HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF EAST TENNESSEE,
Knoxville, Tenn., October 17, 1862.
Honorable GEORGE W. RANDOLPH,
Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:
SIR: I telegraphed you this morning, recommending that the President suspend for a short time the execution of the conscript act in East Tennessee and in the mean time receive into the service such troops as can be procured under any one of the previous acts he may think best. Volunteer troops have been raised and brought together in this department under authority granted by you and Generals Kirby Smith and McCown. A recent act of Congress, as I am informed, authorizes the reception into the service of troops so raised and organized prior to the 1st instant; but in many instances the troops, though raised, were not organized into battalions or regiments only because doubt existed as to whether they would be received. If the President will authorize me to receive them and to accept volunteers into old regiments under my command and very much reduced can be filled. I believe that a larger number of efficient troops can be brought into service by this means than can be procured in any other way. I think it highly probable that all the men in East Tennessee worth having may be brought int the service in this manner. It they are refused and the conscript act applied to them it will add greatly to the dissatisfaction already existing in this department. I am convinced that the rigid enforcement of the conscript act at this time in this department would be impolitic and injurious. There are, as you know, comparatively few slaves in East Tennessee. Agricultural and mechanical labor is performed chiefly by whites. Many men have deserted their homes and gone to the mountains; some simply to avoid conscription, others because of obstinate and bitter hostility to the Government. Some of them, I am sorry to say, are reported as banding themselves together to resist authority and join the enemy. I have sent out several detachments to kill, capture, or destroy these bands. They generally scatter, however, and conceal themselves in the mountains, where it is difficult to find them. In the mean time they are neglecting their farms, the season for sowing wheat is passing away, but little preparation has been made for sowing, and much of the matured crop of corn will be lost to us if something is not done to induce men to return for a short time to their ordinary vocations. A temporary suspension of the enforcement of the conscript act would tend to bring about this result; and I must think that men who are so averse to entering the military service as to flee from their home and conceal themselves in the mountains to avoid it would be far more serviceable to the Government in the corn and wheat fields and iron mines than in the ranks. I do not think that men who are so averse to entering the military service as to flee from their homes and conceal themselves in the mountains to avoid it would be far more serviceable to the government in the corn and wheat fields and iron mines than in the ranks. I do not think it advisable that the enrollment of continued. The State authorities hold continue to enroll all subject to the law; out instead of gathering them in camps, where it will require some force to place and keep them, allow them to remain at home, at least long enough to sow their wheat and gather the corn. The troops needed to enforce the law might then be employed elsewhere.
In the mean time I have the promise of influential men who have heretofore been inimical to the Government that they will use their influence to bring the people to the cordial support of the Government, and I have strong hopes that they will succeed. I believe the disloyalty in East Tennessee has been due chiefly to bitter and malignant