I then requested the body of the troops to call on such of their commanders as they might desire to make and address on the policy I had announced. In this way the views and opinions of many general and other officers were communicated directly to the troops. With a single exception (the regiment from Chicago, Ill.) the policy was most enthusiastically received by the troops. The prejudice against colored troops was quite general, and it required in the first instance all my efforts was quite general, and it required in the first instance all my efforts to counteract it; but finally it was overcome, and the blacks themselves subsequently by their coolness and determination in battle fought themselves into their present high standing as soldiers.
I found the treatment of the blacks varied very materially at the different military stations and by the operating columns. Some commanders received them gladly, others indifferently, whilst in very many cases they were refused admission within our lines and driven off by the pickets. They were thus obliged in numerous cases to return into slavery. This resulted from the fact that no policy in regard to them had been made known, but as soon as I had announced by your authority the view all opposition to their reception ceased. In this connection I may state that the general-in-chief of these armies (Lieutenant- General Grant) early took steps to provide for the welfare of this unfortunate race, and detailed humane clergymen as superintendents of contrabands to see to their welfare. The general on all occasions gave me his hearty support, and was every ready to second my views. The policy, as I announced it, was that all officers and enlisted men were required to treat the to be fed and clothed as far as possible until they could be able to provide for themselves; the able-bodied men to be organized into regiments, except such laborers as were required in the several staff corps and departments-cooks for the troops and servants for the officers. I also distinctly announced that if any officer should stand in the way or oppose this policy I would not hesitate to dismiss him from the service of the United States.
April 2 I addressed the troops at Columbus, Ky. April 4 explained the plan to Major-General Hurlbut, commanding at Memphis, Tenn., and at his request authorized him to raise six companies of artillerists to man the heavy guns in position at that place; also to organize contrabands for work in the Quartermaster's Department. April 6 addressed some 7,000 troops at Helena, Ark., commanded by Major-General Prentiss. April 9 addressed Generals McArhur's and Logan's divisions, of Major-General McPherson's corps. April 12, at Milliken's Bend, La., joined the headquarters of the commanding general (Lieutenant-General Grant). At this time, as we had possession of the west bank of the Mississippi River, and could collect the negroes, I become satisfied that 20,000 troops could be organized if necessary, and first made arrangements for 10,000 and afterward for another 10,000. In case where I could not personally visit troops operating at a distance I invariably made known to the general sin command by communications what was desired, and urged upon them the utmost zeal in carrying out the policy of the Government. In regard to officering these regiments, I authorized commanding generals of corps and divisions to assemble boards of officers to examine applicants desiring commissions, and to be particularly careful to select none but whose hearts were in the work, and who would devote themselves to elevate the blacks and endeavor to early bring them