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The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies

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OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 51, Part 2 (Supplements)
Page 709 Chapter LXIII. CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.-CONFEDERATE.

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT,

Raleigh, May 13, 1863.

His Excellency President DAVIS:

I receive information form our generals in the field that desertion is alarmingly on the increase in the army, and they have called upon me to use my exertions to check it so far as I could among the troops from North Carolina. Since my assumption of office my best energies have been faithfully addressed to this matter, and not without some success; but many difficulties have interposed. In the first place I found great difficulty in organizing a raw and inexperienced militia, so as to make them efficient in arresting armed soldier, their neighbors, friends, and kindred. After getting this organization into some shape a rencounter between a squad of my officers and some deserters and conscript took place in Yadkin Country, in which two of the former were killed. The slayers were arrested in prison, obtained a writ of habeas corpus returnable before Chief Justice Pearson, who discharged the prisoners, on the ground that the Governor, in the absence of express enactment, had no authority to arrest deserters and conscripts, which pertained to the Confederate authorities alone, and therefore these men have commited no ovvense in resisting and unauthorized, arrest, &c. I had previously applied to the Legislature for authority to arrest deserters and to pass a law making in penal to harbor and conceal them, which was declined on much the same ground as those assigned by the chief justice, to wit, that it was the business of Congress to provide for the execution of its own laws, &c. I then applied to Congress, by a suggestion to Mr. Dortch, Senator from this State, who informed me that Congress had also declined to take action in the matte; for what reason I do not know. Balked thus on all my attempts, about to incur the impurtation of exceeding my righful authority, and risking my militia to be shot down with impunity, I could but revoke my orders, adn substitued merely a command thad the Confederate officers as a posse when requested. In the meantime news of Judge Pearson's decision went abroad to the army in a very exaggerated and ridicolous form. Sodiers were induced to believ that it declared the conscript law unconstitutional, and that they were entitled, if they came home, to the protection of their civil authorities, Desertion, which had been temporarily checked, broke out again worse than before. Letters from General D. H. Hill, Brigadier General W. D. Pender, and others were received imploring me to take some steps to stop this fearful evil restore the efficincy of the amry. My own observation convinced me of the importance of their suggestion, and though not concurring with them in their estimate of my ability to remedy the evil, I yet resolved to do all in my power. I have therefore reissued my orders to the militia, have called out considerable bodies of them to guard the roads, ferries, &c., and issued a proclamation appealing to the people to assist me in the arrest and return of deserters, and to the except of my power shall strive to repress this fearful danger. Inasmuch as you have power to call out the militia of the Confederaty for certain purposes, and as no one denies yor right to arrest deserters from the armies of which you are Commander-in-Chief, would it not give validity to my action if I proceeded under your request or requisition?

I do not know what steps have taken by other Southern Governors in this matter, and it would seem invidious to make a requisition alone upon North Carolina for the militia for this purpose, as implying that there were more desertions from this State than any other, which


Page 709 Chapter LXIII. CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.-CONFEDERATE.
OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 51, Part 2 (Supplements)
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