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General Sherman on recruiting negroes in the Confederate States.

Sherman seems to have little confidence in the negro troops. He has written the following letter to the Massachusetts agent for recruiting that sneaking State's quota out of negroes within the Confederate States:


headquarters Military Division of the Mississippi, in the Field, near Atlanta, Ga., July 30, 1864.

John A. Spooner, Esq., Agent for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Nashville, Tennessee:

sir:
Yours from Chattanooga, July 28, is received notifying me of your appointment by your State as Lieutenant-Colonel and Provost-Marshal of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, under the act of Congress, approved July 4, 1864, to recruit volunteers to be to the States respectively.

on applying to General Webster, at Nashville, he will grant you a pass through our lines to those States, and, as I have had considerable experience in those States, would suggest recruiting depots to be established at Macon and Columbus, Mississippi; Selma, Montgomery and Mobile, Alabama; and Columbus, Milledgeville and Savannah, Georgia.

I do not see that the law restricts you to black recruits, but you are at liberty to collect white recruits also. It is waste of time and money to open rendezvous in Northwest Georgia, for I assure you I have not seen an able-bodied man, black or white, there, fit for a soldier, who was not in this army or the one opposed to it.

you speak of the impression going abroad that I am opposed to the organization of colored regiments.

my opinions are usually very positive, and there is no reason why you should not know them.

though entertaining profound reverence for our Congress, I do doubt their wisdom in the passage of this law.

  1. 1. Because civilian agents about an army are a nuisance.
  2. 2. The duty of citizens to fight for their country is too sacred a one to be peddled off by buying up the refuse of other States.
  3. 3. It is unjust to the brave soldiers and volunteers who are fighting, as those who compose this army do, to place them on a par with the class of recruits you are after.
  4. 4. The negro is in a transition state, and is not the equal of the white man.
  5. 5. He is liberated from his bondage by act of war; and the armies in the field are entitled to all his assistance in labor and fighting, in addition to the proper quotas of the States.
  6. 6. This bidding and bartering for recruits, white and black has delayed the reinforcement of our armies at the times when such reinforcements would have enabled us to make our successes permanent.
  7. 7. The law is an experiment, which, pending war, is unwise and unsafe, and has delayed the universal draft which, I firmly believe, will become necessary to overcome the widespread resistance offered us; and I also believe the universal draft will be wise and beneficial; for, under the providence of God, it will separate the sheep from the goats, and demonstrate what citizens will fight for their country, and what will only talk.
No one will infer from this that I am not a friend of the negro as well as the white race; I contend that the treason and rebellion of the master freed the slave, and the armies I have commanded have conducted to safe points more negroes than those of any general officer in the army; but I prefer negroes for pioneers, teamsters, cooks and servants, others gradually to experiment in the art of the soldier, beginning with the duties of local garrison, such as we had at Memphis, Vicksburg, Natchez, Nashville and Chattanooga; but I would not draw on the poor race for too large a proportion of its active, athletic young men, for some must remain to seek new homes and provide for the old and young, the feeble and helpless.

These are some of my peculiar notions, but I assure you they are shared by a large proportion of our fighting men.

You may show this to the agents of the other States in the same business as yourself. I am, &c.,

[Signed] W. T. Sherman, Major-General.
Official copy: L. M. Datton, Aide-de-Camp.

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