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Vicksburg, Miss. May 18, 1864

The attention of the officers of this command is called to the importance of maintaining discipline and preventing all marauding and pillaging on the part of the soldiers, while every effort should be made to punish citizens who aid the enemy, or who in any manner violate military law or orders. The punishment in every case should be inflicted by the proper authority, and in a proper and lawful manner. Every act of pillage and every unjustifiable encroachment upon the rights of citizens serve only to bring disgrace upon our armies and encourage a spirit which should be unknown among brave men engaged in a noble cause. The recent murder of a citizen by colored soldiers in open day in the streets of this city should arouse the attention of every officer serving with these troops to the absolute necessity of preventing their soldiers from attempting a redress of their own grievances. If the spirit which led to this act of violence is not at once repressed, consequences of the most terrible nature must follow. The responsibility resting upon officers in immediate command of colored troops cannot be overestimated. The policy of arming colored men, although at first strongly opposed, has finally been very generally approved by loyal men throughout the country. If this experiment is successful; if these troops prove powerful and efficient in enforcing obedience to law, all good officers connected with the organization will receive the credit which will be due them as pioneers in the great work. But if in teaching the colored man that he is free, and that, in becoming a soldier, he has become the equal of his former master, we forget to teach him the first duty of the soldier, that of obedience to law, and to the orders of those appointed over him; if we encourage him in rushing for his arms and coolly murdering citizens for every fancied insult nothing but disgrace and dishonor can befall all connected with the organization. Every wrong done to the colored soldiers can and shall be punished, but he must not be permitted to take the law into his own hands, and hereafter the officers of any regiment guilty of such crimes as that which has to-day brought disgrace upon the colored troops, will be held to a strict accountability.

By command of Maj. Gen. II. W. Slocum:
Assistant Adjutant-General.

Source: Official Records, Series 1, Volume 39, Part 2.

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