Point of Rocks, Va., June 21, 1864.
Commanding Armies of the United States:
GENERAL: I am informed by Brigadier-General Weitzel that there are now at Baton Rouge some thirty regiments of negro infantry, probably averaging 500; that they have been there for a year simply garrisoning that place. I know Baton Rouge very well; with its fortifications 3,000 determined men can hold it against 15,000. Certain it is that 1,500 men under the lamented Williams held it against 8,000 under Breckinridge. I am informed from various sources, and believe that for some cause, and I think, so far as me experience has gone, want of attention to hygienic principles, the negro soldiers there are dying at a very great rate of mortality. The negro soldiers in this department are by far the healthiest troops I have. With the exception of casualties in battle the sick are not 1 1/2 per cent. not in the limits of his note, but more at length, I am convinced I could explain the causes of this mortality in Louisiana, which has been made the subject of parade in rebel newspapers and of alarm to the friends of the black man. In view of this, the need of troops, and especially those as well adapted for siege operations as the negroes are, I suggest that as many as could be spared from the Department of the Gulf, and that would be just as many as are ordered away, be sent for to come into this department. I think that 10,000 or 15,000 effective men could be got in this manner, and the change of the sea air upon their health in the saving of the men would actually pay for the transportation. Pardon these suggestions if out of place, but my familiarity with the Department of the Gulf has given me means of knowledge upon this subject which I supposed might not be readily within the reach of the lieutenant-general commanding, and therefore have taken leave to make these suggestions. If it should be thought best to adopt them I have a staff officer who commanding a regiment at Port Hudson and served two years in the Department of the Gulf, whom I could recommend as a very competent and efficient person to take charge of the transportation of these negro troops to Fortress Monroe.
BENJ. F. BUTLER.
HEADQUARTERS ARMIES IN THE FIELD,
City Point, Va., June 24, 1864.
A letter forwarded asks for such of the troops as can be spared from the Department of the Gulf, black and white.*
U. S. GRANT,
CITY POINT, June 21, 1864-10.50 a. m.
The President is here. To-morrow he will go up the river to see Admiral Lee, and requests you to join him. I will go along, starting from here at 8 a. m. on the boat brought by the President, and will touch at Bermuda Hundred for you. Would go to the wharf on Appomattox but the pilot probably does not know the river.
U. S. GRANT,
*See Grant to Halleck, June 23, p. 330.