Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia,
January 31, 1863
Brig. Gen. J. B. Kershaw,
Commanding South Carolina Brigade:
General: Your letter of the 28th instant, inclosing one from Captain [George B.] Cuthbert, of the Second South Carolina Regiment, with regard to the formation of a battalion of honor, has been received.
I have considered the suggestions of Captain Cuthbert. While I think everything should be done to reward the gallantry of our brave [men] and company officers, and to promote virtue and valor among them, there are many difficulties in the execution of the plan proposed by him for effecting this object. The proper selection of the men and officers for such a battalion would be exceedingly difficult, and, even were it organized, it would be more difficult still to fill properly vacancies which might occur in its ranks. The fact is, general, we have now an army of brave men. The formation of a battalion of honor would reward a few and leave many, equally brave and equally faithful, unnoticed, and, perhaps, with the feeling that an improper distinction had been made between themselves and their comrades.
Again, a battalion of honor would be a distinct order created among us, and such orders have generally been considered inconsistent with the spirit of our institutions. The Congress of the Confederate States, appreciating the difficulties of properly rewarding meritorious conduct in the army, and of inciting a spirit of emulation of deeds of gallantry, proposes the plan embodied in General Orders, No. 93, Act No. 27, of the Adjutant and Inspector General, at Richmond. By this act the President is authorized to bestow medals on such officers as shall be conspicuous for courage and good conduct on the field of battle; also to confer a badge of distinction upon one private or non-commissioned officer of each company after every signal victory he shall have assisted to achieve. This soldier is to be indicated by a majority of the votes of his company. If the award fall upon a deceased soldier, the badge will be given to his widow, or to such relative as the President may adjudge entitled to receive it. This plan meets the difficulty in question in some measure.
I do not approve of Captain Cuthbert's plan for the reasons above stated, but, if he desires it, I will with pleasure forward it to the Department, for consideration of the honorable Secretary of War.
I inclose his letter for his signature.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. Lee
Source: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1, Vol. 25, Part 2, pp. 600-601.
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 May 4