30, Censorship of the press in Memphis
WEST TENNESSEE, Memphis, Tenn., January 30, 1865.
Capt. F. W. FOX, Assistant Adjutant-Gen., Department of Mississippi:
CAPT.: On the 24th instant my attention was called to certain seditious articles in the Memphis Daily Evening Democrat of the 23d instant, commenting unfavorably upon the orders and policy of Maj.-Gen. Dana, commanding Department of Mississippi, and Maj.-Gen. Canby, commanding Military Division of West Mississippi, and upon the officers and orders of the enrolled militia of the district. Also an article charging corruption on persons in high places. These articles, taken in connection, were evidently meant and intended to bring into disrespect the military authority, and to obstruct, hinder, and defeat military orders by exciting the citizens and soldiers within the command to disobey said orders. The publications above referred to have been cut from the Memphis Daily Evening Democrat of the 23d instant and are attached to this communication I directed the provost-marshal to arrest the editor of said paper and bring him before me. When he appeared I admonished him that publications reflecting unfavorably upon the character of officers in the military service or any discussion of military orders would not be allowed, and that in future he must abstain from such publications. I required him to give me any information that he might possess of corrupt or improper conduct of any officer or person connected with the military service within the District of West Tennessee, alluded to by him in said articles. He declared that he had no such information. I then required him to give me the name of any person who he had reason to believe possesses knowledge of such conduct or practices. He assured me that he had no knowledge of any such person. These questions were written down and read to him and ample time given to reflect upon and answer them. Copies of the questions and answers are hereto attached. When he denied all knowledge and information of the charges made an insinuated by him, I proposed to release him upon the condition that he would retract the statements made and publish the same in his paper of the 25th. He accepted his release from arrest upon the conditions imposed and promised that the proper explanations and retractions should be made in his paper of the 25th. No explanation or retraction was published in his paper of the 25th, but another offensive article, headed "Liberty of the press," appeared, in which he declared himself ready to prove all he had heretofore charged. The article alluded to is attached For this violation of orders and breach of his parole I ordered him under arrest a second time and placed him in confinement in the military prison. To-day he addressed me a petition, a copy of which is attached in which he retracts the offensive statements and pledges himself to abstain from giving offense in like manner again. Mr. J. M. Tomney, of the Treasury Department, pledged himself for his future good conduct and I immediately released him. I submit these facts and trust my conduct will meet the approbation of the major-general commanding.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAMES C. VEATCH, Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.
HDQRS. DISTRICT OF WEST TENNESSEE, Memphis, Tenn., January 30, 1865.
Questions propounded to W. H. McClay, editor of the Memphis Evening Democrat, when examined on the 24th January, 1865:
Question. Have you any knowledge of the corrupt or improper conduct of any officer or person in or connected with the military service of the District of West Tennessee?
Answer. I have no such knowledge or information.
Question. Have you any information which leads you to believe that any other person, whose name you can give, does possess the knowledge of such corrupt conduct or practice?
Answer. I have no information of the name of any such
Question. What high places do you refer to in your article headed "Corruption," published in your paper of the 23d instant?
Answer. I did not mean any particular places. I had heard vague rumors, but I cannot give the name of any person who uttered such rumors, nor can I state what persons or places they referred to.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 48, pt. I, pp. 685-686.
James B. Jones, Jr.
Tennessee Historical Commission
2941 Lebanon Road
Nashville, TN 37214