WASHINGTON, D. C.,
March 20, 1863.
Major General W. S. ROSECRANS,
Commanding Dept. of the Cumberland, Murfreesborough, Tenn.:
GENERAL: Some time since the President appointed General Andrew Johnson military governor of Tennessee, with authority to administer the civil government of that State during the military occupation by the troops of the United States, or until the proper State government could be reorganized.
It is understood that there has been some conflict of authority between the military forces in that State and the civil government and its civil officers as organized and appointed by Governor Johnson. This has probably resulted from a misunderstanding in regard to the relative powers and jurisdiction of the military authorities of the United States and of the officers of the civil government now excising in the State of Tennessee. I am therefore directed to communicate the following views and instructions of the War Department in regard to this matter.
A State or district of country military occupied by the forces of one of the belligerent in a war is subject to the government of the occupying power. The right to govern such territory is not derived from the constitution and laws of the occupying State, nor of the State occupied, but directly and exclusively from the laws of war. Municipal laws may be, but seldom are, enacted for this purpose. The general rules, with regard to governments of military occupation, apply to civil as well as foreign wars, with such modifications only as the particular circumstances of the case may require.
The State of Tennessee, or at least those exercising authority in that State, having attempted to secede from the Union, and having waged war against the Federal Government, the military forces of the United States have occupied a considerable portion of its territory, and the territory so occupied is governed by the general laws of war.
To mitigate as much as possible the evils resulting from a goveritary, and to restore to the loyal people, and to those who are willing to return to their allegiance, the benefits of a civil government, the President directson to reestablish the civil authorities, courts, and jurisdictions, so far as the circumstances of the case might render it practicable. This has been done, and the civil authorities so organized or restored are as much to be respected as those of kentucky, Missouri, or any other State in which war is waged and military operation carried on. In other words, the military forces of the United States will not interfere with the authority and jurisdiction of the loyal officers of the State government, except in case of urgent and pressing necessity.
To the provisional State government thus organized in Tennessee must therefore be left the trial and adjudication of all civil and criminal cases cognizable under the laws of that State, and to the courts of the United States, reestablished there, must be left all cases which belong to their jurisdiction under the laws of the United States.
But military offenses, that is, offenses under the Rules and Articles of War and under the "Common law and usages of war," are not, as a general rule, cognizable by the civil courts, but must be tried and punished by military tribunals.
It is not always easy to accurately definite the dividing line between these two classes of jurisdictions - the civil and military - for in a