War of the Rebellion: Serial 126 Page 0120 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

into a high state of discipline. These generals were then desired to furnish rosters for regiments on which I would issue appointments and give the necessary authority to raise the troops. I also authorized the first sergeants of companies to be whites, but I soon found that soldiers only took these positions to obtain promotion, and if not made in a very short time dissatisfaction was the consequence. I therefore changed the rule and urge colonels to select intelligent blacks and instruct them. This system worked admirably, and I have seen colored sergeants drill their squads as well as white sergeants could. The best class of officers, as a general thing, did not offer themselves, owing to the prejudice existing against colored troops and a number merely wanted higher positions; still, some good and zealous officers were obtained. Afterward, when the prejudice against this species of troops had been overcome, a higher class of officers presented themselves, and in large numbers than could be appointed. By means also of frequent inspections by myself and two officers of my staff, the careless and indifferend more zealous ones appointed.

I remained with the troops until they crossed the Mississippi River at Bruinsburg, Miss., May 1, and afterward visited the army on the Big Black River May 5, and then returned up the river to Memphis, Tenn., to visit the corps of Major-General Hurlbut. Visited the portions of his corps as far as Corinth by a circuitous route by railroad of some 160 miles, and addressed the troops at seven different stations on the first day, twice to the troops and contrabands at Corinth second day, and to the troops at six different stations on the third day, returning to Memphis. The weather was excessively hot, and the exposure and exertion, together with previous exposure, prostrated me with sickness, and I was ordered by my physician to leave the country. After several days of sickness at Memphis I proceeded to Louisville, Ky., where I was compelled to remain in hospital over two weeks. Before leaving Louisville (June 13) I authorized Colonel William A. Pile to raise troops under my instructions in the State of Missouri. He rendered good service, and was subsequently rewarded by the appointment to Major-General Rosecrans, commanding Department of the Cumberland, at Murfreesborough, Tenn., and urged him to carry out the views of the Government, which I fully set forth to him.

August 2, having measurably recovered my health, I left for the Southwest, and at Cincinnati, Ohio, August 5, authorized Major- General Burnside, commanding Department of the Ohio, on his entering Tennessee, to organize colored troops. Likewise gave similar authority to Major-General Schofield, who was about starting on an expedition into Arkansas. After the fall of Vicksburg I accompanied the commanding general to New Orleans, La., to organize troops in the Department of the Gulf, commanded by Major-General Banks. I found, however, that the regiments of the Corps d"Afrique, twenty-nine in number, had been organized on the basis of 500, and, except to authorize one regiment of cavalry, I directed that the regiments should be filled up to the maximum standard of 1,000 before other regiments would be authorized. This wall account for there being no regiments would be authorized. This will account for there being no additional regiments raised in that department except the one referred to. The recruits obtained now brought these regiments up to that standards. Major George L. Stearns, assistant adjutant-general, having been ordered to Nashville, Tenn., to superintend the organization of colored troops, reported to me. I found that he entered into the duty with great zeal and rendered good service.