Washington, January 17, 1863.
Major-General CURTIS, Saint Louis, MO.:
You may wait for instructions after the receipt of your communication before acting on my telegram respecting provost-marshals, but care should be taken by such officers to avoid just grounds of complains against arbitrary proceedings.
EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE MISSOURI,
Saint Louis, January 17, 1863.
H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief, Washington:
GENERAL: Two dispatches are before me, one from the Secretary of War, of the 14th, and yours of the 15th, both ordering a change in the matter of provost-marshals. I have telegraphed General Loan and General Merrill, commanders of districts, to confer with them in the premises so as to make the changes, if possible, without endangering the peace of Missouri. I have replied to the honorable Secretary's letter, and will inclose a copy to you. I cannot imagine the cause of such orders being so precipitate. A little time should be allowed for substitution of any police force even in time of peace, and I certainly think in times like these any change should be cautiously, gradually,and generally quietly made. It could not be understood that the provost-marshal system is mainly effective where we have no Federal troops, or where they are few and transient. Perhaps it is supposed the State of Missouri is so far restored to a loyal condition we need no military power and should rely solely on the civil. If this idea prevails, it is certainly erroneous. I wish it was so, for God knows I would be glad to be relieved from these police guards and responsibilities. Broken up in their organizations or starved in Arkansas, rebels sneak into every peaceable corner of the State with secret recruiting papers to enroll guerrilla bands and engaged in acts of cruelty and robbery. The entire safety of the country depends on a steady, stern application of military power. This idea of having a nation half peace and half war is death to us. War is everywhere while war exists, and we need sentinels everywhere to prevent a surprise. Your telegraphic order embraces three points:
1st. Provost-marshals not to exercise power "except at military posts." If this means only where we have Federal force, it eradicates the most important part of the provost service. It is where we have no Federal force they remain to care for property, watch paroled rebels, report conspiracies, and keep our friends advised and our foes in fear.
2nd. They are only to take notice of military offenses. This is right if it is concealed that offenses may be both military and civil. But if it means that provost-marshals shall have nothing to do with crimes which civil authority can punish, it goes so far as to render them quite useless. They could not arrest rebels who shoot Union men or assemble to commence a raid, as the civil authority might act in either case, considering it manslaughter or unlawful assembly. We must have more summary proceedings in Missouri yet.
3rd. He must be an officer in the United States service or be appointed by the War Department. Most of our interior provost-marshals are not United States officers, but all in Missouri belong to the Enrolled