I just received a disturbing report of testimony from a rebel deserter. He claims that a white captain and several colored troops were captured at the recent battle at Milliken’s Bend and were executed afterwards by hanging. This hanging was supposedly witnessed and sanctioned by Rebel Gen. Richard Taylor. I sent him the following letter,
NEAR Vicksburg, June 22, 1863.
Brigadier General R. TAYLOR,
Commanding Confederate Forces, Delhi, La.:
GENERAL: Upon the evidence of a white man, a citizen of the South, I learn that a white captain and some negroes, captured at Milliken’s Bend, La., in the late skirmish at that place, were hanged soon after at Richmond. He also informs me that a white sergeant, captured by Harrison’s cavalry at Perkins’ plantation, was hung.
My forces captured some 6 or 8 prisoners in the same skirmish, who have been treated as prisoners of war, notwithstanding they were caught fighting under the “black flag of no quarter”
I feel no inclination to retaliate for the offenses of irresponsible persons, but if it is the policy of any general intrusted with the command of any troops to show “no quarter,” or to punish with death prisoners taken in battle, I will accept the issue. It may be you propose a different line of policy toward black troops and officers commanding them, to that practiced toward white troops. If so, I can assure you that these colored troops are regularly mustered into the service of the United States. The Government and all officers serving under the Government are bound to give the same protection to these troops that they do to any other troops.
Colonel Kilby Smith, of the United States volunteer service, and Colonel John Riggin, assistant aide-de-camp, U. S. Army, go as bearers of this, and will return any reply you may with to make.
Hoping there may be some mistake in the evidence furnished me, or that the act of hanging had no official sanction, and that the parties guilty of it will be duly punished, I remain, your obedient servant,
U. S. GRANT.
The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 8, p 400-401
O.R., I, xxiv, part 3, p 424-5