Sunday, July 27, 1862

The Mayor of Memphis, John Park, has inquired of me about maintaining law and order in Memphis.  I communicated my thoughts as follows:


Head Qrs. 5th Division

Memphis Ten. July 27, i862

John Park

Mayor of Memphis


Yours of July 24 is before me and has received, as all similar papers ever will, my careful and most respectful consideration. I have the most unbounded respect for the civil law, Courts & authorities and Shall do all in my power to restore them to their proper use viz. the protection of life, liberty & property. Unfortunately at this time civil war prevails in the land and necessarily, the Military for the time being must be superior to the Civil Authority but does not therefore destroy it. Civil Courts & Executive Officers should Still exist and perform duties without which Civil or Municipal bodies would soon pass into disrespect, an end to be avoided.  I am glad to find in Memphis yourself & municipal authorities not only in existence but in the exercise of your important functions.   I shall endeavour to restore one or more civil tribunals for the arbitrament of contracts and punishments of crimes which the Military authority has neither time or inclination to interfere with.

Among these first in importance is the maintenance of order peace & quiet within the jurisdiction of Memphis. To ensure this, I will keep a Strong Provost Guard in the City, but will limit their duty to guarding public property, held or claimed by the United States, and for the arrest & confinement of State Prisoners & Soldiers who are disorderly or improperly away from their Regiments. This Guard ought not to arrest citizens for disorder or common crimes.  This Should be done by the City Police. I understand that the city police is too weak in numbers to accomplish this perfectly and I therefore recommend that the City Council at once take Steps to increase this force to a number which in their judgment, day & night can enforce your ordinances as to peace, quiet & order. So that any change in our Military dispositions will not have a tendency to leave your people unguarded, I am willing to instruct my Provost Guard to assist the Police force when any combination is made too Strong for them to overcome.  But the City Police, should be strong enough for any probable contingency. The cost of maintaining this Police force must necessarily fall upon all citizens equitably.

I am not willing nor do I think it good policy for the City Authorities to collect the taxes belonging to the State & Country as you recommend for these would have to be refunded. Better meet the expenses at once by a new tax on all interested. Therefore, if you on consultation with the proper municipal body will frame a good bill for the increase of your Police force, and for raising the necessary means for their support and maintenance, I will approve it and aid you in the collection of the tax. Of course, I cannot Suggest how this tax should be laid, but I think that it should be made uniform on all interests, Real Estate & personal property including money and merchandise.

All who are protected should share the expenses in proportion to the interests involved.

I am with respect, Your Obediat Servant.

W. T. Sherman



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