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 Research US War Dept. Official Records HTML Ser. II, Vol. 1, Ch 4.






Mar.18, 1861.–Lieut. Adam J. Slemmer, U. S. Army, commanding at Fort Pickens, Fla., returns four fugitive slaves to their masters.
Apr.23, 1861.–Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, U. S. Army, offers to use U. S. troops in co-operation with the Governor of Maryland to repress an apprehended slave insurrection.
May24, 1861.–Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, U. S. Army, from Fort Monroe announces to the General-in-Chief his determination to employ fugitive slaves of disloyal owners.
30, 1861.–Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War, directs Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, U. S. Army, not to surrender fugitive slaves to disloyal owners.
June22, 1861.–Col. Harvey Brown, U. S. Army, commanding Fort Pickens, Fla., reports to the War Department that he will not return fugitive slaves to their masters unless otherwise ordered.
July9, 1861.–The House of Representatives resolves that it is not the duty of Union soldiers to capture and return fugitive slaves.
Aug.30, 1861.–Maj. Gen. John C. Frémont, U. S. Army, proclaims martial law in Missouri and his purpose to confiscate the property and liberate the slaves of disloyal owners.
Sept.11, 1861.–President Lincoln issues an order modifying the proclamation of General Frémont to conform to act of Congress.
12, 1861.–Maj. Gen. John C. Frémont, U. S. Army, issues deeds of manumission to two slaves of a disloyal owner.
Oct.14, 1861.–Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War, authorizes Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Sherman, U. S. Army, commanding at Port Royal, S. C., to organize and arm, if necessary, squads of fugitive and captured slaves.
Nov.4, 1861.–Maj. Gen. John A. Dix, U. S. Army, directs that negroes be not allowed to come within certain military lines in Maryland.
7, 1861.–Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, U. S. Army, in a letter of instructions counsels Brig. Gen. Don Carlos Buell, U. S. Army, appointed to the command in Kentucky, to respect the constitutional rights of Kentuckians in their slave property.
8, 1861.–Brig. Gen. William T. Sherman, U. S. Army, commanding Department of the Cumberland, expresses the opinion that fugitive slaves must be delivered up on application of their masters in conformity to the laws of Kentucky.
20, 1861.–Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, U. S. Army, issues General Orders, No. 3, excluding fugitive slaves from the military camps in the Department of the Missouri. {p.750}
Dec.25, 1861.–Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, U. S. Army, commanding District of Southeast Missouri, orders fugitive slaves to be expelled from Fort Holt, Ky.
Mar.13, 1862.–Additional Article of War approved forbidding officers and soldiers of the U. S. Army from aiding in the capture and return of fugitive slaves to disloyal owners.
May9, 1862.–Maj. Gen. David Hunter, U. S. Army, proclaims martial law in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, and declares all slaves free.
19, 1862.–President Lincoln modifies Major-General Hunter’s proclamation freeing the slaves in his military department.


Miscellaneous Records Relating to the Negro in the Early Stage of the Rebellion.750

Miscellaneous Records Relating to the Negro in the Early Stage of the Rebellion.

FORT PICKENS, FLA., March 18, 1861.

Lieut. Col. L. THOMAS, Assistant Adjutant-General, U. S. Army.

SIR: I have the honor to report that since my last report nothing has happened to disturb the peaceable relations existing between the U. S. forces and those opposing us.


On the morning of the 12th instant four negroes (runaways) came to the fort entertaining the idea that we were placed here to protect them and grant them their freedom. I did what I could to teach them the contrary. In the afternoon I took them to Pensacola and delivered them to the city marshal to be returned to their owners. That same night four more made their appearance. They were also turned over to the authorities next morning.


I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. J. SLEMMER, First Lieutenant, First Artillery, Commanding.



His Excellency THOMAS H. HICKS, Governor of the State of Maryland:


I have understood within the last hour that some apprehensions were entertained of an insurrection of the negro population of this neighborhood. I am anxious to convince all classes of persons that the forces under my command are not here in any way to interfere with or countenance any interference with the laws of the State. I am therefore ready to co-operate with your excellency in suppressing most promptly and effectively any insurrection against the laws of Maryland.


And I have the honor to be your excellency’s obedient servant,

B. F. BUTLER, General of the Third Brigade.



SAINT LOUIS, MO., May 14, 1861.

Brig. Gen. W. S. HARNEY, Commanding Military Department of the West.

SIR: ... Last evening a gentleman of the highest respectability and intelligence from Greene County, Mo., asked me whether I supposed it was the intention of the United States Government to interfere with the institution of negro slavery in Missouri or any slave State or impair the security of that description of property. Of course my answer was most unqualifiedly and almost indignantly in the negative. I told him that I had no means of forming an opinion which was not open to every other private citizen but that I felt certain that the force of the United States would if necessary be diverted for the protection of this as well as any other kind of property. Will you be good enough to spare from your engrossing military duties so much time as may be required to say whether I answered correctly?

I have the honor to be, with the highest respect, your most obedient servant,



SAINT LOUIS, MO., May 14, 1861.

THOMAS T. GANTT, Esq., Saint Louis, Mo.

SIR: I have just received your note of this date inquiring whether in my opinion you were correct in replying to a citizen of Southwestern Missouri as to the purpose of the United States Government respecting the protection of negro property. I must premise by saying that I have no special instructions on this head from the War Department but I should as soon expect to hear that the orders of the Government were directed toward the overthrow of any other kind of property as of this in negro slaves.

I entertain no doubt whatever that you answered the question you mentioned correctly. I should certainly have answered it in the same manner, and I think with the very feelings you describe. I am not a little astonished that such a question could be seriously put. Already since the commencement of these unhappy disturbances slaves have escaped from their owners and have sought refuge in the camps of U. S. troops from Northern States and commanded by a Northern general. They were carefully sent back to their owners. An insurrection of slaves was reported to have taken place in Maryland. A Northern general offered to the executive of that State the aid of Northern troops under his own command to suppress it. Incendiaries have asked of the President permission to invade the Southern States and have been warned that any attempt to do this will be punished as a crime I repeat it I have no special means of knowledge on this subject but what I have cited, and my general acquaintance with the statesmanlike views of the President makes me confident in expressing the opinion above given.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

W. S. HARNEY, Brig. Gen., Comdg. Military Department of the West.






Saturday, May 25.-I had written thus far when I was called away to meet Major Cary, of the active Virginia volunteers, upon questions which have arisen of very considerable importance both in a military and political aspect and which I beg leave to submit herewith.

On Thursday night three negroes, field hands belonging to Col. Charles K. Mallory now in command of the secession forces in this district, delivered themselves up to my picket guard and as I learned from the report of the officer of the guard in the morning had been detained by him. I immediately gave personal attention to the matter and found satisfactory evidence that these men were about to be taken to Carolina for the purpose of aiding the secession forces there; that two of them left wives and children (one a free woman) here; that the other had left his master from fear that he would be called upon to take part in the rebel armies. Satisfied of these facts from cautious examination of each of the negroes apart from the others I determined for the present and until better advised as these men were very serviceable and I had great need of labor in my quartermaster’s department to avail myself of their services, and that I would send a receipt to Colonel Mallory that I had so taken them as I would for any other property of a private citizen which the exigencies of the service seemed to require to be taken by me, and especially property that was designed, adapted and about to be used against the United States.

As this is but an individual instance in a course of policy which may be required to be pursued with regard to this species of property I have detailed to the lieutenant-general this case and ask his direction. I am credibly informed that the negroes in this neighborhood are now being employed in the erection of batteries and other works by the rebels which it would be nearly or quite impossible to construct without their labor. Shall they be allowed the use of this property against the United States and we not be allowed its use in aid of the United States?


Major Cary demanded to know with regard to the negroes what course I intended to pursue. I answered him substantially as I have written above when he desired to know if I did not feel myself bound by my constitutional obligations to deliver up fugitives under the fugitive-slave act. To this I replied that the fugitive-slave act did not affect a foreign country which Virginia claimed to be and that she must reckon it one of the infelicities of her position that in so far at least she was taken at her word; that in Maryland, a loyal State, fugitives from service had been returned, and that even now although so much pressed by my necessities for the use of these men of Colonel Mallory’s yet if their master would come to the fort and take the oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States I would deliver the men up to him and endeavor to hire their services of him if he desired to part with them. To this Major Cary responded that Colonel Mallory was absent.


Trusting that these dispositions and movements will meet the approval of the lieutenant-general and begging pardon for the detailed length of this dispatch, I have the honor to be, most respectfully, your obedient servant,

BENJ. F. BUTLER, Major-General, Commanding.



MAY 24, 1861-7.15 p.m.

[Col. J. B. MAGRUDER.]

SIR: I regret to inform you that Lieutenant-Colonel Ewell was taken prisoner at Fort Monroe; under understand. I had requested an interview with Major-General Butler (now in command) this morning which was granted at 3.30 p.m. My main object was to ascertain how far he intended to take possession of Virginia soil in order that I might act in such a manner as to avoid collision between our scouts. I could only gather from him that it was “a military necessity” for him to occupy our land for an encampment and that he could only say that if he was not interfered with by bodies of armed troops he would molest no one. He indicated his determination to take possession of anything which he might deem necessary for his use. In accordance with these principles he has taken three of Colonel Mallory’s negroes which he has refused to give up on application. I dispatched to Colonel Ewell a detailed account of a reconnaissance which they made on yesterday to this place.


I have the honor to remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. B. CARY, Major Artillery, Virginia Volunteers.




VlRGINIANS: ... I have ordered troops to cross the river. They come as your friends and brothers-as enemies only to the armed rebels who are preying upon you. Your homes, your families and your property are safe under our protection. All your rights shall be religiously respected.

Notwithstanding all that has been said by the traitors to induce you to believe that our advent among you will be signalized by interference with your slaves understand one thing clearly-not only will we abstain from all such interference but we will on the contrary with an iron hand crush any attempt at insurrection on their part.


GEO. B. MCCLELLAN, Major-General, Commanding.



Col. B. F. KELLEY, First Regiment Virginia Volunteers, Wheeling:


I count on your prudence and courage. Preserve the strictest discipline. See that the rights and property of the people are respected and repress all attempts at negro insurrection.*

GEO. B. MCCLELLAN, Major-General, U. S. Army, Commanding Department.

* For precisely same instructions to Colonels Irvine and Steedman, see Series I, Vol. II, p. 47.




Lieutenant-General SCOTT.

SIR: ... Since I wrote my last dispatch* the question in regard to slave property is becoming one of very serious magnitude. The inhabitants of Virginia are using their negroes in the batteries and are preparing to send the women and children south. The escapes from them are very numerous and a squad has come in this morning to my pickets bringing their women and children. Of course these cannot be dealt with upon the theory on which I designed to treat the services of able-bodied men and women who might come within my lines, and of which I gave you a detailed account in my last dispatch. I am in the utmost doubt what to do with this species of property. Up to this time I have had come within my lines men and women with their children, entire families, each family belonging to the same owner. I have therefore determined to employ as I can do very profitably the able-bodied persons in the party, issuing proper food for the support of all and charging against their services the expense of care and sustenance of the non-laborers, keeping a strict and accurate account as well of the services as of the expenditure, having the worth of the services and the cost of the expenditure determined by a board of survey to be hereafter detailed. I know of no other manner in which to dispose of this subject and the questions connected therewith. As a matter of property to the insurgents it will be of very great moment, the number that I now have amounting as I am informed to what in good times would be of the value of $60,000. Twelve of these negroes I am informed have escaped from the batteries on Sewall’s Point which this morning fired upon my expedition as it passed by out of range. As a means of offense therefore in the enemy’s hands these negroes when able-bodied are of the last importance. Without them the batteries could not have been erected, at least for many weeks. As a military question it would seem to be a measure of necessity to deprive their masters of their services. How can this be done? As a political question and a question of humanity can I receive the services of a father and mother and not take the children? Of the humanitarian aspect I have no doubt; of the political one I have no right to judge.


Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


* See Butler to Scott, May 24, p. 752.


WASHINGTON, May 30, 1861.

Major-General BUTLER.

SIR: Your action in respect to the negroes who came in your lines from the service of the rebels is approved.

The Department is sensible of the embarrassment which must surround officers conducting military operations in a State by the laws of which slavery is sanctioned. The Government cannot recognize the rejection by any State of its federal obligations nor can it refuse the performance of the federal obligations resting upon itself. Among these federal obligations, however, none can be more important than that of suppressing and dispersing armed combinations formed for the purpose of overthrowing its whole constitutional authority. While {p.755} therefore you will permit no interference by the persons under your command with the relations of persons held to service under the laws of any State you will on the other hand so long as any State within which your military operations axe conducted is under the control of such armed combinations refrain from surrendering to alleged masters any persons who may come within your lines. You will employ such persons in the service to which they may be best adapted, keeping an account of the labor by them performed, of the value of it and of the expense of their maintenance. The question of their final disposition will be reserved for future determination.

SIMON CAMERON, Secretary of War.



Lieut. Col. E. D. TOWNSEND, Assistant Adjutant-General, Washington, D. C.

COLONEL: ... I shall not send the negroes back as I will never be voluntarily instrumental in returning a poor wretch to slavery but will hold them subject to orders.


I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

HARVEY BROWN, Colonel, Commanding.


HEADQUARTERS SCHENCK’S BRIGADE, Camp Upton, Va., July 6, 1861.

Capt. JAMES B. FRY, Assistant Adjutant-General, Headquarters Arlington.

SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 2d instant with letters of Mrs. Caroline F. Noland and John G. England, referred from the headquarters of the Army, in relation to two slaves belonging to persons in Rockville, Md., which slaves are claimed to be in this camp. I am requested to give my attention to the matter of these slaves and if they are within the limits of my command to have them returned to their owners when demanded. And I am also reminded that the case of one of them was referred to me some days since when as would appear from one of the accompanying letters the order of the general commanding was not executed in consequence of the interference of some of the soldiers. I return now all the letters on the subject and have to make in reply this statement:

When the negroes are alleged to have taken refuge or been first seen within the limits of the First or Second Ohio Regiments I was not in command. That is understood to relate to a time when the troops were encamped within the Department of Washington. Afterward on the day when certain parties appeared in this camp with the Jetter of Assistant Adjutant-General Townsend of the 25th of June, referred to me from headquarters, I happened to be temporarily absent Colonel McCook, of the First Ohio Regiment, the senior officer present, gave his immediate attention to the matter; and I refer to the inclosed statements from himself and Lieutenant-Colonel Parrott* to show that there was no such evasion of or refusal to execute the order of the {p.756} general commanding as is pretended by the persons who came in quest of the slaves. Besides what appears from the reports of those two officers I have made strict inquiry and do not ascertain nor believe that persons seeking the negroes “were harshly dealt with” by any officers or men of my command, that “the object of their visit was denied” or that they “were abused and threatened in person” as they allege. On the contrary if there was anything offensive in the conduct or condition of any of the parties concerned it appears to have been only on the part of a drunken policeman or slave-catcher who attended Mr. Noland on his first visit to the troops when at Camp Sherman on the other side of the river.

The officers and men from these two regiments from Ohio are naturally somewhat excited and indignant at the imputation that they have been “practicing on the abolition system of protecting runaway negroes.” This camp will not be permitted while I have command to be made a harbor for escaping fugitives, but persons owing labor or service to loyal citizens of loyal States if they resort to us shall always be surrendered when demanded on proper order or authority by the lawful owner or his representatives. I will add that in the particular instance in question I cannot find any negro answering to the name or description of either of the slaves claimed and I do not believe that either of them is in the camp or concealed by the troops. If the owners or their agents should come again with evidence of their rights every facility and assistance will be afforded them to reclaim and secure their property.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

ROBT. C. SCHENCK, Brigadier-General.



Respectfully forwarded to the Headquarters of the Army.

An officer of the army will be sent to General Schenck’s camp with the owners of the slaves whenever it is desired to make further search for them.

IRVIN MCDOWELL, Brigadier-General, Commanding Department.

* Not found.

[Inclosure No. 1.]

HEADQUARTERS SCHENCK’S BRIGADE, Camp Upton, Va., July 6, 1861.

Brigadier-General SCHENCK.

GENERAL: I have the honor to report the following facts in reply to your question touching the claim of Mrs. Caroline F. Noland to a slave said to be either with the First or Second Regiments Ohio Volunteer Militia. Some time about the 20th of June last, I have forgotten the precise date, two gentlemen purporting to be from Maryland called on me at Camp Upton and claimed to be the authorized agent for I believe Mrs. Noland, the owner of a negro said to be in our camp. I told them that if such was the case I was satisfied General Schenck would immediately restore the slave to the owner. But I added that to do this properly it was necessary to bring him evidence of their agency and the fact that Mrs. Noland was the owner of the slave {p.757} claimed. The gentlemen admitted that this would be the proper course and said on leaving that they would return in a few days with the proofs asked for. There was no ill feeling or harsh conduct on either side. I was therefore much astonished the next day on finding the same gentlemen in Camp Upton not with the proofs asked for but a letter evidently based upon their statements in which a grave charge was preferred against the men and officers of our Ohio regiments. This of course created some little excitement but none looking to a concealment of the slave if any such was in camp. On the contrary Colonel McCook who was then in command during your temporary absence gave those men every facility they could desire. Under his order they searched the camp and returned after a time saying that they could not find the negro. This is all that I know of, sir, in connection with this case and you will perceive from the facts that the charge preferred that your officers or men in any way harbored a slave or ill-treated his master is unfounded.

I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient servant,

DONN PIATT, Assistant Adjutant-General.

[Inclosure No. 2.]


Lieutenant-General SCOTT.

DEAR SIR: I learned through a reliable source that my servant named George was in the Ohio regiments, number One and Two, camped in Virginia. My son made application to the Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War, for authority to examine into the fact and for his obtension which was politely complied with by that functionary, which authority was received and seemingly accredited by the officers commanding said department which resulted in my son seeing my servant, but by the interference of the soldiery which seemed to be without control they were not permitted to reclaim said negro. I therefore have thought it advisable to submit the matter to you as commander-in-chief of the army to suggest and adopt such course in the premises as may enable me to reclaim my property.



[Inclosure No. 3.]


General MCDOWELL, Commanding, &c., Arlington, Va.

GENERAL: Sergeant Noland who will hand you this is a messenger in the War Department. Please aid him in recovering the negro belonging to his mother (or brother who goes with him). The negro is with some of the Ohio troops and from Mr. Noland’s account they have been practicing a little of the abolition system in protecting the runaway.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

E. D. TOWNSEND, Assistant Adjutant-General.




Brigadier-General Schenck will please have this matter investigated and return the negro to his owner.

By order of General McDowell:

JAMES B. FRY, Assistant Adjutant-General.

[Inclosure No. 4.]

CAMP UPTON, VA., July 5, 1861.

Capt. DONN PIATT, Asst. Adjt. Gen., Schenck’s Brigade, Camp-Upton, Va.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of the letters from the Headquarters of the Army relative to a runaway negro from Montgomery County, Md., purporting to belong to Mrs. Caroline Noland, of said county. Mrs. Noland says “by the interference of soldiers which seemed without control they (my sons) were not permitted to reclaim my negro.” This piece of information as she was not here herself of course she obtained from her sons. It is absolutely and unqualifiedly false. The officer of the day was sent through camp with the Messrs. Noland. No violence was offered them nor threats uttered save by myself which will be explained further on. The Messrs. Noland were especially taken through the company quarters where one of them thought he had seen the negro in question the day before and then were returned to headquarters and expressed themselves satisfied that their negro was not in my camp. I then sent them with the officer of the day to the camp of the Second Ohio when a like protection was given them.

Mr. Noland or a man named Sergeant Noland, a messenger in the War Department, handed me a letter from Col. E. D. Townsend, assistant adjutant-general, U. S. Army, in which Colonel Townsend states “from Mr. Noland’s account the Ohio troops have been practicing a little of the abolition system in protecting runaways.” I was very much surprised to hear such sentiments expressed by the chief of staff about my brave men. I then told the Messrs. Noland that the man who gave Colonel T. such information stated what was false and that if he was the person I would have no hesitancy in marching him out of camp. Sergeant Noland denied in the presence of my entire staff that he had ever given Colonel Townsend any such information; that he, Colonel T., was in no manner authorized to make such a statement; and more than that had he known what the contents of the letter was he would not have delivered it. I then told Sergeant Noland that he might have been mistaken about having seen his negro in my camp; that even if he had the negro might have been in the camp temporarily. I then told him to go to the Connecticut camps but he did not go.

The same day Major Bartholomew, of the District militia, accompanied by a friend came into my camp on a similar errand. I extended to him the same protection. He saw the negro that was represented to be the property of his friend but said he was mistaken and acknowledged that he had been misinformed and thanked me for my attention and left the camp. I do not believe Mrs. Noland has a negro in this camp and from the lying propensities of her sons I am {p.759} now in doubt if she ever owned a negro. I inclose a letter from Lieutenant-Colonel Parrott* on same case. I know nothing of Mrs. Howard’s negro.

I am, captain, respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. MCD. MCCOOK, Colonel First Regiment Ohio Volunteers.

* Not found.


Resolution adopted by the House of Representatives, special session, July 9, 1861.*

Resolved, That in the judgment of this House it is no part of the duty of the soldiers of the United States to capture and return fugitive slaves.

* Introduced by Mr. Lovejoy, of Illinois, and passed by the following vote:

Yeas-Messrs. Aldrich, Alley, Arnold, Ashley, Babbitt, Goldsmith F. Bailey, Baker, Baxter, Beaman, Bingham, Francis P. Blair, Samuel S. Blair. Blake, Buffinton, Campbell, Chamberlain, Ambrose W. Clark, Colfax, Frederick A. Conkling, Roscoe Conkling, Conway, Covode, Cutler, Davis, Dawes, Delano, Diven, Duell, Dunn, Edgerton, Edwards, Eliot, Ely, Fenton, Fessenden, Franchat, Frank, Gooch, Granger, Gurley, Hale, Hickman, Hutchins, Julian Kelley, Francis W. Kellogg, Killinger, Lansing, Loomis, Lovejoy, McKean, McPherson, Mitchell, Moorhead, Anson P. Morrill, Justin S. Morrill, Olin, Patton, Pike, Pomeroy, Porter, Potter, Alexander H. Rice, John H. Rice, Riddle, Edward H. Rollins, Sedgwick, Shanks, Shellabarger, Sherman, Sloan, Spaulding, Stevens, Stratton, Benjamin F. Thomas, Thayer, Train, Trimble, Trowbridge, Vandever, Van Horn, Van Valkenburgh, Van Wyck, Verree, Wall, Wallace, Charles W. Walton, E. P. Walton, Washburne, Wheeler, Albert S. White, Windom, and Worcester-93.

Nays.-Messrs. Allen, Ancona, Joseph Baily, Burnett, Calvert, Carlile, Cobb, Cooper, Cox, Cravens, Crisfield, Crittenden, Dunlap. English, Fisher, Fouke, Grider, Haight, Harding, Holman Horton, Jackson, Johnson, William Kellogg, Law, Lazear, Logan, McClernand, Mallory, Menzies, Morris, Nixon, Noble, Noell, Nugen, Odell, George H. Pendleton, Richardson, Robinson, Sheffield, Smith, John B. Steele, William G. Steele, Francis Thomas, Upton, Vallandigham, Wadsworth, Ward, Webster, Whaley, Chilton A. White, Wickliffe, Wood, Woodruff, and Wright-55.


HDQRS. SECOND BRIGADE, FIFTH DIVISION, Alexandria, Va., July 14, 1861.

To Colonel MILES, Comdg. 5th Div. Troops, Dept. of Northeastern Virginia.

SIR: In pursuance of your verbal order of yesterday I made a reconnaissance on the Fairfax road seven miles out and on the Richmond road about ten miles and on the Mount Vernon road as far as Mount Vernon. ... The negroes harnessed up one four-mule team to a wagon and one two-mule team to a wagon and got in to the number of ten of their own accord and drove to my camp. ... As to the negroes there being no law or orders directing me either to cause them to remain at home or to prevent them from volunteering to do team duty in my brigade I shall allow them to remain until otherwise directed. I, however, have placed a guard over the provisions, the mules and the wagons on the estate and shall await your orders for their disposition.

THOS. A. DAVIES, Colonel, Comdg. 2d Brig., 5th Div., Troops N. B. Army Virginia.



Colonel Davies has been instructed to immediately withdraw his pickets to within a proper distance in front of his brigade, to respect private property and to send back to the farm the negroes his troops brought away.

D. S. MILES, Colonel Second Infantry, Commanding Division.



HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY, Washington, July 16, 1861.

Brigadier-General MCDOWELL, Commanding, &c.

SIR: The general-in-chief desires me to communicate to you that he has received from the President of the United States a second note dated to-day on the subject of fugitive slaves in which he asks: “Would it not be well to allow owners to bring back those which have crossed” the Potomac with our troops? The general earnestly invites your attention to this subject knowing that you with himself enter fully into His Excellency’s desire to carry out to the fullest all constitutional obligations. Of course it is the general’s wish the name of the President should not at this time be brought before the public in connection with this delicate subject.

I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

SCHUYLER HAMILTON, Lieutenant-Colonel and Military Secretary.


General MANSFIELD, U. S. Army, Commanding Department of Washington.

SIR: The general-in-chief directs that you take stringent measures to prevent any fugitive slaves from passing over the river particularly as servants with the regiments ordered over.

I am, &c.,

E. ID. TOWNSEND, Assistant Adjutant-General.



HDQRS. DEPARTMENT OF WASHINGTON, Washington, July 17, 1861.

Fugitive slaves will under no pretext whatever be permitted to reside or be in any way harbored in the quarters and camps of the troops serving in this department. Neither will such slaves be allowed to accompany troops on the march.

Commanders of troops will be held responsible for a strict observance of this order.

By command of Brigadier-General Mansfield:

THEO. TALBOT, Assistant Adjutant-General.



ATTORNEY-GENERAL’S OFFICE, [Washington], July 23, 1861.

J. L. MCDOWELL, U. S. Marshal, Kansas:

Your letter of the 11th July, received 19th (under frank of Senator Lane, of Kansas), asks advice whether you should give your official services in the execution of the fugitive-slave law.

It is the President’s constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” That means all the laws. He has no right to discriminate-no right to execute the laws he likes and leave unexecuted those he dislikes; and of course you and I, his subordinates, can have no wider latitude of discretion than he has. Missouri is a State in the Union. The insurrectory disorders in Missouri are but individual crimes and do not change the legal status of the State nor change its rights and obligations as a member of the Union.

A refusal by a ministerial officer to execute any law which properly belongs to his office is an official misdemeanor of which I have not a doubt the President would take notice.

Very respectfully,




Lieutenant-General SCOTT.

SIR: ... I have also the honor to ask instructions as to the disposition to be made of some twenty-five prisoners that I have taken-some in conveying intelligence to the enemy, some in supplying them with provisions and all of whom refuse to take the oath of allegiance or take it with reservation. I have no power to try them; it would be dangerous to allow them to escape and I am guarding and feeding them at Fort Calhoun.

It becomes my duty to report that Colonel Duryea, commanding Fifth New York Regiment, took with him certain negro slaves to Washington. They are reported nine in number. This was done against my express orders and after a portion of them had been detained by my provost-marshal. This is a question of difficulty with departing regiments and one upon which I ask instructions. I will forward to Colonel Baker, as senior officer commanding, the official returns as soon as they reach me.

Awaiting instructions, I have the honor to be, most respectfully, your obedient servant,



WASHINGTON, August 8, 1861.

Maj. Gen. B. F. BUTLER, Commanding Department of Virginia, Fortress Monroe.

GENERAL: The important question of the proper disposition to be made of fugitives from service in States in insurrection against the Federal Government to which you have again directed my attention in your letter of July 30* has received my most attentive consideration.

It is the desire of the President that all existing rights in all the States be fully respected and maintained. The war now prosecuted on the part of the Federal Government is a war for the Union and for {p.762} the preservation of all constitutional rights of States and the citizens of the States in the Union. Hence no question can arise as to fugitives from service within the States and Territories in which the authority of the Union is fully acknowledged. The ordinary forms of judicial proceeding which must be respected by military and civil authorities alike will suffice for the enforcement of all legal claims. But in States wholly or partially under insurrectionary control where the laws of the United States are so far opposed and resisted that they cannot be effectually enforced it is obvious that rights dependent on the execution of those laws must temporarily fail; and it is equally obvious that rights dependent on the laws of the States within which military operations are conducted must be necessarily subordinated to the military exigencies created by the insurrection if not wholly forfeited by the treasonable conduct of parties claiming them. To this general rule rights to services can form no exception.

The act of Congress approved August 6, 1861, declares that if persons held to service shall be employed in hostility to the United States the right to their services shall be forfeited and such persons shall be discharged therefrom. It follows of necessity that no claim can be recognized by the military authorities of the Union to the services of such persons when fugitives.

A more difficult question is presented in respect to persons escaping from the service of loyal masters. It is quite apparent that the laws of the State under which only the services of such fugitives can be claimed must needs be wholly or almost wholly suspended as to remedies by the insurrection and the military measures necessitated by it. And it is equally apparent that the substitution of military for judicial measures for the enforcement of such claims must be attended by great inconveniences, embarrassments and injuries.

Under these circumstances it seems quite clear that the substantial rights of loyal masters will be best protected by receiving such fugitives as well as fugitives from disloyal masters into the service of the United States, and employing them under such organizations and in such occupations as circumstances may suggest or require. Of course a record should be kept showing the name and description of the fugitives, the name and the character as loyal or disloyal of the master, and such facts as may be necessary to a correct understanding of the circumstances of each case after tranquility shall have been restored. Upon the return of peace Congress will doubtless properly provide for all the persons thus received into the service of the Union and for just compensation to loyal masters. In this way only it would seem can the duty and safety of the Government and the just rights of all be fully reconciled and harmonized.

You will therefore consider yourself as instructed to govern your future action in respect to fugitives from service by the principles herein stated, and will report from time to time-and at least twice in each month-your action in the premises to this Department. You will, however, neither authorize nor permit any interference by the troops under your command with the servants of peaceful citizens in house or field, nor will you in any way encourage such servants to leave the lawful service of their masters, nor will you except in cases where the public safety may seem to require prevent the voluntary return of any fugitive to the service from which he may have escaped.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

SIMON CAMERON, Secretary of War.

* Not found.




Hon. S. CAMERON, Secretary of War.

SIR: The inclosed letter* which I desire to submit for the early attention of the Government explains itself. Three negroes-acknowledging that their master lives on the shores of the Chesapeake in Virginia below the mouth of the Potomac, and is an active secessionist-were taken from a canoe at the mouth of the Severn on their way as they said to Baltimore. I take it for granted they are fugitives; but I suppose the matter should be treated precisely as it would be if we were in the occupation of Virginia. We would not meddle with the slaves even of secessionists. My letter to Colonel Roberts takes the ground that we have nothing to do with slaves; that we are neither negro-stealers nor negro-catchers, and that we should send them away if they came to us. The matter is one of some delicacy and I prefer not to send my letter if it conflicts with the views of the Government.

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,

JOHN A. DIX, Major-General, Commanding.

* Not found.



Col. JOSEPH C. PINCKNEY, Sixth Regiment New York State Militia.

COLONEL: A colored man by the name of Nicholas Johnson, commonly called Nick, was in the hospital at Annapolis while you were in command and disappeared as you are aware just before your regiment returned to New York. I know through Governor Hicks that the circumstances are all familiar to you. I need not therefore enter into any statement of them. But I write by the direction of the War Department to request “your exertions toward the recovery of the boy” and that you “take such measures as may be in your power toward the accomplishment of this purpose.”

I am, respectfully, yours,

JOHN A. DIX, Major-General, Commanding.


HEADQUARTERS, Bethel, August 9, 1861.

Col. GEORGE DEAS, Adjutant-General, C. S. Army.

SIR: As soon as I learned the result of the battle of Manassas I ordered about 2,000 men under Colonel Johnston, of the cavalry, to proceed to the immediate vicinity of Hampton and Newport News to make reconnaissance of those places and to be guided by the results. I directed him also to scour the country up to the enemy’s pickets and to capture and send up to the works at Williamsburg all the negroes to be found below a certain line. These duties were well performed by Colonel Johnston and some 150 negroes were captured and delivered at Williamsburg.



I moved the left flank to within a mile of Hampton and there a late copy of a Northern paper, the Tribune, containing an official report of General Butler, commanding at Old Point, to the Federal Secretary of War was placed in my hands. I have not the report with me but will forward it by the next mail. In it General Butler announces what his intentions are in respect to Hampton, about one-third of which, however, had been burned by the enemy when they evacuated it. He states in substance that this evacuation was the consequence of the withdrawal of 4,000 of his best troops to go to Washington; that he intended to fortify and make it so strong as to be easily defended by a small number of troops; that he did not know what to do with the many negroes in his possession unless he possessed Hampton; that they were still coming in rapidly; that as their masters had deserted their homes and slaves he should consider the latter free and would colonize them at Hampton, the home of most of their owners, where the women could support themselves by attending to the clothes of the soldiers and the men by working on the fortifications of the town.

Having known for some time past that Hampton was the harbor of runaway slaves and traitors, and being under the guns of Fort Monroe it could not be held by us even if taken I was decidedly under the impression that it should have been destroyed before; and when I found from the above report its extreme importance to the enemy and that the town itself would lend great strength to whatever fortifications they might erect around it I determined to burn it at once.


I am, general, very respectfully, &c.,

J. BANKHEAD MAGRUDER, Brigadier-General, Commanding.


HEADQUARTERS CITY GUARD, Washington, August 10, 1861.

Capt. H. DAVIDSON, Commanding Guard, Railroad Depot.

SIR: It is directed by the provost-marshal that you permit no soldiers to leave this city by the railroad who are unable to show that they have been properly discharged from the service of the United States; also that no negroes without sufficient evidence of their being free or of their right to travel are permitted to leave the city upon the cars.

I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

W. W. AVERELL Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.



Maj. Gen. G. B. MCCLELLAN, Commanding Division of the Potomac.

GENERAL: Early this month Captain Nones, commanding the revenue cutter Forward, whom I placed at the mouth of the Severn at Annapolis with his vessel and the small tender to break up the illicit trade ascertained to be carried on between that river and Virginia by way of the Patuxent, captured three negro men going in by a canoe. I wrote to Colonel Roberts, of the First Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, {p.765} under whose direction Captain Nones had been placed, instructing him to turn over the negroes to the civil authorities of Annapolis. They acknowledged that they were runaway slaves, the property of Virginians who were secessionists, and alleged that they were on their way to Baltimore. In my letter to Colonel Roberts* I expressed the desire that no officer in this department should take negroes into custody unless they were detected in committing some criminal act in which case they might be arrested and turned over to the civil authority. I said to him also that we as a part of the military establishment of the country had nothing to do with fugitives from service; that we had no ministerial powers for their capture or surrender, and that their masters must resort to the measures provided by law for their recovery. And I directed him if negroes came into his encampment unless as laborers or servants, and if slaves without the consent of their masters, not to receive them.

Not being sure that these views would accord with those of the Government I inclosed my letter to Colonel Roberts to the Secretary of War on the 8th instant asking speedy action in regard, to the matter. To this letter I have received no answer. I have stated the substance of my letter to Colonel Roberts. It was not entered in my letter-book and I kept no copy. This morning Captain Nones, who came from Annapolis yesterday by my order and anchored his vessel off Fort Carroll, an unfinished work at the mouth of the lower harbor, captured two more negroes and brought me the inclosed communication.* I have ordered him to take no more into custody. He has now five slaves on board his vessel doing nothing except consuming rations. I ask your direction in regard to them. The three first are held under an order from the Secretary of the Treasury sent by telegraph from Wilmington, Del., about twelve days ago.

Unless we abstain from the reception or the capture of fugitive slaves I think we shall involve ourselves in the most serious difficulty. Their numbers will increase rapidly if it is understood that they are to be received and fed especially as we advance into Virginia; and we shall not only be oppressed by a useless burden but we shall expose ourselves to the imputation of intermeddling with a matter entirely foreign to the great questions of political right and duty involved in the civil strife which has been brought upon us by disloyal and unscrupulous men. Our cause is a holy one and should be kept free from all taint.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, yours,

JOHN A. DIX, Major-General, Commanding.

* Not found.



Capt. HENRY B. NONES, Commanding Revenue Cutter Forward.

SIR: Mr. Levin F. Donnack and Mr. Samuel Keene, of Dorchester, have come here in pursuit of the two fugitive slaves taken up by you near Fort Carroll. If you are satisfied that they are the owners as I am you will please deliver them up with the canoe and sail.

I am, respectfully, yours,

JOHN A. DIX, Major-General, Commanding.




Maj. Gen. G. B. MCCLELLAN, Commanding Army of the Potomac.

GENERAL: Early this morning three negro men came to Fort McHenry representing themselves to be runaway slaves from Anne Arundel County. I declined to receive them into the fort on the ground that I could neither harbor them as fugitives from service nor arrest them for the purpose of restoring them to their masters. In a former letter I stated the view I take in regard to my duty in such cases, and having no instructions from the Government I acted on it and directed the negroes to leave the fort.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

[JOHN A. DIX,] Major-General, Commanding.


HEADQUARTERS U. S. FORCES, Cape Girardeau, Mo., August 30, 1861.

Capt. J. C. KELTON, Saint Louis, Mo.:


The fortifications here are in a considerable state of forwardness, and I would judge from visiting them this afternoon are being pushed forward with vigor. I notice that a number of contrabands in the shape of negroes are being employed apparently much to their satisfaction. I will make inquiry how they came here, and if the fact has not been previously reported ask instructions.


U. S. GRANT, Brigadier-General, Commanding.


WASHINGTON, D. C., September 2, 1861.

Major-General FRÉMONT.

MY DEAR SIR: Two points in your proclamation of August 30* give me some anxiety:

First. Should you shoot a man according to the proclamation the Confederates would very certainly shoot our best men in their hands in retaliation; and so man for man indefinitely. It is therefore my order that you allow no man to be shot under the proclamation without first having my approbation or consent.

Second. I think there is great danger that the closing paragraph in relation to the confiscation of property and the liberating slaves of traitorous owners will alarm our southern Union friends and turn them against us, perhaps ruin our rather fair prospect for Kentucky. Allow me therefore to ask that you will as of your own motion modify that paragraph so as to conform to the first and fourth sections of the act of Congress entitled “An act to confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes,” approved August 6, 1861, and a copy** of which act I herewith send you.


This letter is written in a spirit of caution and not of censure. I send it by special messenger in order that it may certainly and speedily reach you.

Yours, very truly,


* See Frémont’s proclamation of martial law, p. 221.

** Not found.


HEADQUARTERS WESTERN DEPARTMENT, Saint Louis, September 8, 1861.


MY DEAR SIR: Your letter of the 2d by special messenger I know to have been written before you had received my letter, and before my telegraphic dispatches and the rapid development of critical conditions here had informed you of affairs in this quarter. I had not written to you fully and frequently, first, because in the incessant change of affairs I would be exposed to give you contradictory accounts; and, secondly, because the amount of the subjects to be laid before you would demand too much of your time.

Trusting to have your confidence I have been leaving it to events themselves to show you whether or not I was shaping affairs here according to your ideas. The shortest communication between Washington and Saint Louis generally involves two days and the employment of two days in time of war goes largely toward success or disaster. I therefore went along according to my own judgment leaving the result of my movements to justify me with you.

And so in regard to my proclamation of the 30th. Between the rebel armies, the Provisional Government and home traitors I felt the position bad and saw danger. In the night I decided upon the proclamation and the form of it. I wrote it the next morning and printed it the same day. I did it without consultation or advice with any one, acting solely with my best judgment to serve the country and yourself and perfectly willing to receive the amount of censure which should be thought due if I had made a false movement. This is as much a movement in the war as a battle, and in going into these I shall have to act according to my judgment of the ground before me as I did on this occasion. If upon reflection your better judgment still decides that I am wrong in the article respecting the liberation of slaves I have to ask that you will openly direct me to make the correction. The implied censure will be received as a soldier always should the reprimand of his chief. If I were to retract of my own accord it would imply that I myself thought it wrong and that I had acted without the reflection which the gravity of the point demanded. But I did not. I acted with full deliberation and upon the certain conviction that it was a measure right and necessary and I think so still.

In regard to the other point of the proclamation to which you refer I desire to say that I do not think the enemy can either misconstrue or urge anything against it, or undertake to make unusual retaliation. The shooting of men who shall rise in arms against an army in the military occupation of a country is merely a necessary measure of defense and entirely according to the usages of civilized warfare. The article does not at all refer to prisoners of war and certainly our enemies have no ground for requiring that we should waive in their benefit any of the ordinary advantages which the usages of war allow to us. As promptitude is itself an advantage in war I have also to ask that you will permit me to carry out upon the spot the provisions of the proclamation in this respect. Looking at affairs from this point of view I am satisfled {p.768} that strong and vigorous measures have now become necessary to the success of our arms; and hoping that my views may have the honor to meet your approval,

I am, with respect and regard, very truly, yours,



WASHINGTON, D-C., September 11, 1861.


SIR: Yours of the 8th in answer to mine of the 2d instant was just received. Assured that you upon the ground could better judge of the necessities of your position than I could at this distance on seeing your proclamation of August 30 I perceived no general objection to it. The particular clause, however, in relation to the confiscation of property and the liberation of slaves appeared to me to be objectionable in its non-conformity to the act of Congress passed the 6th of last August upon the same subjects, and hence I wrote you expressing my wish that that clause should be modified accordingly. Your answer just received expresses the preference on your part that I should make an open order for modification which I very cheerfully do.

It is therefore ordered that the said clause of said proclamation be so modified, held and construed as to conform with and not to transcend the provisions on the same subject contained in the act of Congress entitled “An act to confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes,” approved August 6, 1861, and that said act be published at length with this order.

Your obedient servant,



WASHINGTON, September 12, [1861].

His Excellency ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States.

DEAR SIR: The late act of Congress providing for the confiscation of the estates of persons in open rebellion against the Government was as a necessary war measure accepted and fully approved by the loyal men of the country. It limited the penalty of confiscation to property actually employed in the service of the rebellion with the knowledge and consent of its owners, and instead of emancipating slaves thus employed left their status to be determined either by the courts of the United States or by subsequent legislation.

The proclamation, however, of General Frémont under date of the 30th of August transcends and of course violates the law in both these particulars and declares that the property of rebels whether used in support of the rebellion or not shall be confiscated, and if consisting in slaves that they shall be at once manumitted.

The act of Congress referred to was believed to embody the conservative policy of your administration upon this delicate and perplexing question, and hence the loyal men of the border slave States have felt relieved of all fears of any attempt on the part of the Government of the United States to liberate suddenly in their midst a population unprepared for freedom and whose presence could not fail to prove a painful apprehension if not a terror to the homes and families of all.


You may therefore well judge of the alarm and condemnation with which the Union-loving citizens of Kentucky-the State with whose popular sentiment I am best acquainted-have read this proclamation.

The hope is earnestly indulged by them as it is by myself that this paper was issued under the pressure of military necessity which General Frémont believed justified the step but that in the particulars specified it has not your approbation and will not be enforced in derogation of law. The magnitude of the interest at stake and my extreme desire that by no misapprehension of your sentiments or purposes shall the power and fervor of the loyalty of Kentucky be at this moment abated or chilled must be my apology for the frankness with which I have addressed you and for the request I venture to make of an expression of your views upon the points of General Frémont’s proclamation on which I have commented.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,



EXECUTIVE MANSION, September 12, 1861.


DEAR SIR: Yours of this day in relation to the late proclamation of General Frémont is received. Yesterday I addressed a letter to him by mail on the same subject and which is to be made public when he receives it. I herewith send you a copy of that letter* which perhaps shows my position as distinctly as any new one I could write. I will thank you not to make it public until General Frémont shall have had time to receive the original.

Your obedient servant,


* See Lincoln to Frémont, September 11, 1861, ante.



HDQRS. WESTERN DEPARTMENT OF THE U. S. ARMY, Saint Louis, September 12, 1861.

The major-general commanding the Western-Department having satisfactory evidence that Thomas L. Snead, of the city and county of Saint Louis and State of Missouri, has been taking active part with the enemies of the United States in the present insurrectionary movement against its Government, and the military commission now in session at the arsenal in this city having reported the fact to these headquarters as the result of its deliberations, the major-general commanding has executed and ordered to be published the following deeds of manumission:


Whereas, Thomas L. Snead, of the city and county of Saint Louis, State of Missouri, has been taking part with the enemies of the United States in the present insurrectionary movement against the Government of the United States: Now, therefore, I, John Charles Frémont, major-general commanding the Western Department of the Army of the {p.770} United States, by authority of law and the power vested in me as such commanding general declare Frank Lewis heretofore held to service or labor by said Thomas L. Snead to be free and forever discharged from the bonds of servitude, giving him full right and authority to have, use and control his own labor or service as to him may seem proper without any accountability whatever to said Thomas L. Snead or anyone to claim by, through or under him.

And this deed of manumission shall be respected and treated by all persons and in all courts of justice as the full and complete evidence of the freedom of said Frank Lewis.

In testimony whereof this act is done at the headquarters of the Western Department of the Army of the United States in the city of Saint Louis, State of Missouri, on this 12th day of September, A. D. 1861, as is evidenced by the departmental seal hereto affixed by my order.

J. C. FRÉMONT, Major-General, Commanding.


Whereas, Thomas L. Snead, of the city and county of Saint Louis, State of Missouri, has been taking an active part with the enemies of the United States in the present insurrectionary movement against the Government of the United States: Now, therefore, I, John Charles Frémont, major-general commanding the Western Department of the Army of the United States, by authority of law and the power vested in me as such commanding general declare Hiram Reed heretofore held to service or labor by Thomas L. Snead to be free and forever discharged from the bonds of servitude, giving him full right and authority to have, use and control his own labor or service as to him may seem proper without any accountability whatever to said Thomas L. Snead or to any one to claim by through or under him.

And this deed of manumission shall be respected and treated by all persons and in all courts of justice as the full and complete evidence of the freedom of said Hiram Reed.

In testimony whereof this act is done at the headquarters of the Western Department of the Army of the United States in the city of Saint Louis, State of Missouri, on this 12th day of September, A. D. 1861, as is evidenced by the departmental seal hereto affixed by my order.

J. C. FRÉMONT, Major-General, Commanding.

Done at the office of the provost-marshal in the city of Saint Louis this 12th day of September, A. D. 1861, at 9 o’clock in the evening of said day.

Witness my hand and seal of this office hereto affixed.

J. McKINSTRY, Brigadier-General, Provost-Marshal.



Hon. SIMON CAMERON, Secretary of War.

SIR: ... I would be much gratified if you would tell me what I am to do with the negro slaves that are almost daily arriving at this post from the interior. Am I to find food and shelter for the women {p.771} and children who can do nothing for themselves? Thus far we have been able to employ in various ways most of the adults. It appears to me some positive instructions should be given in regard to what shall be done for the number that will be accumulated in and about this post during the approaching winter. I hope you will give me instructions on this very important subject. Humanity requires that they should be taken care of.


I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JOHN E. WOOL, Major-General.


WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington, September 20, 1861.

Maj. Gen. JOHN E. WOOL, Commanding, Fort Monroe Va.

GENERAL: ... You will as early as practicable send to General McClellan at this place all negro men capable of performing labor accompanied by their families. They can be usefully employed on the military works in this vicinity.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

SIMON CAMERON, Secretary of War.


OFFICE PROVOST-MARSHAL, Saint Louis, Mo., September 20, 1861.

Capt. G. GRANGER, Commanding Arsenal.

CAPTAIN: By my order Colonel McNeil, commanding provost guard, will deliver into your custody certain runaway negro slaves who have been heretofore apprehended and committed to the military prison. I desire they be employed at police duty and such other labor as you may choose until they are reclaimed by their masters, who upon proof of their ownership and that they are loyal to the United States will be entitled to receive them back into their service.

I am, captain, very respectfully, yours,

J. MCKINSTRY, Brigadier-General, U. S. Army, Provost-Marshal.


HEADQUARTERS KANSAS BRIGADE, Kansas City, October 3, 1861.

General S. D. STURGIS.

GENERAL: In answer to your note of this day* I have this to say that I don’t care a fig about rank; I have enough of the glittering tinsel to satisfy me. I am here in obedience to an order from Maj. Gen. John C. Frémont to co-operate with you in ferreting out and fighting the enemy. Kindly and promptly do I desire to obey that order. My brigade is not here for the purpose of interfering in anywise with the institution of slavery. They shall not become negro thieves nor shall they be prostituted into negro-catchers. The institution of slavery must take care of itself.


I said in the Senate of the United States and my experience since only demonstrates its truth that in my opinion the institution would perish with the march of the Federal armies.

Again I say that the mass of the personal property in Missouri including slave is at this moment held by the wives and children assisted by the Federal Army while the husband and father are actually in arms against the Government. In my opinion our policy in this regard should be changed.

Confiscation of slaves and other property which can be made useful to the army should follow treason as the thunder peal follows the lightning flash. Until this change is made you offer premiums for the men to remain away in the army of the enemy. I had a man cowardly shot in the woods to-day within sight of our camp by the very men I have no doubt whose property you are so anxious to protect.

I am endeavoring to find what transportation I have to spare if any and will report to you accordingly.


J. H. LANE, Commanding Kansas Brigade.

* Not found


HDQRS. SECOND BRIG., SECOND DIV., ARMY OF THE WEST, Boonville, Mo., October 6, 1861.

ASSISTANT ADJUTANT-GENERAL, Headquarters Army of the West, Jefferson City.

SIR: I send by the Northerner in charge of Captain Renfro, Ninth Regiment Missouri Volunteers, several slaves who having given important information to Major Eppstein while in command of this post which saved his command from surprise now seek protection from their masters who threaten to kill them. Major Eppstein cannot longer protect them. I therefore send them to Jefferson City where they can work on the fortifications.

Very respectfully,

JNO. C. KELTON, Colonel, Commanding.




SIR: When I took command of this department being anxious to avoid all difficulty in regard to slaves I directed that no negroes should be permitted to enter our encampments except as laborers or servants and then only with the consent of their masters if they were not free. It was in obeying this order that Colonel Morse directed your boy who had found his way into the naval school to be sent out of it. I am satisfied the colonel had no other desire but to avoid the very difficulty that has now occurred. The error was originally in permitting the boy to enter the lines at all and this it seems had been done by the soldiers before the colonel was aware of it. I have given directions to Colonel Morse as you request to ascertain if possible by the most searching examination whether his officers or soldiers are harboring the boy or have aided in his concealment or escape. I am very desirous to avoid all cause of complaint on the part of the citizens of Maryland in regard to any interference with their rights of property especially in slaves {p.773} knowing how sensitive they are on this subject; and I can assure you that no effort will be spared on my part to discover and redress any alleged violation of those rights.

I am, very respectfully yours,

[JOHN A. DIX,] Major-General, Commanding.


WAR DEPARTMENT, October 14, 1861.

Brig. Gen. T. W. SHERMAN, Commanding Expedition to the Southern Coast.

SIR: In conducting military operations within States declared by the proclamation of the President to be in a state of insurrection you will govern yourself so far as persons held to service under the laws of such States are concerned by the principles of the letters addressed by me to Major-General Butler on the 30th of May and the 8th of August,* copies of which are herewith furnished to you. As special directions adapted to special circumstances cannot be given much must be referred to your own discretion as commanding general of the expedition. You will, however, in general avail yourself of the services of any persons whether fugitives from labor or not who may offer them to the National Government; you will employ such persons in such services as they may be fitted for either as ordinary employés or if special circumstances seem to require it in any other capacity with such organization in squads, companies or otherwise as you deem most beneficial to the service. This, however, not to mean a general arming of them for military service. You will assure all loyal masters that Congress will provide just compensation to them for the loss of the services of the persons so employed. It is believed that the course thus indicated will best secure the substantial rights of loyal masters and the benefits to the United States of the services of all disposed to support the Government, while it avoids all interference with the social systems or local institutions of every State beyond that which insurrection makes unavoidable and which a restoration of peaceful relations to the Union under the Constitution will immediately remove.


SIMON CAMERON, Secretary of War.

* Omitted here; but for Cameron to Butler here referred to, see pp 754 and 761, respectively.



Col. AUGUSTUS MORSE, Commanding at Annapolis.

COLONEL: You will please ascertain by the most searching inquiries among your officers and men whether the colored boy belonging to Mr. Richardson has been harbored within your lines since he was sent out by your order and whether he is still within them. My order was not to allow fugitive slaves to come within the encampments at all. The difficulty in this case arises from his having been allowed to enter yours. The owner now seeks to hold you responsible for not giving him up when you knew he was a slave. I wish the matter put on such ground as to exonerate us from all responsibility and it is for this reason that I direct the inquiries above stated. Hereafter no fugitive slave should be allowed to come within your lines at all; but if he comes within {p.774} them without your knowledge and the owner call for him while he is actually in your possession or under your control he should be surrendered on such call or demand. We may decline to receive them and this is what I wished; but if we do receive them we cannot decline to surrender.

I am, very respectfully,

JOHN A. DIX, Major-General, Commanding.



HDQRS. DEPARTMENT OF VIRGINIA, Fort Monroe, October 14, 1861.

All colored persons called contrabands employed as-servants by officers and others residing within Fort Monroe or outside of the fort at Camp Hamilton and Camp Butler will be furnished with their subsistence and at least $8 per month for males and $4 per month for females by the officers and others employing them.

So much of the above-named sums as may be necessary to furnish clothing to be decided by the chief quartermaster of the department will be applied to that purpose, and the remainder will be paid into his hands to create a fund for the support of those contrabands who are unable to work for their own support.

All able-bodied colored persons who are under the protection of the troops of this department and who are not employed as servants will be immediately put to work in either the engineer’s or quartermaster’s department.

By command of Major-General Wool:

WM. D. WHIPPLE, Assistant Adjutant-General.


LOUISVILLE, KY., October 15, 1861.

Colonel TURCH1N.

DEAR SIR: Two gentlemen unknown to me but introduced by Mr. Guthrie say some negro slaves have taken refuge in your camp and are there sheltered.

The laws of the United States and of Kentucky all of which are binding on us compel us to surrender a runaway negro on application of negro’s owner or agent. I believe you have not been instrumental in this but my orders are that all negroes shall be delivered up on claim of the owner or agent. Better keep the negroes out of your camp altogether unless you brought them along with the regiment.

Yours, &c.,

W. T. SHERMAN, Brigadier-General, Commanding.



HDQRS. DEPARTMENT OF VIRGINIA, Fort Monroe, November 1, 1861.

The following pay and allowances will constitute the valuation of the labor of the contrabands at work in the engineer, ordnance, quartermaster, commissary and medical departments at this post to be paid as hereinafter mentioned:

Class 1. Negro men over eighteen years of age and able-bodied $10 per month, one ration and the necessary amount of clothing.


Class 2. Negro boys from twelve to eighteen years of age and sickly and infirm negro men $5 per month, one ration and the necessary amount of clothing.

The quartermaster will furnish all the clothing. The department employing these men will furnish the subsistence specified above, and as an incentive to good behavior (to be withheld at the discretion of the chiefs of the departments respectively) each individual of the first class will receive $2 per month and each individual of the second class $1 per month for their own use. The remainder of the money valuation of their labor will be turned over to the quartermaster who will deduct from it the cost of the clothing issued to them; the balance will constitute a fund to be expended by the quartermaster under the direction of the commanding officer of the department of Virginia for the support of the women and children and those that are unable to work.

For any unusual amount of labor performed they may receive extra pay varying in amount from 50 cents to $1, this to be paid by the department employing them to the men themselves and to be for their own use.

Should any man be prevented from working on account of sickness for six consecutive days or ten days in any one month one-half of the money value will be paid. For being prevented from laboring for a longer period than ten days in any one month all pay and allowance cease.

By command of Major-General Wool:

WM. D. WHIPPLE, Assistant Adjutant-General.



Col. H. E. PAINE, Commanding Fourth Wisconsin Volunteers.

COLONEL: ... In your intercourse with the inhabitants you will do all in your power to correct misapprehension in regard to the intentions of the Government in the war which has been forced on it. Multitudes are laboring under delusions-the fruit of misrepresentations and falsehood-which you may do much to dispel. Our mission is to uphold the Government against treasonable attempts to subvert it. We wage no war with individuals who are pursuing their peaceable occupations but with those who are in arms against the United States and those who encourage or aid them in their treason. ... You will take especial care not to interfere in any manner with persons held to servitude, and in order that there may be no cause for misrepresentation or cavil you will not receive or allow any negro to come within your lines.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JOHN A. DIX, Major-General, Commanding.


HEADQUARTERS POST, Rolla, Mo., November 4, 1861.

Colonel GREUSEL, Commanding Southern Expedition.

COLONEL: If the men who are away from home are in the rebel army or if their families cannot give a good account of themselves or {p.776} their whereabouts take their property or that portion of it worth taking; also their slaves. Be sure they are aiding the enemy and then take all they have got. ... Keep account of everything you take and who it is taken from. I think your idea is a good one about dividing your forces. Let the infantry on returning visit the Pineys and look out for affairs there. Be careful in taking contraband negroes that their owners are aiding the enemy.

Your obedient servant,

G. M. DODGE, Colonel, Commanding Post at Rolla, Mo.


CAMP NEVIN, KY., November 5, 1861.

General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Department of the Cumberland.

GENERAL: The subject of contraband negroes is one that is looked to by the citizens of Kentucky of vital importance. Ten have come into my camp within as many hours and from what they say there will be a general stampede of slaves from the other side of Green River. They have already become a source of annoyance to me and I have great reason to believe that this annoyance will increase the longer we stay. They state the reasons of their running away that their masters are rank secessionists-in some cases are in the rebel army, and that slaves of Union men are pressed into service to drive teams, &c.

I would respectfully suggest that if they be allowed to remain here our cause in Kentucky may be injured. I have no faith in Kentucky’s loyalty therefore have no great desire to protect her pet institution-slavery. As a matter of policy how would it do for me to send for their masters and deliver the negroes to them on the outside of our lines, or send them to the other side of Green River and deliver them up? What effect would it have on our cause south of the river? I am satisfied they bolster themselves up by making the uninformed believe that this is a war upon African slavery. I merely make these suggestions for I am very far from wishing these recreant masters in possession of any of their property for I think slaves no better than horses in that respect.

I have put the negroes to work. They will be handy with teams and generally useful. I consider the subject embarrassing and must defer to your better judgment.


A. MCD. MCCOOK, Brigadier-General, Commanding.


HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY, Washington, November 7, 1861.

Brig. Gen. D. C. BUELL.

GENERAL: ... It is absolutely necessary that we shall hold all the State of Kentucky. Not only that but that the majority of its inhabitants shall be warmly in favor of our cause, it being that which best subserves their interests. It is possible that the conduct of our political affairs in Kentucky is more important than that of our military operations. I certainly cannot overestimate the importance of the former. You will please constantly bear in mind the precise issue for which we are fighting. That issue is the preservation of the Union and the restoration of the full authority of the General Government over all portions {p.777} of our territory. We shall most readily suppress this rebellion and restore the authority of the Government by religiously respecting the constitutional rights of all. I know that I express the feelings and opinions of the President when I say that we are fighting only to preserve the integrity of the Union and the constitutional authority of the General Government.

The inhabitants of Kentucky may rely upon it that their domestic institutions will in no manner be interfered with and that they will receive at our hands every constitutional protection. I have only to repeat that you will in all respects carefully regard the local institutions of the region in which you command allowing nothing but the dictates of military necessity to cause you to depart from the spirit of these instructions.





Brigadier-General MCCOOK, Camp Nevin.

SIR: I have no instructions from Government on the subject of negroes. My opinion is that the laws of the State of Kentucky are in full force and that negroes must be surrendered on application of their masters or agents or delivered over to the sheriff of the county. We have nothing to do with them at all and you should not let them take refuge in camp. It forms a source of misrepresentation by which Union men are estranged from our cause. I know it is almost impossible for you to ascertain in any case the owner of the negro. But so it is; his word is not taken in evidence and you will send them away.

I am, yours,

W. T. SHERMAN, Brigadier-General, Commanding.


HILTON HEAD, Port Royal, S. C., November 9, 1861.

[Brig. Gen. M. C. MEIGS, Quartermaster-General.]

GENERAL: ... Contraband negroes are coming in in great numbers. In two days 150 have come in, mostly able-bodied men, and it will soon be necessary to furnish them with coarse clothing.

With great respect, your obedient servant,

R. SAXTON, Captain, U. S. Army, Assistant Quartermaster.


HEADQUARTERS EXCELSIOR BRIGADE, Second Brigade, Hooker’s Division, November 12, 1861.

Capt. WILLIAM H. LAWRENCE, Aide-de-Camp and Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

CAPTAIN: Herewith I have the honor to inclose Col. Charles K. Graham’s report of a reconnaissance of Mathias Point and the peninsula of which it is the terminus.



Between thirty and forty negroes some of whom returned with the troops and others making their way over in boats obtained on the Virginia shore are now in Colonel Graham’s camp. I will thank you to favor me with instructions as to the disposition to be made of these persons. I presume much reliable information may be gathered from them.


I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

D. E. SICKLES, Brigadier-General.



HDQRS. DEPARTMENT OF THE MISSOURI, Saint Louis, November 20, 1861.

1. It has been represented that important information respecting the numbers and condition of our forces is conveyed to the enemy by means of fugitive slaves who are admitted within our lines. In order to remedy this evil it is directed that no such person be hereafter permitted to enter the lines of any camp or of any forces on the march and that any now within such lines be immediately excluded therefrom.

2. The general commanding wishes to impress upon all officers in command of posts and troops in the field the importance of preventing unauthorized persons of every description from entering and leaving our lines and of observing the greatest precaution in the employment of agents and clerks in confidential positions.

By order of Major-General Halleck:

WILLIAM MCMICHAEL, Assistant Adjutant-General.


HEADQUARTERS FOURTH BRIGADE, Fort Bolt, Ky., November 23, 1861.

General U. S. GRANT, Commanding District of Southeast Missouri, Cairo, Ill.

GENERAL: Yours of the 14th instant* by the hands of Mr. Mercer is just received to-day, Mr. M. having in my absence refused to place the same for me in the hands of the acting assistant adjutant-general of this post.

Due regard has been paid to your orders previously issued in regard to slave property and am most certain that no portion of the command has either aided or assisted in any manner the enticing or holding of any slave owing service under the laws of any slave State in or out of the Union, and when such have asked protection they have only temporarily obtained it, and I still hold as under previous orders from you any such when in my command in readiness to be instantly turned over either to the lawful owner or any identified agent of said owner. There may be negroes at the fort who have never been liberated but if there are I have never been notified of their presence except in one instance, and I have issued a special order this day to require him under escort to be sent without the lines.

Captain Delano has just informed me that old man Mercer has during the fore part of the day given him no little trouble in regard to one {p.779} man in his camp whom the captain informs me is not only the property of a secessionist but has been used in aid of treason by his master. This, however, I am not officially apprised of and cannot of course act as I would under other circumstances. Inclosed please find copy of general order issued in relation to such characters and oblige,

Your most obedient servant,

JOHN COOK, Colonel, Commanding Fourth Brigade.

* Not found.



HEADQUARTERS FOURTH BRIGADE, Fort Bolt, Ky., November 23, 1861.

No officer or soldier shall be allowed to arrest, secrete or harbor or in any way interfere with persons held to service (negroes), property of citizens of slaveholding States.

By order of Col. John Cook, commanding Fourth Brigade:

L. R WALLER, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.


BOONVILLE, MO., November 30, 1861.

Major-General HALLECK, U. S. Army, Headquarters, Saint Louis, Mo.

DEAR SIR: I am a native of East Hartford, Conn., and am now visiting this State to induce a widowed sister and her family to return to that vicinity where our parents, much advanced in years, reside; that my sister and her family now residing in a disturbed locality (being in Johnson County) may escape troubles and dangers growing out of the sad condition of affairs in Western Missouri and relieve us at home of great uneasiness on her account. Being detained in this neighborhood several days expecting a friend who per appointment was to meet me here I have become somewhat informed as to local matters which as a good and loyal citizen I briefly make known to you. I do not do this obstrusively nor expect that my advice is of great importance but simply as a witness, from the fact that it is impossible for you to enforce obedience and punish willful disobedience and contempt or disregard of your authority unless you are specifically made acquainted with abuses in the localities under your military command where they abound.

Much will never reach you for the simple reason that resident inhabitants are afraid to complain, and it [is] as a precaution in my own behalf proper for me to say to you that I am in personal danger of the Boonville Home Guards could they identify me as the author of the inclosed communication. Every one who ventures to complain or dissent from their malpractices is denounced as a secessionist in league with the enemy. They are composed mainly of the rudest portion of the German population, and there is no reasoning with them allowed on the part or in behalf of abused civilians. The captains of the two companies were recently keepers of drinking houses and one of them still keeps his “doggery.” I mention this merely to show you the kind of material U. S. captains are made of in this locality.

I have had a good opportunity of forming an opinion of the temper of the people of Missouri having made two protracted visits to the State within the last twelvemonth, and it is my candid opinion from a loyal standpoint that the mismanagement of Federal advisers in this State {p.780} has made more enmity to the Government than any influence to be attributed to Jeff. Davis, Governor Jackson or all the secessionists combined for three-fourths of those now in arms and hostile to the Government disavow belief in the dogma of the “right of secession.”

Your recent orders published in the Saint Louis daily papers concerning the harboring of runaway or fugitive slaves within the lines or within the camp and prohibition against the unauthorized seizure of persons and arbitrary appropriation and destruction of private property (evils or I may say barbarities practiced by the so-called “home guards” in this county to a serious extent) promise security and would do much to restore confidence among the people did they believe that they would be obeyed. If rigidly enforced they would go far to tranquilize the State and put a “damper” on successful recruiting for Price’s army.

But your orders are not obeyed here, and the reply to me when I have cited your orders to prove that this war is neither an abolition war nor a sectional war to devastate the South is that “the orders will not be enforced by subordinates,” and “if General Halleck should enforce them the immediate advisers of the President in this State will have him displaced;” They invariably ask, “How are General Halleck’s orders enforced here since published?” And I say with shame to that subordination which should exist that I can afford no satisfactory answer beyond the only presumption that you are not advised of such abuses.

It is known as a fact not disputed here by any one that sundry runaway slaves, three or four at least, are now openly harbored in the camp of the home guards at the fair-grounds at this post and all efforts of their owners to recover them have proven fruitless. These same slaves often appear in U. S. uniform and on one occasion at least had U. S. arms placed in their hands and acted the part of U. S. soldiers inside of the intrenchments here. Surely the Government is not so hard off for soldiers that we have to arm negroes to sustain it. If so I am for peace. When it comes to arming negroes to shoot down and slay our rebellious Southern kindred I, a loyal Connecticut Yankee and proud of the name, will have no hand in it unless I turn rebel against such an infamous policy; but I am for the Union as our fathers fashioned it and all righteous efforts to preserve the same.

Several weeks ago a Mr. Marr, a citizen of Saline County, called upon Colonel Barnes, in command of this post, to recover a negro man belonging to him named Jim. Colonel Barnes (as I learned) upon the advice of Judge George W. Miller, judge of the circuit court (and a prominent Union man), gave Marr an order for his negro then in camp addressed to Major Eppstein,* of the home guards. Major Eppstein said the negro was not in his possession but Captain Biehle had him. The order was then amended addressed to Captain Biehle. Captain Biehle told Mr. Marr to look for his negro but when Marr attempted to do so he was followed by home guards and assailed with clubs and stones until he was compelled to flee for personal safety. Upon a representation of these facts to Colonel Barnes (who has no sufficient force to enforce obedience on the part of home guards) he was advised by Colonel Barnes to go home and offer $100 reward for his negro. This Marr did not do and his negro is still in camp here harbored by home guards.

Hence it is that people here say that your orders in reference to fugitive slaves forbidding them in camp will not be obeyed by subordinates {p.781} out of your sight, and they cite existing facts here and the recent conduct of Lane and Jennison in evidence of such a belief. To put a correction to this flagrant abuse will I believe require nothing less than the presence of a resolute regular U. S. officer with competent skill, will and authority (and it might be force) to right matters. No such officer is here now it is evident or your instructions would be rigidly enforced.


For the facts which I have communicated I refer you to Judge George W. Miller (of circuit court), Judge Lionberger (of county court), Judge Smith (of probate court), and Doctor Trigg, banker, all Union men avowed of position and property. If you dispatch an officer to investigate matters here it will be or great service to the Union cause, if he diligently and with determination does his duty.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


* See Kelton to Assistant Adjutant-General, Jefferson City, p. 772.


ROLLA, December 2, 1861.

Col. G. M. DODGE, Commander of Post at Rolla.

COLONEL: In obedience to your General Orders, No. 6, I have the honor to report that there are now in my camp and under my control four fugitive slaves belonging to citizens of Southwest Missouri, described as follows:

Name of slave.Name of owner.Residence
Moses boy)George W. AndrewsTaney County.
Kelly (man)James VaughnChristian County.
Jim (man)Samuel GreenWebster County.
Viney (woman)John woodGreene County.

In pursuance of your verbal instructions subsequently given I hold them subject to your order. These slaves came with the army from Southwest Missouri. One of the owners (Mr. Green) I believe to be a Union man but in this opinion I may be mistaken. These slaves have been obtained by citizens and brought to my camp for safe-keeping in order to be restored to their owners, and these citizens have acted under my instructions. I am personally acquainted with all of the owners of these slaves. A portion of my own slaves are in my camp. They came when the people fled from Springfield and vicinity with a wagon and team, clothing and supplies for their support. They feared they might be stolen by persons in the army and they fled to me for protection. They will remain with me till I can provide for their comfort and safety.

Yours, respectfully,

JOHN S. PHELPS, Lieutenant-Colonel.


Extract from President Lincoln’s annual message December 3, 1861.



Under and by virtue of the act of Congress entitled “An act to confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes,” approved August {p.782} 6, 1861, the legal claims of certain persons to the labor and service of certain other persons have become forfeited; and numbers of the latter thus liberated are already dependent on the United States and must be provided for in some way. Besides this it is not impossible that some of the States will pass similar enactments for their own benefit respectively and by operation of which persons of the same class will be thrown upon them for disposal. In such case I recommend that Congress provide for accepting such persons from such States according to some mode of valuation in lieu pro tanto of direct taxes or upon some other plan to be agreed on with such States respectively; that such persons on such acceptance by the General Government be at once deemed free, and that in any event steps-be taken for colonizing both classes (or the one first mentioned if the other shall not be brought into existence) at some place or places in a climate congenial to them. It might be well to consider too whether the free colored people already in the United States could not so far as individuals may desire be included in such colonization.

To carry out the plan of colonization may involve the acquiring of territory and also the appropriation of money beyond that to be expended in the territorial acquisition. Having practiced the acquisition of territory for nearly sixty years the question of constitutional power to do so is no longer an open one with us. The power was questioned at first by Mr. Jefferson who, however, in the purchase of Louisiana yielded his scruples on the plea of great expediency. If it be said that the only legitimate object of acquiring territory is to furnish homes for white men this measure effects that object; for the emigration of colored men leaves additional room for white men remaining or coming here. Mr. Jefferson, however, placed the importance of procuring Louisiana more on political and commercial grounds than on providing room for population.

On this whole proposition including the appropriation of money with the acquisition of territory does not the expediency amount to absolute necessity-that without which the Government itself cannot be perpetuated?




Resolution adopted by the House of Representatives December 4, 1861.

Whereas, it is reported that there are confined within the Government jail within the city of Washington fifty-five persons who are not charged with crime but who are suspected of being slaves: Therefore,

Resolved, That the standing committee for the District of Columbia be requested to inquire into the truth of said report and by what authority said persons are held and confined; who are the reputed owners of said persons, and what legislation if any is necessary to relieve said persons from imprisonment and to prevent others from being similarly imprisoned; and that said committee report to the House by bill or otherwise.



DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Washington City, December 4, 1861.

Maj. Gen. GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN, Washington.

GENERAL: I am directed by the President to call your attention to the following subject:

Persons claimed to be held in service or labor under the laws of the State of Virginia and actually employed in hostile service against the Government of the United States frequently escape from the lines of the enemy’s forces and are received within the lines of the Army of the Potomac. This Department understands that such persons afterward coming into the city of Washington are liable to be arrested by the city police upon presumption arising from color that they are fugitives from service or labor.

By the fourth section of the act of Congress approved August 6, 1861, entitled “An act to confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes,” such hostile employment is made a full and sufficient answer to any further claim to service or labor. Persons thus employed and escaping are received into the military protection of the United States and their arrest as fugitives from service or labor should be immediately followed by the military arrest of the parties making the seizure.

Copies of this communication will be sent to the mayor of the city of Washington and to the marshal of the District of Columbia that any collision between the civil and military authorities may be avoided.

I am, general, your very obedient servant,



Extract from report of the Secretary of War December 6, 1861.


It is already a grave question what shall be done with those slaves who were abandoned by their owners on the advance of our troops into Southern territory, as at Beaufort district in South Carolina. The number left within our control at that point is very considerable and similar cases will probably occur. What shall be done with them? Can we afford to send them forward to their masters to be by them armed against us or used in producing supplies to sustain the rebellion? Their labor may be useful to us. Withheld from the enemy it lessens his military resources and withholding them has no tendency to induce the horrors of insurrection even in the rebel communities. They constitute a military resource, and being such that they should not be turned over to the enemy is too plain to discuss. Why deprive him of supplies by a blockade and voluntarily give him men to produce them?

The disposition to be made of the slaves of rebels after the close of the war can be safely left to the wisdom and patriotism of Congress. The Representatives of the people will unquestionably secure to the loyal slaveholders every right to which they are entitled under the Constitution of the country.


SIMON CAMERON, Secretary of War.



Resolution introduced in the House of Representatives December 9, 1861.*

Whereas, Major-General Halleck of the Western Department has issued an order prohibiting negroes from coming within the lines of our army and excluding those already under the protection of our troops; and whereas, a different policy and practice prevails in other departments by the direct sanction of the administration; and whereas, said order is cruel and inhuman and in the judgment of this House based upon no military necessity: Therefore,

Resolved, That the President be respectfully requested to direct General Halleck to recall said order or cause it to conform with the practice of the other departments of the army.

* December 11, 1861, this resolution was laid on the table by a vote of 78 to 64.


WAR DEPARTMENT, December 12, 1861.

Maj. Gen. NATHANIEL P. BANKS, Frederick, Md.

SIR: I have to call your attention to the accompanying copy of a letter from the Governor of Massachusetts with its inclosure and to suggest that such directions may be given through the proper channel to the officers of your division as may prevent similar complaint for the future of injustice and oppression to negroes visiting the camps in the exercise of lawful occupations.

With great respect, your obedient servant,

SIMON CAMERON, Secretary of War.



Hon. SIMON CAMERON, Secretary of War.

DEAR SIR: I wish to call your attention to the inclosed copy of a recent letter from a reliable source in relation to the use to which Massachusetts soldiers are being put (as is alleged) by Brigadier-General Stone. I cannot for a moment believe that the War Department will countenance such proceedings, and I invoke your interposition not only now but for the future for the issue of such orders as will secure the soldiers of this Commonwealth from being participators in such dirty and despotic work. Massachusetts does not send her citizens forth to become the hunters of men or to engage in the seizure and return to captivity of persons claimed to be fugitive slaves without any recognition or even the forms of law; and I trust you will save our soldiers and our State from such dishonor by the exercise of your official authority in such manner as will insure the protection of our men from such outrages in future and humanity itself from such infractions under color of military law and duty.

I remain, with great respect, your obedient servant,



CAMP BENTON, Poolesville, Md., November 28, 1861.

On Saturday last an order came down from General Stone giving a description of two fugitive slaves and directing their return (in case {p.785} they should enter our camp) to their owners whoever they might be. This order it appears was handed by Lieutenant-Colonel Palfrey to the officer of the day, Mr. Macy, of Company I. On Sunday morning several negroes came into camp as usual for the purpose of selling cakes, pies, &c., to the soldiers. Although having eatables for sale some of these negroes were themselves almost famished and were treated to breakfast by the men of one of our German companies. About the time of guard-mounting the vigilant eyes of Lieutenant Macy espied the negroes as they were disposing of their wares through the company streets and leaving the new guard to be mounted as it might he beckoned two of the negroes to the guard-house when he ordered them into arrest, and then immediately detailed a file of soldiers under a sergeant with loaded muskets to escort them to their supposed owners and deliver them up. The procedure was therefore unknown to all save the officers who were parties to it, and the parties who composed the escort had no knowledge that their prisoners were suspected fugitives.


HEADQUARTERS EXPEDITIONARY CORPS, Port Royal, S. C., December 14, 1861.

General LORENZO THOMAS, Adjutant-General U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following to the consideration of the general-in-chief and to the War Department:


All our work which is immense is done by volunteer soldiers and it all drags for the want of a sufficient number of able directors. The negro labor expected to be obtained here is so far almost a failure. They are disinclined to labor and will evidently not work to our satisfaction without those aids to which they have ever been accustomed, viz, the driver and the lash. A sudden change of condition from servitude to apparent freedom is more than their intellects can stand, and this circumstance alone renders it a very serious question what is to be done with the negroes who will hereafter be found on conquered soil.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

T. W. SHERMAN, Brigadier-General, Commanding.


HEADQUARTERS EXPEDITIONARY CORPS, Port Royal, S. C., December 1.5, 1861.

General L. THOMAS, Adjutant-General U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.

SIR: For the information of the proper authorities and for fear lest the Government may be disappointed in the amount of labor to be gathered here from the contrabands I have the honor to report that from the hordes of negroes left on the plantations but about 320 have thus far come in and offered their services. Of these the quartermaster has but about sixty able-bodied male hands, the rest being decrepit and women and children. Several of the 320 have run off. Every inducement has been held out to them to come in and labor for wages and money distributed among those who have labored. The reasons for this apparent failure thus far appear to be these:

First. They are naturally slothful and indolent and have always been accustomed to the lash, an aid we do not make use of.


Second. They appear to be so overjoyed with the change of their condition that their minds are unsettled to any plan.

Third. Their present ease and comfort on the plantations as long as their provisions will last will induce most of them to remain there until compelled to seek our lines for subsistence.

Although comparatively few have thus far come in it is therefore probable that in time many will, and if they are to be received and taken care of some provision should be made to cover them. They are a prolific race and it will be found that for every able-bodied male there will be five to six females, children and decrepit. It is really a question for the Government to decide what is to be done with the contrabands.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

T. W. SHERMAN, Brigadier-General, Commanding.

P. S.-Besides those who have come in there are many still on the plantations employed in gathering cotton.

T. W. S.


HEADQUARTERS CORPS OF OBSERVATION, Poolesville, December 15, 1861.

Brig. Gen. S. WILLIAMS, Assistant Adjutant-General.

GENERAL: I have the honor to inclose herewith a copy of a most extraordinary letter addressed by authority of a governor of a State to the lieutenant-colonel commanding a regiment of U. S. volunteers serving in this division, and respectfully request that the matter may be brought to the attention of the major-general commanding in the hope that he may be able to devise measures which shall in future prevent such unwarrantable and dangerous interference with the subordinate commands of the army. The fact that most of the soldiers in the regiment referred to were enlisted into the service of the United States in the State of which the governor referred to is the respected chief magistrate does not I conceive give his excellency a right to assume control of the interior discipline of the regiment, nor does it give him authority to command the punishment of a meritorious officer for any offense, either real or imaginary.

If the officer referred to has been guilty of any offense (which I am free to say I do not believe he has been) the military law prescribes the mode of preferring charges and the channel through which they shall be preferred as well as the mode of trial and the extent and manner of punishment. While I endeavor to hold those under my command strictly amenable to the stern military law which they have sworn to obey it is equally my duty to protect all whom I have the honor to command against wrongs attempted to be inflicted on them in defiance of the laws of the Union-the supreme laws of the land. Thousands of brave men gathered into the service of the Union (the whole Union) from five or more different States of the Union are now serving in this division and enduring unmurmuringly cold, hardship and fatigue simply because ambitious State officials at the South have unconstitutionally and lawlessly used their power to wrest from the U. S. officials the trusts confided to them by the nation.

The usurpations of those ambitious State authorities commenced in much smaller matters than this of assuming authority in a national {p.787} regiment serving in the field against the public enemy far removed from the State of which his excellency is governor. And it matters little to me whether the usurpation comes from South or North, Georgia or Massachusetts, I feel it my duty to bring the matter at once to an issue and if possible to arrest the evil before its natural fruits-open rebellion-shall be produced. The course of Major Anderson one year since in refusing to permit interference in the internal affairs of his command in Fort Sumter on the part of the governor of the State in which he was serving the Union was eminently distasteful to the governor of South Carolina; nevertheless Major Anderson’s sense of duty prevented him from fulfilling that governor’s desires.

Disagreeable as it may be to me to do anything distasteful to the governor of any State of the Union I do not feel that it is consistent with my sworn duty to permit any governor to give orders affecting the discipline of any regiment which the government of the nation has intrusted to my command. I am not aware that there are here Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota or Massachusetts troops. I do know that there are here U. S. troops collected from all those States; and they are carefully taught that their duty is to serve the United States honestly and faithfully against all those who set themselves in opposition to the Constitution and laws of the United States, whomsoever the oppressors may be.

I will merely add for the satisfaction which I know it will give to the major-general commanding that I do not believe that in the instance of the officer referred to in the letter of the governor nor in any other instance the orders of the War Department in reference to fugitive slaves have been violated by officers of this division; and I am equally happy to state that in no instance within my knowledge and recollection (with one exception) have the laws on the-same subject of the State of Maryland in which we are serving been violated by officers of the division. In that exceptional case the officer offending promptly retired from the service.

I inclose a copy of General Orders, No. 16, of September 23, 1861,* from these headquarters which will illustrate the course I have pursued here in reference to the loyal citizens of Maryland who are of course to be on a different footing from rebels in arms.

Very respectfully, general, your most obedient servant,

CHAS. P. STONE, Brigadier-General, Commanding.

* Omitted as unimportant



Lieutenant-Colonel PALFREY, Comdg. Twentieth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers.

COLONEL: His excellency, Governor Andrew, directs me to write to you that he is informed upon what he deems reliable authority that an officer of your regiment, Lieutenant (now Captain) Macy, has subjected Massachusetts citizen soldiers to the disgrace of becoming the kidnappers of their fellow-men and returning them into the hands of persons claiming to be their owners without any observance of even the forms of law, either civil or military. His excellency is greatly pained that {p.788} the fame of your gallant regiment should have been tarnished by an act on the part of one of its officers, the details of which if correctly reported to him prove him to be unworthy of any position of honor, trust or responsibility in her service or in the service of the Federal Government, and he earnestly hopes that your influence will be exerted to save and protect the soldiers of Massachusetts from any such dirty and despotic work in the future, and humanity itself from such infractions under color of military law and duty.

His excellency also directs me to add that you will oblige him by saying to Captain Macy that had he been informed of his discreditable conduct in this affair after satisfying himself beyond a doubt that he did seize two colored men in the camp of your regiment and order a file of Massachusetts soldiers to guard them and to deliver them into the hands of persons claiming their ownership without investigation and without knowledge that the claimants were loyal or disloyal he would never have signed his commission for promotion, which was done he regrets to say at about the time this infamous procedure is said to have happened.

With great respect, I remain yours, very truly,

THOMAS DREW, Assistant Military Secretary.


WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington, December 17, 1861.

Hon. H. HAMLIN, President of the Senate.

SIR: In answer to the resolution of the Senate of the 5th instant, asking for copies of any general orders in the Military Department of Missouri relative to fugitive slaves I have the honor to transmit herewith a copy of General Orders, No. 3* headquarters Department of the Missouri.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

SIMON CAMERON, Secretary of War.

* See p. 778 for General Orders, No. 3.


SAINT LOUIS, December 18, 1861.

Col. B. G. FARRAR, Provost-Marshal-General, Dept. of the Missouri, Saint Louis.

COLONEL: From your verbal statements and the written communication submitted by you yesterday I am informed that there are some sixteen negro men confined in the city prisons in your charge and advertised for sale under a statute of this State. You have stated the facts of the case as you understand them; have called my attention to the statute of this State on the subject and to the law of Congress of last session and have asked my orders as to how you shall proceed in this matter-whether to release these men from custody and to place them outside of your particular jurisdiction as a military officer in charge of the prisons in accordance with General Orders, No. 3, of this department or whether the sheriff (who as I understand is now under your orders) is to proceed and sell the said negro men as he has advertised and as is directed by the statute of this State if said statute has not been modified or changed by the law of the last session of Congress.


As I am informed most of these negroes came with the forces under Major-General Frémont from Southwestern Missouri and have either been used in the military service against the United States or are claimed by persons now in arms against the Federal Government but that none of them have been condemned in accordance with the act approved August 6, 1861, and that no proceedings for such condemnation have ever been instituted.

As I understand the matter the statute of this State creates the presumption that these men are slaves and if not called for within three months of the date of the advertisement of the sheriff they are to be sold as slaves. It would seem that the act of Congress approved August 6, 1861, if constitutional overrules this statute so far as this presumption is concerned. This act of Congress cannot be regarded as unconstitutional until decided to be so by the United States Supreme Court.

It results then as it seems to me that these negroes are held in custody without the authority of law and contrary to General Orders, No. 3, and you are hereby directed to release them from prison. It appears, however, that they have received from the quartermaster’s department certain articles of clothing required for their immediate and pressing necessities with the promise that they would pay for the clothing so delivered to them with their labor. They will therefore be turned over to the chief of the quartermaster’s department in this city for labor till they have paid the United States for the clothing and other articles so issued to them at the expense of the Government.

This order will in no way debar anyone from enforcing his legal rights to the services of these negroes. Such rights if any exist can be enforced through the loyal civil tribunals of this State whose mandates will always be duly respected by the military authorities of this department. Military officers cannot decide upon rights of property or claims to service except So far as may be authorized by the laws of war or the acts of Congress. When not so authorized they will avoid all interference with such questions.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. W. HALLECK, Major-General, Commanding.


HEADQUARTERS FRÉMONT HUSSARS, Camp Halleck, near Rolla, Mo., December 19, 1861.

Acting Major-General ASBOTH, Commanding Fourth Division.

GENERAL: In obedience to the order contained in your circular, No. 2,* received this day I beg to report that on receipt of your orders, No. 23, communicating General Orders, No. 3, from the commanding general, ordering fugitive slaves to be excluded from the lines I caused all negroes in my camp to be examined and it was reported to me that they all stoutly asserted that they were free. Since that time a woman employed in my own mess as cook has been claimed by one Captain Holland as the fugitive slave of his father-in-law. In compliance with your order to that end which he produced she was given up to him. Since the receipt of your circular of to-day I have again caused an investigation to be thoroughly made which has resulted as in the first instance. I beg now, general, to ask for your instructions in the matter. These negroes all claim and insist that they are free. Some of {p.790} them I have no question are so; others I have as little doubt have been slaves but no one is here to prove it and I hesitate to take so serious a responsibility as to decide arbitrarily in the absence of any direct evidence that they are such. If I turn them away I inflict great hardship upon them as they would be homeless and helpless; furthermore such a course would occasion much personal inconvenience and sincere regret to other officers no less than to myself. These people are mainly our servants and we can get no others. They have been employed in this capacity for some time-long enough for us to like them as servants, to find them useful and trustworthy and to feel an interest in their welfare. The commanding-general in his letter to Colonel Blair as published in the Missouri Democrat of the 16th instant says in explanation of General Orders, No. 3, “Unauthorized persons, black or white, free or slave, must be kept out of our camps.” The negroes in my camp are employed in accordance with the Army Regulations as officers’ servants, teamsters and hospital attendants and with the exception of one little child are such as we are authorized to have in the camp. It seems to me that they are without the pale of the order and the intention of the commanding general, and I trust that I may be excused for awaiting-more explicit instructions before doing what may be an extra-official act at which my private feelings revolt.

I recognize the fact that obedience to General Orders, No. 4, is a part of my military duty and I shall unflinchingly comply with it in the consciousness that I am in no way responsible therefor; but I am personally responsible for my decision when it is to affect the happiness and security of others.

May I ask you, general, to relieve me of this responsibility by giving me your formal decision at your earliest convenience?

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

GEO. E. WARING, JR., Major, Commanding Frémont Hussars.

* Not found.


Resolution adopted by the House of Representatives December 20, 1861.

Resolved, That the Judiciary Committee be instructed to report a bill so amending the fugitive slave law enacted in 1850 as to forbid the recapture or return of any fugitive from labor without satisfactory proof first made that the claimant of such fugitive is loyal to the Government.


HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, Washington, December 20, 1861.

His Excellency JOHN A. ANDREW, Governor of Massachusetts.

SIR: A letter addressed to Lieutenant-Colonel Palfrey, commanding Twentieth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, signed by Thomas Drew, assistant military secretary, and purporting to have been written by your excellency’s authority has just been brought to my notice. In this letter Lieutenant-Colonel Palfrey is directed to convey censure and reprimand to an officer of his regiment for acts performed in the line of his military duty. If the officer referred to had been guilty of any infraction of military law or regulation the law itself points out the method and manner for its own vindication and the channel through {p.791} which the punishment shall come. Any departure from this rule strikes immediately at the root of all discipline and subordination. The volunteer regiments from the different States of the Union when accepted and mustered into the service of the United States became a portion of the Federal Army and are as entirely removed from the authority of the governors of the several States as are the troops of the regular regiments. As discipline in the service can only be maintained by the strictest observance of military subordination nothing could be more detrimental than that any interference should be allowed outside the constituted authorities.

Trusting that these considerations will commend themselves to your excellency’s judgment,

I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

[GEORGE B. McCLELLAN,] Major-General, Commanding U. S. Army.


HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE OHIO, Louisville, Ky., December 22, 1861.

General THOMAS, Commanding First Division, Lebanon.

SIR: Acting Brigadier-General Carter reports that by your orders it is forbidden to receive fugitive slaves into camp and that occasionally slaves belonging to rebels in East Tennessee make their escape from their owners and apply to him for protection and are employed by officers as servants.

The general directs that exceptions be made in regard to fugitives in such cases.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JAMES B. FRY, Assistant Adjutant-General, Chief of Staff.


Resolution adopted by the Rouse of Representatives December 23, 1861.

Resolved, That the Committee on Military Affairs be instructed to report to this House a bill for the enactment of an additional article of war for the government of the Army whereby the officers in the military service of the United States shall be prohibited from using any portion of the forces under their respective commands for the purpose of returning fugitives from service or labor, and providing for the punishment of such officers as may violate said article by dismissal from the service.



Maj. Gen. GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN, Commanding U. S. Army.

GENERAL: Your letter dated the 20th instant has at this moment reached me and I deeply regret that a more careful reading of my assistant secretary’s note to Lieutenant-Colonel Palfrey should not have prevented the misapprehension of fact and a moment’s consideration of the public duty imposed upon me and in reference to which I am bound to act have prevented also the mistake of opinion under which I find your communication written. I beg leave to remind you that


Lieutenant-Colonel Palfrey was not “directed to convey censure and reprimand to an officer of his regiment,” but that he was informed that he would confer an obligation on me by saying to the officer in question that had I been apprised of the discreditable conduct to which I alluded at the time when I gave him certain promotion in his regiment that promotion would not have been granted. I presume that Lieutenant-Colonel Palfrey perfectly well knew the distinction between an order from a military superior and a request from another, nor does there seem to me the slightest possibility of mistake between them. But the error of opinion to which I had the honor to allude is not less apparent than the mistake of fact.

Although I am in no sense Lieutenant-Colonel Palfrey’s military commander, he being a military officer in the military service of the United States, yet since he is in command of a regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers I have as governor of the Commonwealth furnishing his regiment to the service certain grave and important duties confided to me by the law of the United States in reference to the selection of its officers including not only that of making the original appointments but that also of filling all vacancies as they occur. And in performance of the duty of filling such vacancies I have out of compliment to the officer commanding any regiment in which they occurred always corresponded with such officer (in the spirit of the circular letter* herewith sent for your information) in order to do what I could, first, to secure to every soldier his merited promotion; and, second, to strengthen and confirm the just military and personal influence and control of each colonel in his regiment. But this correspondence implies reciprocal and honorary relations between the colonel and myself. He is bound to deal with me frankly and upon his honor; and I think I have a right to complain rather that your intervention in this instance tends to injure the service by interrupting the proper relations between Massachusetts colonels and their governor than that my letter to Lieutenant-Colonel Palfrey tends to interfere with discipline. For there are two ways of meeting and dealing with the merits and demerits of military subordinates-the one is by reward and the other is by punishment. It is in the power of courts-martial to punish offenses. But they cannot appoint officers nor promote them from one rank to another. This power is possessed by the governors of the States in respect to the volunteer regiments. And thus they are in danger (as anyone would be) of granting substantial advantages to the undeserving and of turning aside the demands of practical and of abstract justice by perverting their incidental power of reward.

Nor, general, as you will at once perceive does the duty of the appointing power stop with simply considering whether a given candidate has been convicted by a court-martial for some offense nor whether he has done something for which he might be amenable to court-martial since one might in due season manifestly deserve promotion notwithstanding that; and on the other hand an officer might by acts and character not open to that sort of legal animadversion be utterly undeserving of the expression of confidence that would be implied in his official promotion. Now assuming the truth of the facts to which reference was made in the letter of my assistant secretary (if they were not true then the observations confessedly did not apply) I found that either by Lieutenant-Colonel Palfrey’s inadvertence or otherwise I had made an appointment which I had great reason to regret and which I had and now have good reason to fear weakens the regisment, {p.793} and especially in reference to its morale and self-respect. I felt and still feel that it was my duty to write frankly to Lieutenant-Colonel Palfrey who had recommended the appointment by promotion; and moreover in order that I might not be supposed by the subject of such promotion to have approved his conduct and intended to reward him for doing wrong I thought it my duty to request Lieutenant-Colonel Palfrey to communicate to him the state of my mind in that behalf. And it was Lieutenant-Colonel Palfrey’s duty to know whether his subordinate had in the conduct complained of acted under orders to which his position required obedience or whether as I infer is the case it was simply needless and superserviceable. I carefully avoid using his name since it is foreign to my method to injure persons by indirection; while it was in precise accordance with it to make immediate and direct complaint of wrong when most good and the least harm can follow. And in this correspondence with you, general, I carefully avoid alluding to the fact complained of because the matter is one which should I discuss with any officer of the Army-even the general-in-chief-in its relations to military duty I should justly incur the rebuke of the President and of your as well as my own sense of duty.

Permit me, general, most respectfully to add that I trust the opinion expressed in your letter that the volunteer regiments “are as entirely removed from the authority of the governors of the States as are the regular regiments” will be so far modified as to recognize the existence of the powers carefully conferred on the governors by act of Congress.

Heartily uniting with yourself in the most earnest desire for the efficiency, good discipline and honor of the military service, I have the honor to be, with high respect,

Your faithful servant,


* Not found.



GENERAL: Williams handed me the inclosed.* He left out your letter to Andrew; therefore I don’t know the exact ground you took nor whether you argued it or merely stated it. As he comes back with an argument I thought the true doctrine should be not argued but so stated as to suggest the right argument. He attempts too fine a point when he deduces his right to revile captains and instruct colonels from the power to appoint; it is a simple absurdity which may be not unpleasantly pointed out to him. His doctrine is worse than a Trojan horse to any walled town, camp, army or other military society. The Boston Courier, an able paper, attacked him and justified Stone out and out. I intended to send it to you but forgot it. There is danger in that abolition element unless a little energy check it at the start. I have put Gualt’s review in fewer words, except the lecture to the court, which I thought more severe than our usage approves. It is sufficient I think to point out their error. He prefers a more detailed and exact statement than is required in orders.

Glad to hear you are well again.

Very truly,

J. F. LEE, [Judge-Advocate.]

* Inclosure not found; it obviously related to the discussion with Governor Andrew.




Col. J. COOK, Commanding Fort Holt, Kentucky:

Your communication in relation to Mr. Mercer* is received. I will see that he does not trouble your camp in future so frequently as formerly. I am satisfied, however, from other evidence than his own of his loyalty and regret that he should have come so much under your suspicion. Whilst we wish to keep everything from the enemy it is our duty to alleviate the hardships consequent upon a state of war of our Union friends in the border States as far as practicable.

I gave permission for a man to go into your camp for the purpose of recovering his fugitive slaves. If General Orders, No. 3, from headquarters Department of the Missouri, had been complied with this would not have been necessary. Mr. Mercer now reports to me that these negroes were found concealed in one of the huts at Fort Holt and that the owner was forcibly prevented from recovering his property. If true this is treating law, the orders of the commander of the Department and my orders with contempt. Mr. Mercer does not charge that this was by your order; but after your attention was called to the fact that fugitive slaves were in your camp as the pass over my signature informed you was probably the fact an investigation should have been had and the negroes driven out.

I do not want the Army used as negro-catchers, but still less do I want to see it used as a cloak to cover their escape. No matter what our private views may be on this subject there are in this department positive orders on the subject and these orders must be obeyed. I direct therefore that you have a search made, and if you find these or any other fugitive slaves in camp at Fort Holt you have them expelled from camp, and if hereafter you find any have been concealed or detained you bring the party so detaining them to punishment.

U. S. GRANT, Brigadier-General, Commanding.

* Not found, but see Cook to Grant, November 23, p. 778.


HEADQUARTERS FOURTH BRIGADE, Fort Holt, Ky., December 25, 1861.

Capt. JOHN A. RAWLINS, Assistant Adjutant-General, District of Cairo.

CAPTAIN: The communication containing special order from the general commanding bearing even date herewith in relation to Mr. Mercer and fugitives from labor has been duly received and am compelled to acknowledge that it has taken me entirely by surprise.

If any act of mine has induced the belief at any time that I desired to oppress loyal citizens in any manner no one could regret it more than I do and none more willing to make the amende honorable.

The commanding general gave permission to a man to enter my camp in search of his negroes, and being confined to my bed without stopping to issue my own order for the search and delivery of the fugitives and that the officers at this post might feel the greater weight of the signature of the commanding general I gave it my hearty approval, instructing the adjutant to make authority for search good {p.795} for one day only for the following reason-that I had been informed that citizens of Kentucky had stayed over night in my camp on board young Mr. Mercer’s boat without my knowledge. This permit me through you to assure the commanding general was intended for neither disrespect to him or disregard to his order.

As soon after the issue of General Orders, No. 3, headquarters Department of the Missouri, as I discovered the existence of fugitives within my lines I had all that could be found sent beyond the lines, and the guard are regularly instructed not to allow any one to pass unless provided with a pass signed by the commanding general.

The general will doubtless remember the vast length of line the limited number of troops at this post have to guard and will doubtless readily perceive with what little difficulty our lines may be passed either day or night by negroes, since almost if not all the officers employ as servants free negroes from Illinois.

Mr. Mercer reported to the general that the fugitives sought “were found concealed in one of the huts and the owner forcibly prevented from recovering his property.”

After Mr. Mercer obtained the authority to make search no obstacle whatever was thrown in his way to successfully execute it. Mr. Utterback reported to the adjutant (not to me) that he had been prevented looking under one of the beds in cavalry quarters, and the adjutant informed me that he returned with Mr. U. in person and remained until a satisfactory search was made, and no complaint whatever has been made to me by Mr. U. or any one else of any threatened violence to any one and especially to parties in the discharge of duty.

The pass over the commanding general’s signature to which he alludes received at my hands the earliest attention possible. The delay in its execution was occasioned solely by the lateness of the hour. Mr. Mercer arrived here from Blandville, he having gone there the night before. The pass was dated the 23d instant and was not presented until the 24th.

Please find below copy of order issued in accordance with the general’s command:


HEADQUARTERS FOURTH BRIGADE, Fort Holt, Ky., December 25, 1861.

In pursuance to Special Orders, District of Cairo, Brig. Gen. U. S. Grant commanding, officers of regiments and detachments at Fort Holt, Ky., are required to search or cause to be searched the quarters of their respective commands for fugitive slaves and have all such fugitives forthwith expelled the lines of the camp.

If hereafter any such fugitives are concealed or detained in or about the camp the party or parties so detaining will be brought to punishment.

By order Col. John Cook, commanding Fourth Brigade:

L. R. WALLER, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

No officer more gladly receives or executes to the best of his ability more cheerfully orders emanating from headquarters District of Cairo than does,

Your obedient servant,

JOHN COOK, Colonel, Commanding Fourth Brigade.




General ASBOTH, Rolla, Mo.

GENERAL: It would seem from the report of Major Waring* to you (referred to these headquarters) that he had in compliance with your instructions delivered to a Captain Holland a fugitive in his camp claimed by Captain H. as the property of his father-in-law. This is contrary to the intent of General Orders, No. 3.**

The object of those orders is to prevent any person in the army from acting in the capacity of negro-catcher or negro-stealer. The relation between the slave and his master is not a matter to be determined by military officers except in the single case provided for by Congress. This matter in all other cases must be decided by the civil authorities. One object in keeping fugitive slaves out of our camps is to keep clear of all such questions. Masters or pretended masters must establish the rights of property to the negroes as best they may without our assistance or interference except where the law authorizes such interference.

Orders, No. 3, do not apply to the authorized private servants of officers nor to negroes employed by proper authority in camps; it applies only to fugitive slaves. The prohibition to admit them within our lines does not prevent the exercise of all proper offices of humanity in giving them food and clothing outside where such offices are necessary to prevent suffering.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. W. HALLECK, Major-General.

* See p. 789.

** See p. 778.


HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY, Washington, December [27], 1861.

His Excellency JOHN A. ANDREW, Governor of Massachusetts.

SIR: I have received your excellency’s letter of the 24th instant. I regret that you adhere to the opinion expressed in it. I cannot yield mine in a matter of such consequence to the discipline of the Army. You argue that because as governor you appointed a captain of volunteers you may send to him in the service of the United States through his colonel your censures of his military conduct by way of explaining your motives in making the appointment. I am of opinion that as the governor of a State holds no authority over the volunteers in the service of the United States he is not warranted in assuming any such function for any purpose, and that the exercise of it, quite unnecessary in support of the military authority of the United States in opposition to it, must be very mischievous.

In this case you inform the officers that certain acts done “under color of military law and duty” were “dirty and despotic work,” “disreputable conduct,” “infamous procedure.” The acts your excellency so warmly and vehemently denounces were acts under cognizance of the military authority of the United States which that authority is competent to order or forbid, to approve or punish; and which if it approves it cannot permit any other authority to denounce to the troops or censure {p.797} in any way that may tend to excite disobedience or disaffection. The volunteer troops from the States must obey according to the rides and discipline of war the officers appointed over them by the United States. The regimental commanders must not accept nor convey to the officers or soldiers under them any denunciation or any advice, opinion or suggestion from the State authorities in censure of the orders and duty imposed by the United States; and any commander or other person subject to discipline so offending will be liable to answer to a court-martial under the mutiny articles of war for inciting mutiny and sedition.

I trust that your excellency will see that our generals in command of brigades and divisions must find their authority impaired and subverted if governors may instruct the colonels on points of duty. The question is of such magnitude in its consequences that a prompt and energetic settlement of it is indispensable. I entreat your excellency to confide to the United States the conduct of this war in all its relations and the government of the troops furnished to it from the State of Massachusetts.

I have the honor to be,

[GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN, Major-General, Commanding.]



Col. JOHN COOK, Commanding U. S. Forces, Fort Holt, Ky.:

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 25th instant relating to the alleged concealment of fugitive slaves at Fort Holt and am instructed by Brig. Gen. U. S. Grant, commanding, to say your explanation of the matter is highly satisfactory but no more so than from all his previous official intercourse with you he had reason to expect.

[JOHN A. RAWLINS,] Assistant Adjutant-General.



Colonel RAITH, Forty-third Illinois Volunteers.

COLONEL: You will at once turn out of your camp and see sent beyond your lines all negroes not properly there.

By order of General Pope:

- -, Aide-de-Camp.


HEADQUARTERS, Cape Girardeau, Mo., December 31, 1861.

Brigadier-General GRANT, Cairo, Ill.:

I desire to present for your consideration the following question: Doctor Henderson, a slaveholder and secessionist who has contributed greatly to aggravate the present condition of affairs, has a black boy in {p.798} the camp whom he desires to recover. Through his wife he has made several ineffectual efforts to induce the boy willingly to go while he still persists in remaining. Agreeable to General Halleck’s order I have turned them from our camp. Some have returned. The policy I have hitherto adopted has been to offer no obstacle to the recovery of all fugitives at the same time affording no assistance to those who come for the avowed purpose of such recovery. In this instance I feel that duty as an officer would dictate that so far from sending the black boy back to support the family while the natural protector abandoning them for the purpose of aiding those in arms against us that I should rather retain him in some useful employment for the Government. I am personally free to admit that in my opinion the politic course to be pursued is when the slaves of known rebels come and remain within our lines after exhausting the order of General Halleck to put them as before said in a shape that they may contribute to the general good of the Government.

Still I desire to report the particular case of Doctor Henderson to you that I may obtain the well-digested advice of the district commander. I am satisfied that if those who escape are permitted to return for the purpose of family support Thompson’s command in this department will hold together much longer than if the men composing the same could be compelled by the necessities of their families to leave the army for the purpose of their support.

Very truly, yours, respectfully,

L. F. ROSS, Colonel, Commanding.



Brig. Gen. M. C. MEIGS, Quartermaster-General.

SIR: The Secretary of War directs that such of the old and infirm negroes of the Arlington estate, Virginia, as may be unable to provide for themselves be furnished with such necessary articles of coarse clothing as the officer commanding at Arlington for the time being may approve and order. The estate is now in the sole possession of the United States, and all the means left for the maintenance of these people have been taken for public purposes. ...

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

L. THOMAS, Adjutant-General.


HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY, Washington January 7, 1862.

Brig. Gen. AMBROSE E. BURNSIDE, Commanding Expedition..

GENERAL: ... I would urge great caution in regard to proclamation. In no case would I go beyond a moderate joint proclamation with the naval commander which should say as little as possible about politics or the negro. Merely state that the true issue for which we are fighting is the preservation of the Union and upholding the laws of {p.799} the General Government, and stating that all who conduct themselves properly will as far as possible be protected in their persons and property.

You will please report your operations as often as an opportunity offers itself.

With my best wishes for your success, I am, &c.,

GEO. B. MCCLELLAN, Major-General, Commanding-in-Chief.

P. S.-Any prisoners you take should be sent to the most convenient Northern post. You can, however, exchange any of them for any of your own men who may be taken.



Colonel CARLIN, Commanding, Ironton.

COLONEL: Governor Gamble has referred to me a letter from you to Colonel Murphy, Eighth Iowa [Wisconsin] Infantry, in relation to the delivery of a fugitive slave to his master which order was evaded by Colonel Murphy’s command. I think you mistook your duty as a military officer in this matter. I do not consider it any part of the duty of the military to decide upon the rights of master and slave. It is our duty to leave that question for the action of the loyal civil authorities of the State. This is accomplished by keeping all such fugitives out of our camps. This is the object of Orders, No. 3. Those orders should in all cases be enforced and we shall then be freed from these vexatious questions.

I inclose a copy of a letter* to General Asboth in which this view is more fully set forth. I hope you will not permit difficulties of this kind to occur again in your command, for the action of the military in regard to fugitives if once admitted into camp is so liable to be misrepresented and misunderstood.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. W. HALLECK, Major-General.

* For Halleck to Asboth, December 26, 1861, see p. 796.


FORT TAYLOR, Key West, January 12, 1862.

Gen. J. G. TOTTEN, Chief Engineer, Washington, D. C.

SIR: After full consideration of the subject in all its bearings I now take the responsibility of proposing that from 100 to 200 able-bodied contrabands or confiscated negroes should be sent here to labor on the fort and towers and for such other public labor as may require them. As I understand the case there are now some thousands of confiscated and derelict negroes being supported by the Government at Fort Monroe and elsewhere without serious need of their services. Here more labor is needed, and as the season advances my white force will dwindle. It is safe to assume that some two or three years of full labor for 250 negroes can be supplied by these works of which about fifty desirable hands can be hired here (slave or free black) at the average rate of $1.40 per diem. To complete an effective force it is necessary to bring from {p.800} the North white laborers and pay their passage one way each season. For special and skilled laborers this will always be necessary to some extent of which the local officer can judge.

The establishment of a contraband colony bound to work here say three years unless sooner discharged will effect a very great saving, as the wages of contrabands aside from rations need not be nearly as high as those now paid. I would not propose the fixing of exact rates though at the first an average allowance might well be indicated by authority the actual payments to be varied up and down according to merit. I attach great importance to this sliding of rates as a disciplinary resource. Whether 100 or 200 should be sent depends I think mainly on the number available. I think too they should if possible be regular confiscates rather than refugees to avoid future reclamations. It will of course be a dictate of common humanity not to separate families and therefore a considerable number of women and children would have to be sent. This climate so admirably adapted to the negro will make their comfortable housing a matter of little expense. The barracoons will go far toward accomplishing this at the start but I think a row of small houses brought out ready framed will be necessary, for which a small rent may be charged which would pay for them in a few years. A system of issuing rations will be essential which could be bought for the fort and charged as stoppages from the rate of pay. Negro board is from $8 to $12 here now, $10 being about the average. The ration would be less and the cooking, &c., could be done by the women. I think the details of living though they would offer more difficulties can be satisfactorily adjusted. I would propose that each man sent and perhaps the women should sign an obligation to serve under the direction of the engineer officer in charge at least three years for such pay as the officer may fix under his instructions.

One point is decidedly important and that is that in selecting negroes to come here under this obligation only those who are well adapted to this object should be chosen. Unless some care is exercised the worst may be sent, which as the Fort Taylor appropriation must pay their passage money and be charged with their support would be detrimental to the Government; nor should a large proportion of women and children be sent. Key West is likely for many years to be the locale of Government operations in building the fortifications naval buildings, excavating a dock, receiving and supplying coal, &c. It will be well to authorize the application of these contrabands to any public use as the engineer officer may think proper, the rates charged being enough above the fort rates to pay a proper share of the expense of bringing out and establishing the colony. With proper management these men may become permanent employés of the Government. The application to be signed might probably be better drawn to serve the Government under the engineer in charge until a regular discharge shall be given. I will append a rough draft of my present idea of this obligation. I think immediate action on this proposition desirable. Believing its policy to be clear I do not by this mail order more white laborers to be sent for the tower works presuming that in a short time the needed force of contrabands can be sent.

If Captain Stewart is still at Old Point and the negroes there are superabundant I suppose he could attend to the selection and shipment, and similarly one of the engineer officers on the southeast coast. It is not my province to indicate how they should be selected and shipped. I may remark, however, that there are quartermaster’s and naval transport steamers which could bring them at moderate expense. {p.801} I should also wish the engineer agency ordered to forward on Fort Taylor account at once after deciding to send the contrabands proper supplies of pork, corn, rice, &c., for the negroes which may be sent to arrive with them or soon thereafter.

Should the plan of small houses be approved, and I think this would be much the best in the long run for negro families, I would ask you to send the inclosed note which will bring me an offer and specifications from the person I should procure them from and whose special business is with ready-made houses. Should you be sure that as many as ten double houses for two families would be required it would be well could this be stated in forwarding this letter and my brother will communicate the fact to the builder referred to, which would save time.

I am able to add that Major Hill, the commanding officer at Key West, fully approves this plan of a contraband colony and offers to inclose it to the Adjutant-General if desired as being for the advantage of the Government. I shall show him this letter and he may address the proper authorities in consequence. I shall request this believing that his approval will carry great weight should objections arise. This proposition is important not only in its bearing on the fort labor and on the local community but in its larger relations and in its application as a precedent. Having weighed all these aspects and relations with as much care and candor as practicable in advance I do not hesitate to propose action being convinced that it will not only advantage the Government but be what the negroes might most rationally desire.

It will doubtless harm the interests of negro owners here but as I should not propose to reduce the rating of the best trained-negroes this would be no decided hardship. They too have so largely acted on and expressed the idea that they had a right to buy negroes to put on the work and that the local force had special almost exclusive rights which they thought invaded by bringing out white laborers from the North that I have no objection to seeing the work made quite independent of such assumptions. On the other hand it is now difficult to get house servants in town so that many families would be glad to hire female servants who may come with the proposed colony.

It is hardly necessary for me further to explain my ideas on this subject as from what I have said the main points can be appreciated and experience will enable the officer charged with their management to meet the practical difficulties which may arise.

Very respectfully, yours, &c.,

E. B. HUNT, Captain of Engineers.

P. S.-The necessity of regular appropriations to keep the work in progress may I suppose now be assumed as a safe basis for this colony. A failure of appropriation would leave matters no worse than now with these contrabands even were they here to the number of 200.


On further examination I am satisfied that we can put up a row of negro cabins from materials at command here cheaper than to buy ready-made buildings. I therefore withdraw the inclosure referred to before. Major Hill has written to the Adjutant-General approving the proposal and urging that 100 more be sent for general use here.



We, the undersigned, do hereby engage to serve the United States at Key West, Fla., for three years after arriving there or until such time before or after the end of this period as the officer under whom we shall serve may give us severally a regular discharge; and we bind ourselves to the faithful observance of such rules and discipline as may be regularly established for our government under such penalties as the officer under whom we shall serve shall duly impose. This service is to be rendered under the Engineer Department which is to take the expense of transporting us to Key West, to provide for us quarters and rations if desired and to pay us such amounts for our services as the Engineer Department or the local engineers shall fix as right and proper.


SAINT LOUIS January 14, 1862.

Col. L. F. Ross, Commanding, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

COLONEL: ... If General W[atkins] should decide to take the oath all stock taken from him should be returned.

With regard to his slaves if any are in your camp as fugitives they are so held in positive violation of General Orders, No. 3, of 1861, unless such slaves were taken in virtue of the act of Congress. Except in the case provided for by Congress troops should be permitted neither to steal slaves nor to catch and return them to their owners or pretended owners. The military are neither slave-stealers nor slave-catchers. To avoid all difficulties about this matter keep fugitives out of camp and let the question of ownership be decided by the civil tribunals.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. W. HALLECK, Major-General.


HEADQUARTERS EXPEDITIONARY CORPS, Port Royal, 8. C., January 1.5, 1862.


SIR: I have the honor to ask the attention of the War Department to a subject upon which I have before hinted but which is of so much importance that I cannot refrain from again intruding it upon its notice. Of the large numbers of negroes on the islands in our possession some have come into the camps and obtained work, bringing with them their families. These are therefore cared for, and the work of the able-bodied men-numbering probably one out of five or six of a family-will be sufficient with the rations issued to support them. Those still remaining on the plantations are now living on the corn and potatoes left there, and when these are all consumed the negroes will be in a suffering condition or thrown upon the commissariat of the army for support.

For the future maintenance of these people some system must be established, and one which will permit them to sustain themselves; but before they can be left entirely to their own government they must be trained and instructed into a knowledge of personal and moral responsibility–which {p.803} will be a matter of time. I have therefore the honor to recommend that suitable instructors be sent them to teach them all the necessary rudiments of civilization, and secondly, in the meantime that agents properly qualified be employed and sent here to take charge of the plantations and superintend the work of the blacks until they are sufficiently enlightened to think and provide for themselves. They should receive wages and the profits of the plantations after all expenses are paid should go to the Government. I can see no other way to lay a groundwork for future usefulness with this unfortunate class of people.

I would also suggest that a quantity of negro clothing be sent out here as soon as practicable, and this should include stuff for women’s and children’s wear.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

T. W. SHERMAN, Brigadier-General, Commanding.



General E. A. PAINE, Commanding Second Brigade, Fort Jefferson, Ky.:

You will proceed to Bird’s Point as soon as practicable with a portion of your command-as much as can be taken-with their baggage with the transportation supplied. On your arrival all citizen prisoners against whom you have no charge will be released and all negroes who have flocked into camp will be permitted to return to their masters. I learn from Colonel Perczel that there are many of this class now in camp who have flocked there through fear. Some discretion will have to be used in forcing these people out of camp now that they are in. I would require all, however, who have masters in camp to take their negroes with them.

U. S. GRANT, Brigadier-General, Commanding.



The bearer, James H. Ware, of Pettis County, Mo., has authority from these headquarters to proceed to Saint Louis, Mo., with seven negroes, his property. All officers and soldiers belonging to the armies of the United States are hereby prohibited from molesting or interfering with him in any [way] whatsoever. Mr. Ware will report to General Halleck in Saint Louis and hand to him this authority and safeguard.

[JOHN POPE,] Brigadier-General, Commanding.



HDQRS. DEPT. OF VIRGINIA, &C., Fort Monroe, January 30, 1862.

I. Col. T. J. Cram, inspector-general, and Maj. Le Grand B. Cannon, aide-de-camp, are hereby appointed and constituted a commission {p.804} for the purpose of making a critical examination of the condition of the persons known as vagrants or contrabands who are employed in this department under Department General Orders, No. 34, of 1861, in reference to their pay, clothing, subsistence, medical attendance, shelter and treatment, physical and moral.

II. Chiefs of the several departments, their subordinates and employés will furnish to the commission such reports and information as the commission may require to enable it to perform the [duty] imposed, the object being to do justice to the claims of humanity in the proper discharge of the grave responsibility thrust upon the military authorities of the department in consequence of numerous persons (men, women and children) already congregated and daily increasing, being abandoned by their masters or having fled to this military command for protection and support.

III. The commission will also examine into the condition of such of the foregoing specified class of persons as have been or are employed under Department Special Orders, No. 72, of 1861, and will further examine whether the several chiefs of departments have a sufficiency or excess of employés or laborers to enable them to discharge with the proper economy, efficiency and dispatch their respective duties and if a greater or less number than are now employed can be economically employed for these duties. It having been reported that the said class of persons known as vagrants or contrabands have not been properly treated in all cases by those having them in charge the commission cannot be too rigid in its examination in order that justice may be done to them as well as to the public service.

IV. The result of the investigations will be reported by the commission to these headquarters as early as practicable with such suggestions as the commission may deem proper for the improvement of the treatment and management of these persons; and the commission is authorized to employ such clerical assistance as it may need to be detailed from this command.

By command of Major-General Wool:

WM. D. WHIPPLE, Assistant Adjutant-General.



COLONEL: The general commanding directs that you investigate the charges contained in the inclosed paper;* that you look through all the companies of your command and if any runaway negro slave he found there that you put the commanding officer of the company having such negro in arrest and prefer charges against him. Your attention is called to General Orders, No. 3, from department headquarters with reference to fugitive slaves.

By order of General Pope:

[C. A. MORGAN,] Aide-de-Camp.

* Not found.




Maj. Gen. H. W. HALLECK, Commanding the Department of the Missouri.

GENERAL: There are a number of negroes at the military prison at McDowell’s College who were captured with the rebels taken at Blackwater. They have frequently applied to me to be released from the prison. They were employed in hostile service against the Government of the United States contrary to the provisions of the act of Congress of 6th of July, 1861. Before preferring their request to be discharged I asked the opinion of the U. S. district attorney as to the rights of such slaves. Inclosed is his reply.*

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

BERNARD G. FARRAR, Provost-Marshal-General.

* Not found.



HDQRS. EXPEDITIONARY CORPS, Hilton Head, S. C., February 6, 1862.

I. The helpless condition of the blacks inhabiting the vast area in the occupation of the forces of this command calls for immediate action on the part of a highly favored and philanthropic people.

The occupation of a large portion of this area of country on the 7th of November last led to an address to the people of South Carolina briefly setting forth the causes which led to it, its objects and purposes, and inviting all persons to the reoccupation in a loyal spirit of their lands and tenements and to a continuance of their avocations under the auspices of their legitimate Government and the protection of the Constitution of the United States.

The conciliatory and beneficent purposes of that proclamation except in a few instances have not only been disregarded but hordes of totally uneducated, ignorant and improvident blacks have been abandoned by their constitutional guardians not only to all the future chances of anarchy and of starvation but in such a state of abject ignorance and mental stolidity as to preclude all possibility of self-government and self-maintenance in their present condition.

Adequate provision for the pressing necessities of this unfortunate and now interesting class of people being therefore imperatively demanded even by the dictates of humanity alone an additional duty next only in importance to that of the preservation of a world-revered Constitution and Union is now forced upon us by an unnatural and wicked rebellion.

To relieve the Government of a burden that may hereafter become insupportable and to enable the blacks to support and govern themselves in the absence and abandonment of their disloyal guardians a suitable system of culture and instruction must be combined with one providing for their physical wants.

Therefore until proper legislation on the subject or until orders from higher authority the country in occupation of the forces of this command will be divided off into districts of convenient size for proper superintendence. For each of these districts a suitable agent will be appointed to superintend the management of the plantations by the {p.806} blacks, to enroll and organize the willing blacks into working parties, to see that they are well fed, clad and paid a proper remuneration for their labor, to take charge of all property on the plantations whether found there, provided by the Government or raised from the soil, and to perform all other administrative duties connected with the plantations that may be required by the Government. A code of regulations on this subject as well as a proper division of districts will be furnished in due time.

In the meanwhile and until the blacks become capable of themselves of thinking and acting judiciously the services of competent instructors will be received-one or more for each district-whose duties will consist in teaching them both young and old the rudiments of civilization and Christianity, their amenability to the laws of both God and man, their relations to each other as social beings and all that is necessary to render them competent to sustain themselves in social and business pursuits.

For an efficient and complete organization of this system there will be appointed two general agents-one to have a general superintendence over the administrative or agricultural agents and the other over the educational department.

II. The above system is not intended in any respect to interfere with the existing orders respecting the employment of contrabands by the staff departments of the army and by the cotton agents.

III. As the blacks are now in great need of suitable clothing if not other necessaries of life which necessity will probably continue and even increase until the above system gets into working order the benevolent and philanthropic of the land are most earnestly appealed to for assistance in relieving their immediate wants. Never was there a nobler or more fitting opportunity for the operation of that considerate and practical benevolence for which the Northern people have ever been distinguished.

By order of Brig. Gen. T. W. Sherman:

L. H. PELOUZE, Captain, Fifteenth Infantry, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.


HEADQUARTERS EXPEDITIONARY CORPS, Port Royal, S. C., February 9, 1862.


SIR: The imperative necessity of putting the blacks in the way of avoiding starvation before the planting season expires without a draw on the commissariat to an extent that would cripple the service and for other reasons suggested in the general order which I herewith inclose has induced me to the measures mentioned therein.

I would respectfully ask for a speedy reply to this communication and should the plan be generally approved then how far I shall be authorized to hire instructors. This is a point whereon I have entertained some doubts. I firmly believe, however, that the general agent of instruction should be employed by the Government if not all the instructors; but the latter the district or sub-instructors may possibly be provided by the public charities.

This step which I have taken is of vital importance and to be beneficial for the present year must go into operation at once. The present {p.807} condition of the blacks-daily increasing in numbers and daily diminishing in their resources-must be alleviated both for their own welfare and the great cause itself.

No correct census has yet been taken but I estimate the number of blacks now on land in possession of our forces to be at least 9,000, which is probably a low estimate.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

T. W. SHERMAN, Brigadier-General Commanding.



Capt. N. H. MCLEAN:

I return herewith the statement* of Col. Julius White, Thirty-seventh Illinois Regiment, concerning the conduct of his regiment and partly of himself in the abduction of two negro boys belonging to Doctor Moore, of Syracuse. I inclose also the sworn statement* of Doctor Moore in reply to Colonel White. There is no doubt that the negroes are with Colonel White’s regiment and that the material facts are as stated in Doctor Moore’s affidavit. Colonel White’s regiment is at Lebanon under General Curtis’ command and I no longer therefore have control over it. I therefore refer these papers to the general commanding the department for such action as he deems proper to take.

I will merely state in this connection that some severe example should be made of regimental and company commanders in relation to the indiscriminate plundering which more and more every day is disgracing the march of our troops. I have given orders to the commanders of columns on the march to Saint Charles to keep mounted patrols on the flanks and rear of their respective columns with orders to shoot any one detected in plundering or outraging the people of the country. I trust sincerely that some severe and public example will be made upon the first opportunity. It is nearly impossible without stratagem to fix such acts upon individuals or to prevent their occurrence when officers and men are alike concerned in them either actively or passively.

I am, captain, respectfully, your obedient servant,

[JNO. POPE,] Brigadier-General, Commanding.

* Not found.


HDQRS. OF THE ARMY, ADJUTANT-GENERAL’S OFFICE, Washington, February 12, 1862.

Brig. Gen. THOMAS W. SHERMAN, U. S. ARMY, Commanding, &c., Port Royal, S. C.

SIR: The general-in-chief directs that you send about 300 or 400 contrabands to Key West to be employed on the public works there.

I am, &c.,

L. THOMAS, Adjutant-General.



INDIANAPOLIS, February 25, 1862.

Major-General HALLECK:

Among the prisoners here are fifteen or twenty negroes who are claimed by officers as slaves and servants. What shall be done with them?

O. P. MORTON, Governor of Indiana.



Governor MORTON, Indianapolis:

Let the negroes go if they wish it; if they prefer to stay they must be under military police and not allowed to go out and in the camp or barracks.

H. W. HALLECK, Major-General.



HDQRS. DIST. OF WEST TENNESSEE, Fort Donelson, February 26, 1862.

General Orders, No. 3, of the series of 1861, from headquarters Department of the Missouri, are still in force and must be observed.

The number of citizens who are applying for permission to pass through the camps to look for their fugitive slaves proves the necessity of the order and its faithful observance. Such permits cannot be granted; therefore the great necessity of keeping out fugitives. Such slaves as were within the lines at the time of the capture of Fort Donelson and such as have been used by the enemy in building the fortifications or in any way hostile to the Government will not be released or permitted to return to their masters but will be employed in the quartermaster’s department for the benefit of Government.

All officers and companies now keeping slaves so captured will immediately report them to the district quartermaster. Regimental commanders will be held accountable for all violations of this order within their respective commands.

By order of Brig. Gen. U. S. Grant, commanding:

JNO. A. RAWLINS, Assistant Adjutant-General.




GENTLEMEN: The city policemen are in the habit of arresting negroes as runaways, and frequently arrest or attempt to arrest the servants of the army officers who are put to the trouble of obtaining orders to prevent their servants from being taken from them on the very eve of their leaving the city. This is exceedingly annoying to officers under marching orders. They do not desire to be considered as resisting any civil process. It is not their intention nor the intention of the military authorities to interfere with or prevent the owner of a slave from pursuing his legal remedies to recover his slave. But {p.809} I have to request that hereafter the city police be confined in their arrests of negroes as runaways strictly to such negroes as may be in a legal manner claimed by his or her owner. Negroes must be arrested as runaways or fugitives from labor by a writ issued from a court having jurisdiction of the case. This is necessary in order that the slave may have the opportunity to plead the act of Congress of July, 1862.

I am, very respectfully, gentlemen, your obedient servant,

BERNARD G. FARRAR, Provost-Marshal-General.



Hon. J. R. UNDERWOOD, Chairman Military Committee, Frankfort, Ky.

DEAR SIR: I have had the honor to receive your communication of the 1st instant on the subject of fugitive slaves in the camps of the army.

It has come to my knowledge that slaves sometimes make their way improperly into our lines and in some instances they may be enticed there but I think the number has been magnified by report. Several applications have been made to me by persons whose servants have been found in our camps and in every instance that I know of the master has recovered his servant and taken him away.

I need hardly remind you that there will always be found some lawless and mischievous persons in every army; but I assure you that the mass of this army is law-abiding and that it is neither its disposition nor its policy to violate law or the rights of individuals in any particular.

With great respect, your obedient servant,

D. C. BUELL, Brigadier-General, Commanding Department.


Resolution adopted by the House of Representatives March 7, 1862.

Resolved, That the Secretary of War communicate to this House the number, age and condition of the Africans who have been under the supervision of Major-General Wool, commanding at Fortress Monroe, Va., since he has had command of that division, together with the amount of work or service performed by them, the pay if any which they have received and the cost to the Government for their maintenance and support.





GENTLEMEN: Complaints are made at this office by parties having negroes in their possession and claiming to be the owners of such negroes-and that too where there is no adverse claim-that they are being denied and delayed in crossing the river to Illinois, and applications {p.810} for passes and orders are so frequent that I have to request you to observe the following general rule in such cases: The possession of a negro as of any other personal property is prima facie evidence of title and unless the title of the person applying for ferriage for his negro is questioned in a legal manner-that is unless he is claimed with a writ issued from a court of competent jurisdiction-you will permit such person to cross with his or her negroes. Instructions have been issued from this office that no negro shall be arrested while in the possession of a white man claiming him under the act concerning runaway slaves except by a writ issued from a proper court. [Letterpress copy illegible.]

[BERNARD G. FARRAR, Provost-Marshal-General.]



HDQRS. ROANOKE ISLAND, N. C., March 12, 1862.

The contrabands at this post will hereafter be placed in the employ of the Government upon the following terms, viz:

1. Men will receive $10 per month, one ration and soldier’s allowance of clothing.

2. Women will receive $4 per month, one ration and allowance in money equal to and in lieu of soldier’s allowance of clothing.

3. Boys between the ages of twelve and sixteen will receive $4 per month, one ration and soldier’s allowance of clothing.

4. All children under the age of twelve will receive one ration and remain with their parents.

5. The above regulations apply only to contrabands in the public service. When in the employ of officers or any other persons as servants or in any other capacity they will be paid by the person in whose employ they are an amount in money equal to the sum total of the clothing allowance, rations and money expressed in the above regulations.

All persons at this post having contrabands in their employ or under their control will report in writing to these headquarters their names, ages, sex, where they come from, the names of their owners and how long and by whom they have been employed.

In all cases they will be treated with great care and humanity. It is to be hoped that their helpless and dependent condition will protect them against injustice and imposition.

By order of Col. R. C. Hawkins, commanding the post:

JOHN B. SHEPARD, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.


Additional article of war approved March 13, 1862.

ARTICLE 102. All officers or persons in the military or naval service of the United States are prohibited from employing any of the forces under their respective commands for the purpose of returning fugitives from service or labor who may have escaped from any persons to whom such service or labor is claimed to be due; and any officer who shall be found guilty by a court-martial of violating this article shall be dismissed from the service.

SECTION 2. That this act shall take effect from and after its passage.



HDQRS. THIRD BRIGADE, EXPEDITIONARY CORPS, Fernandina, Fla., March 13, 1862.

Capt. LOUIS H. PELOUZE, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

CAPTAIN: I have to report in regard to the slaves found here and those who have since come in that I have not attempted to interfere with the rights of the owner so long as he remained within our lines and conducted himself in a quiet and orderly manner but that I have refused permission to remove any slave from the limits of the command on any plea whatever.

I have conceived that the property of citizens in slaves should be protected to the extent referred to and shall continue the same policy in regard to them unless I receive instructions to the contrary.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. G. WRIGHT, Brigadier General, Commanding.



By order of Brigadier-General Sherman:

L. H. PELOUZE, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

MARCH 15, 1862.


Resolution adopted by the House of Representatives March 17, 1862.

Resolved, That the Committee for the District of Columbia be instructed to inquire into the facts and ascertain and report to this House by what authority of law Mrs. Biscoe, living on Dumbarton street in Georgetown, seized or caused to be seized two men, namely, Lewis Ayers and Washington Watts; and also by what authority of law or legal process these men have been sent to Baltimore and immured in jail, and whether the arrest and imprisonment is not a direct violation of that provision of the Constitution (the fifth article of amendments) which says that no person shall be deprived of his life or liberty without due process of law.



JOHN W. HARDING, Esq., Tipton, Mo.

SIR: Yours of the 16th instant is at hand. It is neither the duty nor the privilege of the military authorities to interfere in the settlement of any question as to the right of property between citizens nor between a man and his negro. The question of title to the negro child is one for the civil courts. You have all your remedies at law. The troops are forbidden to interfere in the matter in any way whatever and if any of them do so they will be punished for disobedience of orders. The courts are open to you and Mr. Hoehn to settle your dispute as to the title of the negro. Having it in possession you cannot be deprived of that possession except by due process of law.

By order of Lieut. Col. B. G. Farrar, provost-marshal-general:

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

THO. C. FLETCHER, Assistant.




Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War, Washington:

I have the honor to report the following movements in my department since my hurried report of the 16th instant. ...

I appointed General Foster military governor of the city and its vicinity and he has established a most perfect system of guard and police. Nine-tenths of the depredations on the 14th after the enemy and citizens fled from the town were committed by the negroes before our troops reached the city. They seemed to be wild with excitement and delight. They are now a source of very great anxiety to us. The city is being overrun with fugitives from the surrounding towns and plantations. Two have reported themselves who have been in the swamps for five years. It would be utterly impossible if we were so disposed to keep them outside of our lines, as they find their way to us through woods and swamps from every side. By my next dispatch I hope to report to you a definite policy in reference to this matter, and in the meantime shall be glad to receive any instructions upon the subject which you may be disposed to give.


I have the honor to be, sir, your very obedient servant,

A. E. BURNSIDE, Brigadier-General, Commanding Department of North Carolina.



Hon. EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith in conformity to a call by a resolution of the House of Representatives a report* of the number, age and condition of the Africans in this department. The information which it contains is I believe in all respects correct, and was obtained by three commissioners, Col. T. J. Cram, Col. Le Grand B. Cannon and Maj. William P. Jones, aides-de-camp on my staff, after a very rigid examination and investigation under General Orders, No. 5,** dated 30th of January, 1862.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully,

JOHN E. WOOL, Major-General.

* Omitted.

** See Wool’s orders, No. 5, January 30, p. 803.




It is reported that the enemy has about 100 negroes engaged in the saltpeter works in Marion County, a little east of Worth. They are guarded by only one company. A detachment of cavalry from Springfield could destroy these works and free the negroes as being employed in enemy’s service.

H. W. HALLECK, Major-General.




Hon. B. M. STANTON, Secretary of War, Washington:

... The negroes continue to come in and I am employing them to the best possible advantage, a principal part of them on some earth fortifications in the rear of the city which will enable us to hold it with a small force when it becomes necessary to move with the main body.


I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. B. BURNSIDE, Brigadier-General, Commanding Department of North Carolina.



Lieut. J. L. PALMER, Jr., Aide-de-Camp and Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

LIEUTENANT: In compliance with verbal directions from Brig. Gen. D. B. Sickles to report as to the occurrence at this camp on the afternoon of the 26th instant I beg leave to submit the following:

At about 3.30 p.m. March 26, 1862, admission within our lines was demanded by a party of horsemen (civilians) numbering perhaps fifteen. They presented the lieutenant commanding the guard with an order of entrance from Brig. Gen. Joseph Hooker, commanding division (copy appended), the order stating that nine men should be admitted. I ordered that the balance of the party should remain without the lines which was done. Upon the appearance of the others there was visible dissatisfaction and considerable murmuring among the soldiers to so great an extent that I almost feared for the safety of the slave owners. At this time General Sickles opportunely arrived and instructed me to order them outside the camp which I did amidst the loud cheers of our soldiers. It is proper to add that before entering our lines and within about 75 or 100 yards of our camp one of their number discharged two pistol shots at a negro who was running past them with an evident intention of taking his life. This justly enraged our men.

All of which is respectfully submitted.

Your obedient servant,

JOHN TOLER, Major, Commanding Second Regiment, Excelsior Brigade.


HEADQUARTERS HOOKER’S DIVISION, Camp Baker, Lower Potomac, March 26, 1862.


Messrs. Nally, Gray, Dummington, Dent, Adams, Speake, Price, Posey and Cobey, citizens of Maryland, have negroes supposed to be with some of the regiments of this division. The brigadier-general commanding directs that they be permitted to visit all the camps of his command in search-of their property and if found that they be allowed to take possession of the same without any interference whatever.


Should any obstacle be thrown in their way by any officer or soldier in the division they will be at once reported by the regimental commanders to these headquarters.

By command of Brigadier-General Hooker:

JOSEPH DICKINSON, Assistant Adjutant-General.



Maj. Gen. D. HUNTER, U. S. Volunteers, Commanding Department of the South, Port Royal, S. C.

GENERAL: Brigadier-General Brannan has requested that 200 contrabands be sent from Port Royal for the public works at Fort Jefferson, Tortugas. The Secretary of War directs that they be sent accordingly.

I am, sir, &c.,

L. THOMAS, Adjutant-General.



Maj. Gen. JOHN E. WOOL, U. S. Army, Commanding Department of Virginia, Fort Monroe.

SIR: On the 12th ultimo a copy was sent to you of the resolution of the House of Representatives of the 7th of March, 1862, calling for information relative to the number, age and condition of the Africans who have been under your supervision while in your present command, with the amount of work performed by them, the pay received and the cost to the Government for their support and you were requested to report upon the same.

As the Secretary is anxious to receive this information I have to request that you will please cause it to be furnished without delay. Please inform me immediately if the copy has been received by you.

I am, sir, &c.,

L. THOMAS, Adjutant-General.




COLONEL: Your letter of the 1st instant* concerning Langston Goode and his negroes is received. Goode must pursue his legal remedy to recover his negroes. He can take them by a proper writ issued from a court of competent authority in the hands of a proper officer and no obstacles will be put in the way of the execution of such process. The U. S. forces will leave negroes and their owners to settle their affairs by civil process and will not engage in the restoration of fugitives nor will they take negroes from their masters.

Very respectfully, yours,

BERNARD G. FARRAR, Provost-Marshal-General.

* Not found.




Lieut. Col. JOHN D. SHAUL, Commanding Seventy-sixth Regiment New York Volunteers.

SIR: I am directed by General Doubleday to say in answer to your letter of the 2d instant that all negroes coming into the lines of any of the camps or forts under his command are to be treated as persons and not as chattels.

Under no circumstances has the commander of a fort or camp the power of surrendering persons claimed as fugitive slaves as it cannot be done without determining their character.

The additional article of war recently passed by Congress* positively prohibits this.

The question has been asked whether it would not be better to exclude negroes altogether from the lines. The general is of the opinion that they bring much valuable information which cannot be obtained from any other source. They are acquainted with all the roads, paths, fords and other natural features of the country and they make excellent guides. They also know and frequently have exposed the haunts of secession spies and traitors and the existence of rebel organizations. They will not therefore be excluded.

The general also directs me to say that civil process cannot be served directly in the camps or forts of his command without full authority be obtained from the commanding officer for that purpose.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

E. P. HALSTEAD, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

* See p. 810.



HDQRS. DEPT. OF THE SOUTH, Fort Pulaski, Cockspur Island, Ga., April 13, 1862.

All persons of color lately held to involuntary service by enemies of the United States in Fort Pulaski and on Cockspur Island, Ga., are hereby confiscated and declared free in conformity with law, and shall hereafter receive the fruits of their own labor. Such of said persons of color as are able bodied and may be required shall be employed in the quartermaster’s department at the rates heretofore established by Brig. Gen. T. W. Sherman.

By command of Maj. Gen. David Hunter:

CHAS. G. HALPINE, Assistant Adjutant-General.



Hon. DAVID TOD, Governor of Ohio.

DEAR SIR: ... It is not deemed necessary to detain any longer as prisoners of war the negroes now at Camp Chase and I request you will cause them to be released, but as many of these persons have had no experience in providing for themselves I would advise that only three or four be released at a time to give them the better opportunity of finding employment and to prevent excesses {p.816} which might grow out of the association of a number of destitute and ignorant persons whose numbers and necessities might lead them to serious crimes.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

W. HOFFMAN, Lieut. Col. Eighth Infantry, Commissary-General of Prisoners.



Col. J. C. KELTON, Assistant Adjutant-General.

COLONEL: I have the honor to return the communication of John M. Krum to Brigadier-General Schofield dated April 11, 1862, referred to me from department headquarters April 19, 1862, and beg to say that the subject-matter of said communication has received my careful attention and was by me brought to the notice of Major-General Halleck and my action on the subject was taken with his knowledge and in the exercise of a discretionary power to which he submitted the whole subject.

Whelan is a citizen of Mississippi; came here in August last; purchased some negroes and obtained possession of others in a manner not accounted for; attempted to take them South in violation of the proclamation of the President concerning intercourse and the orders of the commanding general of the department. In a former communication to General Schofield on the same subject he admits the fact he was caught in the act and resorted to every conceivable dodge to screen himself-claimed to be a British subject; has since filed an oath of allegiance; and before the first arrest and before he claimed to be a British subject he claimed to be a loyal citizen. The negroes he has acquired in a manner at once showing an intention to hazard them in getting through the blockade. They were in no instance purchased at prices and under circumstances showing fair dealing. The whole case is one certainly calling for the interference of the military authorities and by the proclamation and orders the negroes are confiscate and I shall so treat them.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

BERNARD G. FARRAR, Provost-Marshal-General.



General AMBROSE E. BURNSIDE, Commanding Department of North Carolina, New Berne.

GENERAL: ... The citizens of Beaufort are after me on the negro question. They want me to prevent the slaves coming within our lines. I tell them I can use no force to aid them in recovering their negroes; at the same tune if they can prevail on the negroes to go home I am perfectly willing and satisfied. I can furnish them no aid or assistance, and at the same time will not permit any disturbance in camp.

Yours, faithfully,





Excellency A. W. BRADFORD, Governor of Maryland, Annapolis.

SIR: I am honored with your letter* of yesterday informing me that large numbers of slaves owned in Maryland are daily making their way into the District of Columbia from the neighboring counties of your State which you assure me is producing great anxiety and complaint in your community and that such anxiety is greatly increased within the last few days by information received-

That the Government has forbidden the marshal of the District to execute any warrants for the arrest of these slaves upon the ground as it is suggested that the fugitive-slave law is not applicable to the District of Columbia.

In these distempered times I am not at all surprised to hear that slaves in the border States are using all available means to escape into free territory but the rumor you speak of to the effect that the Government has ordered the marshal of the District not to serve warrants in execution of the fugitive-slave law is to me new and unexpected. I know nothing of any such order and do not believe any such exists. The act of Congress of August 2, 1861, chapter 37, charges this office with the general superintendence and direction of the district attorneys and marshals as to the manner of discharging their respective duties. And hence I suppose it very probable that if such an order had been given I would know it. I think none such was ever given. The rumor I suppose to be a mere fiction started by some evil-disposed person to stir up bad feeling and to frighten the timid and credulous.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,

EDW. BATES, Attorney-General.

* Not found.


An act passed by the House of Representatives May 12, 1862.*

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That slavery or involuntary servitude in all cases whatsoever (other than in the punishment of crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted) shall henceforth cease and be prohibited forever in all the Territories of the United States now existing or hereafter to be formed or acquired in any way.

SEC. 2. That any person now held or attempted to be held hereafter as a slave in any of the places above named is hereby declared to be free, and the right to freedom hereby declared may be asserted in any of the courts of the United States or of the several States in behalf of the party or his or her posterity after any lapse of time.

* June 9, the Senate adopted the following as a substitute:

That from and after the passage of this act there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the Territories of the United States now existing or which may at any time hereafter be formed or acquired by the United States otherwise than in punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.

The House concurred with the Senate June 17.




The bearer of this, Wayne, a negro boy aged about sixteen years having been used for hostile purposes against the Government of the United States as appears from the evidence submitted to the provost-marshal-general is by the laws of the United States entitled to his freedom, and he cannot again be held to service or labor by his former master or owner or other person claiming to own his services unless the prima facie case made before me is satisfactorily disproved on a trial in a court of competent jurisdiction.

By order of Lieut. Col. Bernard G. Farrar, provost-marshal-general:

THO. C. FLETCHER, Assistant.



Whereas, there appears in the public prints what purports to be a proclamation of Major-General Hunter in the words and figures following, to wit:



The three States of Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, comprising the Military Department of the South, having deliberately declared themselves no longer under the protection of the United States of America and having taken up arms against the said United States it becomes a military necessity to declare them under martial law. This was accordingly done on the 25th day of April 1862. Slavery and martial law in a free country are altogether incompatible; the persons in these three States-Georgia, Florida and South Carolina heretofore held as slaves are therefore declared forever free.

DAVID HUNTER, Major-General, Commanding.

And whereas, the same is producing some excitement and misunderstanding:

Therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, proclaim and declare that the Government of the United States had no knowledge, information or belief of an intention on the part of General Hunter to issue such a proclamation nor has it yet any authentic information that the document is genuine. And further that neither General Hunter nor any other commander or person has been authorized by the Government of the United States to make proclamations declaring the slaves of any State free; and that the supposed proclamation now in question whether genuine or false is altogether void so far as respects such declaration.

I further make known that whether it be competent for me as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy to declare the slaves of any State or States free, and whether at any time in any case it shall have become a necessity indispensable to the maintenance of the Government to exercise such supposed power are questions which under my responsibility I reserve to myself and which I cannot feel justified in leaving to the decision of commanders in the field. These are totally different questions from those of police regulations in armies and camps.


On the 6th day of March last by a special message I recommended to Congress the adoption of a joint resolution to be substantially as follows:

Resolved, That the United States ought to co-operate with any State which may adopt a gradual abolishment of slavery, giving to such State pecuniary aid to be used by such State in its discretion to compensate for the inconveniences public and private produced by such change of system.

The resolution in the language above quoted was adopted by large majorities in both branches of Congress and now stands an authentic, definite and solemn proposal of the nation to the States and people most immediately interested in the subject-matter. To the people of those States I now earnestly appeal; I do not argue, I beseech you to make the argument for yourselves; you cannot if you would be blind to the signs of the times; I beg of you a calm and an enlarged consideration of them, ranging if it may be far above personal and partisan politics. This proposal makes common cause for a common object casting no reproaches upon any; it acts not the Pharisee. The changes it contemplates would come gently as the dews of Heaven, not rending or wrecking anything. Will you not embrace it? So much good has not been done by one effort in all past time as in the Providence of God it is now your high privilege to do. May the vast future not have to lament that you have neglected it.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington this nineteenth day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-sixth.


By the President:

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.



Hon. B. M. STANTON, Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.

SIR: ... There is much true loyalty here and all people are heartily sick of the war and are very much exercised lest their own State should be made the next battle-ground. They have been taught that the institution of slavery which their leaders have made them believe is a great element of strength is in fact an element of weakness. Wherever the Union arms have made a lodgment they have lost the entire control of their slaves, and they are quite convinced that if the slave States formed a recognized government independent of the North we would not make war upon them with the same leniency that we do now but would use this element against them with very great success.


I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. B. BURNSIDE, Major-General, Commanding Department of North Carolina.



Resolution adopted by the House of Representatives June 9, 1862.

Resolved, That the Secretary of War be directed to inform this House if General Hunter of the Department of South Carolina has organized a regiment of South Carolina volunteers for the defense of the Union composed of black men (fugitive slaves) and appointed the colonel and other officers to command them.

Second. Was he authorized by the Department to organize and muster into the Army of the United States as soldiers the fugitive or captive slaves?

Third. Has he been furnished with clothing, uniforms, &c., for such force?

Fourth. Has he been furnished by order of the Department of War with arms to be placed in the hands of these slaves?

Fifth. To report any orders given said Hunter and correspondence between him and the Department.


WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington, June 14, 1862.

Hon. GALUSHA A. GROW, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

SIR: ... I have the honor to inform the House-

1. That this Department has no official information whether General Hunter, of the Department of the South, has or has not organized a regiment of South Carolina Volunteers for the defense of the Union composed of black men-fugitive slaves-and appointed the colonel and other officers to command them. In order to ascertain whether he has done so or not a copy of the House resolution has been transmitted to General Hunter with instructions to make immediate report thereon.

2. General Hunter was not authorized by the Department to organize and muster into the Army of the United States the fugitive or captive slaves.

3. General Hunter upon his requisition as commander of the [Department of the] South has been furnished with clothing and arms for the force under his command without instructions as to how they should be used.

4. He has not been furnished by order of the Department of War with arms to be placed in the hands of “these slaves.”

5. In respect to so much of said resolution as directs the Secretary “to report, to the House any orders given said Hunter, and correspondence between him and the Department,” the President instructs me to answer that the report at this time of the orders given to and correspondence between General Hunter and this Department would, in his opinion, be improper and incompatible with the public welfare.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.



Hon. EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.

SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of a communication from the Adjutant-General of the Army, dated June 13, 1862, {p.821} requesting me to furnish you with the information necessary to answer certain resolutions introduced in the House of Representatives June 9, 1862, on motion of the Hon. Mr. Wickliffe, of Kentucky, their substance being to inquire:

1. Whether I had organized or was organizing a regiment of “fugitive slaves” in this department?

2. Whether any authority had been given to me from the War Department for such organization; and

3. Whether I had been furnished by the War Department with clothing, uniforms, arms, equipments, etc., for such a force?

Only having received the letter covering these inquiries at a late hour on Saturday night I urge forward my answer in time for the steamer sailing to-day (Monday), this haste preventing me from entering as minutely as I could wish upon many points of detail such as the paramount importance of the subject calls for. But in view of the near termination of the present session of Congress and the widespread interest which must have been awakened by Mr. Wickliffe’s resolutions I prefer sending even this imperfect answer to waiting the period necessary for the collection of fuller and more comprehensive data.

To the first question therefore I reply that no regiment of “fugitive slaves” has been or is being organized in this department. There is however a fine regiment of persons whose late masters are “fugitive rebels “-men who everywhere fly before the appearance of the national flag, leaving their servants behind them to shift as best they can for themselves. So far indeed are the loyal persons composing this regiment from seeking to avoid the presence of their late owners that they are now one and all working with remarkable industry to place themselves in a position to go in full and effective pursuit of their fugacious and traitorous proprietors.

To the second question I have the honor to answer that the instructions** given to Brig. Gen. T. W. Sherman by the Hon. Simon Cameron, late Secretary of War, and turned over to me by succession for my guidance do distinctly authorize me to employ all loyal persons offering their services in defense of the Union and for the suppression of this rebellion in any manner I might see fit or that the circumstances might call for. There is no restriction as to the character or color of the persons to be employed or the nature of the employment-whether civil or military-in which their services should be used. I conclude therefore that I have been authorized to enlist “fugitive slaves” as soldiers could any such be found in this department. No such characters however have yet appeared within view of our most advanced pickets-the loyal slaves everywhere remaining on their plantations to welcome us, aid us and supply us with food, labor and information. It is the masters who have in every instance been the “fugitives,” running away from loyal slaves and loyal soldiers and whom we have only partially been able to see-chiefly their heads over ramparts or rifle in hand dodging behind trees in the extreme distance. In the absence of any “fugitive-master law” the deserted slaves would be wholly without remedy had not the crime of treason given them the right to pursue, capture and bring back those persons of whose protection they have been thus suddenly bereft.

To the third interrogatory it is my painful duty to reply that I never have received any specific authority for issues of clothing, uniforms, arms, equipments and so forth to the troops in question. My general {p.822} instructions from Mr. Cameron to employ them in any manner I might find necessary, and the military exigencies of the department and the country being my only but in my judgment sufficient justification. Neither have I had any specific authority for supplying these persons with shovels, spades and pickaxes when employing them as laborers, nor with boats and oars when using them as lightermen; but these are not points included in Mr. Wickliffe’s resolution. To me it seemed that liberty to employ men in any particular capacity implied with it liberty also to supply them with the necessary tools and acting upon this faith I have clothed, equipped and armed the only loyal regiment yet raised in South Carolina.

I must say, in vindication of my own conduct, that had it not been for the many other diversified and imperative claims on my time and attention a much more satisfactory result might have been hoped for, and that in place of only one, as at present, at least five or six well-drilled, brave and thoroughly-acclimated regiments should by this time have been added to the loyal forces of the Union. The experiment of arming the blacks, so far as I have made it, has been a complete and even marvelous success. They are sober, docile, attentive and enthusiastic, displaying great natural capabilities for acquiring the duties of the soldier. They are eager beyond all things to take the field and be led into action and it is the unanimous opinion of the officers who have had charge of them that in the peculiarities of this climate and country they will prove invaluable auxiliaries, fully equal to the similar regiments so long and successfully used by the British authorities in the West India islands.

In conclusion I would say it is my hope-there appearing no possibility of other re-enforcements, owing to the exigencies of the campaign in the Peninsula to have organized by the end of next fall, and to be able to present to the Government, from 48,000 to 50,000 of these hardy and devoted soldiers.

Trusting that this letter may form part of your answer to Mr. Wickliffe’s resolutions,

I have the honor to be, most respectfully, your obedient servant,

D. HUNTER, Major-General, Commanding.

* Secretary Stanton’s letter of July 2, 1862, transmitting this letter to the House of Representatives, is omitted as unimportant.

** For Cameron’s instructions to T. W. Sherman, see p. 773. See also Cameron to Butler, May 30, 1861, p. 754, and Cameron to Butler, August 5, 1861, p. 761.


Main TitleThe War of the Rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies.
Corporate NameUnited States. War Department.
Published/Created[S.l.], L.McKee and C.G. Robertson, 1859.
ContentsSer. I. v. 1-53 [serial no. 1-111] Formal reports, both Union and Confederate, of the first seizures of United States property in the southern states, and of all military operations in the field, with the correspondence, order and returns relating specially thereto. 1880-1898. 111 v.--ser. II. v. 1-8 [serial no. 114-121] Correspondence, orders, reports and returns, Union and Confederate, relating to prisoners of war and to state or political prisoners. 1894 [i.e. 1898]-1899. 8 v.--ser. III. v. 1-5 [serial no. 122-126] Correspondence, orders, reports and returns of the Union authorities (embracing their correspondence with the Confederate officials) note relating specially to the subjects of the first and second series. It embraces the reports of the Secretary of War, of the general-in-chief and of the chiefs of the several staff corps and departments ... 1899-1900. 5 v.--ser. IV. v. 1-3 [serial no. 127-129] Correspondence, orders, reports and returns of the Confederate authorities, similar to that indicated for the Union officials, as of the third series, but including the correspondence between the Union and Confederate authorities given in that series. 1900. 3 v.--[serial no. 130] General index and additions and corrections. Mr. John S. Moodey, indexer. Preface [by Elihu Root, Secretary of War]. Explanations. Synopsis of the contents of volumes. Special index for the principal armies, army corps, military divisions and departments. General index. Additions and corrections [arranged consecutively by volumes]. 1901.