Should cases arise, and it is believed they will be few, in which the law does not confer upon you sufficient power for action, they will be promptly acted upon by the general commanding in accordance with your expressed wishes.
You will, general, organize your corps according to your own views.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEORGE WM. BRENT,
The above I will remark are the only instructions I have ever received from the commanding general in reference to my administrative duties, until your note of the 20th instant advised me that my authority had ceased.
In the mean time a question having arisen as to the true construction of the term "merged" in connection with the order subordinating my department, the Secretary of War authorized a staff officer in Richmond to telegraph me on the 26th August as follows: "He says that he," alluding to the Adjutant and Inspector General, "will issue an order declaring that your department is united with Bragg's only for strategic purposes, entirely disconnected in administration."
The official authority for transmitting this will be found in the telegraph office in Richmond. It was to me an official notification of a construction of my duties, and corresponded with a previous dispatch from the Adjutant and Inspector General which defined my relations to the Government and to General Bragg. The order in question is, I suppose, to be found at army headquarters.
These deductions necessarily follow from what appears above:
First. That the commanding general compelled me, even against my expressed wishes, to retain the administration of the Department of East Tennessee, including the organization of the troops.
Second. That the department was not broken up by the order, but was "merged" as a department, with all its machinery, in the larger command of the Department of Tennessee.
Third. That the administration, both by the voluntary abdication of General Bragg and the imposition of the duty by the War Department, was devolved upon me.
Fourth. That the only legal authority which the commanding general could exercise over the troops was through me for "strategic purposes;" He could direct me to move the troops where he desired they should go, but they must go with the organizations they had received and with the administrative machinery which was with them. He could not assemble a court-martial for the trial of any one in my command; he had nothing to do with furloughs; he could not transfer a soldier; he could not deprive me of a man; he could not change in the slightest degree the organizations. He could make combinations, and, with that view, might require me to make detachments, but could not deprive me of the command of the troops of my department, which the President had confided to my care.
Fifth. The legal control which I possessed over my troops in the department remained with me when out of the department as completely as when, in July, I took them at my own option to support General Bragg. The only authority which he had over them was derived from the War Department for strategic purposes only; he could not interfere with administration; but as a means of keeping his troops together, he might properly impose certain restrictions through their commanders. The authority which conferred upon him the power over the troops also limited that power, and there is nothing inherent in rank which authorizes the assumption of powers not conferred.