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27. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis to Lincoln on conflicts with Arksansas Military Governor John S. Phelps


27. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis to Lincoln on conflicts with Arksansas Military Governor John S. Phelps


Letter from General Samuel R. Curtis to Abraham Lincoln reporting conflicts with Arkansas Governor John S. Phelps and Brigadier General Frederick Steele in carrying out his command of the Department of the Missouri, and requesting that Phelps be recalled. October 4, 1862. Considerable controversy surrounded the execution of the Confiscation Act of 1862, which called for the confiscation of the property--and, by extension, freeing the slaves--held by individuals in open opposition to the Union. Curtis sided with those favoring the forthright enforcement of the law; Phelps and Steele, temporary commander of the Army of the Southwest, opposed the law's full implementation. Autograph Draft Signed.




Becki Plunkett and Stephen Vincent


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State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines

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Private Head Quarters[,] Department of the Missouri[,] St. Louis[,] Oct 4 1862 His Exc[ellency] Pres A. Lincoln Respected Sir; During a few days absense [sic] granted me to attend the Pacific Railroad Convention to recoup my health Brig General Steel properly assumed command of the Army of the S. West at Helena. Gov. Phelps had been there some evincing some dissatisfactions at my policy liberating the slaves of rebels; but generally on good terms with me. After I left, as I am now informed, he and General Steel took opposite grounds. Head Quarters became a place of deception [?] and folly. Negroes were scouted and sent away to rebel masters, secessionists were received in camp to hunt out their slaves and Cotton lords had absolute sway. Your order placing me over the entire Department brought these men again under my command, but not under willing obedience. Needing troops at Pilot Knob to resist an advance by McBride and others, I ordered a considerable force from Helena, where so many did not seem so necessary. Instead of moving promptly, these officers swore and ranted and finally came up to Cairo to telegraph General Halleck and me. Govr. Phelps wanted the Helena troops to move on Little Rock to inaugerate [sic] his Gubernatorial powers, and General Steel eager to maintain a separate command cooperated [sic] with him. General Halleck very properly left the matter to me and I for what I consider good reasons refused to change my order. A delay of at least five or six days is thus occasioned by this interferance [sic] by Govr. Phelps and negligence or disobedience by Steel. I hope no accident will occur in consequence of it, but I shall probably arrest Genl Steel & I thus report Govr. Phelps to you. I am sorry you appointed him. I fear his influence will be pernicious. I hope you will refer proposed appointments and promotions appertaining to this command to me. The army and the people are with you, but some accursed influence seems to push [sic?] forward false or frivilous [sic] friends. Things were getting [sic] sadly out of joint in this Department. I may have to deal harshly with some officers in S. West Missouri and in Kansas; but in all things I shall only look to the support and success of our cause. I have written you fully, because I may have to ask the recall of Govr Phelps; a step I will not take if it is not necessary. With great respect I remain Mr President Your Excellencys Most ob[edien]t Ser[van]t[,] Saml. R. Curtis[,] Maj. Genl. Camp Defiant