A reckless and unprincipled tyrant has invaded your soil. Abraham Lincoln, regardless of all moral, legal, and constitutional restraints, has thrown his abolition hosts among you, who are murdering and imprisoning your citizens, confiscating and destroying your property, and committing other acts of violence and outrage too shocking and revolting to humanity to be enumerated. All rules of civilized warfare are abandoned, and they proclaim by their acts, if not on their banners, that their war-cry is "Beauty and booty." All that is dear to man, your honor, and that of your wives and daughters, your fortunes, and your lives, are involved in this momentous contest.As a propaganda piece, this proclamation takes the cake. Beauregard relied upon exaggerated imagery of invading and plundering hoards to enlist the support of locals in the war effort. He even appealed to male residents' sense of manhood by insinuating that the Yankee occupiers were on the prowl for local women. Beauregard, in decrying the "abolition hosts," may also have hoped to rouse Virginians who viewed the North as a threat to the very existence of slavery. (Here is evidence once again that slavery was on the minds of Southern leaders at the conflict's outset, even if Union war aims had not yet caught up.)
In the name, therefore, of the constituted authorities of the Confederate States,in the sacred cause of constitutional liberty and self-government, for which we are contending, in behalf of civilization and humanity itself, I. G. T. Beauregard, brigadier-general of the Confederate States, commanding at Camp Pickens, Manassas Junction, do make this my proclamation, and invite and rejoin you by every consideration dear to the hearts of freemen and patriots, by the name and memory of your revolutionary fathers, and by the purity and sanctity of your domestic firesides, to rally to the standard of your State and country, and by every means in your power compatible with honorable warfare to drive back and expel the invaders from your land. I conjure you to be true and loyal country and her legal and constitutional authorities, and especially to be vigilant of the movements and acts of the enemy, so as to enable you to give the earliest authentic information to these headquarters or to the officers under my command. I desire to assure you that the utmost protection in my power will be extended to you all.
|General P.G.T. Beauregard, from sheet music (courtesy of Library of Congress)|
The proclamation must surely have riled Unionists across Northern Virginia, such as residents of Lewinsville, Lydecker's, and Accotink, who had recently voted against the Ordinance of Secession. Northern newspapers also caught wind of the proclamation and reacted accordingly. The June 18, 1861 edition of the New York Times shot back:
If anything were wanting to establish the truth of the statement that the Southern troops are an ignorant mob, it would certainly be found in the last proclamation of Gen. BEAUREGARD. Such a document could only be addressed to men who know nothing of daily events, and certainly its author can but feel contempt for those to whom such declarations can be safely addressed.On June 19th, the Times ran this commentary:
In Gen. BEAUREGARD'S famous proclamation he says that the Federal troops "proclaim by their acts, if not by their banners, that their war-cry is beauty and booty." We submit that by sending his wife to Massachusetts, when the South had determined on war, where she still remains, Gen. BEAUREGARD has left the world to infer one of two things; either that he thought in his lady's want of personal charms and penury, she had immunity from violence and outrage, or else that when he penned those words in his proclamation he knew he was gasconading. We trust for the lady's reputation that his veracity may suffer rather than her personal appearance.*Beauregard had unleashed a war of words with his over-the-top proclamation. But offending Northern sensibilities was no bother to a commander who had a war to fight.
*I have been unable to verify whether Beauregard's wife in fact was sent to Massachusetts as the Times alleged.