Chapter 11: Memphis to Arkansas post.
July, 1862, to January, 1863.
When we first entered Memphis
, July 21, 1862, I found the place dead; no business doing, the stores closed, churches, schools, and every thing shut up. The people were all more or less in sympathy with our enemies, and there was a strong prospect that the whole civil population would become a dead weight on our hands.
Inasmuch as the Mississippi River
was then in our possession northward, and steamboats were freely plying with passengers and freight, I caused all the stores to be opened, churches, schools, theatres, and places of amusement, to be re-established, and very soon Memphis
resumed its appearance of an active, busy, prosperous place.
I also restored the mayor (whose name was Parks
) and the city government to the performance of their public functions, and required them to maintain a good civil police.
Up to that date neither Congress nor the President
had made any clear, well-defined rules touching the negro slaves, and the different generals had issued orders according to their own political sentiments.
Both Generals Halleck
regarded the slave as still a slave, only that the labor of the slave belonged to his owner, if faithful to the Union
, or to the United States
, if the master had taken up arms against the Government
, or adhered to the fortunes of the rebellion.
Therefore, in Memphis
, we received all fugitives, put them to work on the fortifications, supplied them with food and clothing, and reserved the question of payment of wages for future decision.
No force was allowed
to be used to restore a fugitive slave to his master in any event; but if the master proved his loyalty, he was usually permitted to see his slave, and, if he could persuade him to return home, it was permitted.
Cotton, also, was a fruitful subject of controversy.
The Secretary of the Treasury
, Mr. Chase
, was extremely anxious at that particular time to promote the purchase of cotton, because each bale was worth, in gold, about three hundred dollars, and answered the purpose of coin in our foreign exchanges.
He therefore encouraged the trade, so that hundreds of greedy speculators flocked down the Mississippi
, and resorted to all sorts of measures to obtain cotton from the interior, often purchasing it from negroes who did not own it, but who knew where it was concealed.
This whole business was taken from the jurisdiction of the military, and committed to Treasury agents appointed by Mr. Chase
Other questions absorbed the attention of military commanders; and by way of illustration I here insert a few letters from my “letter-book,” which contains hundreds on similar subjects: