HEADQUARTERS FIFTH DIVISION
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, August 26,1862
Major-General GRANT, Corinth, Mississippi.
Sir: In pursuance of your request that I should keep you advised of
matters of interest here, in addition to the purely official
matters, I now write.
I dispatched promptly the thirteen companies of cavalry, nine of
Fourth Illinois, and four of Eleventh Illinois, to their respective
destinations, punctually on the 23d instant, although the order was
only received on the 22d. I received at the same time, from
Colonel Dickey, the notice that the bridge over Hatchie was burned,
and therefore I prescribed their order of march via Bolivar. They
started at 12 m. of the 23d, and I have no news of them since.
None of the cavalry ordered to me is yet heard from.
The guerrillas have destroyed several bridges over Wolf Creek; one
at Raleigh, on the road by which I had prescribed trade and travel
to and from the city. I have a strong guard at the lower bridge
over Wolf River, by which we can reach the country to the north of
that stream; but, as the Confederates have burned their own
bridges, I will hold them to my order, and allow no trade over any
other road than the one prescribed, using the lower or Randolph
road for our own convenience. I am still satisfied there is no
large force of rebels anywhere in the neighborhood. All the navy
gunboats are below except the St. Louis, which lies off the city.
When Commodore Davis passes down from Cairo, I will try to see him,
and get him to exchange the St. Louis for a fleeter boat not
iron-clad; one that can move up and down the river, to break up
ferry-boats and canoes, and to prevent all passing across the
river. Of course, in spite of all our efforts, smuggling is
carried on. We occasionally make hauls of clothing, gold-lace,
buttons, etc., but I am satisfied that salt and arms are got to the
interior somehow. I have addressed the Board of Trade a letter on
this point, which will enable us to control it better.
You may have been troubled at hearing reports of drunkenness here.
There was some after pay-day, but generally all is as quiet and
orderly as possible. I traverse the city every day and night, and
assert that Memphis is and has been as orderly a city as St. Louis,
Cincinnati, or New York.
Before the city authorities undertook to license saloons, there was
as much whiskey here as now, and it would take all my command as
customhouse inspectors, to break open all the parcels and packages
containing liquor. I can destroy all groggeries and shops where
soldiers get liquor just as we would in St. Louis.
The newspapers are accusing me of cruelty to the sick; as base a
charge as was ever made. I would not let the Sanitary Committee
carry off a boat-load of sick, because I have no right to. We have
good hospitals here, and plenty of them. Our regimental hospitals
are in the camps of the men, and the sick do much better there than
in the general hospitals; so say my division surgeon and the
regimental surgeons. The civilian doctors would, if permitted,
take away our entire command. General Curtis sends his sick up
here, but usually no nurses; and it is not right that nurses should
be taken from my command for his sick. I think that, when we are
endeavoring to raise soldiers and to instruct them, it is bad
policy to keep them at hospitals as attendants and nurses.
I send you Dr. Derby's acknowledgment that he gave the leave of
absence of which he was charged. I have placed him in arrest, in
obedience to General Halleck's orders, but he remains in charge of
the Overton Hospital, which is not full of patients.
The State Hospital also is not full, and I cannot imagine what Dr.
Derby wants with the Female Academy on Vance Street. I will see
him again, and now that he is the chief at Overton Hospital, I
think he will not want the academy. Still, if he does, under your
orders I will cause it to be vacated by the children and Sisters of
Mercy. They have just advertised for more scholars, and will be
sadly disappointed. If, however, this building or any other be
needed for a hospital, it must be taken; but really, in my heart, I
do not see what possible chance there is, under present
circumstances, of filling with patients the two large hospitals now
in use, besides the one asked for. I may, however, be mistaken in
the particular building asked for by Dr. Derby, and will go myself
The fort is progressing well, Captain Jenney having arrived.
Sixteen heavy guns are received, with a large amount of shot and
shell, but the platforms are not yet ready; still, if occasion
should arise for dispatch, I can put a larger force to work.
Captain Prime, when here, advised that the work should proceed
regularly under the proper engineer officers and laborers.
I am, etc.,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding.
HEADQUARTERS FIFTH DIVISION
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, September 4, 1862
Colonel J. C, KELTON, Assistant Adjutant-General, Headquarters of
the army, Washington, D. C.
DEAR COLONEL: Please acknowledge to the major-general commanding
the receipt by me of his letter, and convey to him my assurances
that I have promptly modified my first instructions about cotton,
so as to conform to his orders. Trade in cotton is now free, but
in all else I endeavor so to control it that the enemy shall
receive no contraband goods, or any aid or comfort; still I feel
sure that the officers of steamboats are sadly tempted by high
prices to land salt and other prohibited articles at waypoints
along the river. This, too, in time will be checked. All seems
well here and hereabout; no large body of the enemy within striking
distance. A force of about two thousand, cavalry passed through
Grand Junction north last Friday, and fell on a detachment of the
Bolivar army at Middleburg, the result of which is doubtless
reported to you. As soon as I heard of the movement, I dispatched
a force to the southeast by way of diversion, and am satisfied that
the enemy's infantry and artillery fell back in consequence behind
the Tallahatchie. The weather is very hot, country very dry, and
dust as bad as possible. I hold my two divisions ready, with their
original complement of transportation, for field service. Of
course all things most now depend on events in front of Washington
and in Kentucky. The gunboat Eastport and four transports loaded
with prisoners of war destined for Vicksburg have been lying before
Memphis for two days, but are now steaming up to resume their
voyage. Our fort progresses well, but our guns are not yet
mounted. The engineers are now shaping the banquette to receive
platforms. I expect Captain Prime from Corinth in two or three
I am, with great respect, yours,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding.
HEADQUARTERS FIFTH DIVISION
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, September 21, 1862
SIR: Your comments on the recent orders of Generals Halleck and
McClellan afford the occasion appropriate for me to make public the
fact that there is a law of Congress, as old as our Government
itself, but reenacted on the 10th of April, 1806, and in force ever
since. That law reads:
"All officers and soldiers are to behave themselves orderly in
quarters and on the march; and whoever shall commit any waste or
spoil, either in walks of trees, parks, warrens, fish-ponds, houses
and gardens, cornfields, inclosures or meadows, or shall
maliciously destroy any property whatever belonging to the
inhabitants of the United States, unless by order of the
commander-in-chief of the armies of said United States, shall
(besides such penalties as they are liable to by law) be punished
according to the nature and degree of the offense, by the judgment
of a general or regimental court-martial."
Such is the law of Congress; and the orders of the commander-in-
chief are, that officers or soldiers convicted of straggling and
pillaging shall be punished with death. These orders have not come
to me officially, but I have seen them in newspapers, and am
satisfied that they express the determination of the commander-in-
chief. Straggling and pillaging have ever been great military
crimes; and every officer and soldier in my command knows what
stress I have laid upon them, and that, so far as in my power lies,
I will punish them to the full extent of the law and orders.
The law is one thing, the execution of the law another. God
himself has commanded: "Thou shalt not kill," "thou shalt not
steal," "thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods," etc. Will
any one say these things are not done now as well as before these
laws were announced at Sinai. I admit the law to be that "no officer
or soldier of the United States shall commit waste or destruction
of cornfields, orchards, potato-patches, or any kind of pillage on
the property of friend or foe near Memphis," and that I stand
prepared to execute the law as far as possible.
No officer or soldier should enter the house or premises of any
peaceable citizen, no matter what his politics, unless on business;
and no such officer or soldier can force an entrance unless he have
a written order from a commanding officer or provost-marshal, which
written authority must be exhibited if demanded. When property
such as forage, building or other materials are needed by the
United States, a receipt will be given by the officer taking them,
which receipt should be presented to the quartermaster, who will
substitute therefor a regular voucher, to be paid-according to the
circumstances of the case. If the officer refuse to give such
receipt, the citizen may fairly infer that the property is
wrongfully taken, and he should, for his own protection, ascertain
the name, rank, and regiment of the officer, and report him in
writing. If any soldier commits waste or destruction, the person
whose property is thus wasted must find out the name, company, and
regiment of the actual transgressor. In order to punish there must
be a trial, and there must be testimony. It is not sufficient that
a general accusation be made, that soldiers are doing this or that.
I cannot punish my whole command, or a whole battalion, because one
or two bad soldiers do wrong. The punishment must reach the
perpetrators, and no one can identify them as well as the party who
is interested. The State of Tennessee does not hold itself
responsible for acts of larceny committed by her citizens, nor does
the United Staten or any other nation. These are individual acts
of wrong, and punishment can only be inflicted on the wrong-doer.
I know the difficulty of identifying particular soldiers, but
difficulties do not alter the importance of principles of justice.
They should stimulate the parties to increase their efforts to find
out the actual perpetrators of the crime.
Colonels of regiments and commanders of corps are liable to severe
punishment for permitting their men to leave their camps to commit
waste or destruction; but I know full well that many of the acts
attributed to soldiers are committed by citizens and negroes, and
are charged to soldiers because of a desire to find fault with
them; but this only reacts upon the community and increases the
mischief. While every officer would willingly follow up an
accusation against any one or more of his men whose names or
description were given immediately after the discovery of the act,
he would naturally resent any general charge against his good men,
for the criminal conduct of a few bad ones.
I have examined into many of the cases of complaint made in this
general way, and have felt mortified that our soldiers should do
acts which are nothing more or less than stealing, but I was
powerless without some clew whereby to reach the rightful party. I
know that the great mass of our soldiers would scorn to steal or
commit crime, and I will not therefore entertain vague and general
complaints, but stand, prepared always to follow up any reasonable
complaint when the charge is definite and the names of witnesses
I know, moreover, in some instances when our soldiers are
complained of, that they have been insulted by sneering remarks
about "Yankees," "Northern barbarians," "Lincoln's hirelings,"
etc. People who use such language must seek redress through some
one else, for I will not tolerate insults to our country or cause.
When people forget their obligations to a Government that made them
respected among the nations of the earth, and speak contemptuously
of the flag which is the silent emblem of that country, I will not
go out of my way to protect them or their property. I will punish
the soldiers for trespass or waste if adjudged by a court-martial,
because they disobey orders; but soldiers are men and citizens as
well as soldiers, and should promptly resent any insult to their
country, come from what quarter it may. I mention this phase
because it is too common. Insult to a soldier does not justify
pillage, but it takes from the officer the disposition he would
otherwise feel to follow up the inquiry and punish the wrong-doers.
Again, armies in motion or stationary must commit some waste.
Flankers must let down fences and cross fields; and, when an attack
is contemplated or apprehended, a command will naturally clear the
ground of houses, fences, and trees. This is waste, but is the
natural consequence of war, chargeable on those who caused the war.
So in fortifying a place, dwelling-houses must be taken, materials
used, even wasted, and great damage done, which in the end may
prove useless. This, too, is an expense not chargeable to us, but
to those who made the war; and generally war is destruction and
We must bear this in mind, that however peaceful things look, we
are really at war; and much that looks like waste or destruction is
only the removal of objects that obstruct our fire, or would afford
cover to an enemy.
This class of waste must be distinguished from the wanton waste
committed by army-stragglers, which is wrong, and can be punished
by the death-penalty if proper testimony can be produced.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding.
Satisfied that, in the progress of the war, Memphis would become an
important depot, I pushed forward the construction of Fort
Pickering, kept most of the troops in camps back of the city, and
my own headquarters remained in tents on the edge of the city, near
Mr. Moon's house, until, on the approach of winter, Mrs. Sherman
came down with the children to visit me, when I took a house nearer
All this time battalion and brigade drills were enforced, so that,
when the season approached for active operations farther south, I
had my division in the best possible order, and about the 1st of
November it was composed as follows
First Brigade, Brigadier-General M. L. SMITH--Eighth Missouri,
Colonel G. A. Smith; Sixth Missouri, Colonel Peter E. Bland; One
Hundred and Thirteenth Illinois, Colonel George B. Hoge;
Fifty-fourth Ohio, Colonel T. Kilby Smith; One Hundred and
Twentieth Illinois, Colonel G. W. McKeaig.
Second Brigade, Colonel JOHN ADAIR McDOWELL.--Sixth Iowa,
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