<br /> Lee Letter: g164

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Robert E. Lee
Recipient: Jefferson Davis

Mr. President,

In connection with the subject of bringing into the field all able bodied men, to which I recently called your Excellency’s attention, I beg leave to submit a few additional considerations.

The duties of the Bureau of Conscription and of the Department superintending the enrollment of Reserves might in my opinion be consolidated in each state with advantage. The duties of both might be performed by one. A large number of able-bodied men and officers fit for and liable to do field duty, are now employed by the conscript Bureau. I think those men and officers should be sent to the field, and their places supplied by an adequate number of Reserves. The latter I think would be more efficient, at least if we look at the motives that may be supposed to influence them. The detailed conscript engaged in enrolling duty is interested in continuing the necessity for his own detail, which would cease as soon as all able-bodied men in his district have been brought out. The Reserves on the other hand would know that just in proportion as our regular armies are strengthened, will the necessity of a call upon their own class be diminished. They would therefore more naturally exert themselves to increase those armies. I therefore respectfully advise that but one force be employed to enroll conscripts and reserves in that it be taken from the latter class and the disabled men, all able-bodied men and officers now employed by the Bureau being at once sent to the army. In selecting officers for the business of conscription and enrollment, I earnestly recommend that some be employed at their own homes. The influence their action will have in determining all questions of detail and exemption renders the propriety of this suggestion apparent. I also advise that no enrolling officer be permitted to grant a furlough pending an application for discharge or detail. Let it be their business to send men to the field who are physically able & of the right age. We may safely trust the men so sent to establish their own claims to exemption or detail.

I think that care should be taken to have an adequate force of reserves in each district, for the duties above referred to, but not more than are actually necessary. I would also recommend that inquiry be made whether any advisory boards employ able-bodied men as clerks.

Very respectfully Your obt servt

R. E. Lee Genl.


W. J. De Renne CollectionWormsloe, Chatham County, Georgia (1914)

Printed in Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee’s Dispatches, Dispatch No. 164.