It seems to me of great importance that no white troops shall be garrisoned with these black ones, at least for the present; that it shall not be acknowledged that the black soldiers are unfit to be trusted, and the appearance of garrisoning white soldiers with them to enforce discipline should be if possible avoided. If any white soldiers are to be sent here, it seems to me that one or the other of the forts should be wholly garrisoned with whites. But I think it better to avoid even this concession to the riot of the other evening.
I would most respectfully recommend that this case be dealt with as follows:
1. That Lieutenant-Colonel Benedict be dishonorably dismissed the service for whipping with his own hands two negro drummers. It appears from evidence here that this is not the first time Lieutenant-Colonel Benedict has found it necessary, in his own judgment, to raise his hands in violence against soldiers. Such judgment is so bad as to unfit an officer for command.
2. That at least three of the ringleaders, in the use of fire-arms and in inciting disturbance in the late affair, be shot in the presence of this garrison; that the remaining leaders be sent to Ship Island for hard labor during life; that a military commission decide who shall be so executed and so transported. If this action is taken immediately I believe it will have the greatest effect on the discipline of the negro soldiers of this department. As a punishment and example it will have greater weight and force than would have resulted from prompt action on the part of the officers on the night of the riot. Now the punishment will be free from passion and come from the highest authority; it will be military justice, not the exasperation of officers threatened with violence by their soldiers. It is important that this act of discipline shall be executed by the soldiers of this command; they should be compelled to execute the sentence against their guilty companions. I believe that this can be done, and that it will end forever insubordination among the black troops in this department. The moral effect will be greater if this matter be settled without white troops, and it be shown that these soldiers can be trusted to enforce the severest tests of military discipline. In regard to this whole matter of riot and mutiny, if the commanding general will give me authority to act, I will undertake to find and execute the proper persons with the promptness the case deserves. I should like three intelligent officers for a military commission, to act under my instructions, Colonel Hartwell and some of his officers, for instance.
The condition of things here can be greatly improved, but, I repeat, insubordination is at an end; the evils which exist can be corrected by a proper administration of affairs.
I have the honor to be, sir, most respectfully, &c.,
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF,
New Orleans, December 15, 1863
Rear-Admiral DAVID D. PORTER, U. S. Navy,
Commanding Mississippi Squadron
ADMIRAL: It gave me very great satisfaction to receive on my return from Texas, your letter of November 5, with copy of your letter to the honorable the Secretary of the Navy, inclosed.