WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A.,
Richmond, Va., January 27, 1862.
Major General J. B. MAGRUDER, Yorktown, Va.:
SIR: In response to your letter of the 23d instant, on the subject of the impressment of slaves in the counties of Chesterfield and Dinwiddie, i beg to say that you misapprehend the point on which the interference of this Department was invoked. There is no desire or intention of interfering with your discretion in impressing whatever may be necessary for the public defense within your department whenever your wants cannot be supplied by contract, although, of course, this power of impressment should be exercised as sparingly as possible. The point of difficulty was that you went out of your district into the district of another general. You will see at a glance that if a general goes out of his district to exercise such a power he must necessarily come in conflict with the orders of the neighboring commander, and that the inhabitants might have two or more sets of officers all at the same time exercising this very harsh and necessarily odious power. I trust, therefore, that in future you will confine your action, when outside of your district, to contracts, and confine the exercise of the power of impressment to the geographical limits of your own command.
Your obedient servant,
J. P. BENJAMIN,
Secretary of war.
Abstract from return of the Department of the Peninsula, Major General John B. Magruder commanding, for January, 1862.
Present for duty. Pieces of artillery.
Commands. Offi Men. Aggreg Aggreg He Fi
cers ate ate av el
. presen presen y. d.
t. t and
Brigadier General G. 253 3,728 5,555 6,965 48 29
Yorktown and vicinity
Brigadier General L. 226 4,816 6,137 7,478 . .
Young's Harrod's and
Lee's Mills, Mulberry
Point, Land's End, &c.
Colonel B. S. Ewell's 41 588 792 928 . .
Colonel Crump's: 71 966 1,379 1,846 18 6
Colonel Hill Carter's 14 265 323 400 20 .
Lebanon Church and 15 262 314 463 . .
Colonel Bohannan's 31 350 391 544 . 4
Total.............. 651 10,975 14,801 18,624 80 39