War of the Rebellion: Serial 025 Page 0172 WEST TENN. AND NORTHERN MISS. Chapter XXIX.

Search Civil War Official Records

[Inclosure Numbers 2.]

HEADQUARTERS, Memphis, August 14, 1862.

General GIDEON J. PILLOW, Oxford, Miss.:

SIR: I have received your letter of August 2, 1862, at the hands of Samuel P. Walker, esq. It is not proper in war thus to communicate or to pass letters, but I am willing to admit the extreme difficulty of applying the harsh rules of war when but a few days ago all was peace, plenty, and free intercourse, and on this ground, not officially, I am willing that you should know the truth of the matter concerning which you inquire. It so happens that General Curtis was here yesterday, and I inquired of him the truth concerning the allegations in the first part of your letter touching the seizure and confiscation, the killing of one overseer, the imprisonment of three others, and generally the devastation of your entire estate in that quarter. General Curtis answered no slave was taken by armed men from your or any other plantation unless he had proof that such slaves had been used in war against him; no overseer had been killed or none imprisoned, and the damage to plantation was only such as will attend the armies, such as marked the progress of your and A. Sidney Johnston's columns a year ago in Kentucky.

I understand General Curtis has given letters of manumission to negro applicants who satisfied him they had been used as property to carry on war. I grant no such papers, as my opinion is it is the provision of a court to pass on the title to all kinds of property. I simply claim that I have a right to the present labor of slaves who are fugitives, and such labor is regulated and controlled that it may ultimately be paid for to the master or slave, according to the case. I have no control over General Curtis, who is my superior, but I take it for granted some just and uniform rule will soon be established by our common superior to all cases alike.

I certainly never have known, nor do I believe it possible, that your slaves or those of any other person have wandered about the streets of Memphis in want and destitution. We have abundance of provisions, and no person shall suffer from want here. When we can provide labor it will be done, and thereby they (laborers or slaves) earn their provisions, clothing, and necessaries; but wages are always held in reserve to answer the order of the rightful party. The worst you have to apprehend in case you claim the sixty days under the confiscation law is that your slaves may become scattered. None are allowed to pass up the river save with written passes, and I understand your negroes are either at your plantation or near Helena. I know of none of them here.

General Curtis expressed great surprise at your solicitude for these negroes and at your application that General Grant and myself would have them restored to you or your agent. He says you had sold them all or had transferred them by some instrument of writing for a record to a gentleman near the plantation, who is loyal citizen of the United States.

I will refer your letter to General Grant, with a copy of this, and have already given a copy to General Curtis, now at Helena. If Mr. Walker can find any of your negroes here the men will be put to work; but Mr. Walker can keep a watch on them and of the women till such times as rules are established for ascertaining and determining the right and title to such kind of property. At present I know of none of your negroes in or near Memphis; certainly none are in the negro-pen or any cottonseed here.

I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,