Virginia Governor John Letcher’s Proclamation, April 24, 1861

    Source citation
    Governor John Letcher’s Proclamation, April 24, 1861, Richmond, VA, in Frank Moore, ed., The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events, with Documents, Narratives, Illustrative Incidents, Poetry, Etc. (New York: G.P.Putnam, 1861), I: 146.
    Original source
    Richmond (VA) Inquirer
    Executive record
    Date Certainty
    Transcription adapted from The Rebellion Record (1861), edited by Frank Moore
    Adapted by Don Sailer, Dickinson College
    Transcription date
    The following transcript has been adapted from The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events, with Documents, Narratives, Illustrative Incidents, Poetry, Etc. (1861).

    WHEREAS, in the emergency which was supposed to exist during the past week, arising from information that an invasion of the rivers of the State was about to be made, and the movements of the vessels of the United States with troops into the waters of this Commonwealth and the unusual destruction of public property by the agents of that Government, both at Harper’s Ferry and at the Gosport Navy Yard, gave ample reason for such belief; and whereas, under such circumstances, sundry vessels in the waters of the James River, the Rappahannock, York, and Potomac Rivers, and their tributaries, have been seized and detained by the authorities of the State, or officers acting under patriotic motives without authority, and it is proper that such vessels and property should be promptly restored to the masters in command or to the owners thereof, therefore, I JOHN LETCHER, Governor of the Commonwealth, do hereby proclaim that all private vessels and property so seized or detained, with the exception of the steamers Jamestown and Yorktown, shall be released and delivered up to the said masters or owners. Proper Navy officers have been assigned to each of the rivers of the State herein mentioned, with orders to release such vessels and property, and give certificates for damages incurred by the seizure and detention.

    I feel it my duty, furthermore, to advise the people of the Commonwealth (not in the Military service of the State) to return to their usual avocations, in connection with the trade and commerce of the country, assuring them protection and defence. If war is to be inaugurated by an attempt to invade this Commonwealth, or to use coercion against the Southern Confederate States, a contingency dependent on the action of the Government of the United States, it shall be met and conducted by this Commonwealth upon principles worthy of civilized nations and of this enlightened age. I appeal to all our people not to interfere with peaceable, unoffending citizens or others who preserve the peace and conform to our laws, and I do hereby especially discountenance all acts of seizure of private property without authority of law, and require that order shall be restored, and that all the laws be administered and executed by the tribunals especially assigned for the purpose.

    Given under my hand as Governor, and under the seal of the Commonwealth wealth at Richmond, 24th of April, 1861, and in the 85th year of the Commonwealth.


    By the Governor

    Secretary of the Commonwealth.

    The following officers of the State Navy an assigned to the duties required by this proclamation:

    For James River – Captain Cooke and Commander Tucker.

    For Potomac River – Captain Forrest, Lieutenant Semmes.

    For Rappahannock River – Lieutenant Davis.

    For York River – Commander J. L. Henderson and Lieut. S. S. Maury.

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