War of the Rebellion: Serial 007 Page 0310 OPERATIONS IN KY., TENN., N. ALA., AND S. W. VA. Chapter XVII.

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OXFORD, MISS., July 20, 1862.


Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:

Your reply of the 5th instant to my communication of the 21st ultimo to the President is acknowledged. In this communication you say:

Your [my] suspension has never considered an accusation, but as preliminary to an investigation which the circumstances of the Fort Donelson affair rendered necessary. * * *

[That] so soon as the actors in the Fort Donelson surrender are at liberty the matter will receive thorough investigation and justice be done.

I am quite sure, general you desire nothing else, and very much regret the Department could not, with due respect to absent parties, order an investigation which necessary implicates them.

* * *

This is the first information I have received of the purpose of the Government to order an investigation. Such investigation I have always desired as the only means by which my own position and conduct could be properly understood by the country, unless, from the facts as they are show to have existed, the President should relieve me from censure. How that matter would be, and what course the President would ultimately adopt, I had no means of judging. I had supposed, from the message of the President to Congress and from the order of the Department of March 11 to General A. S. Johnston, that the order of suspension in its duration would depend on the character of the information which should be elicited under that order. If the information thus obtained should prove satisfactory and acquit any one of the "actors in the surrender" from blame, then I had supposed the object of the order would have been answered as to him, and such acquitted officer relieved from the censure implied by the order and restored to duty. It was with this understanding of the objects of the proceedings that I accompanied my supplemental report and answers with sworn statements of the five officers present.

This impression was confirmed by your communication of March 26, in which you say:

As the commanding general of department (General A. S. Johnston) has not yet made his report nor forwarded any communication to this Department, and as Generals Floyd and B. R. Johnson have not yet been heard from, you will readily perceive that it is impossible that the President should now take any action in a matter which so deeply concerns others as well as yourself.

I have never regarded the order itself [as] an accusation, but I did then and do yet consider it as implying censure and displeasure of the President, and the country so understands it.

While you do not say in your communication of the 5th instant that my conduct is not considered censurable, yet I infer as much. If there is nothing elicited in all the reports and testimony before the Department showing that my participation in the surrender was such as rendered my [conduct] censurable, it seems to me unjust to continue me under this censure in order to discover in the future if something mights not be found objectionable. This looks like arresting a man upon suspicion, without proof or evidences of his guilt, which is condemned by all law writers. When such investigation is had and the result before the President it would be as competent then as now to embrace me in any proceeding the President might deem proper; but with every circumstance in my favor to hold me suspended until others thought to have offended can be got at could only be justified by a well-founded belief on the part of the Government that I could not be found when wanted.