Correspondence from L. Thomas to Hon. E. M. Stanton
April 4, 1863.
(Via Cairo, Ill., 6th.)
Hon. E. M. STANTON:
I arrived here last night, and explained this morning to General Hurlbut the policy of the Administration respecting the contrabands. He says his corps will give it their support, especially those regiments which have been in battle. He desires 600 as artillerists, to man the heavy guns in position, which he says can readily be raised from the contrabands within his lines. I have authorized him to raise six companies, and select the officers. He knows intelligent sergeants who will make good captains. The experience of the Navy is that blacks handle heavy guns well. General Hurlbut is embarrassed with the runaways from their Tennessee masters. They come here in a state of destitution, especially the women and children. He cannot send them back, and I advise their employment as far as possible by the quartermaster, and the general is authorized by General Grant to hire them to citizens who will give proper bonds. Goods shipped here have been on entirely too extensive a scale, especially clothing and other articles needed by the rebels. At least 2,500 pairs of cavalry boots are here. Smuggling from this place and on the river below has been carried on extensively. The trade should be restricted. I am assured that no officers of the command have anything to do with cotton. It is ostensibly bought here, but the dealers in it have their agents, who buy through the country before it reaches this point. It should be brought or shipped here by owners, delivered to the Government agents, weighed, and then sold to the highest bidder, the Government cotton to be sold here in the same way, this being a better market than Saint Louis. After to-day I shall take the first boat for Helena. Nothing of importance from below.