Headquarters of the Defenses North of the Potomac to the Commander of a New York Regiment

Washington [D.C.]  April 6th 1862

Sir  I am directed by Gen'l Doubleday to say in answer to your letter of the 2d inst. that all negroes coming into the lines of any of the camps or Forts under his command, are to be treated as persons and not as chattels.

Under no circumstances has the commander of a Fort or camp the power of surrendering persons claimed as fugitive slaves as this cannot be done without determining their character   The additional article of war recently passed by Congress positively prohibits this.

The question has been asked whether it would not be better to exclude negroes altogether from the lines.  The General is of opinion that they bring much valuable information which cannot be obtained from any other source.  They are acquainted with all the roads, paths fords and other natural features of the country and they make excellent guides   They also Know and frequently, have exposed the haunts of secession spies and traitors and the existance of reble organization.  They will not therefore be exclude.  The General also directs me to say that civil process cannot be served directly in the camps or Forts of his command without full authority obtained from the commanding officer for that purpose.  I am very respectfully your obt Servt.

(Signed)  E. P. Halsted

A.A.G. E. P. Halsted to Col. J. D. Shaul, 6 Apr. 1862, vol. 21/240 5AC, p. 35, Letters Sent, series 3714, Military Defenses North of the Potomac, U.S. Army Continental Commands, Record Group 393 Pt. 2 No. 235, National Archives. The recipient, Colonel J. D. Shaul, commanded the 46th New York Infantry. A notation indicates that a copy of this letter was sent to General James S. Wadsworth, military governor of Washington, and to all the regiments serving under General Abner Doubleday in the military defenses north of the Potomac.

Published in The Destruction of Slavery, pp. 178–79, and in Free at Last, p. 36.