deadly and murderous quality, made of home-made powder (one of the men known to have been among them has been engaged in making powder). four of the conscripts who were in the fight have since come in and surrendered and are now in jail here, but the leaders and the most guilty of them are still at large; and the section of the country in which they lurk is so disloyal (I grieve to say it), and the people so readily conceal the murderers and convey intelligence to them, that it will be exceedingly difficult to find them, even if they do not draw together a large force than they have yet had and again give battle to the sheriff and his posse. But my principal object in writing this letter is to ask you what we shall do with those four murderers we have and the other if we get them? Suppose we try them for murder, do you not believe that our supreme court will decide the conscription act unconstitutional and thus leave these men justified in resisting it execution? I believe they will, and tremble to think of the consequences of such a blow upon the cause of our independence. It would demoralize our army in the field and bring first the horror of civil war to our own doors and then perhaps subjugation to the enemy, which no honorable man ought to want to survive. I think I know Judge Pearson's opinion on the conscription act, and I believe that he is just itching to pronounce it unconstitutional. Suppose these men get out a writ of habeas corpus and have it returned before him and he releases them (which he would be bound to do if he holds that they were only resisting the execution of an unconstitutional law with such force as was necessary to repel force from their persons), do you not believe it would produce a mutiny in the army of the Rappahannock; and if it did not, how would you get another conscript to the field or keep those there who have already gone, or who could keep the loyal and indignant citizens at home from executing vengeance on these infamous murderers and traitors to the country? These are considerations which alarm me, and I would like to know what you think of them. Please write to me, and I will receive your opinion as confidentially as you may desire and ask. could these men, and ought they if they could, be turned over to the Confederate courts to be tried for treason? Could the military authorities, and ought they to, deal with them? I hope you known I am conservative and for the rights of the citizens and the States, but for my country always, and for independence at all hazards.
Your obedient servant,
R. F. ARMFIELD.
Wilmington, N. C., February 20, 1863.
Governor VANCE, Raleigh, N. C.:
I received your orders of the 9th instant directing the militia officers in Robeson, Cumberland, and Richmond to turn over all able-bodied free negroes between eighteen and forty-five. None such have yet arrived. Robeson and Cumberland have heretofore done well and supplied much free and slave labor. They have certainly done their share. A vast deal of work is still required here, and the labor of 400 to 500 negroes is essential to complete our works as rapidly as possible. Every advantage must be taken of the enemy's movements in other directions to strengthen this place.
W. H. C. WHITING,