War of the Rebellion: Serial 021 Page 0695 Chapter XXVII. CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. - UNION.

Search Civil War Official Records

necessary to define and limit the powers of each. My attention is now called specially to the claims of the judicial government.

Under the act establishing a provisional court and the confiscation act the marshals follow the army, and, by themselves or deputies, selected from civil life, seize and appropriate without much discrimination all movable property, mules, horses, sugar, cotton, &c., using for this purpose escorts, detachments, and the transportation of the army itself. They anticipate the movements of the army and necessarily extend to outside parties a knowledge of its movements. If the army is to support itself, as I desire, the only means of effecting this is in the power of levying contributions upon the property of the country. It is entirely deprived of this power if the understanding of the civil officers is correct as to their jurisdiction, and the army here must be supported exclusively by legislative appropriations. This is inconsistent with the laws of war, as well as with our own legislation, and reduces the army to the standard of a marshal's posse comitatus. The division now established is that the possession of the property taken is to remain with the officers of the army, they receipting to the court for the same and being accountable to the court for the property or its proceeds. This effectually destroy the right of the army to levy contributions for its support, and leaves it dependent upon legislative appropriations. If this is to be the rule it should be known. I desire to be held accountable for every dollar applied to the support of the army, whether from appropriations or enforced contributions upon the country, but it should be definitely determined by the Government whether this power so freely exercised by my predecessor with such general favor is entirely removed from the military authorities by the establishment of a provisional court. It would seem to be an utterly unfounded assumption of power. In a department under martial law the army cannot be held subordinate to a civil tribunal in matters which clearly affect its existence. The court ought only to adjudicate upon subjects turned over or transferred to it by the military branch of the Government. I beg you to speak explicit instructions and explanations on this subject to avoid future difficulties.

The late collector claimed to have entire control of trade within the lines of the army. This is equivalent to making trade with the enemy independent of the will of the military commander, because an unlimited supply of goods within the lines enables speculators at any time to extend their traffic beyond the lines. The rebel army has been in a great degree supplied in this manner. I am confident much of their munitions of war as well as clothing and food have reached the rebels in this manner. It is necessary that trade should be restricted to such limits as will prevent this result. This can be done only by those who possess a knowledge of military movements.

The State government does not assist us as it should. It brings into service many citizens whose interests are adverse to the Government and who in executing orders do it in such a manner as to impair or defeat their object. This is especially true of the police of New Orleans. It should be one of the chief supports of the army. It really does but little good and much harm.

There has been no conflict between these branches of the government, but they are not as strong as they would be if acting together. I hope the Government will see the necessity of making some general rule by which all will be governed.

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

N. P. BANKS,

Major-General, Commanding.