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From the Garnett Family Papers, Virginia Historical Society, Microfilm B16, Sec. 8. AL from A. Y. P. Garnett to Judah P. Benjamin [Obviously a draft of letter sent]

Richmond Va
Jany 26th 1863

My dear Sir

Sometime during your administration of the War Department certain charges of official misconduct were preferred against me by the Surgeon Genl, and submitted to your action. These charges promptly received the most thorough & satisfactory investigation by you. [above this line:] Having thoroughly investigated these charges you dismissed them without complying with my written request for a court of inquiry.

Within the past ten days I learn that certain malicious persons inimical to me, had revived these charges & were clandestinely endeavoring to injure my character as an honorable gentleman, by circulating the most slanderous misrepresentations of the facts. As an act of justice, I respectfully request that you will communicate to me in writing, the result of your investigation of said charges with a permission that I may make such future use of your letter as I may deem essential to the vindication of y conduct.

[A. Y. P. Garnett]

From the Garnett Family Papers, Virginia Historical Society, Microfilm B16, Sec. 8. ALS of Judah P. Benjamin to A. Y. P. Garnett.

Richmond, 28th Jany, 1863

Dear Sir,

I have received yours of the 26th inst, and see no impropriety in complying with your request that I should state the result of my investigation into certain charges preferred against you while I was Secretary of War. In doing so, I must premise that I rely on memory alone, not having within my reach the papers that remain on file in the War Department. The facts I am about to state are, however, I doubt not, substantially accurate.

I received while Secretary of War from the Surgeon General, the written statement of two enlisted me of the army, setting forth that they had each paid you a fee of four dollars, for a surgical examination and certificate of their state of health, with a view to applying for a discharge on the grounds of physical disability. - Considering that to be grave official misconduct, I determined at once to cause it to be investigated. I therefore sent for the two men and examining them as to the facts, and learned that at the suggestion of a medical gentleman whose name I do not now remember, but who was (and I believe still is) superintendent of the clothing depot for Mississippi troops, situated on Main Street near Eighth, they had gone to your private office out of the regular hours for your attendance on [page break] the Hospitals, and had employed you to examine and certify their condition, and had each paid five dollars fee for the examination. They stated that their motive for doing this was to have their application for furlough or discharge acted on without awaiting their regular turn at the hospital, and that they supposed your certificate was sufficient for the purpose, but that on finding it was not, one of them said in the presence of the Surgeon General “we have spent our money for nothing” or some words to like effect, and that the Surgeon General thereupon enquired what they meant, and on being informed by them of what had occurred, reported the facts to me.

While I was engaged in this enquiry, you had learned from some source unknown to me, of the charges made, and called on me at the War Department. You stated frankly that the facts alleged were true, and that you had acted in the exercise of what you deemed an undoubted right to practice your profession during the hors not appropriated to public service; that you attended officers of the army as well as other patients at private residences, and had not considered yourself deprived of the right of private practice on your account, during the hours not required for attendance on [page break] public duty, by reason of your acceptance of the position of Surgeon in the army, that you had seen no impropriety in doing this, but that if it was wrong you greatly regretted your error and could only say it was unintentional. On my pointing out the abuses and corruption  to which the service would be necessarily exposed, if surgeons were allowed to receive pay for official certificates of disability, you readily admitted the truth of my remark, and stated that the matter had never occurred to you in that light; that you now perceived your error, regretted it deeply and could only rely on the purity of your character during your whole professional career, and the fact of your rendering professional services gratuitously to many of the sick and wounded soldiers outside of your regular service and during the time that the regulations left at your own disposal, as proofs that your motives were not sordid, but that you had committed an error of judgment only.

After this conversation, I sent for the Medical gentleman above referred to (the supervisor of the Mississippi depot) and enquired of him what were the causes and circumstances which had induced him to send the sick soldiers to you for examination and certificate. He stated that the number of applicants during the hours allotted for examination under [page break] the rules of the service was so great that the men were much delayed, and that he had therefor advised such as were able to employ a surgeon on their own account, to apply to the surgeons after the regular hours at their private offices; that your office being in the immediate neighborhood of the Mississippi depot, he had sent the soldiers to you, as he would have done to any other surgeon who happened to be convenient; that he had seen no impropriety whatever in doing so; that he had had no concert whatever with you in the matter; that he supposed he was aiding the soldiers in a legitimate and proper manner; that he knew that your certificate had often been unfavorable to the applicant who paid the fee; and that he could see nothing and knew nothing in the whole matter that in his opinion affected your reputation injuriously. When I pointed out to him as I had done to yourself, the abuse and corruption which would result from allowing Surgeons to receive fees for professional certificated on which soldiers were to obtain furloughs or discharges, he maintained his first opinion that there was no impropriety in what you had done, that the danger of such practice was remote and fanciful, and that it was doing injustice to his profession to suppose that a fee of five dollars could bribe a member of it to give a false certificate.

After thus ascertaining the circumstances under which the men were addressed to you for the purpose of examination, I learned from their witnesses, gentlemen of the highest [page break] character and position, that they had known you from childhood as of unblemished character, and I ascertained that you were at that very time and had been previously visiting gratuitously the hospital on Main Street near Third, and patients from the army at private residences both in the city and at some distance in the country.

On the whole I became entirely satisfied that you had been guilty of an error of judgment only, that your motives were pure, that your professional character was not only upright but generous, and I conceived that it would be a cruel abuse of the authority vested in me by law for the protection of public interests, to direct any proceedings to be taken which might expose you to unjust aspersions or at least uncharitable misconstruction. I did not fear in the slightest degree that you would continue the practice whose impropriety you so frankly admitted, nor have I ever had reason to regret for a moment, the course which with a full sense of public duty I determined to adopt, in declining to order the court of enquiry which was afterwards applied for.

Yours very respectfully
J. P. Benjamin
Secretary of State

Dr. Alexr. Y. P. Garnett,

From the Garnett Family Papers, Virginia Historical Society, Microfilm B16, Sec. 8. AL of Jefferson Davis to Dr. A. Y. P. Garnett

Nov. 9, 1863

Dr. A. Y. P. Garnett


I have to request that you will with as much exactness as you can, state what message, if any, you were authorized by my wife to send to Genl. Wise as from her.

[signature clipped]

From the Garnett Family Papers, Virginia Historical Society, Microfilm B16, Sec. 8. ALS of Dr. A. Y. P. Garnett to Jefferson Davis

Nov. 9th, 1863


I have had the honor to receive your note of this date ???? to furnish you with the facts connected with the message to Genl Wise to which you refer. Being at your house a short time since on a professional visit to one of the family, I requested Miss Connie Howell to say to Miss Davis that I had recd a letter from Genl Wise making some inquiry about a wooden spoon which he had presented to her before leaving accompanied with a note adding upon my own responsibility that I thought some notice ought to be taken of the present. I reply Miss Howell informed me that Mrs Davis requested her to say to me that I might give her cane(?) to Genl Wise still ??? that she would write a reply to his note & thank him for the spoon. In a subsequent letter to Genl Wise I stated that Mrs Davis had ??? me to send her love & say to him that she would reply to his note & thank him for the spoon, that I presumed it was legitimate for her to send her love to him as I observed(?) that his Exclly had been kissing the girls in his tour South. [page break]

The above embraces(?) substantially all of the facts connected with the case.

Very respectfully
Your obt servt
Alex. Y. P. Garnett

To His Exclly
Jeffn Davis

From the Garnett Family Papers, Virginia Historical Society, Microfilm B16, Sec. 8. ALS of Jefferson Davis to Dr. A. Y. P. Garnett

Richmond Va

Nov. 9, 1863
Dr. Garnett,


I have the honor to acknowledge yours of this date and to reply that the statement in regard to myself was untrue, and your reference to my wife in connection with it an offensive familiarity.

I will use your letter to correct the misrepresentation which has been made of the message she sent by you.

Very Respectfully
Yr Obt Servt
Jeffn Davis

From the Garnett Family Papers, Virginia Historical Society, Microfilm B16, Sec. 8. ALS of Dr. A. Y. P. Garnett to Jefferson Davis

Nov 10th 1863

His Exclly
Jeffn Davis

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of yesterday in which you say “your statement in regard to myself was untrue & your reference to my wife in connection with it an offensive familiarity.” Justice to myself as well as self respect demand that I should not pass unnoticed these allegations of misrepresenting your conduct & violating the rules of propriety in the use of your wifes name. The letter containing the “statement & reference” was written on the ??? of a confidential communication to Genl Wise between whom & myself as you are aware there existed the close relation of family connexion as well as that of personal friendship. With regard to the statement as to yourself that was made upon the authority of the press of this & other Southern cities & had formed the subject of genial but not unkind remark here. As to the reference to the use of Mrs Davis’ name I can only say that I considered the message from her to Genl Wise as a playful one & my comments upon that & the statement in the papers about yourself was made in the letter to Genl Wise in the confidence of a private correspondence & not reflected to be communicated to any other person. The idea that any disrespect towards your wife or any “offensive familiarity” was contained in that letter was accursed to me, nor can I now understand how my [page break] letter is liable to such an objection to any one acquainted with the circumstances under which it was written & I trust that further reflection will satisfy you that you have made uninformed accusations against me & totally misapprehended my motives(?).

Very respectfully
Your Obt Servt
Alexr Y. P. Garnett

From the Garnett Family Papers, Virginia Historical Society, Microfilm B16, Sec. 8. ALS of Jefferson Davis to Dr. A. Y. P. Garnett

Nov. 10, 1863

Dr. Garnett


I have the honor to acknowledge yours of this date and to call your attention to an error it contains in relation to the contents of mine of yesterday.

I did not say “your” statement was untrue but the statement on which your remark was founded. Your letter presented the fact that you had “observed” the statement referred to, and though I had never seen in the Newspapers anything except a [page break] story of an incident which was (untruly) said to have occurred at Selma, I made no point on the expansion the story had undergone.

It was the reference to my wife in connection with the story for which I held you blameable, and though I did not fail to remember that your letter was to a member of your family, that did not justify a rude jest at the expense of mine, and the fact that it was not kept private as you expected must show you the propriety of my objection to your conduct. [page break]

I had doubted your motives which, I did not, your letter would have convinced me that you only intended to convey in a playful manner the message sent by you, and I think my note of yesterday bears evidence that while I felt the offence given, resentment was tempered by the remembrance of many friendly attentions which I have received at your hands.

Very respectfully
Yrs &c.
Jeffer. Davis

From the Garnett Family Papers, Virginia Historical Society, Microfilm B16, Sec. 8. ALS of Dr. A. Y. P. Garnett to Jefferson Davis

Novr 11th [1863]

His Excelly
Jeffn Daivs

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of today, and are grateful to find especially in view of the relation which have existed between your family & myself that you are now convinced that no disrespect whatever was intended by me to Mrs Davis.

Very Respectfully
Your Obt Servt
Alex Y. P. Garnett


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