The statement of facts in the paper varies so widely from that made by General Hawkins, to whom it has been referred, that I cannot consent to the prayer of the petitioners.
My theory and practice on the negro question are simple and easily understood.
The masters by rebelling have freed the negro, and have taken from themselves the courts and machinery by which any real law could be enforced in their country. By themselves, sons, friends, and relations firing upon us, the army of the United States, in the execution of our lawful office, they have engendered a suspicion that prevents us trusting them with arms. They must bear the terrible infliction which has overtaken them, and blame the authors of the rebellion and not the United States.
The United States has its hands full, and must first assert its authority and maintain it as against the armies of the Confederacy, and then it will have time to give some attention to these negroes who have been turned loose by the planters and former owners. At present there is no law regulating contracts of labor, and no courts to interpret such laws or alleged infraction. The army is not the tribunal even to discuss such trivial matters. It is merely to suppress all disorders on the part of all, white, Indian, and negro, but not to judge of contracts of labor or of any kind.
The white men who want laws and contracts to be enforced, and civil order, must go to work to establish a government, and being the judge, I, as a military commander, say that the only evidence of their sincerity, which I will entertain is their enlistment in one of our organized regiments of soldiers, whose first duty it is to destroy the rebel armies and then to build up the civil government, which will regulate all manner of contracts, such as are embraced in the petition.
You as military commander in that region, and each subordinate in his sphere, will suppress all riots, disorders, and irregularities that disturb the peace, but need not bother yourselves about the rights or wrongs growing out of difference between masters and servants, the employer and employed. That is none of our business.
W. T. SHERMAN,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE, Bridgeport, November 18, 1863.
Maj. Gen. JAMES B. McPHERSON,
DEAR GENERAL: The division now here, commanded by John E. Smith, still belongs to your corps, and without your consent I would not take it away.
It is borrowed for an occasion; that attained, I shall try and shape its course so that it reach the theater of your command. Same of Tuttle's division; that belongs to the Fifteenth Corps, but is now with Hurlbut, and from appearances in a fair way to be broken up and scattered.
All the Fifteenth Corps, John E. Smith included, is now marching hence for Chattanooga, 28 miles, which will make one of the longest and best marches of the war.