I shall endeavor to organize the militia in this brigade and give due effect to the exemption therein prescribed, but permit me most respectfully to suggest that I fear the task will prove a fruitless one, and for these reasons: The population subject under the law to militia duty (male between the ages of 18 and 45), in the parishes composing this brigade, with the exception of the two parishes lying west of the Ouachita River, consists chiefly of planters who are slave-owners, their sons, and the overseer on the larger plantations; the non-slave-owners (not inclosing overseer), comprising but a small class of the population. All these parishes have contributed most liberally in volunteers for the war, and the number subject to militia duty is now greatly reduced.
The volunteers have been drawn from all classes of our citizens, but the non-slaveholders are most largely represented in the Army. The young or single men of all classes have nearly all gone, and such has been the drain on our population, that you can now rarely find any one plantation with two able-bodied men upon it.
Under these circumstances I apprehend that the exemption referred to would cover a large majority of those otherwise subject to duty, and its enforcement would, I fear, defeat anything like a general or efficient organization of the militia. In some parishes of the brigade I doubt whether a single company could be raised of persons not entitled to the exemption, and in only two of them could a sufficient number be enrolled to form a regiment.
The planters and their overseer would in a large majority of instances be exempt, and the burden of militia duty would fall almost exclusively upon the non-slaveholders; a class least able to bear the sacrifice of time and labor required, and whose numbers are already greatly reduced by their patriotic contributions of soldiers for the war. Should such be the effort of it, this class light be impressed with the inequality if not injustice of its operation, and this might tend to defeat that harmony and cordial co-operation for the public defense among all classes so very necessary in the present great emergency. This I deem an important consideration. I have, besides, some practical experience in regard to the working of this exemption. Up to the time of my recent appointment as brigadier-general I was colonel of the Morehouse Regiment of Militia. Notwithstanding the defects in the law of 1853, I had succeeded in effecting a thorough organization of the regiment, and was progressing rapidly in perfecting the militia of the parish both in the company and battalion drill. After the order of the governor referred to was issued I could never secure a sufficient "turn-out" for a battalion drill, and in several of the company beats the companies were completely broken up, owing entirely to the number of persons claiming exemption under this order. In short, the regiment was disorganized. Such, I fear, would be the practical effect of the exemption in nearly every other parish in the brigade.
I hope these considerations may lead to a rescinding of the order. I am duly sensible that the order was prompted by a desire to secure the slave-holding communities from the dangers arising from insubordination among the slaves, and the apprehension lest the absence of the owner or overseer from the plantation on militia duty might tend to produce such insubordination. This consideration would, perhaps, make some provision of the kind necessary, in case the militia is called into active service, but even in such a case I do not think the exemption need be as broad as that provided by the order. Many plantations are very small and have but few slaves upon them, and in many instances one man could conveniently take charge of several of them; but until