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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

August 23, 1864

Union Soldiers Prohibited from Trading with Georgia Merchants

Union General William T. Sherman issued Special Field Order 59. It prohibited his forces from trading with Georgia merchants except for items needed by Union troops, and set conditions under which Union quartermasters could obtain what they needed.

Sherman’s Special Field Order No. 59 HDQRS. MIL. DIV. OF THE MISS., In the Field, near Atlanta, August 23, 1864. In order to carry out the provisions of the act of Congress approved July 2, 1864, and the regulations of the Secretary of the Treasury relative to trade and intercourse with States and parts of States in insurrection, and to make the operations of trade just and fair both as to the people and the merchant, the following general rules will be observed in this military division as near as the state of the country will permit: I. All trade is prohibited near armies in the field or moving columns of troops, save that necessary to supply the wants of the troops themselves. Quartermasters and commissaries will take such supplies as are needed in the countries passed through, leaving receipts and taking the articles up on their returns. When cotton is found, and transportation is easy and does not interfere with the supplies to the army dependent upon the route, the quartermaster will ship the cotton to the quartermaster at Nashville or Memphis, who will deliver it to the agent of the Treasury Department. It will be treated as captured property of an enemy and invoiced accordingly. No claim of private interest in it will be entertained by the military authorities. II. In departments and military districts embracing a country within our military control, the commanders of such departments and districts may permit a trade in articles, not contraband of war or damaging to the operations of the army at the front, through the properly appointed agents and sub-agents of the Treasury Department, to an extent proportionate to the necessities of the peaceful and worthy inhabitants of the localities described; but as trade and the benefits of civil government are conditions not only of fidelity of the people, but also of an ability to maintain peace and order in their district, county, or locality, commanding officers will give notice that all trade will cease where guerrillas are tolerated or encouraged, and, moreover, that in such districts and localities the army or detachments sent to maintain the peace must be maintained by the district or locality that tolerates or encourages such guerrillas. III. All military officers will assist the agents of the Treasury Department in securing possession of all abandoned property and estates subject to confiscation under the law. IV. The use of weapons for hunting purposes is too dangerous to be allowed at this time, and therefore the introduction of all arms and powder, percussion caps, bullets, shot, lead, or anything used in connection with fire arms, is prohibited absolutely, save by the proper agents of the United States; and when the inhabitants require and can be trusted with such things for self-defense, or for aiding in maintaining the peace and safety of their families and property, commanding officers may issue the same out of the public stores in limited quantities. V. Medicines and clothing, as well as salt, meats and provisions, being quasi-contraband of war according to the condition of the district or locality where offered for sale, will be regulated by local commanders in connection with the agents of the Treasury Department. VI. In articles non-contraband, such as the clothing needed for women and children, groceries and imported articles, the trade should be left to the Treasury agents as matters too unimportant to be noticed by military men. VII. When military officers can indicate a preference to the class of men allowed to trade they will always give preference to men who have served the Government as soldiers and are wounded or incapacitated from further service by such wounds or sickness. Men who manifest loyalty by oats and nothing more are entitled to live, but not to ask favors of a Government that demands act and personal sacrifice. By order of Maj. Gen. W. T. Sherman: L. M. Dayton, Aide de Camp. Source: U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), Vol. 38, Part 5, pp. 647-648.