February 26, 1862: Grant says captured slaves will work for Union

Ulysses S. Grant

In a reversal of earlier policy, General Grant decides that captured slaves will not be returned to their previous owners, but will be employed by the Union. It had become clear that the slaves were an important military resource in the south, providing labor for building fortifications, etc. Grant preferred to have their labor for the Union rather than the Confederacy.

From the Official Record Ser 2, Vol 1, Pt. 1, p. 808

GENEAL ORDERS,
HDQRS. D IST OF WEST TENNESSEE, Numbers 14.
Fort Donelson, February 26, 1862.

General Orders, Numbers 3, of the series of 1861, from headquarters Department of the Missouir, are still inf orce and msut be observed.

The number of citizens who are applying for permission to pass through the camps to look for their fugitive slaves proves the necessity of the order and its faithful obervance. Such permits cannot be granted; therfore the great necessity of keeping out fugitives. Such slaves as were within the lines at the time of the capture of Fort Donelson and such as have been used by the enemy in bukilding the fortifications or in any way hostile to the Government will not be released or permitted to return to their masters but will be employed in the quartermaster’s department for the benefit of Government.

All officers and companies now keeping slaves so captured will immediately report them to the district quartermaster. Regimental commanders will be held accountable for all violatins of this order within their respective commands.

By order of Brigadier General U. S. Grant, commanding:
JNO A. RAWLINS,
Assistant Adjutant- General.
OFFICE OF PROVOST- MARSHAL- GENERAL,
DEPARTMENT OF THE MISSOURI

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