Such, too, is the practice in all analogous cases of offenders in all countries where law regulates and protects the rights of the citizen, and it seems to me that officers of the Army are entitled to the benefit of the rule of law which is universal in practice and founded in wisdom and on the experience of ages. As a lawyer yourself, I am willing to submit the decision of the question to your judgment.
In my military experience such has been the usage of the service. It certainly has in its favor the great principle of justice. The history of the present case shows that there is but one of the actors in the surrender not present, viz, General Buckner. I have already been suspended from command over four months. It may be four months more, possibly until the end of the war, if I am to be held under this order until all the actors are at liberty.
It will not be denied that suspension from command is a punishment, if it is not an accusation. It is one of the modes of punishment, and when that it answered, the party is restored to duty without accusation, charge, or investigation. This is in accordance with military authority and practice. If, then, there be nothing elicited in the case showing that I have offended or been derelict in duty, but, on the contrary, every circumstance in all the proof, by the first reports of the officers engaged or present at the surrender (expect one, and he absent)-if it is shown that my views of what was proper were coincident with those of the President and were urged as far as my rank and military propriety would allow-is it not a hard case that I should be thus punished for the faults of others?
I know that the President, so far as he sees and understands a case, will carry out his sense of justice. I believe his intentions to be inflexibly just, but I do not believe he has, in great pressure of weightier matters, had the time properly to consider the effects of the position in which I am placed by his order. I do not complain of the original order at the time it was issued, for I was well aware that my original report was, for want of time necessary for its preparation, but a skeleton account of the important events which has occurred at Donelson, and hence in that report I promised to prepare a supplemental one the moment my pubic duties would permit. Before, however, I had completed this report I was suspended from command. But I do complain of an deeply feel the injustice of holding me under this order until the conduct of others, not now in the power of the Government, can be properly investigated. If the actors were all present, an investigation of their case might be joint or separate by the rules of law. They could not be forced by military [power] into joint trail or investigation. The right of severance in an unquestioned one.
If my services are worth anything as an officer, they are needed in the field. If i have any reputation or character as an officer, it cannot be denied that they are already deeply injured in the judgment of the country. In addition to this injury to myself, there are many persons who are using my position and the supposed sympathy for me in the public mind as a means of attack upon the President. They ascribe as the motives of his treatment of me a secret hostility of long standing, thus intimating that he is using his official power and position to gratify personal malice. In defense of these assault of the President his zealous friends, determined to sustain him, are attacking me, believing there is something by them not understood. Thus they find a motive for my detraction. I have myself been asked if there was such ancient hostility. Even Senators of Congress have asked me the question. Under the existing circumstances of the country everything which is calculated