Correspondence from Jefferson Davis to William Smith - March 25, 1865
March 25, 1865.
His Excellency WILLIAM SMITH,
Governor of Virginia:
GOVERNOR: Herewith I transmit the requisition made by General Lee in accordance with the suggestion I lately received from you.* He informs me that it would have been made sooner if he had known that action on his part was waited for. He had previously written to you, but I infer, from the fact that you did not mention his letter, that it had failed to reach you. You have probably noticed that the order issued from the Adjutant-General's Office for the organization of colored troops looks only to the acceptance of volunteers, and, in a letter received this evening from General Lee he expresses the opinion that there should be compulsory enlistment in the first instance. My idea has been that we should draw into our military service that portion of the negroes which would **[not] be most apt to run away and join the army of the enemy, and that this would be best effected by seeking volunteers for our own army. If this plan should fail to obtain the requisite number there still remain the process of compulsory enlistment.
Very respectfully, yours, &c.,
*SEE LETTER FROM GENERAL ROBERT E. LEE - March 24, 1865
**Inserted due to what appeared to be a possible error on the source document. - Bennie J. McRae, Jr., Researcher
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.