TO SALMON P. CHASE
Headquarters Military Division of the Mississippi, In the Field, Savannah, Jan. 11, 1865
Hon. S. P. Chase. Washington D.C.
My Dear Sir,
I feel very much flattered by the notice you take of me, and none the less because you overhaul me in the Negro question. I mean no unkindness to the Negro in the mere words of my hasty dispatch announcing my arrival on the Coast. The only real failures in a military sense, I have sustained in my military administration have been the expeditions of Wm. Sooy Smith and Sturgis, both resulting from their encumbering their columns with refugees. If you can understand the nature of a military column in an enemy’s country, with its long train of wagons you will see at once that a crowd of negroes, men women and children, old & young, are a dangerous impediment.
On approaching Savannah I had at least 20,000 negroes, clogging my roads, and eating up our subsistence. Instead of finding abundance here I found nothing and had to depend on my wagons till I opened a way for vessels and even to this day my men have been on short rations and my horses are failing. The same number of white refugees would have been a military weakness. Now you Know that military success is what the nation wants, and it is risked by the crowds of helpless negroes that flock after our armies. My negro constituents of Georgia would resent the idea of my being inimical to them, they regard me as a second Moses or Aaron. I treat them as free, and have as much trouble to protect them against the avaricious recruiting agents of New England States as against their former masters. You can hardly realize this, but it is true.
I have conducted to freedom & asylum hundreds of thousands and have aided them to obtain employment and houses. Every negro who is fit for a soldier and is willing I invariably allow to join a Negro Regiment, but I do oppose and rightfully too, the forcing of negroes as soldiers. You cannot Know the acts and devices to which base white men resort to secure negro soldiers, not to aid us to fight, but to get bounties for their own pockets, and to diminish their quotas at home. Mr. Secretary Stanton is now here and will bear testimony to the truth of what I say. Our Quartermaster and commissary can give employment to every negro (able bodied) whom we obtain, and he protests against my parting with them for other purposes, as it forces him to use my veteran white troops to unload vessels, and do work for which he prefers the negro. If the President prefers to minister to the one idea of negro Equality, rather than military success; which as a major involves the minor, he should remove me, for I am so constituted that I cannot honestly sacrifice the security and Success of my army to any minor cause.
Of course I have nothing to do with the Status of the Negro after war. That is for the law making power. But if my opinion were consulted I would Say that the negro should be a free race, but not put on an equality with the whites. My Knowledge of them is practical, and the effect of equality is illustrated in the character of the Mixed race in Mexico and South America. Indeed it appears to me that the right of suffrage in our Country should be rather abridged than enlarged.
But these are all matters subordinate to the issues of this war, which can alone be determined by war, and it depends on good armies, of the best possible material and best disciplined, and these points engross my entire thoughts.
With sincere respect & esteem,
W. T. Sherman, Major General
I received a letter from Citizens of McIntosh County
McIntosh COUNTY, January 11, 1865.
Major-General SHERMAN, Commanding U. S. Army:
The undersigned, justices of the Interior Court for the county of McIntosh, have been expecting, since our county and its neighborhood are in the possession of your troops, to receive from you such a proclamation as would define our present position, in obedience to which we would receive protection in our destitute situation. Disappointed in our expectation, in compliance with sundry applications from the suffering families of our county, we have appointed one of our body, Justice O. C. Hopkins, together with any one or more of our citizens who may volunteer to accompany him, instructing them to wait on you, explain our situation and the object of their visit to you, respectfully asking of your kindness a friendly reception and protection in their behalf. Be pleased to accept the assurance of our sincere consideration. In testimony whereof we have hereto affixed our official signatures and the seal of the Inferior Court of the county of McIntosh this 11th day of January, 1865.
P. DE L. CHARTIN, J. I. C.
O. C. HOPKINS, J. I. C.
W. MIDDLETON, J. I. C.