Official copy of a telegram from Secretary of War E. M. Stanton providing guidance regarding “the Jackson case" in which a plantation owner had been arrested for the murder of a freedman. Edwin M. Stanton.

Official copy of a telegram from Secretary of War E. M. Stanton providing guidance regarding “the Jackson case" in which a plantation owner had been arrested for the murder of a freedman

Vicksburg, Mississippi By Telegraph from Washington, D.C. 1865. Unbound.

This one-page official copy of a telegram sent by Secretary Stanton to General Slocum is dated “Vicksburg Miss Aug 1st 1865”. It is in nice shape; transcript included.

In it, Stanton first clarifies General Slocum’s chain of command; he was to report to General Philip Sheridan and not General George Thomas. Stanton goes on to direct:

“Your report in Jackson case has just been received. as soon as I can obtain the Presidents instructions fully in reference to the course of policy to be pursued in like cases I will communicate these to you. . .. you will proceed with the trial . . .but before executing any sentence you will transmit the records for the Presidents approval.”.

Very good. Item #009409

Following the Confederacy’s defeat, government rule throughout the South was confused as provisional governments, military commands, and the Freedman’s Bureau all vied for authority. Lawlessness was rampant with bands of robbers infesting some states, whites imposing ‘justice’ upon freedmen as they had upon slaves, and armed freedmen attacking whites in retribution and banding together in self-defense.

In Mississippi, tensions came to a head quickly. Governor Sharkey was adamantly opposed to army authority over civilians. When the army arrested a planter, Joseph Jackson, for killing a freedman based only on one former slave’s accusation, Sharkey directed Judge Daniel Merwin to issue a writ of habeas corpus securing Jackson’s release. General Slocum then arrested Judge Merwin. Stanton’s telegram was sent to Slocum in the midst of this confusion.

In a reconciliation attempt, President Johnson announced that the military was charged with supporting state governments, not controlling them, but he left the jurisdictional decision in the Jackson case to the Attorney General who sided with Slocum.

Dissatisfied, Sharkey ordered his counties to establish a militia company and assume provost duties, eliminating the need for soldiers to do so. Slocum countermanded Sharkey’s order, and President Johnson once more became involved.

On August 21st President Johnson sent Sharkey a letter countermanding Slocum but recommending caution, “I would not organize the militia until farther advances are made in the restoration of State Authority.” Further he promised that “The Military Authority and the suspension of the writ of Habeas Corpus will be withdrawn at the earliest moment it is deemed safe to do so.” While not a complete victory, the President’s support of Sharkey’s Provisional Government encouraged Alabama and Georgia—followed by the other states—to press for their own autonomy. (See Fitzgerald’s The Union League Movement. . ., “William Lewis Sharkey” in the online Mississippi Encyclopedia, Bradley’s The Army and Reconstruction: 1865-1877, The Papers of Andrew Johnson Vol. 8, and Permin’s Reunion without Compromise.)

This is the seemingly innocuous telegram that began President Johnson’s deliberations regarding the path Reconstruction would soon take throughout the South and lead to his impeachment by Radical Republicans.

Very scarce; nothing related to the Jackson Case has been sold at auction, however one institution holds a letter regarding the arrest of Joseph Jackson.

Price: $500.00

See all items in Crime & Fire, Documents, History, Military
See all items by