Headquarters, Army of the Tennessee, Bridgeport, Alabama
John E. Smith’s division started today. I ordered him to leave at Bridgeport the sick as camp guard, and all tents and baggage not absolutely necessary. Wagons were to be loaded with forage and provisions (roads are as bad as possible, and no wagon should have more than 2,000 weight) He is to cross the Tennessee at Bridgeport and come up by Shellmound and Whiteside’s. The other two divisions must follow on the 19th and all possible expedition used.
I have had a number of letter to answer before I left. I sent the following to General Dodge:
General G. M. DODGE, Pulaski:
Your disposition of your command meets my approval. If you were to see the desolation of this whole country, and the wretched condition of the horses and mules, you would be content with your lot. Keep your mounted men active collecting horses and mules. Mount more regiments. Watch Lamb’s Ferry close,and handle the country back of Florence and Savannah without gloves. The moment guerrillas are quiet, then change your policy and pay or give vouchers for corn and meat.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General
I sent this message to General Halleck in Washington:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE
Bridgeport, Tennessee, November 18, 1863
Major General H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief:
Dispatch of yesterday received. I was at Chattanooga yesterday, and am now moving the Fifteenth Army Corps up. My troops and animals are fatigued, and I hate to put them up in that desolate gorge, but we will try and make quick work. General Hurlbut’s messages vary so much I cannot calculate. I want a good force at Memphis, and a similar one at Eastport, and if the enemy thrusts himself up toward Jackson and Columbus, we should strike inland. My orders to him are to that effect. I will write to him to hold on to Corinth, and, if necessary, to supply it from Hamburg. Indeed, I would prefer that the enemy should scatter in West Tennessee than concentrate in front of this army.
All cavalry disposable by you might be sent to Eastport by water, or, better, still, to General Dodge, who has a handsome force from Pulaski to Decatur, a country abounding in corn and cattle. We now have as many men and animal here as we can feed and handle, but the assemblage of an army about the head of navigation of the Tennessee can be made useful as soon as Bragg is forced back from his threatening position before Chattanooga. We should, with cavalry, strike from Decatur or Eastport at Meridian and Selma. It would paralyze all Mississippi.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General
This last is to McPherson at Vicksburg.
November 18, 1863
Major General Jason B. McPherson, Commanding Vicksburg
I enclose for your action a paper, purporting to be a Petition of certain Citizens of Tensas Parish to organize a Police force to restrain excesses on the part of the negroes. The statement of facts in the paper varies so widely from that made by General Hawkins, to whom it has been referred, that I can not consent to the prayer of the Petitioners.
My theory and practice on the negro question are simple and easily understood.
The Masters by rebelling have freed the negro and have taken from themselves the Courts and Machinery by which any real Law could be enforced in their country. By themselves, sons, friends and relations firing upon us, the Army of the U.S. in the execution of our lawful office, they have engendered a suspicion, that prevent us trusting them with arms. They must bear the terrible infliction, which has overtaken them, and blame the authors of the rebellion and not the U.S.
The U.S. has its hands full, and must first assert its authority and maintain it as against the Armies of the Confederacy, and then it will have time to give some attention to these negroes who have been turned loose by the Planters and former owners.
At present there is no law, regulating contracts of labor and no Courts to interpret such Laws or alleged infraction.
The Army is not the Tribunal, even to discuss such trivial matters. It is merely to suppress all disorders on the part of all, White, Indian and negro, but not to judge of contracts of labor or of any kind.
The white men, who want Laws and contracts to be enforced, and civil order, must go to work to establish a Government—and being the judge, I as a Military Commander say, that the only evidence of their sincerity, which I will entertain, is their enlistment in one of our organized Regiments of Soldiers, whose first duty it is, to destroy the rebel armies and then to build up the civil Goverment, which will regulate all manner of contracts, such as are embraced in the Petition.
You as Military Commander in that region and each subordinate in his sphere will suppress all riots disorders and irregularities, that disturb the peace but need not bother yourselves about the rights or wrongs growing out of differences between Masters and Servants, the employer and employed. That is none of our business, I am &c.
W. T. Sherman, Major General Commanding