<br /> Lee Letter: g214

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Robert E. Lee
Recipient: Jefferson Davis

Mr President,

I do not know whether the law authorising the use of negro troops has received your sanction, but if it has, I respectfully recommend that measures be taken to carry it into effect as soon as practicable.

It will probably be impossible to get a large force of this kind in condition to be of service during the present campaign, but I think no time should be lost in trying to collect all we can. I attach great importance to the result of the first experiment with these troops, and think that if it prove successful, it will greatly lessen the difficulty of putting the law into operation.

I understand that the Governor of Virginia is prepared to do all that may be required of him under the authority he possesses. I hope it will be found practicable to raise some negro companies in Richmond, and have written to Gen Ewell to do all in his power to get them, as soon as he shall be informed in what manner to proceed In the beginning it would be well to do everything to make the enlistment entirely voluntary on the part of the negroes, and those owners who are willing to furnish some of their slaves for the purpose, can do a great deal to inspire them with the right feeling to prepare them to become soldiers, and to be satisfied with their new condition. I have received letters from persons offering to select the most suitable among their slaves, as soon as Congress should give the authority, and think that a considerable number would be forthcoming for the purpose if called for.

I hope that if you have approved the law, you will cause the necessary steps to carry it into effect to be taken as soon as possible. With great respect

Your obt servt

R E Lee Genl


Robert Edward Lee PapersDuke University Library

Printed in Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee’s Dispatches, Dispatch No. 214.