Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/198

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

speak of your forbearance in not giving to your negro troops instructions as to the course they should pursue in regard to Confederate soldiers who may fall into their hands, which clearly conveys to my mind two distinct impressions: First, that in not giving them orders, you have left the matter entirely to the discretion of the negroes as to how they should dispose of Confederate prisoners. Second, an implied threat, to give such orders as will lead to consequences too fearful for contemplation. You seem disposed to take into your own hands the settlement which belongs to and can only be settled by your government, but if you are prepared to take upon yourself the responsibility of inaugurating a system of warfare contrary to civilized usages, the onus, as well as the consequences, will be chargeable to yourself. Deprecating as I should do, such a state of affairs; determined as I am not to be instrumental in bringing it about; feeling and knowing, as I do, that I have the approval of my government, my people and my own conscience, as to the past, and with the firm belief that I will be sustained by them in my future policy, it is left with you to determine what that policy shall be."

Let it be remembered that in the battle of Brice's Crossroads the federal forces exceeded the Confederates nearly six to one; therefore, when the federal general talks about "murdering the negro troops," he confesses his own inability and imbecility. If six men could not defend themselves against one man, certainly Forrest and his followers were wonderful soldiers.

After the return of Forrest's cavalry from the pursuit of what was left of General Sturgis' army, the men were employed for some days in burying the dead and providing for the wounded; also in gathering the spoils and trophies. For some weeks subsequently the general was looking into all matters for the good of his command. He personally visited the different regiments, examined the horses and looked after the wagons and all other matters of detail. If he found a wagon without a feed, trough, or any evidences or neglect or carelessness on the part of any one, there was serious trouble. It was well understood by officers and men that nothing short of a full standard would be accepted by General Forrest. The rehabilitation of the command,