Monday, May 21, 2012

Sherman Responds to McCook: "Send Them Away"

Sherman responded three days later to McCook. Instead of approving of his subordinate's plan to put the runaway slaves to work, Sherman explained that "the laws of the state of  Kentucky are in full force" and that there were two options. Number 1, the slaves can be returned to their masters or their agents (overseers or slave catchers) or number 2, they can be sent to the county sheriff. But whatever, "you should not let them take refuge in Camp." Doing so could cause Kentucky Unionist slaveholders to abandon the Union.

Sherman closed by telling McCook that the slaves' that came to him were not to be believed and that "you will send them away."

Here's the response in its entirety:

Louisville Kenty  Nov 8, 1861
Sir   I have no instructions from Government on the subject of Negroes,  my opinion is that the laws of the state of Kentucky are in full force and that negroes must be surrendered on application of their masters or agents or delivered over to the sheriff of the County.  We have nothing to do with them at all and you should not let them take refuge in Camp.  It forms a source of misrepresentation by which Union men are estranged from our Cause
I know it is almost impossible for you to ascertain in any case the owner of the negro, but so it is,  his word is not taken in evidence and you will send them away   I am yours
W. T. Sherman

Sherman image courtesy Library of Congress

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