MEMPHIS, TENN., September 16, 1863-9 p. m.
DEAR RAWLINS: I saw Mr. Sargent this afternoon, and learned from him the purport of your dispatch concerning the cavalry and the satisfaction given him by Colonel Binmore.
It seems, from all I can learn by conversing with General Grierson and Colonel Binmore, that it was agreed by General Grant and General Hurlbut that the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, Eleventh Illinois, and Tenth Missouri Cavalry should go.
This arrangement don't seem to meet the case at all, for, in the first place, you get no colonel who is worth more than Mudd, Clark Wright, or Mussey-in fact, none of these regiments have a colonel-so that your cavalry simply becomes an armed mob with no one to control it. None of the three regiments selected are in anything like a creditable state of organization, discipline, or equipment.
In the second place, my understanding of the case was that you wanted a cavalry commander quite as badly as the cavalry itself, and I have only to say on that head that I always thought Hatch Grierson's superior, and to-day I became thoroughly convinced that my judgment was properly founded. I inspected the Second Iowa this afternoon, and I say to you what I said to Hatch, that, though it is not all that cavalry should be, it is by far the best cavalry regiment in the Department of the Tennessee; and what is more, Hatch is the best officer and ought to be sent down. From what Sargent said, you probably take the same view of the case, and therefore wish Hatch's regiment to be sent. Hurlbut (who by the way, between me and you, is small enough to be envious and jealous of General Grant) knows fully the worth of Hatch's regiment, and will retain it here unless your order it down.
I don't like this "part of the machine." We have too many generals engaged in semi-civil affairs, to the utter neglect of their military duties. I have not yet seen a general but he was commanding a "post," or "district," or a "city." I have reviewed and inspected nearly all of the Sixteenth Army Corps, and have not yet seen any part of the troops on the parade ground commanded by a general. This may be a little surprising to you, but is nevertheless true. These distinguished gentlemen should be required to assume command of their men as their first duty, and dispose of civil and trade business afterward. They should be held responsible for the discipline, order, and instruction of their troops, and give their first attention to these matters rather than devote their undivided time to cotton, Confederates, and corruption. I tell you, sir, the Government of the United States cannot be upheld in purity and honesty by hands that lay aside the sword for instruments of trade and peace. We want soldiers, no traders; generals, not governors and civil agents. A few hundred thousand bayonets led by clear heads and military rules can crush the rebellion, but a million without military generals can do nothing except by main strength and awkwardness. The system of occupying undisputed territory is all wrong. We must put our armies in the field and compel our generals to lead them against the enemy, and if they fail from ignorance put them aside. I am disgusted with the whole system.*
Pardon this hasty note, and believe me, devotedly, your friend,
J. H. WILSON.
*Some purely personal matter here omitted.