ties of a winter campaign, deprived of customary servile labor, stripped of horses and mules, either from the needs of regular service or by marauding guerrillas, lie waste and desolate. The owners are ready to cultivate, but have no labor. It is spring, the time to put in crops, either of cotton or of corn, or, what is not least in a military point of view, those garden vegetables, the free use of which is so singularly beneficial to the health of an army. None of these things are down, except on a limited scale. The land is here, ready, the labor is here, but I know no authority which I possess to bring them together. There are many who point out and desire to hire those who were their slaves. I have no power to permit it, or, rather, none to enforce the contract if entered into. There are no civil or criminal courts, and, hence, the responsibility of the commanding officer, already heavy enough, is enhanced by the want of aid from legal tribunals.
I believe, from careful examination and partial reflection, that the condition of the fugitives would be improved in every respect by causing them to be hired, either for wages or for clothing, subsistence, or an equivalent in the crops, to such persons as would give bond to take care of them, and put them at such work as they can do, and enforcing the contract of hire on the parties. It is, however, not to be denied that a very serious risk must be run in so doing. The spirit of marauding and robbery, which gave rise to guerrilla parties, grows by use, and there is danger that they may be seized and run off to some portion of the South as yet not under our control, or it may be that parties obtaining them may misuse their power over them, although I feel less apprehension of the latter. If the fugitives now lurking about Memphis could return to their homes in the city and vicinity, and their former owners would receive them and treat them kindly until the final deteir status, much of the misery and vice which infest the city and vicinage would be removed.
In the present anomalous situation of the State of Tennessee-neither exactly loyal or altogether disloyal, but yet wholly deprived of all the machinery by which civil government operates-it is impossible for any one to say whether the state of slavery exists or not. The laws of Tennessee recognize and establish it, but the law is in abeyance; no judges to interpret and administer, no sheriff to execute, no posse to enforce. The State is exempted from the effects of the proclamation, but the military authorities, both from choice and under orders, ignore the condition of slavery. If they come within our lines, we allow them to do so, if they voluntarily go out, we allow; and all this works no difficulty when troops are in the field in their limited camps; but when the lines inclose a vast space of country, or fence in, as here, a great city, this incursion of ungoverned persons, without employment and subject to no discipline, becomes vitally serious. Especially the police and administration of justice are thrust upon officers of the army. The evil is pressing, the necessity for prompt action paramount, both from feelings of humanity to the people around us and to relieve the army from this burden. I have not considered myself at liberty to adopt any course. It is difficult for me to reach my department commander, and it is doubtful whether his pressing duties would leave him time to decide. It was hoped Congress would adopt some plan of the kind. This has not been done. The question is one not purely military, and I respectfully submit to the President the establishment of some general rule by which this difficulty may be overcome.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. A. HURLBUT.