James Bingham is organizing a union guard to protect the city of Memphis. He has my blessing, but State troops must be provisioned by the Governor.
TO JAMES B. BINGHAM
HeadQuarters Department of the Tennessee, Memphis,
January 26th, 1864
B. Bingham Esq. Memphis, Tennessee
Yours of the 25th is before me. I have hardly time to do justice to the subject you present, and can only answer your questions in very general terms.
1st. Governor Andy Johnson should send you an official copy of the order of the Secretary of War to feed and clothe his recruits while they are being collected. It would need no order for me to make issues to men who are enlisted under the General Law; but these State troops are for local defense and are subject to Governor Johnson’s orders and not mine. If the troops were subject to my orders for duty, I could clothe and feed them and promise to keep them for home or local defense; but in this case they would not expect pay, bounties, &c. I would encourage all loyal men in East Tennessee to organize and arm to protect themselves and their families.
2nd. I do not think Tennessee will gain time by a premature State organization. What the people want is protection in their homes, and this cannot be promised them till the Armies of Lee & Joe Johnston are defeated & scattered; and until we can turn our attention to the small bands that now infest the Interior. These intimidate the Courts, Sheriffs, Constables &c, the only officers who can bring protection to life and property. State organizations would determine political questions, but would be powerless against the Armies of the South, that would pay them little or no respect.
3rd. Slavery is already dead in Tennessee. The moment a negro cannot be bought and sold, or when he can run off without danger of recapture, the question is settled. Conventions cannot revive Slavery. It should be treated as a Minor Question. If a convention is called in Tennessee, it should be without regard to Slavery, or any other single question for when assembled the members would naturally discuss any and all questions, and no doubt would waste more sound on the histories of Greece & Rome, than on the commonplace business before it.
4th. I will not, unless ordered, imitate General Bank’s example in any part of this Department. I will encourage the people to organize for self defense in their own way, and let order come out of chaos in a natural manner. I think if the Military Authorities will confine their attention to Military matters, that civilians will in due season attend to the rest.
I am &c.
W. T. Sherman, Major General