Today in History:

Secretary of War Orders Following the Emancipation Proclamation


Washington City, March 25, 1863.

Brigadier General L. THOMAS,

Adjutant-General U. S. Army:

GENERAL: The exigencies of the service require that an inspection should be made of the armies, military posts, and military operations in the West. You will therefore make arrangements immediately to perform that service. Without entering into any minute details I beg to direct your attention to the following subjects of investigation:

First. On arriving at Cairo you will make a careful examination of the military condition of that post in the various branches of service, and report to this Department the result of your investigation, suggesting whatever in your opinion the service may require. You will observe particularly the condition of that class of population known as contrabands - the manner in which they are received, provided for, and treated by the military authorities - and give such directions to the commissionary and quartermaster's departments, and to the officer commanding, as shall in your judgment be necessary to secure to them humane and proper treatment in respect to food, clothing, compensation for their service, and whatever is necessary to enable them to support themselves and to furnish useful service in any capacity to the Government.

Second. You will make similar observation at Columbus, Memphis, and other posts on your progress to the headquarters of General Grant's army.

Third. The President desires that you should confer freely with Major-General Grant and the officers with whom you may have communication and explain to them the importance attached by the Government to the use of the colored population emancipated by the President's proclamation, and particularly for the organization of their labor and military strength. You will cause it to be understood that no officer in the U. S. service is regarded as in the discharge of his duties under the acts of Congress, the President's proclamation, and the orders of this Department, who fails to employ to the utmost extent the aid and co-operation of the loyal colored population in performing the labor incident to military operations, and also in performing the duties of soldiers under proper organization, and that any obstacle thrown in the way of these ends is regarded by the President as a violation of the acts of Congress and the declared purposes of the Government in using every means to bring the wear to an end.

Fourth. You will ascertain what military officers are willing to take command of colored troops; ascertain their qualifications for that purpose, and if troops can be raised and organized you will, so far as can be done without prejudice to the service, relieve officers and privates for the service in which they are engaged, to receive commission such as they may be qualified to exercise in the organization

of brigades, regiments, and companies of colored troops. you are authorized in this connection to issue in the name of this Department letters of appointment for field and company officers,a nd to organize such troops for military service to the utmost extent to which they can be obtained in accordance with the rules and regulations of the service. You will see, moreover, and expressly enjoin upon the various staff departments of the service, hat such troops are to be provided with supplies upon the requisition of the proper officers, and in the same manner as other troops in the service.

Fifth. You will communicate as frequently as possible by mail and telegraph with this Department in detail (in cipher when necessary) the existing state of things that you may find at the time of your arrival there, with such information as you may deem proper to be communicated by such channels, having due regard to the paramount necessity of avoiding premature disclosure of military operations to which such communications are incident.

Sixth. This Department has been informed that the practice has prevailed to a considerable extent of using transports for the quarters of diers, so that the transport service is at this moment reported to be seriously embarrassed and crippled form this cause. You will immediately take measures to have this abuse at once corrected. You will require immediately every transport to be relieved from any such incumbrance, and devoted exclusively in future to the transport service. You will report to this Department any cases of delinquency which in your judgment require the action of the Department.

Seventh. Any information you may obtain in respect to the dealing or traffic by officers of the service, or under their authority, in cotton or other articles of commerce or merchandise, you will report to the Department, and also to the Court of Inquiry at Saint Louis, of which General McDowell is president, and also in reference to ransports either by railroads, boats, or wagons, or otherwise, belonging to the Government, for private purposes, and also cause such orders to be given by the commanding general as shall put an end to such abuse.

Eighth. Besides the points enumerated, you are authorized to direct your investigation to any other subjects material to the service.

Ninth. Any power not embraced in the foregoing points you will apply for to the Department, in order to enable you in the fullest manner to perform the important duty now instructed to you.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Secretary of War.

WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington City, D. C., March 25, 1863.