Correspondence from Jefferson Davis to William Smith - March 30, 1865
RICHMOND, VA., March 30, 1865.
His Excellency WILLIAM SMITH,
Governor of Virginia:
Upon the receipt of your letter of the 27th instant, I had a conference with the Secretary of War and Adjutant-General, in relation to your suggestions as to the published order for the organization of negro troops, and I hope that the modifications which have been made will remove the objections which you pointed out. It was never my intention to collect the negroes in depots for the purposes of instruction, but only as the best mode of forwarding them, either as individuals or as companies, to the commands with which they were to serve. The officers at the different posts will aid in providing for the negroes in their respective neighborhoods, and in forwarding them to depots where transportation will be available to aid them in reaching the fields of service for which they are destined. The aid of gentlemen who are willing and able to raise this character of troops will be freely accepted. The appointment of commanders, for reasons obvious to yon, must depend on other considerations than the mere power to recruit.
I am happy to receive your assurance of success, as well as your promise to seek legislation to secure unmistakable freedom to the slave who shall enter the Army with a right to return to his old home, when he shall have been honorably discharged from military service.
I remain of the opinion that we should confine our first efforts to getting volunteers, and would prefer that you would adopt such measures as would advance that mode of recruiting, rather than that concerning which you make inquiry to wit, by issuing a requisition for the slaves as authorized by the statutes of Virginia.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,
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.