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30. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis to Lincoln on cotton speculation charges against Curtis


30. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis to Lincoln on cotton speculation charges against Curtis


Letter from General Samuel R. Curtis to Abraham Lincoln discussing the charges of cotton speculation filed against him. General Curtis declares his innocence, expresses his opinion that the charges are an act of retaliation by unscrupulous traders denied licenses within his jurisdiction, and references his efforts to ensure that African Americans selling cotton received fair prices. November 9, 1862. The allegations against Curtis had actually been forwarded to Postmaster-General Montgomery Blair by Missouri governor Hamilton Gamble as part of an effort by Gamble and Blair to have Curtis removed from command of the Department of Missouri. Curtis' relationship with Gamble was deeply troubled. Copy.




Becki Plunkett and Stephen Vincent


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State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines

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Head Quarters, Department of the Missouri, St. Louis, Mo., Nov. 9[,] 1862 His Ex[cellen]cy President A. Lincoln Dear Sir[,] Yours of the 6th inst, informing me that charges are preferred against me, concerning speculations in cotton, is received. Intimations of this had already reached me, and pain me the more, because I know it embarrasses those who command me. Without any certain knowledge of accusers, but very certain of their emanation, and no specific charges, I can only reply to rumors and imputations which I have heard on the subject. When I arrived at Helena [Arkansas], I allowed everybody to engage in the trade of the country; but soon found my camp infested with spies[,] secessionists and traitors, dealing in cotton. I therefore changed my course, and ordered none to trade, but those whom I licensed. This excluded a great number, who were exasperated, and threatened vengeance. I knew some of them to be rogues, and sneaking secessionists. Others were wealthy speculators, whom I did not know, and who could not give satisfactory reference. Those who were excluded immediately proclaimed that I only licensed those with whom I was in partnership. I licensed all that I thought safe to go through my lines, probably a hundred; and was in partnership with no one directly or indirectly. Negroes claimed cotton which they had saved from the rebel lines. Their masters generally admitted this, and I allowed them to sell. I made rogues take back bad money and gin them good. I told the negroes who would be safe to sell to, and who would not. I did the same for white people. I adjusted differences between parties who claimed lots of cotton, and who came to seek my protection; and by this means, a thousand poor negroes, whose masters had run away, got means to which they were justly entitled, and have been saved from starvation. The charge that I was speculating in cotton did not prevent me from doing just what I thought right and proper, and I never should have responded to that charge if it had not taken this form. I have lived too long and filled too many private and public places, without reproach, to be afraid of lies invented by rebel sympathizers and exasperated knaves generally. I do not shrink from any and all fair scrutiny. I can explain any special act of mine to the satisfaction of any honest man. Conflicts with the rebels in the center of the most violent population of the South, were incident to my campaign, and unavoidable. I had to deal severely with wealthy and intelligence in the heart of the secession. In such a conflict, instead of support, I had some around me, who were willing to avail themselves of falsehood to destroy me. In conclusion, may I ask for a copy of the charges. I am ready to respond in any way, by testimony or before a Board of Inquiry, or before a Court Martial. Deeply sensible of your kindness in affording me this opportunity of maintaining my honor unsullied, I have the honor to be Mr. President Your obedient servant[,] S. R. Curtis[,] Maj. Genl. (signed)