Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia,

January 13, 1864


Col. J. S. Preston,

Superintendent Bureau of Conscription, Richmond, Va.:

Colonel: I consider it very important to use every exertion to strengthen the armies in the field at once by the regular operation of the conscript law, and by collecting all made liable to military duty by the repeal of the substitute law.

Very few conscripts are being received in this army at present. I fear that the privilege of volunteering is abused. In the State of South Carolina I am informed that a single company, called the Rutledge Cavalry, was increased by volunteering beyond its complement until it was divided into two and afterward four companies. The regiments from that State in this army are much reduced, and I think that all men who have gone into organizations forbidden by law and orders, and all who are in excess of the complement of old companies should be sent to the armies in the field. In the State of North Carolina a similar state of things is said to exist, men volunteering and heavy batteries at Wilmington and in cavalry companies upon the coast. Upon the vigilant and strict execution of the conscript law depends in great measure the issue of the coming campaign, and no effort should be spared to bring out the recruits at once, that they may be prepared by the opening of the spring. If you desire it, I can send you at present some officers from this army, to aid the enrolling officers in the different States either to collect conscripts generally or those intended particularly for this army, which needs them very much.

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,

R. E. Lee,




Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 33, p. 1087

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2021 November 21