never will. I will not even turn them out of my lines if I know or suspect their owners or their agents are in waiting to seize them. Such a course would be not only a violation of the spirit of the law, but repugnant to my own feelings; but while I am unwilling that any of my troops should become "slave catchers, " I consider it my sworn duty to see that they do not contract the demoralizing habit of indiscriminate appropriation of private property, particularly slave property; in the loyal State and among the loyal people of Kentucky. They are not here for that purpose.
I claim the right, under existing laws and orders and the usage and custom of war, to exercise entire military control over all non-combatants within my lines, whether clerks, teamsters, or servants, regardless of their color or social position. Any compulsory restriction of that right in the field would ruin any army, but especially a Union army in a slave State, and convert it into an ungovernable and licentious mob. If I have no right to keep contrabands beyond my lines, it is my duty to harbor them; and if bound to receive one, I am equally bound to receive thousands, without regard to sex, until every soldier, restrained only by individual caprice or lust, would have with him a negro man or negro woman, and this colossal and debauching abuse would find its only practical limit in satiety. What honor could such an army expect to reap on the field of battle! what punishment would be too severe for the commander who would prostitute it to such ignoble ends!
Aside from considerations of professional utility and propriety, I have no feeling in this matter. It is not my aim to harm the negro or specially to serve the master but to serve and save from debasing vices the gallant soldiers intrusted to my care and prepare them from the honors and dangers of the day of battle. I claim to be a philanthropist, and shall rejoice to see every slave free in a legal and constitutional way at the proper time and in the proper manner; but it is not my duty in Kentucky to free them,and would not be if I held supreme command here, and I do not intend to become their custodian, to the demoralization of my command. When ordered to do so, I will discharge the duty to the best of my ability. Until then I shall exercise, at my discretion, under restrictions from superior authority, the right to send them away whenever they become a serious impediment to the discipline and efficiency of my command. Nothing short of this would satisfy my convictions of the duty I owe my country, or free me from the charge of incompetency and neglect.
Please excuse the blunt and unfinished manner in which, for want
of time, I am compelled to express my opinions, and believe me, respectfully,your obedient servant,
Q. A. GILLMORE,
HEADQUARTERS FOURTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND,
Nashville, December 12, 1862
General BRAXTON BRAGG:
GENERAL: Your reply to my complaint about the crippled soldier, containing,as I understand, a denial by you that he was permitted to pass your lines, with a view of presenting himself at mine, and appealing to my humanity for admission and succor, is to that extent satisfactory; but as the circumstances of such a permission, resulting as it