January 6, 1864 Issue of the WEEKLY STANDARD (Raleigh, North Carolina)
   Transcribed and Posted by Myrtle Bridges February 20, 2003

Lumberton, Robeson Co, Dec. 24, 1863. W. W. Holden, Esq.-Dear Sir: In such perilous times as we live 
in, it is refreshing to know that there is at least one man and one press in the State not afraid to stand 
up in vindication of the civil liberties of the people at all risks and hazards. I write you at this time 
not to obtain newspaper notoriety, or to obtrude myself unnecessarily upon the attention of the public, but 
rather to furnish you with a plain statement of facts connected with a gross outrage which was committed 
on the laws and Constitution of the State of North Carolina, on my person, by my illegal arrest and removal 
from my family and home by order of General Whiting, commanding the District of Cape Fear, on Wednesday the 
16th instant, at daybreak.

On the 3rd day of September last, I was fully enrolled as a conscript, and given in charge with other 
conscripts to Col. Morrissey, commanding 58th regiment NC militia to remain with him until further orders. 
Believing from the peculiar nature of the facts in my case, that the enrollment was arbitrary and contrary 
to the prescriptions of both the military and civil laws of the Confederacy, I appealed to headquarters 
at Richmond, setting forth the facts at length, and complaining of the conduct of the enrolling officer 
as partial and illegal. After waiting for a period of more than two months for a reply from the War 
Department, and receiving none, I petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus which was granted by Judge 
Osborne, and the hearing of the case appointed to take before Judge Battle in Chambers at Chapel hill, 
on the 27th ult. on my way to the above place, and while sitting in the cars at Wilmington on Wednesday 
the 25th ultimo, Capt. Buie, by orders from Gen. Whiting, proposed to arrest me on the charge of treason 
to the Confederate States. The gentleman who had charge of me immediately produced his authority for 
bringing me before Judge Battle, upon which Capt. Buie on his own responsibility, (though he was the next 
day placed under arrest and charges preferred against him therefore.) declined to enforce the orders of 
the General in the face of what he considered, as a North Carolinian, the laws of his state.

I immediately on my return from Chapel Hill, sent the accompanying letter to Gen. Whiting, in which I 
respectfully requested an early investigation of the charges alleged against me, at the same time 
tendering him the surrender of my person at Wilmington, at any time he might choose to order. This 
letter was written on the 2nd inst., and was received by Gen. Whiting the same evening by train. 
When several days had elapsed without any word from the General, I concluded, very naturally, that 
the order for my arrest belonged to a certain class of such things, in which that officer indulges 
sometimes when unduly excited, and that with cooler moments of reflection, he had dismissed the whole 
matter from his mind. I was therefore not a little surprised on the morning of the 16th inst., to find 
Lieutenant loudly and rudely knocking at my front door, demanding admittance in the name of General 
Whiting, while all around my residence he had his armed sentinels posted in order to cup off my retreat. 
Of course I submitted at once, and requested leave for time to prepare to accompany him, but was informed 
that I had to depart at once, to go with the train which was to leave in a few minutes for Wilmington.

I leave you and your readers to imagine the consternation and terror produced by this raid of armed men 
upon a citizen's dwelling, when the inmates were reposing in peaceful slumbers, and unconscious of having 
committed any crime calling for the exercise of military force. Imagine if you can the state of mind of 
a delicate lady and a number of young children thus roused from the slumbers of the night by armed ruffians, 
who refused to assign any reason for the forcible seizure of the husband and father except the letters 
de cachet of General Whiting, to …, fourteen days previous, from certain family considerations and 
to avoid this very excitement, that husband and father offered to surrender his person at any time or 
place he might please to order.

Two soldiers with loaded guns and bayonets fixed accompanied me to Wilmington where I was detained for 
three days at my own cost, and finally discharged without even the formality of a trial. I will not dwell 
upon the un-courteous violence of language and gesture which Mr. Whiting exhibited at my interview with 
him, as all there have been more than compensated for by the gentlemanly urbanity of Col. Cunningham, 
the Commandant of the Post, who treated me with every kindness and respect which a man could expect from 
a high-toned Southern gentleman.

Expensive, troublesome and annoying as this arrest has been to me, in my present pecuniary circumstances, 
and mortifying as it is in every respect to my family and friends I do not complain of it so much as I do 
of treatment preceding it, and of which this arrest is but the natural sequence.

You and the public generally are acquainted with the nature of certain reports which were bruited abroad 
through the press of this State and of Virginia, touching my conduct on the field of battle below Newbern 
in the Spring of 1862. Now as it is not my intention to reflect on the least degree upon the merits or 
demerits of a single individual living or dead who participated in that engagement, I hope I shall be 
permitted, as succinctly as possible, to show that the conduct of General Whiting illegal and tyrannical 
as it may seem, is only the result of example, if not of precept, furnished him by Mr. Davis and his 
Cabinet at Richmond.

After the battle of Newbern, when smarting under the reports which were circulated against me, and to 
place myself right with my fellow-citizens of North Carolina, whose good opinion I was anxious to secure, 
and whose censure I deprecated more than all else in the world, I respectfully requested the Brigadier 
General commanding to grant me a Court of Inquiry, to hear and understand my conduct was on the battle-field. 
(illegible) remained there until the right wing of his regiment which was separated from the left by a 
section of artillery and an independent company, gave way-that he went towards a portion of the retreating 
men, and ordered them back to their entrenchments, and then took his original position- "that he afterwards 
received the order to retreat, and gave the order to his regiment" &c. &c. Public rumors at that time had 
charged me with cowardice, and with carrying my regiment out of the field without orders, and consequently 
with being the author of all the disasters of that unfortunate day. But the testimony before the Court 
had shown differently, and one would suppose that having satisfied themselves that my conduct was 
irreproachable even by the testimony of my bitter enemies, the matter would have been dismissed and 
any further investigation dispensed with in my case. But such a course did not comport with the 
determination of the government. I would be understood as indicating the agents of the government. 
(Wherever in this communication Mr. Davis' government or administration is mentioned, I use government 
and administration as synonymous terms.) Not only was my conduct on the field inquired into, but every 
step of the retreat from Newbern to Kinston was minutely explored, and witnesses from every direction 
sworn to show where under the new and trying circumstances in which I found myself placed, any error 
was committed by me; and those errors were blazoned forth to the world in the papers of this State 
and Virginia. To this conduct, however, I did not attach much importance then, nor do I now, as I am 
not ambitious of military renown. I saw the intention was a the time to kill me off as a military man; 
but if they killed the Colonel I wished the preacher to be allowed to live. If I could not lead broken, 
raw, and undisciplined and dispirited troops in a disastrous retreat, according to the rules approved 
of at West Point, it was a matter of no moment to me, or to my family, as I had only engaged in military 
life as I would in the discharge of any other temporary duty, where I recognized the finger of God's 
Providence pointing out to me the way. But it is of infinite importance to me and to the Church of Christ, 
whether I ought to be engaged in leading sinners to the Cross, according to the command which I have 
received from the Master to preach His Gospel to every creature. My conscience points out this duty to me. 
The word of God points it out. The judicatories of my church insist upon it, and viewing it in a worldly 
and pecuniary point of view, the necessities of a large and helpless family urgently call upon me to 
discharge the functions of my office.-But how can I, as a man and a minister of the Gospel, do this when 
I am charged by the government of Mr. Davis with uttering an unblushing positive falsehood?

I have begged and prayed Mr. Davis and his Cabinet to condescend to review the evidence in my case, 
where the above infamous charge is fastened on my character, with out a single extenuating fact to 
mark its connection with the circumstances of the case, as testified to under oath by the late 
Col. C. C. Lee, 37th NC T. Relying upon the justice, probity and piety of Mr. Davis, and no little 
upon prior services rendered to the cause of the South, I thought I could appeal to him with confidence 
for redress, especially as I did not seek justification of any military error which I might have 
committed, but rather the vindication of my moral character, which was assailed by the finding of 
the court of inquiry. I was but an obscure Presbyterian clergyman, and did not expect, as in the 
case of a well known ecclesiastic of the President's own communion, a public expression of executive 
confidence in my military prowess through the press of the country. I would have been contented with 
an official removal from the verdict of the court of inquiry of all offensive clauses which were not 
sustained by the evidence, or with the publication of the testimony in the case, with the finding of 
the court officially, and I think we have no institution in the South, as a State church, that I had 
right to expect some such treatment, all things considered.

Your readers may not be aware of the injury which the conduct of the President, in regard to this matter, 
has inflicted on my family, not to speak of myself. Without claiming any undue pre-eminence for the church 
of which I am minister, over sister churches, I may be permitted to remark that if there is one thing 
she demands in her ministry, next to personal piety, and a cultivated intellect, it is that they maintain
before the world, the character of [illegible - "above reproach"] Now should I so far forget what is 
due to the church of my fathers, a church whose honor is dearer to me than life, and at whose altars 
I have ministered until called away to take my part in this war, and forget also what was due to myself 
as a gentleman as to intrude into her pulpits with the foul stain of falsehood resting on my garments, 
the people composing the membership of that church would not sit in their pews to hear me preach. Nay, 
such is the nice sense of honor, the clerical "esprit dus corps" of my ministerial brethren in Presbytery 
and Synod, that if the people, in the exercise of that charity which "believeth all things and hopeth 
all thing," should tolerate me in the pulpits of the church, they (the ministers) would at once demand 
of me a vindication of my character before they would consent to associate with me on the terms of equality 
and fraternal confidence which distinguish the intercourse of Presbyterian ministers with each other, as 
well as the genius and constitution of their church, which recognizes neither superior nor inferior in 
their ranks. I have felt all along, therefore, that I was obligated by the most pressing and solemn 
considerations to secure the removal of this stigma from my character, before I would again engage 
actively in the duties of my profession. But meanwhile my family was made to suffer, for I am a poor 
man, and have no way of providing my daily bread but by the discharge of my professional duties. The 
emoluments which I received as Colonel of my regiment was cut off by its unconstitutinal 
re-organization, which I refused to recognize at the time on the ground of its illegality in April, 1862, 
and my resources for the support of my family were taken away when my moral character was destroyed. 
Finding myself in this condition, I requested a copy of the evidence for immediate publication, but 
was refused on one pretense or another until too late to be of any service in counteracting the injurious 
influence of the verdict of the court. I humbly petitioned the President for redress, but not being 
a bishop in an Episcopal sense, my petition was treated with a dignified silence. I asked for a court 
martial, and that was also refused. As a final resort, I petitioned Congress for a re-hearing of the 
case, but that honorable body "could not legislate on a matter which was already judicially decided 
by a military tribunal," and so all my reward for what I had done in behalf of the cause, was to bear 
with me forever the stigma of disgrace and infamy without any hope of relief.

Had the government, however, stopped here and ceased its persecution, intolerable and hard to bear as 
it was, I would have contented myself with a passive endurance until the return of peace to our distracted 
land, when I intended to avail myself of my Constitutional rights for redress. But no sooner did the 
authorities ascertain that I was not in the discharge of my ministerial functions, than they took for 
granted that the courts of my church had dealt with me in regard to the very crime which they had so 
unjustly fastened upon me, and had reduced me on that account to the condition of a layman, than this 
paternal government of ours ordered me to be enrolled as a conscript, on the ground that I was "silenced, 
suspended or deposed clergyman." This charge which I rebutted by an official certificate from 
the stated clerk of the Presbytery of Fayetteville, is now on file in the office of Col. Mallett, at 
Raleigh. But genius is ever persevering, and our political authorities are no exception to the rule. 
Determined to degrade me at all hazards, during my absence from home in attendance upon Presbyterial 
business on the 3rd of September last, the government had ex parte testimony taken under oath, to show 
that for the period of more than a year past, I had no charge of a church, and the consequence was, that 
I was immediately enrolled as a conscript, a furlough of thirty days given me, and the Colonel of Militia 
for my district, ordered to hold me in custody, ready to be sent to the camp of instruction when so ordered. 
I immediately appealed from this decision to headquarters at Richmond, and determined to test whether the 
enrolling officer received his inspiration from the fountain head. I based my appeal, 1st, upon the 
partiality of the officer in the discharge of his duty. 2nd, upon his personal dislike to myself. 3rd, 
upon the fact that I had a right to be exempted on the ground that I was pastor of a church when I 
entered the service, and only lost that position by my patriotism, which ought not now to be used against 
me for the purpose of reducing me to ranks; that according to the principles of equity government was 
bound to recognize me as occupying the same status which I did prior to my entering the service, as 
was the practice of the government in relation to physicians of five years standing, similarly situated 
with myself. September passed away, October also, and a portion of November, without hearing from Richmond, 
and concluding that I was to be treated by our rulers in this instance in the same way I was in the matter 
of the court of inquiry, and perceiving that the enrolling officer had never been interfered with, though 
I had obligated myself to prove all the charges which I preferred against him, I took immediate steps to 
leave a country where justice, though blinded, had no balances to weigh matters impartially. Being a 
Scotchman by birth-an American by adoption, and a North Carolinian by choice, and realizing the bitter 
truth that I was treated as an alien, notwithstanding my naturalization, my attachment to the South and 
its institutions, manifested by me on her battlefields in her defense, I thought the best way was to 
leave; until Mr. Davis, by Constitutional limitation, should cease to sway her destinies. Finding, 
however, at this crisis, that I legally owed military service to my adopted country, and having no 
faith in the justice of the administration, I sued out a writ of habeas corpus, on the ground that 
having never resigned my office of Colonel, having also refused to be a candidate for re-election to 
the office at the organization of the regiment, and having never been discharged according to the 
eleventh article of war, by simply "honorably relived from duty in the 1st brigade, army of Pamlico," 
I was still in service in the capacity of Colonel, awaiting either a discharge or an order for active 
service in the capacity of a Colonel, and in no other capacity.

I was on my way to Chapel Hill to be tried on this issue when the attempt was made to arrest me by order 
of Gen. Whiting. At the same time I received an exemption from the Bureau of Conscription at Richmond, 
in reply to my appeal from the decision of the enrolling officer, and have had my exemption papers made 
out accordingly. But to continue the system of persecution and to leave me no rest or peace until I 
should be compelled to leave the country, this last and crowning act is committed. A minister of the 
gospel, and one who had served as a Colonel in the Confederate service, is rudely torn from his bed 
and from the bosom of his already suffering family, amid the bayonets of soldiers, and ignominiously 
hurried away like a vile criminal to be abused and insulted by a military despot, whose most tender 
mercies are cruel.

By the vexatious efforts the government has made to conscribe me from time to time, and corresponding 
efforts which my situation demanded of me for my defense, they have absorbed my little all of pecuniary 
means, so that I have no resource now but the promise of Him who feedeth the ravens when they cry unto 
him, and clothes the lilies of the field. I am told by Him that  (several lined faded out - illegible) 
This bias is found and already stated in the verdict of the Court of Inquiry and is as follows:

"The retreat was in order until the report of pursuit by the enemy's cavalry; that he (Col. Sinclair) 
then consulted with his men as to a surrender, stating that Col. Lee recommended a surrender, whereas 
Col. Lee advised no such course, but on the contrary, urged them (the men) to make a stand."The 
testimony supposed to sustain the above, is as follows: "I immediately called out to them (the men) 
that I had advised nothing of the kind, (a surrender,) or words to that effect, but on the contrary, 
was advising the formation of a rear guard for their security, &c. Pending my remarks, the Colonel 
(Sinclair) road up and told me he had misunderstood me, and told me moreover, I should have a rear 
guard, &c. Cross examined by Col. Sinclair. Col. Sinclair offered his services on the rear guard with
me. The remarks made by Col. Sinclair in relation to the misunderstanding as to the surrender, were 
made immediately after I told the men not to surrender. Col. Sinclair said afterwards it was disgraceful 
for North Carolinians to surrender. It was with some little difficulty that he procured the rear guard, 
talking to them and urging the matter, and advising them to form a rear guard. This was after the remarks 
made by me, telling them not to surrender. During all this time Col. Sinclair appeared cool, thought I 
am not acquainted with his usual manner and bravery."

I was charged with uttering a gross falsehood, but the testimony entirely fails to sustain the charge. 
The utmost point to which the testimony can be pushed, will only show that there was a misunderstanding 
between myself and Col. Lee as to the object for which the rear guard was to be organized. I have never 
denied that I understood Col. Lee as counseling such a course, and I so advised my men, when he interrupted 
me as above, whereupon I immediately tendered an apology for my mistake, not Col. Lee's, and organized 
the rear guard for the specific object mentioned in his testimony, the repulse of the enemy.
At the time that Col Lee came up with me, cavalry in squads, the caisons and carriages of our field 
artillery, and fugitives from Newbern in all sorts of vehicles were rushing through my ranks, and 
creating much confusion, so that with the low tone of voice peculiar to the gallant Lee, in times of 
danger and excitement when speaking to any one, and not giving a command, caused me to hear but 
imperfectly what he wanted. Although his senior in rank, such was my confidence in him as an officer, 
and my love for him as a man, that I would have unhesitatingly carried out any suggestion which he 
might have been pleased to make, and hence the whole misunderstanding. If there was any fault or crime 
committed, on my head let it be, and not on the noble, chivalric Lee. But God, who searcheth the hearts 
of men, knows that nothing but what was best, as I thought, and so understood it, for the cause under 
the circumstances, entered my mind in the whole matter. Am I now, being I misunderstood Col. Lee, to 
be branded with uttering a downright, deliberate falsehood, and to be hunted down like a wild beast, 
because I am not willing to lie quietly down with such a disgrace pressing me down daily, deeper and 
deeper into the mire and filth of infamy?

I now, in conclusion, desire my fellow-citizens of north Carolina to do me the justice to understand 
the position which I occupy in regard to my adopted country. I have never faltered in my loyalty to 
the South. I entertain the same opinions as to the rights to the South. I entertain the same opinions 
as to the rights of the South that I did on the 21st of July, 1861, on the bloody field of Manassas, 
when I offered my life in her defense. As for North Carolina, which today holds the graves of my family, 
and shelters my aged father, my brothers, my sisters, my children, my all of earth, save one sister, I 
can only say of her what the Psalmist said of Jerusalem, although he was not born there, "if I forget 
thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave 
to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy." Her God is my God-her people 
my people, and her fate my fate. Should she be called upon to walk through a red sea of blood to the 
promised land of independence, or be overwhelmed in its sanguinary billows, I am willing to be with her, 
and to follow her through honor and dishonor, but I want to be treated as a son and not as an alien. 
I love her interests and honor as much as any of her native born sons. Why then should I be treated 
as the son of the bond woman and not of the free? True, I have no confidence in Mr. Davis, nor in his 
administration, but does this throw me out of the pale of North Carolina's sonship? True, I wished to 
leave the country, because I was persecuted, but his was owing to the fact that my adopted mother failed 
to shield me from tyranny and injustice. My want of confidence in Mr. Davis is not solely the result of 
the treatment which I received personally from his government, but of his general management of the 
affairs of the country ever since he has been the head of the government. My political antecedents are 
well known. I was, and am, a States' rights' man. I have seen this bulwark of our liberties by insidious 
encroachments upon the sovereignty of the States, sapped and mined by the President, until the very 
catadel of the Constitution is now ready to fall beneath the feet of a military despotism. An what have 
we received in return for all this? More than half the original States composing our Confederacy are now 
in the hands of the enemy, who lords it over our conquered people with the cruelty of an Alaric. The small 
portion left us by the weakness of the enemy, and through the incomparable bravery of our troops will 
soon become a military camp from end to end, where the articles of war will be the only Magna Charta, 
and the Provost Marshal the only judge on the bench.

Our currency is as it is. I need only mention the fact to show its condition, when a pound of feathers, 
as I saw the other day in Wilmington, is worth thirteen of its dollars. And amid all this, a citizen is 
called disloyal, because he cannot sing paeans in praise of Mr. Davis, whose vanity will not permit him 
to surround himself with the best talent which the country affords him, in his Cabinet. Like Napoleon 
and other military men, he is more sensitive on the point of statesmanship, than on points connected with 
his military profession; and therefore will prefer to surround himself with men of mediocre talents, that 
instead of having able heads of Departments, he may have clerks who will be satisfied with recording the 
will of their chief, and so appropriate to himself all the honors of the revolution. To the man, personally, 
I have no objection. As a General, I would die with him in the last trench, or follow him in the forlorn 
hope to the death-but as the civil head of the Confederacy, I cannot place confidence in him. His 
stubbornness has almost ruined the cause of the South, and yet, amid all our disasters, he still prides 
himself on possessing all the infallibility in judgment which Pius Nino claims for his doctrines. The 
South has lavishly laid at his feet all her vast resources, which by a narrow and ambitious policy to 
exclude abler statesmen than himself from the Executive Chair, he refused to avail himself of at the 
beginning, and by that refusal, ruined our currency. And what, after all, I again ask, has he done to 
realize the reasonable expectations of the country? The subject is a painful one, and I will bring my 
remarks to a close, remaining-your ob't serv't  James Sinclair.

Note: A number of documents accompanied the communication of Mr. Sinclair, confirming and sustaining 
his statements, but we could not find room for them. They strike us, however, as unnecessary to complete 
his case, which he has presented to his fellow citizens with much force and clearness. - Holden

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