HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
In the Field, at a point 2 1/2 Miles north of Duck Branch Post-Office, 3 1/2 Miles from Pocotaligo, February 2, 1865-7 p.m.
General J. G. FOSTER,
Commanding Department of the South:
GENERAL: I wrote you on the road yesterday touching the matter of General Saxton, and gave you my reasons for not changing my orders. I still adhere to that conclusion, but have no objection whatever that you should apply to the Secretary of War direct and leave him to judge. But as to military discipline, I decide that General Saxton cannot go to a military post and do anything which in the judgment of its commander is calculated to produce confusion or disorder. The commanding officer of a post is the proper person to see that it does not become unencumbered with idle or worthless vagabonds of any color, sex, or kind. You may sustain General Grover in anything he may do as to maintaining good order and government at Savannah.
The Secretary of War is charged by Congress with the administration of the war policy, and we are bound to respect his authority and wishes, and these are contained in my orders. If General Saxton presumes on any special influence let him alone and he will commit some breach of military propriety, when you will take action. I consider he has no more control over organizations of colored troops after they are mustered and paid than the superintendent of the general recruiting service for white troops. During the inchoate existence of a regiment or company he may use it about his rendezvous for guard and police; but after troops are organized as companies, battalions, or regiments, mustered in and paid by the United States, they at once become, like any other part of your command, subject to your orders and detail. Indeed, were I in your place, I would prefer this disposition, as it relieves you of all the details of organization. As to Littlefield's duties, you can put him subject to Saxton, or your can give him the detail of any other officers and men of your command at your own option. You may require him to apply for such details as he wants, and you can make them just as you would for the quartermhe nomination of offices for negro regiments, that purely belongs to the appointing power, the President, who may delegate it to whom he sees fit.
As to steam-boats, I don't think General Easton has any feeling as to you; but I think he has an idea that Major Thomas, much his junior, is left to judge. If he knows that you give the subject your personal attention, he will be content. It would be well for you to confer with him, for I have given him carte blanche and hold him accountable as to my immediate Army.
My movements now will depend for a day or so on Slocum; but you had better be all ready for the steps I indicated.
We find a good deal of cavalry on all the roads, but they do not delay our march.
The infantry is behind the Salkehatchie, which is a swampy, ugly stream all the way up to Barnwell/
I am such obliged for the papers. All well.
W. T. SHERMAN,