Lewis Tappan to Abraham Lincoln Concerning Soldier Misconduct in Georgia Campaign

Lincoln Documents

Lincoln Documents

January 6, 1865

The memorial of the undersigned, a citizen of the United States, residing at Brooklyn, in the State of New York, respectfully represents:

That he has been informed from a credible source, and fully believes, that during the late march of the military forces under the Command of Major General Sherman across the State of Georgia, the colored people, who were following the train of General J. C. Davis, commanding the 14th Army Corps, were the victims of cruel and merciless treatment, under the sanction and express orders of said Davis, as will more fully appear from the following statement of facts, that can be substantiated by irrefragible testimony.

A large number of ex-slaves, who had told our troops where horses and stores of provisions had been secreted, and who were afraid of being killed by their late masters for giving such information, followed behind our army for protection many of them following the train of said General Davis. These negroes were no incumbrance to our men, as they managed to live off of the country through which they passed.

On the march, in order to prevent the negroes from thus following him, the said Davis ordered a bridge to be burned over a river, and finding that the negroes swam the river, and re-joined his columns, (several getting drowned in the attempt,) the said Davis caused another bridge to be burned, at one end of a long causeway through the swamps. The rebel Cavalry, being at the other end of the causeway, rushed up and commenced firing in[to] [ section missing] [wo]men & children, thus inhumanly exposed to be sacrificed, and made prisoners of all who had not been killed or severely wounded.

The undersigned, in view of the facts set forth, does most respectfully and earnestly entreat the President of the United States, as Commander in Chief of the Army of the United States, to cause said General J. C. Davis to be dismissed the service, should the above facts be substantiated by a Court of Inquiry, which the undersigned beseeches the President to order.

The undersigned takes the liberty to add, that in view of the loyalty, valor and general good conduct of the colored people liberated by the Proclamation of January 1st 1863, the Acts of Congress, the communications of the President to Congress and to the People, and the official Dispatch of the Secretary of State to our foriegn ministers, that “everywhere the American General receives his most useful and reliable information from the Negro, who hails his coming as the harbinger of Freedom”, the loyal people of the United States and the friends of freedom throughout the world naturally and justly expect that the unoffending and loyal people of color shall receive the protection of Government and of its military forces, while those in authority, whoever they may be, shall be brought to punishment whenever it shall be proved that they, as in the case already states, are forgetful of the obligations of humanity and patriotism.

All which is respectfully submitted by your memorialist.

Lewis Tappan

Brooklyn, N. Y. January 6, 1865.


From the Abraham Lincoln Collection at the Library of Congress
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