure both times

  3. Pleasonton was just mad because the pretty women did not invite him over for team and cookies. And as a lifelong bachelor, apparently they never did usher him into their “nests of treason.” Don’t think Gen. Pleasonton would today get the female vote.. Neither he, nor Grumble Jones, “a thorough hater of women.”

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