HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF SOUTHEAST MISSOURI,
Cairo, December 25, 1861.
Colonel J. COOK, Commanding Fort Holt, Kentucky:
Your communication in relation to Mr. Mercer* is received. I will see that he does not trouble your camp in future so frequently as formerly. I am satisfied, however, from other evidence than his own of his loyalty and regret that he should have come so much under your suspicion. Whilst we wish to keep everything from the enemy it is our duty to alleviate the hardships consequent upon a state of war of our Union friends in the border States as far as practicable.
I gave permission for a man to go into your camp for the purpose of recovering his fugitives slaves. If General Orders, Numbers 3, from headquarters Department of the Missouri, had been complied with this would not have been necessary. Mr. mercer now reports to me that these negroes were found concelaed in one of the huts at Fort Holt and that the owner was forcibly prevented from recovering his property. If true this is treating law, the orders of the commander of the Department and my orders with contempt. Mr. Mercer does not charge that this was by your order; but after your attetnion was called to the fact that fugitive slaves were in your camp as the pass over my signature informed you was probably the fact an investigation should have been had and the negroes driven out.
I do not want the Army used as negro-catchers, but still less do I want to see it sued as a cloak to cover their escape. No matter what our private views may be on this subject there are in this department positive orders on the subject and these orders must be obeyed. I direct therefore that you have a search made, and if you find these or any other fugitive slaves in camp at Fort Holt you have them expelled from camp, and if hereafter you find any have been concealed or detained you bring the party so detaining them to punishment.
U. S. GRANT,
HEADQUARTERS FOURTH BRIGADE,
Fort Holt, Ky., December 25, 1861.
Captain JOHN A. RAWLINS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, District of Cairo.
CAPTAIN: The communicatio containing special order from the general commanding bearing even date herewith in relation to Mr. Mercer and fugitives from labor has been duly received and am compelled to acknowledge that it has taken me entirely by surprise.
If any act of mine has induced the belief at any time that I desired to oppress loyal citizens in a any manner no one could regret it more than I do and none more willing to make the amende honorable.
The commanding general gave permission to a man to enter my camp in search of his negroes, and being confined to my bed without stopping to issue my own order for the search and delivery of the fugitives and that the officers at this post might feel the greater weight of the signature of the commanding general I gave it my hearty approval, instructing the adjutant to make authority for serach good
*Not found, but see Cook to Grant, Novembere 23, p. 778.