NA, M&O 4/20/1862

Jackson Tennessee
April 20th 1862
Maj. R. B. Hurt
Military Superintendent R. Roads
Dear Sir,
   In compliance with your request I furnish you with all the facts, which have come to my knowledge, in the case of M. J. Hedges Conductor and F. M. Phelps Master Machinist on the North Division of the Mobile & Ohio Rail Road.
   During the excitement and anxiety for a few days immediately succeeding the battle of Shiloh, many persons were attempting to get to the Battlefield -- some after information o their relatives and friends and others out of mere curiosity. Messrs Phelps & Hedges being of the latter class, as I am not aware of any other motive which prompted them. Hundreds of people visited the battle field of Belmont without any objection amongst the number many of the officers & employees of the road and supposing or not thinking but that they could have the same privilege, Messrs Phelps & Hodges set out for the Battle field of Shiloh. The representations which were made by persons returning from the field, more so contradictory, that it was almost impossible to tell whether it was safe or not. But proceeding on the grounds that if anybody else could go there and return safe, they could do the same and being governed by the representations of citizens of Jackson who had just returned, as they said from the Battle field, proceeded on their way, mistook the road came unfortunately upon the lines of the enemy and were taken. After their capture, they were, according to the evidence of some cavalry soldiers & native of Tennessee, treated with more severity on account of their being northern men. Hegdes especially, being kept with double guard in close custody, while graves himself was given more liberty to go about the camps.
   The reason of their release was stated to be, that they were citizens and were not in arms, there being other citizens arrested in the same way who were also liberated. They seemed to be unanimous that it was the intention of Genl Grant to hold them as spies, or, suspicious characters, and were only released after two days confinement waiting the arrival of Genl Halleck. He released them on the grounds that he did not wish to make prisoners of peaceable citizens. All other citizens, so taken, were released and, therefore, the fact of their release would seem to be no evidence against them.
   Another reason which induced them and others to visit the Battle field was that it was understood here that there had been an armistice of three days agreed upon, to bury the dead & take care of the wounded. It has been stated since their arrest, which I never heard before, that Phelps had a brother in the Federal Army and wished, if permissible, to ascertain what had been his fate.
   With regard to their conduct while on the road, it has been unobjectiable, as far as I know. They have not hesitated, especially Hedges, on many occasions to declare their intentions of casting their fortunes with the South. Besides, it has been the understanding for some time past that Mr Philps was engaged to be married to a young lady of Tennessee & when they talked a while visiting the Battle field I really thought that was a more blind to cover up their real intentions of going off to a wedding police. Two of our Engineers, both Northern men have been married already near Bethel and as Hedges & Phelps started for the same place I supposed they were going on a similar frolic. Mr. Phelps, if not decided in his expressing, has attended strictly to his business and evinced no disposition to leave or to aid and abet the enemy in any way. Had it been otherwise they would not, as you know, have been retained upon the road. The services of Mr Phelps, as Master Machinist, are very valuable and much needed, particularly at the present time when it is difficult to replace them.
   The circumstances of their arrest are unfortunately against them and it was very unfortunate that they made the attempt to go to the battle field, but I feel certain that the suspensions against them have been greatly increased from the fact of their having been born at the North, a prejudice which is often unjust though fortunately not always so. I have no desirere to shield them from any suspicion which is well founded, only to give facts so far as they are known to me, in order that their case may receive a fair and unprejudiced consideration, but shall confess that I have been very much desired if they had any other object than curiosity in visiting the Battlefield of Shiloh.
Very respectfully
Your obt Sert
J. J. Williams
Asst Supt