HEADQUARTERS U. S. FORCES,
Camden, Ark., June 22, 1865.
[Colonel JOHN LEVERING:]
COLONEL: Will You please to give me the opinion of the major-general commanding upon the twelfth paragraph of President Johnson's amnesty proclamation, concerning persons except from the benefits of said proclamation. Are enlisted men and officers under the rank of brigadier-general entitled to take the amnesty oath upon being paroled, or are they to be considered under bond of the military or naval authorities or agents of the United States as prisoners of war? My opinion has been that upon being paroled they were entitled to take the oath; otherwise how could rebel officers living in Missouri, Kentucky, or any other Northern State be permitted to go to their homes as soon as paroled upon taking the oath of allegiance, which they are permitted to do by orders from Washington? The question is raised here by officers and citizens, and I consider it of sufficient importance to submit and ask for information. There is much excitement in regard to taking the oath, and many persons anxious to do so. The negro question is giving me considerable trouble. Many of the negroes are leaving their homes and coming in. Their former masters are anxious to keep them at home to assist in making a crop, promising to feed and clothe them and pay them whatever wages may be decided upon by the superintendent of freedmen when he comes along. This no doubt would be best for the negro at present, but being free I cannot insist on their returning unless I have instructions to do so. I see by my latest Northern papers that some military officers are compelling the negroes to return to their homes and go to work, their old masters paying them for their services. We cannot well feed them here, and have no means of sending them off. Please give me the major-general's advice on this subject. Quite a number of citizens are reporting the possession of mules and horses formerly belonging to the rebel Government; many of them say that the stock has been condemned and sold at private sale, some of it as long as two years since, and that it is all the stock they have to cultivate their farms with. In such cases, having no use for the stock here and nothing to feed it on, I have directed the assistant quartermaster to take the name and residence of the person reporting the property, permitting them to keep and use it, with the understanding that they will be held responsible for it if not forthcoming when called for by the U. S. authorities. Will this policy meet with the approval of the major-general commanding? There is much destitution and suffering in the country. Small crops only have been planted. Please excuse all blunders, as I am very unwell, and am very much annoyed with answering questions. I found I could not get along without issuing some kind of an order for the information of the people. Please inform me if there is anything objectionable in the inclosed order except typographical errors.
Very respectfully, &c.,
G. F. McGINNIS,
HEADQUARTERS U. S. FORCES, Numbers 2.
Camden, Ark., June 16, 1865.
For the information of the citizens of Ouachita and adjoining counties, the brigadier-general commanding is desirous of impressing upon