WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A.,
Richmond, Va., September 22, 1864.
General R. E. LEE,
Commanding Army of Northern Virginia:
GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge your letter of the 20th instant and to thank you for the full expression of your views relative to the impressment and supply of slaves for service with the armies. Concurring in your general views, I shall proceed at once to impress and collect, to the number of 20,000, as authorized by the act of Congress, for employment with the armies. I propose likewise to have all free negroes of the age for service enrolled and organized thoroughly, to be employed mainly in localities most exposed and where there is the greatest danger of slaves running away. I think these negroes, whether free or slave, had better be arranged and organized into something like companies, battalions, and regiments, after the plan adopted by the English, with reference to what they call navvies, or laborers, with superintendents and overseers in lieu of officers. From these organizations appropriate details may be made, singly or by squads, companies, or the like, for the various duties in which they are intended to be employed. Many advantages, I think, would result from this system in enabling us to preserve better order and exercise more care and supervision over the negroes so employed. The requisite number deemed necessary might be sent to the armies in organized bodies and the requisite details made by commanding officers. Orders will be promptly issued, and as little delay as possible be allowed in their execution. I hope these views may have the concurrence of your judgment.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAMES A. SEDDON,
SOURCE: United States War Department. THE WAR OF THE REBELLION: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.