For the Patriot.
Speculators and Extortioners.
Company F, Forty-Sixth Regiment N. C. T., }
Goldsborough, May 20, 1862 }
Mr. Editor:–As much is said in many of the newspapers of the State on political subjects, with a great deal of wrangling as to which political leader, and which aspirant to Gubernatorial honors were first a Seccessionist, and which “held out unto the last for the Union,” and as all this is not in the slightest degree calculated to benefit the country, but on the contrary tends only to produce anarchy in our midst, and eventually run the Southern Confederacy in the ground, grant your correspondent a corner in your excellent sheet—(on account of whose consistent course throughout this whole struggle, I take pleasure in saying it is a favorite with all the troops in this encampment)—to submit a few remarks on a subject, which to every soldier in camp and every patriot at home, is of far more important, and deserves of course more attention from the press. I allude to that class of men (unfortunately very abundant in our country) commonly called speculators, but more properly they be termed traitors and villains, enemies to their country, who for a few dimes would suck the very life-blood of the Confederate Government, and if they expected to be embraced under the provision of the Conscript Act, would at once, with outstretched arms, welcome to their homes the Yankees now on our borders that they might take the oath of allegiance to Lincoln’s despotism in order to save the plunder they have robbed from the poor and suffering families of our brave and dauntless volunteers, many of whom have passed through a year’s experience of military life, and on more than one bloody field, have tasted gun powder, and with unshaken nerves dealt death-blows among the unprincipled wretches who have invaded our soil.
The term “speculation,” in its proper meaning, includes only the fair-dealing tradesman, in whatever branch of business, who, with unaffected probity, buys and sells; but in its broad and general acceptation, it refers to the extortioner, or, in just as appropriate language, the thief, the robber, the man who would pillage the pockets of a dying negro. It refers to him, who in a time like this, would swindle an honest yeoman of blankets, a few yards of homespun, or other articles demanded in the market, and in a sneaking way, place thereon a price five times the original cost and value. It refers to merchants in Raleigh, (whose names were they known to me should here be exposed,) who sell, or offer for sale as I am credibly informed, shirts made of the coarsest fabrics, at prices ranging from five to nine dollars, and who for the leaves of old musty blank books, cut and folded down to the smallest size, they ask the outrageous sum of two dollars per quire! With equal force, too, it refers to the person who sells a chicken to the hungry soldier for a dollar and fifty cents, and a dozen eggs for seventy-five cents.
That such thievishness is practiced all over the country by many who have never been in the army, and further, who never intent to be,–practised almost within cannon shot of the enemy who have come to destroy them, and that too on the very men who at the call of their country, generously came forth to defend all from ruin, that such is so, we say, is a fact harrowing to the mind of the soldier; for what feelings may we imagine disturb his thoughts while partaking of his dry, burnt crust, with his unsavory dish of grease and fat bacon, when he reflects that there are at their homes in ease and comfort, hundreds of such scoundrels as these, for whom they endure these privations, and for whom at any moment they may be called upon to sacrifice their lives, and thus bid adieu forever to their families.
Are we not engaged in a struggle in which the dourest interests are involved that could prompt bold and courageous men to action? And if defeated in this struggle, who is so weak as not to clearly discern that our property will be forever gone; for does not experience prove that there is no sympathy among others for and within themselves no hope of resurrection for a conquered and fallen people? Then is not ours a cause which should make honest men of citizens pursuing the duties of their respective avocations, as well as brave men of soldiers on the battlefield? And should it not bring us together shoulder to shoulder as countrymen who are countrymen, and brothers who are brothers?
The pay of a soldier is eleven dollars per month. How much money will our brave volunteers, the majority of whom are poor men and without means, have in their possession, should they ever get home, if this wholesale robbery of their pay is allowed to continue?
This letter is written by one who does not desire to achieve publicity to his name, but by an humble soldier who volunteered in April, 1861, served till his term expired, and re-enlisted for the war.
E. P. I.
Source: Greensborough Patriot, May 22, 1862 as found in Confederate Newspaper Project