Officers in command of colored troops are in constant habit of pressing all able-bodied slaves into the military service of the United States.
One communication from citizens near McMinnville on that subject I have already forwarded you. Many similar complaints have been made.
This State being excepted from the emancipation proclamation, I supposed all [these] things are against good faith and the policy of the Government. Forced enlistments I have endeavored to stop, but find it difficult it not impracticable to do so. In fact, as district commander, I am satisfied I am unable to correct the evils complained of connected with the black population,and, besides, I am not without orders or advice from department headquarters. At best, the remedy would be difficult to find, and I suppose can only be furnished by the restoration of civil authority. By proclamation Governor Johnson has ordered elections in March of civil officers.
I desire to call attention to another matter. From impressments, legal and illegal, and from thefts, there are very few horses, mules, or oxen left on the farms, and the few that are left are almost worthless. At present there are many large farms without one serviceable work beast on the place. The farmers are afraid to purchase because of repeated impressments. Every mounted regiment that goes through the country takes what it pleases of stock, &c., and pays what price, or none at all, it likes. Between the loyal and disloyal no discrimination is made. Unless an order be made preventing future impressments and protecting the farmers, little or no crops will be produced.
When the civil authority shall be restored, assurances of protection from department headquarters to all persons who would take the oath of amnesty prescribed in the President's proclamation, in my opinion, would induce the community almost in a body to voluntarily take that oath and seek the protection of Government. At present that proclamation is of little practical utility amongst the people, as there is no person appointed by whom the oath should be administered, no place or time fixed for that purpose. It would seem that some importance should be attacked to the administration of that oath to produce the effect designed, and should not be (as oaths heretofore) lightly administered.
The policy of seizing houses in Nashville in which to place commissary and quartermaster stores is bad for the Government and unjust to the people; it is done at an enormous expense, as rents average high here and the Government cannot afford to take a loyal man's store-house without paying him a fair compensation. A very small portion of the rents thus paid would be sufficient to erect temporary buildings, which would furnish ample rom for all such stores. Several quite extensive buildings of the character indicated have been erected and others are nearly completed, but it would certainly be better if all Government stores were kept in Government buildings, as it would save expense of labor in handling the stores and placing them in and taking them out of upper sorties of houses, as well as of money in rents.
The building of the Northwestern Railroad is progressing pretty well. The following is a report of the present condition of the road:
From Nashville: Road in running order, 34 miles; ready for grading and iron, 20 miles.